About the Author
@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

Conjured Currency #54: Draguncommons!

Welcome back, to another wonderful Thursday of learning how to make some spare change off of the card game known as Magic: The Gathering. During these next couple of weeks, there are going to be a lot of financial set reviews popping up. Should you sell this cool new mythic rare? Is $3 the correct price to preorder this other rare that you want for your EDH deck? What should you do with Narset upon release? Instead of doing one of those set reviews where I go through all of the rares and mythics of the set and predict what their price trends will be over a three, six, or twelve month period, I’m going to stick to one of my personal areas of expertise. I’m a lover of bulk commons and uncommons, and picking out the small treasures that end up being buylisted later for $.10, $.25, or even just given away to someone who is desperately looking for a set of a certain common at FNM. Keep in mind that these aren’t going to be listed on TCGplayer or eBay. We’re not making hundreds of dollars flipping these, because they’re the cards nobody else wants to deal with. These are the commons and uncommons that make us into my own version of an “FNM hero”, when the Spike grinder shows up with 73/75 cards for his Standard deck, and the LGS is completely out of stock of that last sideboarded uncommon.

While I’ve written about this subject before, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve touched on it. Dragons of Tarkir only has 88 out of 264 cards spoiled at the moment (according to, my personal favorite site to keep up to date on the most recent spoilers), but there are a ton of common and uncommon picks in the set already that I can’t wait to scrounge out of discarded draft decks and pull from the large bulk lots that I enjoy buying. Let’s see what I’m going to be pulling these next few months!

Savage Ventmaw

Out of the five uncommon six-mana dragons, this one is the only one I’ll be pulling out and setting aside to buylist later. This fat lizard synergizes pretty well with [card]Aggravated Assault[/card] in EDH, and I have a feeling that people who like playing a lot of fat monsters also enjoy attacking with them more than once.

Surge of Righteousness

Encase in Ice

Self-Inflicted Wound

Rending Volley

"Rending Volley cannot be countered by spells or abilities. Rending Volley deals 4 damage to target Blue or White creature."

“Rending Volley cannot be countered by spells or abilities.
Rending Volley deals 4 damage to target white or blue creature.”

Display of Dominance

Every now and again, Wizards gives us a set of Standard sideboardable color hate cards. Think back to [card]Combust[/card], [card]Deathmark[/card], [card]Celestial Purge[/card], [card]Flashfreeze[/card], and [card]Autumn’s Veil[/card]. These all saw reasonable amounts of sideboard play during their times in Standard, and some of them even snuck into mainboards. Even if these only end up buylisting for a quarter apiece, it’s free money that you’re leaving on the table by not picking them. If you don’t buylist, treat them as a quarter a piece in trades in your binder, and grind up the value bit by bit.


To be honest, I pick almost anything that reads “something something costs X less”. There will almost always be that one casual player who wants to make a “dash” deck, a “manifest” deck, or an “exploit” deck. Keywords are important for new players to latch onto and learn the concept of synergy, and you might be able to squeeze some value out of that by setting these aside for later. It’s not going to make it in Standard, but you’ll make someone’s day by having a playset of these at the ready.

Silumgar’s Scorn

[card]Counterspell[/card] is back! Well, as long as you reveal a [card]Nameless Inversion[/card] or control a [card]Chameleon Colossus[/card]. That’s the hard part. But [card]COUNTERSPELL[/card] IS BACK!! Is it good enough for Modern or Standard? I’d hedge my bets on a no, but damn it all if people won’t try it out in the first few weeks. In my experience as someone who used to be a casual player and/or brewer, I wanted to break the meta in my own special snowflake way, and try out all of the weird synergies. Picking this loses you basically no money if you find it in bulk, on draft tables, or get it as a throw-in.

Draconic Roar

Instant As an additional cost to cast Draconic Roar, you may reveal a Dragon card from your hand.  Draconic Roar deals 3 damage to target creature. If you revealed a Dragon card or controlled a Dragon as you cast Draconic Roar, Draconic Roar deals 3 damage to that creature's controller.

As an additional cost to cast Draconic Roar, you may reveal a Dragon card from your hand.
Draconic Roar deals 3 damage to target creature. If you revealed a Dragon card or controlled a Dragon as you cast Draconic Roar, Draconic Roar deals 3 damage to that creature’s controller.”

Similarly, there will be Johnnys and Jennys who want to make Mono-Red Standard Dragons a thing. We’ve got Dragon Tempests, we’ve got a Sarkhan that turns into a dragon, we’ve got actual dragons everywhere. Even if [card]Searing Blood[/card] is better, this one has the word “Dragon” on the card at least four times. Pull it out.

Sarkhan’s Triumph


This is a great card to follow up Draconic Roar with, because it goes in the exact same deck, but also any deck playing a reasonable number of dragons. This goes into tribal dragon EDH decks, and is one of those uncommons that will be $3 a couple years down the road (unless they decide to reprint it to death like [card]Lingering Souls[/card]…). I think you’ll be able to get $.50 to $1 for these during the first few weeks after the set’s release. There’s a lot of dragons, and people want them in their hands (in game and in real life) now!


Did you hear that? No? How about now? That was the sound of every hardened control mage at your LGS furiously scribbling down a decklist that started with “4x Ancicipate.” The fact that it’s a common kind of sucks for buylisting purposes, as there will be plenty on the market for $.25 from large retailers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick it out of bulk. Ship them as playsets on Pucatrade, and be the guy that has multiple playsets at the ready. If you can get $1 in trade for a playset, you’ll do fine.

Dragonlord’s Servant

I was so happy when I saw this card. Not because I’m a fan of dragons (I’m not), not because the art is pretty silly (it is), and not because I’m going to sell an absolutely massive amount of these at $1 once I pull a bunch of them. Oh, wait, those are the reasons. There are multiple explanations as to why [card]Dragonspeaker Shaman[/card] is a $5 card, even with multiple printings. This thing is cheaper to cast and harder to kill. The biggest downside is that the obvious popularity will encourage more people to set them aside before their draft leavings or bulk lots ever reach my fingers. I don’t think this reaches $5, but $2 after rotation seems fine. Until then, I’ll keep them on my $.25 buylist for the competitive players in my area and wait.

End Step

Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Has there been a sweet new card spoiled since this article went live that should get a special mention? While these aren’t the [card]Mastery of the Unseen[/card]s or the [card]Glittering Wish[/card]es of the finance world, they’re a lot easier to come across for a very low opportunity cost, and you have the ability to fill an important niche in your community by doing so. If you decide to buy a box of the new set, don’t just let the rares, mythics, and foils be the only cards you’re pulling out.

Have a great weekend!

Conjured Currency #53: TCGplayer Tour!

Let me preface this by saying I was not paid by TCGplayer to write this article. I’m just a longtime buyer of cards from the website, and have had a seller account for a little over two years (although I don’t use it nearly as much as I probably should). If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know that I herald from the middle of nowhere Upstate New York, around the Oswego area during the school year. Due to the fact that I’m within an hour’s drive of the TCGplayer headquarters, and because I’m apparently a vocal member of the community, I was recently invited to take a tour of the place. I also got to have a sit-down talk with the brains behind the organization that provides us with a tournament series, articles, seller storefront, and so much more. It was a lot of fun, and I’m thankful to the amazing people who work at TCGplayer who let me snap pictures of the place to show you all.

I’ll preface this some more by saying that me getting to visit doesn’t exactly make me special [Editor’s note: I disagree!]. If you’re within driving distance of Syracuse, NY, you’re more than welcome to stop by and visit the offices for yourself, just like I did.

As someone who doesn’t travel much (read: at all), the elevators in the building were a bit… interesting, and took a few minutes to figure out. Don’t ask how they tricked me, it just happened. Once I defeated the first challenge, I rode up to the tenth-floor offices. TCGplayer was hard to miss:


Yep, I'm definitely in the right place.

Yep, I’m definitely in the right place.

I took a seat in the comfortable couches that you can see in the above photograph, but it wasn’t too long before my tour started. I met Sean, my tour guide. We started off at the TCGplayer Direct shipping center, where I got some great pictures of TCGplayer’s neatly sorted inventory. If you hate ordering from multiple different sellers at once, you can click the “TCG Direct” checkbox, and all of your selected cards will come in one convenient package, no matter how many sellers you ordered from. On the other end of the spectrum, individual sellers and stores that ship a dozen packages every day can now just send one large package to replace their inventory and have TCGplayer ship orders to buyers. Although I don’t personally sell enough volume on my personal TCGplayer store (as a general rule, sellers must complete at least 100 orders in the past 30 days and have a feedback rating of 99.5% or higher before applying), it’s certainly something I would consider if I sold cards through the website at a much higher frequency.

Where were we?

Oh, right.




And I thought I had a lot of cards…

Everything’s sorted by set and then alphabetized, which is the most efficient way to organize your collection, especially if you’re in the habit of buylisting. Almost every online buylist will request that you have the cards presorted in this condition, or will give you a percentage bonus in how much money you get for doing so. I was in the habit of sorting by color for the longest time, but there’s really zero benefit to doing so when you deal with a larger quantity of cards. Every morning, TCGplayer has a designated set of “pullers”, who go through the lists of orders from the night before and grab every card that they’ll be needing for that morning’s shipments from the cabinets above, which get sorted into a cool sorting tray.

From here, the cards in each order get pieced together, and what would have had to have been four or five different packages gets condensed into a single shipment.

A Quick Aside

I’m personally looking into getting one of these sorting trays myself, so I asked the Twitter population where the best choice to pick one up would be. Some of the suggestions were as follows. I haven’t locked in my personal purchase quite yet, so if anyone else has the following sorting trays and wants to voice their opinion on the positives or negatives, I’m all ears!

BCW is where I get all of my 1000-count boxes, and I’ve never been disappointed with their pricing. They specialize in bulk sales, so if for whatever reason you need 10 or more sorting trays, this is probably your cheapest option. This one has 24 total cells to sort cards into, which is unfortunately two letters short of the whole alphabet. Thankfully, I doubt you’ll be sorting too many X or Q cards, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

CoolStuffInc is a lot more expensive, but is specifically designed for alphabetizing. Being $32 plus shipping really puts me off on wanting to order one, considering I can just make custom labels for the other trays like TCGplayer did. Definitely not a fan of paying $20+ for fancy letters and slightly more durable plastic.

Last, we have Troll and Toad. Although their tray only comes with 18 slots, it’s $10. The BCW one is $10 for just a single piece, getting cheaper the more you order. I don’t really see any hard advantages over BCW, so maybe writing this out helped me make my decision. Let me know if I’m wrong!

Back to TCGplayer HQ

On the other end of the tables, I got to see where all of the incoming cards go through. In order to [card]Replenish[/card] their inventory, several employees spend the morning unwrapping the incoming packages, verifying the condition and quantity with the packaging slip, then move it along to be sorted back into the mass of inventory.


After going through the shipping center, I got to learn about some of the parts of TCGplayer that made it look like an amazing place to work. I’m going to sound like a public relations official for the company at this point, but to be honest, I would definitely apply to work here if I wasn’t already going to college, living an hour away, and representing Brainstorm Brewery. If you’re someone who wants to get in some cardio while you work on the computer, they had two treadmill desks where you can multitask. Maybe this is a common thing in office spaces nowadays, but I’ve never seen it and thought it was extremely thoughtful of the management. Everyone who I talked to at TCGplayer sounded sincerely excited and happy to work there. While I know there are multiple horror stories of certain unnamed stores in this community, TCGplayer is the polar opposite, and is a shining example to the rest of the card industry.

I wonder if these can be adjusted to face each other... Card games on treadmills?

I wonder if these can be adjusted to face each other… Card games on treadmills?

While I’ve raved about how TCGplayer looks like a great place to work, I haven’t talked much about what they do for the customers that allow the site to exist. A company exists because people spend money on their product, and a good company will give its customers a reason to do that over and over again. If you remember back to last fall when TCGplayer announced the opening of its Direct program, the company also gave goodies out to lucky individuals who made a purchase via the Direct program in the opening weeks. These included Modern staples like [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], [card]Mox Opal[/card], oh, and uh, [card]Black Lotus[/card]. They gave away the Power 9, just as a thank you for the support they’ve received up until now from the community.

In Recent News..

I got to meet and talk with the customer service team while I was visiting, and this is exactly the type of thing I would expect from them after our conversation. They dedicate time and effort to every message, whether positive or negative. As a seller, I’ve had multiple positive interactions when dealing with issues that have come up with buyers. TCGplayer will go out of its way to fix whatever issues you might have with your order, while some companies will just hope the problem just gets brushed under the rug.

End Step

While my column is normally restricted to financial advice related to the game, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to share my experience visiting the TCGplayer offices. Everyone I met was friendly, kind, and seemed like a family to each other. I can’t discuss some of the things I talked about, but I can assure everyone that there are some awesome things in store for the future, for both buyers and sellers alike.

Have you personally had an awesome experience with TCGplayer, where they went above and beyond for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Conjured Currency #52: Wizards Has Never Done That!

Welcome back, everyone who still reads my articles (or are just starting to read my articles!). I’d like to start out this week by clearing up a misconception that many people have about what I (and other Magic financiers) do in the community. I do not own a [card]Crystal Ball[/card]. Well, I probably do somewhere in my bulk 1,000 count boxes, but I’m saying that I’m not a fortune teller. I can’t predict the future with 100 percent accuracy. When someone asks me a question along the lines of “What should I do with the foil copy of [card]Soulfire Grand Master[/card] that I opened at the prerelease?” I’m going to look back at similar, previous trends in price graphs and make an educated guess as to where that card is going to go.

However, there are always going to be curveballs and new products thrown our way. We’ve seen products such as Duel Deck: Jace vs. Chandra, the original Commander sets, San Diego Comic Con planeswalkers, and Commander’s Arsenal reach absurd prices that were much higher than their MSRPs. While the Duel Deck series and Commander products have calmed down significantly once WOTC got a handle on how much they needed to put into circulation to satisfy a large amount of demand, the company still throws us the occasional product that it wants to feel special and unprecedented. Today, I want to go over wild cards like the promo Ugin, and what you should do the next time something like this comes out.

Ugin, the Money Dragon



Ugin has been the first planeswalker in a long time to break the “Planeswalker Tax” trend. For those of you who haven’t been playing very long, [card]Jace the Mind Sculptor[/card] presold for $20 for a short period of time. Yep, that one. $20. Yeah. Once he skyrocketed to more than $100, vendors realized their mistake, and saw just how format-warping, iconic, and valuable planeswalker cards could be. Ever since that era, planeswalker cards have historically presold for ridiculously overpriced values, trying to capitalize on the hype and “wow” factor that the new walker might happen to have. If you check out the graph, you’ll see that “normal” Ugin dipped by a couple of dollars in week one, then quickly climbed out of that gutter to a hefty $35 price tag.

As for the Ugin’s Fate Ugin… I certainly didn’t predict that he’d double in price from $100 to almost $200 in less than a month. In fact, I predicted the opposite, and encouraged the players who opened them to dump them while they had the chance. Whoops:


As you can see in my comment, I felt that the card not being foil would put a huge dent in demand. That in addition to presale planeswalker hype were my main reasons for suggesting to get rid of the card. Where did I go wrong?

First of all, I underestimated the worldwide demand for these Ugins. If you listen to the Brainstorm Brewery podcast, Kyle Lopez recently hinted towards a massive demand from outside the United States for these promo Ugins. They’re only available in English, and weren’t given away outside of the USA. [Editor’s note: European readers have informed us this is not, in fact, the case, and that these were given out in German and other EU languages at the very least.] The second reason, which will look extremely obvious in hindsight, was that these were a brand new, experimental product with a very low print run. I’m not talking about a From the Vault print run where every store got a couple cases; I heard about stores who went the entire weekend without anyone opening an alternate art Ugin.

While Ugin’s Fate packs were an unprecedented thing, let’s try and see if we can examine some of the other unprecedented product releases in Magic’s recent history, and try to establish a pattern as to whether or not we should buy in immediately upon release, or wait it out. Some of the recent examples that come to mind include the “Book Jace” from the Agents of Artifice planeswalker novel, Commander’s Arsenal, the San Diego Comic Con Planeswalker sets (2013 and 2014), and the experimental “Jace Coin” from the New Zealand Mint.

Read About Book Jace 

It doesn’t really seem like 2009 was six years ago, because I was still a freshman in high school at the time. Back when WOTC still released paperback copies of the planeswalker novels to keep us up to date on the lore of the story, the company announced this promotional copy of [card]Jace Beleren[/card] in order to hype up the book sales. Considering that this was before the massive player base increase of Innistrad and Return to Ravnica, there weren’t many people hyped about the book. That’s what flavor texts are for, right? As a casual player who never played blue, I didn’t really care either. I can remember the promo selling for well under $100 when it came out, and those who did get it were unloading them as soon as possible.


MTGstocks only goes back so far, so we’re using MTGgoldfish graphs here

It took less than a couple years after release for the promo to shoot up to above $150, and it tapered down after that before growing and approaching the $200 mark in 2014. What makes this Jace more special than a heavily played M10 version that I found in a snowbank in a parking lot? Well, it’s foil, and alternate art. Big deal, though: a copy of foil promo [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] is cheaper than the booster pack version by a good $10.

The bigger draw is how few copies of this “Book Jace” exist. The physical copies of the planeswalker books weren’t exactly a home run anymore compared to internet versions, so nobody cared about the book. Do you see anyone banging on WOTC’s front door to bring back the novels? I didn’t think so. And because the reception on the books was so low, it led the company to try something different next time. There aren’t any more Book Jaces entering the market. They get to sit at the bar with [card]Savannah[/card] and [card]Granite Gargoyle[/card], and drink away their sorrows of never being reprinted ever in the history of ever. If you buy one of these today, it’s not going down.

Commander’s Arsenal

Let’s fast forward a few years to 2012, around the time when Return to Ravnica was being released. The year after the first Commander products, Wizards announces Commander’s Arsenal, with a $75 MSRP. This was more of a, “If you’re already heavily invested into Commander, this is your chance to get a foil [card]Sylvan Library[/card],” but players were still wary of preordering at the $150 eBay tag until they knew for sure what was in it.

Brief aside: If you keep up to date on your MTGstocks, you’ll know that the Commander’s Arsenal version of Library recently jumped to over $100, and was pretty clearly an intentional buyout. [card]Kaalia of the Vast[/card] experienced something similar, sitting at around $80. One interesting thing to note is that [card]Scroll Rack[/card] has just as low of a supply, but the foil CA copy is less than twice the copy of a Tempest version. While I recognize that Library sees more Legacy play and Kaalia sees more EDH play, I don’t think a 1.5 multiplier on Rack is going to last very long. Full disclosure: I own zero copies here.

Right now, SCG has five copies of the Commander’s Arsenal product in stock for $325, and that’s probably one of the better deals you’ll find at this point if you were interested in multiple cards in the package like the Library and Kaalia. If you were hoping to get either of these cards in foil on the cheap, I’m afraid you’ve missed the boat. The ship sailed back when the product was first available, and you had to either be the first one calling your LGS, or you had to know someone who could hook you up upon release. Even if Wizards decides to release a Commander’s Arsenal 2016, I don’t think the company will be wasting any of the 18 slots with reprints from the first set.

San Diego Comic Con (2013 and 2014)

When the San Diego Comic Con walkers were announced, there was a massive amount of people rushing to buy them. I heard stories of people who attended the event and waited more than eight hours to even get a chance at purchasing them (and didn’t end up getting their sets). The initial online buy-in was around $250, and I almost pulled the trigger for a set myself. Within about a day and a half, the price had skyrocketed to more than $400, and Hasbro made it clear that they were done printing. That was all, everyone could go home.

Currently, a sealed set of the SDCC 2013 walkers goes for anywhere from $500 to $600 on eBay, and it doesn’t look like it will drop anytime soon. Your chance to buy in was the weekend of the event, not a day later. We can see the same factors that popped up in Book Jace and Commander’s Arsenal: buying in early on will yield the best results.

However, we can see a much different trend with last year’s repeat performance. Hasbro still showcased the year’s Core Set walkers in stylish black artwork, but a lot of the magic was gone. They were still exciting, but their current eBay status reflects a significantly lower price than the first time around. The set even came with a giant NERF Garruk Axe, that currently retails for less than the price of a normal [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. Either Hasbro increased the supply this time around, or people cared a lot less about the product because it wasn’t “special” enough anymore. Either way, the big takeaway here is that Wizards tends to learn from their mistakes (even if it’s little by little), and the demand for the follow-up products will be judged more accurately. We saw this with the progression of Duel Decks. Divine vs Demonic, Jace vs Chandra, and Elves vs Goblins were growing extremely valuable as the years went by, compared to Speed vs Cunning and Elspeth vs Kiora not being promising collectors items. The Commander sets also learned this lesson, going from $100 Heavenly Infernos to every deck being readily available for under MSRP two years later. The first product in the series will always be the most desired, the one with the lowest supply, or both.

Now, let’s take a look at something specific to the 2014 set, that was added onto the SDCC package. A NERF Garruk Axe was given away, in addition to the five other Planeswalkers. While one might initially think that this adds to the value of the product, it certainly isn’t worth a whole lot of money right now. We can check eBay’s completed listings page to learn that the Axe itself only sells for about $30 total


Why is that? Wizards made a one-of-a-kind collector’s item that was only available for a short period of time, and it’s certainly not going to get “reprinted” anytime soon. Well, the answer is probably simpler than you might expect at first.

It’s not actually a Magic card. While I assume there won’t be a whole ton of people playing with their SDCC walkers either, they at least have the ability to be cracked open and jammed into cubes or EDH decks. This Axe can do nothing other than provide novelty fun by whacking friends on the head for a few minutes, and then sit on your shelf forever. If we’re looking to invest in unprecedented Magic products, I don’t think we should be looking towards novelty toys, and I have anotherexample to back that up.

The $100 Jace

No, not that Jace….


This Jace. Back in January of 2014, Wizards announced a special silver coin with an image of [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] on the front. While it’s labeled as being worth $2 in legal tender in New Zealand, I don’t recommend flying out there to spend this on a cup of coffee, because it’s not even considered legal tender. Once they were announced, the going eBay price was around $100, and there was a bit of a discussion as to whether or not these would go up in value over time. After all, it’s literally Jace’s face on money, and not even photoshopped over Benjamin Franklin’s face on a $100 bill this time around. But if we look at the market value today…


Right now, it sits at basically the same price as it was a year ago. You could have bought almost 1000 copies of [card]Seance[/card] with that kind of money [card]Glittering Wish[/card] back in January, and you would have been able to reap huge profits back in the fall. So why didn’t the price on the coin budge? It’s certainly special, limited-edition, and was an experimental marketing attempt that WOTC tried to make work. Just like the axe, it’s not a Magic card. You can’t sleeve it up and pay 2UU to cast it in Legacy. In addition to that, there wasn’t the same hype or excitement about it. It seemed extremely out of place, and even Evan Erwin (who gets hyped about pretty much every single announcement Wizards makes), was confused and chewed out Wizards for pulling such a dumb move. If I’m agreeing with Evan Erwin in the world of Magic Finance, something has gone horribly wrong.

Put a Bow On It, DJ

So where do we wrap this up? I think there are a few takeaways when dealing with the next “super amazing limited print run Magic product” that Wizards farts out.

First of all, if it’s not an actual Magic card(s) that can be sleeved up, traded out of binders, or sold to a vendor at a Grand Prix, stay the hell away from it. Wizards tries weird things, and sometimes they work, but sometimes they don’t. While the little Funko planeswalker figures have been selling pretty well from what I hear, you don’t want to be the guy investing in them for the long term when there are other real cards that can be bought. Stick to the Book Jaces, Commander’s Arsenals, and promo Ugins.

Second, if you get the chance to buy the next promo Ugin, Commander’s Aresnal, or Book Jace, and you can afford it, you should probably  buy it, immediately. It hasn’t been announced yet, but Wizards is sure to do some sort of weird, unique, and unprecedented promo or product release. Gauge the initial demand, figure out how many copies that stores and players will be receiving, and act accordingly.

Conjured Currency #51: From the Helvault

Have you missed out on some of the “most formidable winged warriors to ever grace the game”? Do you have an Angel-themed EDH deck? Are you trying to collect one copy of every Angel to ever be printed? If the answer to any of the above questions is “maybe,” “I guess,” or “not really,” you may or may not be delighted to learn that Wizards of the Coast heard your cry to the heavens, and is releasing this. I’ll save you the trouble of Googling it, because several people have already learned that it doesn’t end well. Considering how Wizards of the Coast Damned our hopes and prayers with the last From the Vault interation, I’m fairly confident that they won’t screw up this one nearly as bad.

As Brainstorm Brewery’s Nicholas Cage from Lord of War, I’m going to provide you with my personal thought process on what I’m going to do with this announcement from a financial perspective, look at what’s most likely to be reprinted, and how a potential reprint could affect the price of these cards. From the Vaults also have a particularly interesting foiling process that’s very hit or miss, and that’ll be especially relevant in a casual archetype like Angels where a foil [card]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/card] (aka Avacyn, the one that’s not garbage) is $90.

Let’s Open the Theoretical [card]Helvault[/card]

The first thing to note is that the release date is August 21. That’s exactly 6 months away, so I don’t think there’s any reason to firesale things yet, even if you believe in the possibility of a certain card being reprinted in the set. These FTV sets have an “extremely limited print run,” as opposed to something like a Duel Deck, where they jam as many copies as possible into the market. Listing your unused copies of [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] on TCGplayer for $30 on November 3 when Elspeth vs. Kiora was announced was the correct call, because the card had nowhere to go from there but down.


In the cases of From the Vaults, powerful Modern or Legacy cards won’t experience such harsh decline. Let’s spoil my assumption on a spoiler, and assume that [card]Restoration Angel[/card] makes it into the FTV. The card has held fast at $8 for the past year or so, and I don’t think that price is going to drop anytime soon. It’s locked out of Modern Masters 2015, and sees enough play in the Modern Jeskai control deck to justify demand going into August.

If we look at [card]Maze of Ith[/card] from the FTV Realms, we can see that the reprint at the end of the summer didn’t cause the Dark version of the card to drop by more than a couple of dollars. I’d argue that the steady drop of Maze in the years to follow had more to do with the card being played less and less in Legacy, since the card was already dropping before then as far back as M13 in July. I think we can take away that Restoration Angel is a fine pickup even going into this set, if you expect to play with them in any fashion in the coming months.


Historically, the recent FTV sets have had a hallmark card that holds a significant portion of the set’s value. Realms tried to get people excited about [card]Maze of Ith[/card] (which is amusing, because [card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] ended up being much more exciting in the long term), Twenty obviously had Jace, and Annihilation had… [card]Burning of Xinye[/card], I guess? Or [card]Wrath of God[/card]? It was pretty bad, barring the Cubers who were excited about Burning and [card]Rolling Earthquake[/card], which were previously Portal Three Kingdoms-only cards with a massive price tag simply due to their rarity. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Wizards will include at least one big, splashy, mythic angel whose pre-reprint price tag will encourage players to buy the set. Here’s a short list of expensive Angels that I think we could see in that slot:

[card]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/card]


[card]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/card]


[card]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/card]

Are they going to jam-pack all three of these into a product that is $34.99 MSRP? No. Definitely not. In fact, we almost certainly won’t even get two of the above in the same product. While FTV Exiled and Relics each have multiple $25 cards nowadays, those were printed when the player base was much smaller, and they probably had a smaller print run as well. I’m predicting that we get one “WOW!” angel that headlines the set as value-packed, followed by a string of $5 or $10 angels spread across multiple colors and rarities that appeal to casual players and have unique effects. Lastly, the set will have its [card]Char[/card], [card]Virtue’s Ruin[/card], and [card]Desert[/card]s, at the bottom of the pile that nobody cares about from a financial perspective.

One of the “garbage” cards that most of us financiers won’t care about will almost certainly be [card]Serra Angel[/card]. Apparently Serra Angel is Richard Garfield’s favorite card in Magic, so I predict an homage to the designer of the game we love, with a foil (possibly alternate art) version of one of Magic’s first creatures. While there will be Angel collectors who get excited over the card, I don’t expect it to survive higher than a dollar with all of the other desirable Angels flying around in the set.



If we go with the assumption that Wizards doesn’t want every single card in the set to be white, or at least mono-white (and I think that’s a fair assumption), it narrows down our search for the other winged warriors by quite a lot. In no particular order, here are a few highlights that I think round out the product.

[card]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/card] ($28)
[card]Akroma, Angel of Fury[/card] ($5)
[card]Platinum Angel[/card] ($7)
[card]Emeria Angel[/card] ($1)
[card]Sera Angel[/card] ($1)
[card]Exalted Angel[/card] ($3)
[card]Desolation Angel[/card] ($1)
[card]Angel of Serenity[/card] ($2)
[card]Gisela, Blade of Goldnight[/card] ($12)
[card]Empyrial Archangel[/card] ($4)
[card]Maelstrom Archangel[/card] ($11)
[card]Restoration Angel[/card] ($8)
[card]Herald of War[/card] ($1)
[card]Indomitable Archangel[/card] ($2)
[card]Jenara, Asura of War[/card] ($8)

I don’t think this is an exact list of 15 cards that will all be in the set together. In fact, I’d be surprised if I got more than three or four correct. The product release is half a year away, but it’s something to think about if you’re a fan of angels and are debating on buying into some expensive fliers. For what it’s worth, I think a Gatherer search filtering rare angels for which the community vote is 3.5 or higher is a pretty good indication of a lot of the possibilities for the set.

The Takeaway

Although there’s a lot of pure speculation in this article, I think there’s a few simple finance 101 takeaways.

  • If you have the opportunity to grab an FTV Angels at MSRP for whatever reason, then buy it. There will almost certainly be money to be made by reselling the $30 angel plus the rest of the random stuff, because I have faith that WOTC fixed the issue it had with Annihilation.
  • If you’re a collector and you want one of every sealed From the Vault, you can probably wait a while after release before picking one up. I remember that FTV 20 preordered for around $700 on eBay at one point, when the only spoiled card was Jace.
  • If you only want two or three cards out of the set once the entire list gets spoiled, you’re probably better off trading for them. There will be the guy who buys the box so that his girlfriend can have a foil Avacyn in her angel deck, and he’ll have no other use for the other 14 cards. After a few weeks, the random $5 or $10 angels will probably drop a bit.
  • If you own copies of Avacyn, Linvala, or Iona that you’re not using, I would sell them just to free up cash to spend on other things. Sure, there’s a chance that Linvala crawls from $45 to $50 by August, but you’re probably better off hedging your bets and selling for $45 just in case the FTV one ends up dropping for whatever reason. If you don’t own them and want them for your angel EDH deck, you can probably wait until the set comes out, depending on how often you play and how much you think you need it. If you own pack foils, I’d definitely list them for sale and try to get as much as you can for them over the course of the next few months.
  • Don’t do what I did with the FTV Twenty and assume that they’d be worth double what they sold for two years ago. I don’t recommend buying multiple copies for investment purposes, when there are other reserved-list staples like dual lands that will be easier to move and have a higher chance of going up in value.

What’s on your list of what’ll be in the set? Angels are just behind dragons in being the most popular creature type in all of Magic, so there are quite a lot of possibilities to choose from. Thanks for reading!

Conjured Currency #50: Artificial Spikes

Pro Tour Fate Reforged happened. While I know it was just last week, I don’t really want to talk about it. Well, I’m probably still going to talk about it, but I don’t want to do an identical analysis to what’s already out there. There will be several other articles out there for you to read that recap the weekend, in both the Magic financial world and in the Magic playing world. Our Brainstorm Brewery version of the weekend recap can be found here. If you had your ear even relatively close to the floor over the past several days, you’ve noticed that there were several price spikes with very little obvious rationale behind them. But I want to discuss something a bit more controversial that’s been upsetting the community recently, and that’s the legitimacy of each of the savage increases and decreases in price that have been occurring in the past few weeks.

Attached is a screencap of’s top Interests of the past week, sorted by percentage gains:


We know that the Bloom Titan deck showed up once in the top eight (and once more just outside of the top 16), and several of its pieces increased in price across the board. [card]Amulet of Vigor[/card], [card]Azusa, Lost but Seeking[/card], [card]Pact of Negation[/card], [card]Summoner’s Pact[/card], and [card]Summer Bloom[/card] all show up here as “winners” due to the fact that they are overall more expensive than in the weeks before the pro tour. However, does one single deck being in the top eight justify all of these crazy price spikes? The deck isn’t new, it’s been around for at least a couple of years. In fact, we can track the price of Amulet and see that this is the third time it’s done this.


Although that picture says that the magic number is $7, you can be sure that it’ll creep back down to $5 relatively quickly, just like it did eleven months ago. The individuals who bought in at $4 or $5 will race to the bottom of TCGplayer’s low price, trying to break even or avoid getting stuck holding the burning ashes that used to be their imaginary “profits.”

Unfortunately, I have a theory that a growing number of Magic players see the pro tour more as an opportunity to make money while sitting at home in front of their computer, rather than as an event to watch for entertainment. On Friday and Saturday, they have their eyes on Twitter and their fingers on the mouse, ready to buy multiple copies of whatever card someone says “could be doing well.” I have a very hard time believing that all of the copies of Azusa, Amulet, and Pact of Negation that were purchased over the weekend will be sleeved up and jammed at events. The Amulet deck is touted as extremely hard to play—even Luis Scott-Vargas had some trouble with the deck’s lines during the event. Some of the hype has worn off already: Azusa hit an imaginary high of $50 during the end of the weekend, but has since crept down to $38, and will probably settle close to $35.


On the other hand, some of these spikes have nothing to do with the pro tour whatsoever. [card]Leonin Shikari[/card] happened to have fewer then 20 copies available on TCGplayer for $5 each, so it ended up being pretty easy for an individual to buy all of them and then relist them for as high as $12 each. Does that mean that a single person has the ability to change the price of this card to $12 permanently? Of course not. If you had checked eBay the day of the price spike, you would have seen that there were still multiple copies of the card available for its pre-spike price. Strikezone, Channelfireball, SCG, and hundreds of other stores exist for you to check. In fact, Magic Card Market (one of the largest European open marketplaces for MTG cards) still appears copies available for the pre-spike price, to this day.

The true demand for Leonin Shikari didn’t randomly increase drastically, it just happened to have a low supply on TCGplayer. That’s it. While several years ago it wasn’t believed that a single person could manipulate the market like this, this example is one of the most recent that shows that it’s quite possible, as long as you have enough people willing to buy into the artificial hype you’ve created for the card. If people think that Shikari is spiking because of Tiny Leaders, or because of some weird combo deck in Modern, you can maintain a higher post-spike price, and trickle out your copies for a higher profit.

The Truth about Buyouts

If you’re a normal player and not primarily a financier, I can feel your hatred from here. Financiers are evil, right? They buy out innocent Magic cards, and force the casual players to pay more for them in order to make a profit for themselves. Magic financiers are the [card]Tundra Wolves[/card] of the [card]Steel Wall[/card] [card]Street Sweeper[/card], and must be stopped.

As a matter of fact, not all of us are the worst human beings on the planet. While some people like this guy exist…

this guy..

…they’re rare and far between. The majority of Magic financiers just want to either use the game to finance playing it themselves, or simply buy and sell cards without trying to manipulate the market. Just as there are scumbag cheaters in Magic, there are scumbags in Magic finance, and we want to do our best to get rid of them, because they give the good ones a bad name. Please don’t buy out TCGplayer just because it’s the most commonly referred to site for pricing cards. And please don’t assume that every person who dabbles in Magic finance has the intention of buying out TCGplayer.

Before I go for the week, I want to give an example of a card that has the potential to be bought out (please don’t go buy it out after reading this article). [card]Doran, the Siege Tower[/card] saw a decent amount of play at the pro tour, and is very powerful and popular in the rapidly spreading Tiny Leaders format. He’s from a set that’s pretty old at this point, and hasn’t had a reprint on a mass scale as of yet (he has an FTV and Champs promo printing, but neither of those are exactly substitutes to the cheaper Lorwyn copies).

There are fewer than 40 copies on TCGplayer and only 20 sellers, so it’s possible for someone with a fat enough wallet to decide that the artificial price sticker on Doran needs to go up, to justify after the fact that he saw some play at the pro tour. If you’re interested in picking up any number of copies to play with, I recommend that you get into them now, so you don’t have to bite the bullet at a future date. While buyouts of a particular store are real, they very rarely maintain their peak price, and will be available for cheaper in the days afterwards.

Reddit Finance

There’s a high likelihood that  you’re reading this article because I posted it on the /r/mtgfinance subreddit, or the /r/mtgmarketwatch subreddit, like I do every week. Recently, there’s been a bit of a controversy as to whether or not these subreddits have the power to tamper with the prices of cards when “spike” or “buyout” threads are posted. While these types of threads were banned from /r/mtgfinance due to an obvious ability to manipulate the prices of stupid random cards like [card]Fist of Suns[/card], the marketwatch subreddit allows them, as long as there is explanation as to a possible reason that the card is being bought out.

Now, there’s a discussion being raised that the lack of aggressive moderating on /r/marketwatch is causing the same trend that happened with Fist of Suns. We recently saw [card]Ghostway[/card] spike to over $15 due to hype of a brand new Modern deck, but the deck didn’t even end up performing very well. However, the buyout happened, and Ghostway will likely be stuck somewhere between its pre- and post-spike price. This ends up hurting the EDH and casual players who just wanted to flicker a bunch of allies or soul sisters.

However, I want to assure everyone that no one person has the ability to completely manipulate the market. Financiers can’t make bad cards spike with sheer dollars and willpower. If we could, there’s a high probability that copies of [card]Seance[/card] would be $5 each right now, and I would be buying a much nicer car. As you’ll often see me mention on Reddit or in my other articles, I tend to avoid speculating, only occasionally buying a couple sets of a card for fun.

Full disclosure: my pro tour speculation purchases are listed below.

8x [card]Hive Mind[/card]

That’s it. I didn’t try and buy out Azusa, or Ghostway, or Leonin Shikari. It’s not worth it to me, because almost everything I buy is at buylist prices anyway. There’s a lot more to be made in having a consistent cash flow of collections, singles, and value trading. I’d much rather have my name be clear of this buyout brigade nonsense, as well as my fellow writers at BSB. I can only try and reassure you that all financiers aren’t evil, and that there are good people out there who just want to try and help you play the game we all love and care about.

Final (Positive) Note

I can’t believe that this is my 50th article here on Brainstorm Brewery. I want to thank everyone on the site that allowed me this opportunity, and I want to thank all of my readers for sticking with me (through the good articles and the awful ones). I’m still a bit young and trying to get better at writing every week, so every bit of feedback and all your suggestions help me a lot. Thanks again!

Conjured Currency #49: Rent-a-Car(d)

Throughout the first few weeks of a set’s release, there is one single question that every single well-known financier is asked to no end. While the exact words might vary each time, and the specific card in question will differ, there’s few general models to this tricky question:




There are common pieces of information in each of these questions that get excluded, but it’s not the fault of the players asking. In each of these questions, there’s a general theme of asking me, “What would you do?”

Unfortunately, that’s a difficult question to answer. It would be impossible for them to tell me everything for me to assess their exact situation and make a decision. I would have to know their exact degree of wanting the card (or the money they could obtain by selling the card), how often they plan to play with the card in the immediate and long-term future, their financial situation, and how much utility they got when playing (or holding onto) the cards.

This week, I’m going to go over a few examples of how everyone’s situation is different, and focus a bit more on the difference between “needs” and “wants.”

Renting a Card

Although it would be an interesting concept, there is no business that allows a player to rent Magic cards for weeks or months at a time with a payment plan model. There are multiple issues with condition, risk of the card being stolen, and countless other problems. Not even SCG could keep track of that type of system. However, if you’re a Standard player looking to get into the new set, you can theoretically rent the cards you need for the first few weeks of the new season. Let’s break this down a bit.

Ryan intends on playing four copies of [card]Soulfire Grand Master[/card] in Standard Jeskai Burn at his weekly FNM every single week. He already had the rest of the deck built, and he’s just adding Grandmaster to his list to update it. In addition to the weekly Standard FNM, he plans on attending two PPTQs during this month, both of which are also Standard. Ryan goes onto and notices that he can buy [card]Soulfire Grand Master[/card] for $25 per copy, making the playset cost $100. However, Ryan is also aware that almost every card in the new set is driven by large amounts of hype with little supply, so he expects that SGM will drop down to around $15 one month after the release of Fate Reforged. While SGM is hyped, Ryan believes that it is still a very powerful card and that $15 is the cheapest it will be during its Standard lifetime.

The cost of the playset one month from now is $60, meaning he theoretically loses $40 if he buys in today and plays with the cards during his Standard events. We said that Ryan is planning on playing a total of at least six events during this first month. We could throw in the possibility of Ryan playtesting the deck with his friends, but that’s what proxies are for, so we’ll only count real sanctioned events.

I think you can see where I’m going from here: the calculations are pretty simple. We divide the $40 cost of “renting” the playset by the number of events Ryan will be playing. Assuming our numbers hold true throughout the month, Ryan pays $6.66 to rent a playset of Grand Masters for each event.

Is that worth the cost? I have no idea, as I’m not Ryan. Maybe Ryan is a prodigy with the next tier-one Standard list in his pocket, and is going to take home the trophy every time, winning back every penny and more. Maybe Ryan’s a scrub, and his deck is terrible. If he asked me whether or not he should buy the cards right now, I’ll just tell him that I have no idea, it’s up to him. I can tell that you’re thinking: “Wait, we just did all that work to realize that there was no concrete answer?” Yeah, pretty much. While there’s not a black and white answer, having a price tag on how much it costs to rent the cards for the specified duration should be able to help some Standard grinders make the decision for themselves on whether or not it’s worth it to grab cards that they think will decrease in value over time.

In Reverse

Let’s look at the second theoretical question. Jason opens up two copies of [card]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/card] in his prerelease pool. Jason happens to have [card]Glissa, the Traitor[/card] and a [card]Karn, Silver Golem[/card] EDH decks that these Ugins would fit in perfectly. Good for Jason. However, Ugin’s sitting at a theoretical prerelease hype price of $40. Jason is fairly confident that the planeswalker tax on Ugin is the cause of the high price tag, and he expects Ugin to slowly go down to $20 as one month’s worth of the set is opened. The thing is, he’s not sure if he wants to go through the trouble of selling and reacquiring the card later on.

In this example, Jason isn’t a Standard player, so he has no plans to win prize packs with these Ugins. They’re going to stay in his deckbox until his playgroup’s bimonthly EDH night, where they crack a few warm Bud Lite Limes [Ed. note: Jason isn’t going to be happy that you implied he would drink Bud Light Lime, DJ] and stay up until the wee hours of the morning. If we expect Ugin to drop $20, then he’s losing out on $40 total by not selling his copies as soon as possible. If Jason only plans on playing them a couple of times before their price is cut in half due to increased supply, we don’t need to do math to see that there’s a very high likelihood that Jason would be better off dumping them until a later date. After all, EDH is a 99-card format, and he’s only replacing one percent of the deck, instead of a playset of cards in a 60-card deck.

This concept currently applies to the Zendikar fetchlands, as well. I’ve been getting a lot of questions along the lines of, “Should I trade for/buy/hold them now? I’m going to play with them a bit, but I don’t want to lose money when they’re reprinted.” A card obviously loses value when it’s reprinted, but the amount can vary widely. If we want to use the Onslaught and Khans of Tarkir fetchlands as an (albeit rough) guideline, we can see that the original fetchlands plummeted to 50 percent their previous values, and sometimes even less, thanks to the high print run of Khans of Tarkir.

One difference between the two sets of fetches is that the older Onslaught versions will retain some degree of value simply by being old-bordered, but the Zendikar versions won’t have that luxury when their attractive, reprinted copies come crashing into the market. If we tie together the theory we just went over, you can decide for yourself where you think the Modern Masters 2015 fetchlands (I’m pretty confident that this is where we’ll see them) will land compared to the Zendikar ones. Personally, I think all of the reprinted versions will be between $10 and $15, and the ZEN ones will retain a small premium of $5 or so on their new counterparts.

To further examine this, let’s look at one of the trades I posted early on in the article:


From a pure numbers standpoint, it looks like the individual receiving the Goyfs is “winning” the trade, to use an ugly word. He’s getting about $30 extra in trade value, and he’s turning a foil Standard card into copies of the most expensive Modern-legal card in the format. In addition, those [card]Scalding Tarn[/card]s are probably going to be reprinted soon in MM15.

However, let’s look at a few possibilities that make this trade worth it for the [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] receiver. Maybe his LGS is slowing down on Modern events as his playgroup starts to shift more towards Legacy. From the appearance of the trade, he looks like he’s trying to build some type of Legacy combo deck (hopefully one that doesn’t include [card]Monastery Mentor[/card]…). If the guy giving up Goyfs logically believes that he needs the LEDS and Tarns to play with, and if he’s going to receive a lot of utility from playing the deck, then I think it’s perfectly acceptable for him to “lose” money on this trade, especially if nobody else in his playgroup had the Lion’s Eyes that he needed.

While the above “renting” examples with Ryan and Jason were a bit extreme and on the far ends of the spectrum, I hope that there’s something to be taken out of them for analyzing your own personal situation, and making the decision of whether or not to “rent” cards during the course of their descent in price.

The situation doesn’t always boil down to, “Yes, I should sell this card/wait on buying this card, because it will go down.” My answer might be vastly different than yours, and we can both be correct.

Thanks for reading!

Conjured Currency #47: I Bought a Collection—Now What?

Welcome back, everyone. I hope you all managed to make a bit of money off of [card]Golgari Grave-troll[/card], [card]Worldgorger Dragon[/card], and the other cards that jumped all over the place last weekend. While I did write about the Modern changes to the banned and restricted list last week and what they meant, articles like that one aren’t my favorite ones to write. Similar to how I dislike writing articles about speculation, I prefer the things I write to be timeless, and still be relevant for the months and years to come. As such, you may have noticed that my favorite topic is definitely the specifics of what to do with specific parts of the collections you buy. I’ve discussed price negotiations, what to do with the bulk commons and uncommons, the expensive staples, and everything in between. However, I don’t think I’ve ever made a step-by-step guide that details my exact process while going through a collection. I’m going to rectify that with this week’s article, with a lot of pictures for examples of what I’m talking about. I’m hoping that this can be an article I can link to newer MTG financiers every time I get asked about how they should go through a collection.

The pictures you’re about to see are approximately three different “collections” that I purchased in the span of a few days, that I decided to sort all at once for simplicity’s (and for this article’s) sake. The first collection was pretty much entirely commons and uncommons, with a few rares scattered throughout. The other two were lots of singles that I either pulled out of binders of friends and bought at buylist prices, or found on Facebook through one of the Magic trading groups and bought at a bulk rate after a bit of negotiation. I didn’t get the idea to start recording my process until I was partially finished sorting, but let’s go over what we have here.

So, You Just Bought a Collection

You grabbed a binder or two from a friend who was quitting the game, in addition to some boxes of commons and uncommons that haven’t been touched in ages. Now what? You know you got a pretty good deal just based on the binder, but we want to maximize value while minimizing time and effort.

That stain is so annoying..

That stain is so annoying..

Ironically, I bought this as a blank playmat a while ago from a collection, at an extremely discounted price. After getting frustrated due to not having a consistent sorting system, I took a sharpie to it and now have a rough guideline when hastily going through thousands and thousands of cards. Most of the sections are pretty self-explanatory, but I did leave enough room for two miscellaneous categories should I need them to change from collection to collection. For me, only cards that are worth at least $3 TCG mid get to make it into my binder. I have separate boxes for cards that are approximately $1 and $2 respectively, and the “unknown” category usually gets filled with alters, foreign foils, or even just “normal” cards that I don’t know the exact value of at the time.

Phase 1 Complete.

Phase 1 Complete.

Unfortunately, I didn’t decide to record my progress until I was partially done sorting the collections, and I missed a few opportunities to take pictues of what kinds of cards go into each category. So far, I’ve separated:

  • The nice, expensive stuff that’s going into my trade/TCGplayer binders. I try to keep an organized set of binders, and clean them out to reorganize every couple of months. It’s extremely annoying to have a set of [card]Polukranos, the World Eater[/card], but have to dig through eight pages of green cards just to find the damn things. Remember to keep your pages tidy and transactions will go smoother.

Binder stuff

  • The bulk rares. These will be alphabetized and color sorted into long boxes, for casual players to pick through. Due to the fact that I sell bulk rares for a quarter each, I tend to be aggressive with what I consider a bulk rare. For more information on bulk rares, I feel like I wrote a solid piece about them here.
  • The $1 and $2 rares. [card]Hive Mind[/card] isn’t a bulk rare, but it’s not attractive enough for me to take up space in a binder. Of course, everyone can set their own metrics on what deserves to be in their own binders, and many of you will probably want to keep your $1 or $2 cards in your binders because you’ll have room for them, and it’ll be easier to carry around. However, if you notice that your collection is growing to the point where you need to pull things out, try and start with the lower value stuff.
$1 stuff

$1 stuff

$2 stuff

$2 stuff

  • The common and uncommon “picks.” From [card]Dispatch[/card], to [card]Stinkweed Imp[/card], to [card]Unmake[/card], and even the [card]Golgari Rot Farm[/card]s, I tend to be extremely thorough with my picks. That stack with [card]Wretch Mind[/card] at the top will be broken down alphabetically, and sorted into boxes that will eventually be buylisted to sites such as Card Kingdom, Troll and Toad, or ABUgames. Even if the card doesn’t have a buylist price, I tend to pull it if it sees play in any sort of casual or competitive deck. I even pick all of the [card]Murderous Cut[/card]s, just in case I get asked for them at an event. Being “that guy” who has the niche pickups will get you places.
  • The stack with the Innistrad flip card would be where all of the tokens go. While I enjoy picking out emblems, vampires, krakens, and other “rare” tokens that can be buylisted. I’ve yet to find a suitable bulk outlet for the rest of the bulk tokens. For now, I just color sort them and throw them into labeled boxes that I keep at home. If anyone knows of a great buylist for mass amounts of tokens, feel free to let me know!
  • Foil bulk rares get their own box, which usually gets buylisted off at a Grand Prix if I can find a vendor paying $.35 or higher per foil rare. Still, I tend to color sort them out of habit. EDH and Cube players love sifting through the box to find random foils that I only charge $1 for.
blurry foils

Blurry foils

  • Do you see that stack of sleeves? I’ve gotten in the habit of sleeving every single card I own that’s worth at least $1, and then labeling it with any condition issues, language variety, or foiling. If you have extra sleeves lying around, I highly recommend sleeving every card that goes into your binder to prevent as much damage as possible to the cards.

Now we’re getting to my favorite part of collections. It’s not about finding the [card]Vampiric Tutor[/card] in the haystack, it’s about the solid, consistent return that bulk commons and uncommons bring. Due to the fact that I buy them for $4 per thousand from competitive spikes and retiring players, I can’t lose out. The standard buylist that many in-person stores will offer is $5, so anything I find in the bulk is just icing on the cake.

I actually prefer them unsorted, because they're more fun for casual players to go through

I actually prefer them unsorted, because they’re more fun for casual players to go through.

Basic lands get their own sections

Basic lands get their own sections.

I also remove every basic land from the bulk, and sort them by land type. Basic lands aren’t exciting to find when you’re a casual player looking for sweet creatures and spells, so I find it easier to sell the basics separately. This is easier for me because I have a display case and physical store location, but you can also just give them to newer players to help ease them into the game. Interestingly enough, most stores will pay higher for basic lands than common and uncommon bulk. Your LGS needs them to run drafts with, and we all know how often players leave the event without putting back their basic lands.

Still not as much mana as Sliver Queen+Mana Echoes..

Still not as much mana as Sliver Queen + Mana Echoes…

Where were we? Oh right, bulk commons and uncommons. If you buy the 800-count white longboxes from BCW supplies, you should be able to fit around 1100 cards in each box. The fastest and easiest way to guesstimate 1000 cards is to use an unsleeved card as a measuring tool.

---------- From left to right, this is 200 cards exactly --

From left to right, this is 200 cards exactly.

I fill up these boxes with approximately 1000 cards each, and then label them “RA” for random. This is only because I still have a few boxes left that were entirely color sorted when I received them, and labeled them “W,’ “U,” etc. I try to keep any foreign cards or moderately played cards out of the boxes, to keep them looking pristine. Casual players don’t want cards that they can’t read.

Random boxes


Once they’re all packaged up, I list them on Craigslist and put them in the store for $6 a box. Let me tell you, casual players freak out about getting 1000 cards for six dollars. If a booster pack gives you 15 cards for four dollars, this is a billion times better! I’ve been selling these like this for at least two years now, and have yet to find the bottom of this wellspring of casual players who just want to put together unsleeved Wurm decks and jam against their friends.

Here's my ad that I just relisted a few days ago.

Here’s my ad that I just relisted a few days ago.

With that all set, you should now have the entire collection assimilated into your own, and ready to sell in an efficient manner! Although good collections can be hard to find, they’re easily the most profitable aspect of Magic finance that provides the biggest percentage profits. Good luck hunting, and let me know about any other interesting tips on dissecting a collection!


Conjured Currency #46: A Modern Modern Format

One of the downsides of my writing deadline being Tuesday evening is that my articles can’t go up until Thursday morning. In a world where a new influx of information causes prices to spike hundreds of percentage points in a matter of hours, a two-day delay is less than helpful for in-the-moment action. This past Monday, Wizards of the Coast announced that [card]Birthing Pod[/card], [card]Treasure Cruise[/card], and [card]Dig Through Time[/card] were banned in Modern. At the same time, [card]Worldgorger Dragon[/card] dusted off its wings to rejoin the Legacy crowd, and [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card] (GGT) gets to shamble into Modern decks for the first time since the format’s inception. 

This is obviously old news to anyone reading, so there’s not any money to be made buying the two cards that got unbanned. Grave-troll and Dragon both jumped to $10 within hours of being unleashed, and my Duel Deck copies of GGT were quickly selling on TCGplayer for $8 each. Is Dredge a viable deck in Modern without [card]Dread Return[/card]? I have no idea, but I think there’s room for GGT to slowly drop until there’s an actual performing list confirmed at an event.

If there is a graveyard-based deck fueled by GGT, there are some peripheral cards to keep an eye on. [card]Vengevine[/card] is the most obvious one, and already jumped a few dollars from $12 to $15 with the help of some hype-train fuel. I’m still comfortable trading for them at the current price, because there are so many people wanting to brew new lists, and you have an easy out in this wild west format. In the best case scenario, there’s a real deck and you get to jump out at $20 or $25. Worst case scenario, nothing happens and you trade them to the people on PucaTrade who still want to build a tier-two deck because [card]Birthing Pod[/card] is no longer a thing.


Speaking of PucaTrade, I want to talk for a moment about why using the website to grab currently underpriced cards (or to speculate on future price changes) is not the best use of your time or money. If you’ve never heard of PucaTrade, you can check it out and sign up here, or read this one for a relatively recent and well-thought out article on the “how-to” aspect of the website.

If you saw that [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] foils were climbing in the weeks prior to the banned and restricted update, you might have looked at their PucaTrade price and thought, “Wow, Alara Reborn foil BBEs are only $3.99 in PucaPoints, but they’re $15 on TCGplayer! I’ll just add them to my want list, and some sucker will ship me those Bloodbraid Elves so I can resell them for a huge profit!”

If you weren’t one of the players with that line of thought, let me explain how that worked out for them: First of all, there’s an extremely low likelihood that many (if any) 399-point Elves were shipped. Why, you ask? Because the one guy who happens to have the card notices on his send-a-card page that there are twenty other users who all want the card at once. That’s enough of an alarm bell for anyone to check the current price of the card, and see what all the fuss is about.

Anyone who ended up not getting those foil BBEs are the lucky ones. On PucaTrade, there’s no setting to remove a card from your want list when the system updates and changes the price of the card. If you had $20 worth of PucaPoints, and wanted five BBEs for the purpose of speculating or flipping,  you might be shocked when the system updates while you’re sleeping, and the price correction occurs. Now they’re worth the correct value of 1000 points, and more people are willing to send them. But you didn’t want them to play with, you wanted to speculate. The unlucky players got stuck with normally priced cards that they can’t unload, because the hype is over.


What’s the Next Spike?

Now let’s go back to speculating. Everyone loves speculating, right? The feeling of being correct on a spec is so much fun, everyone wants to be ahead of the trend and one of the cool kids. I’ve mentioned before that I no longer buy cards for speculative purposes, and that’s still true. However, I’ll throw around some ideas on what could happen to the prices of certain cards now that the format got turned upside down.

[card]Bloodghast[/card] seems like an obvious inclusion to the Dredgevine deck, but it’s already $9 on casual graveyard/vampire appeal by itself. To complement that, I believe it’s a strong inclusion possibility in Modern Masters 2015. My belief is that MM15 will involve a heavy landfall theme, complete with Zendikar fetches and a high percentage of Zendikar-block cards, akin to the original MMA’s focus on Future Sight and Suspend. I’m actually selling Bloodghast, and hoping to avoid a reprint bomb this summer. I don’t see much upside to buying in now, especially if nothing comes of the deck


[card]Faithless Looting[/card] foils can be found on TCGplayer for as low as $3, and that just doesn’t seem correct to me. It’s from a small set that wasn’t opened much, it sees play in a couple Legacy and Modern decks, and will be a likely edition to any new brew that features GGT. While there is a comic book promo that hovers around the same price, that promo is not foil. If there’s any deck at all to support Grave-Troll, I can see foil Lootings trending up to $7 to $10. I’d buy them if you’re going to play with them, and trade for them aggressively if you’re looking to speculate.

[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] was a pretty obvious pick-up with the details of Modern Masters 2015 being revealed, because the cards added to the set stop right before Innistrad. However, Snap has the potential to become even stronger in the new Modern metagame, due to the fact that all of his targets won’t be costing eight or being delved away. These seem like strong pickups via trading at $30 to $33, holding until at least $40.

[card]Animate Dead[/card] is only $1 for its cheapest edition, and it hasn’t moved in the days since the dark day that Pod left this Ear—er, I mean the bannings. It used to be the other piece of the combo with [card]Worldgorger Dragon[/card], where you would make infinite mana by tapping your lands before they were exiled over and over, and eventually do something silly to kill your opponent. That was God knows how many years ago (seriously, I tried a few Google searches and can’t even find how long Worldgorger has been banned), and nowadays we have the ability to put Emrakuls and Griselbrands into play, who just win the game by turning sideways once or twice. I don’t think Worldgorger makes the cut in Legacy anymore, and will go the way of [card]Land Tax[/card]. I don’t recommend speculating on any of the old or new Worldgorger pieces like [card]Entomb[/card], [card]Dance of the Dead[/card], or [card]Necromancy[/card], and sell any Worldgorgers that you have.


Don’t even think about it.

While there are some great speculation targets out there, I’d like to point out that there won’t be anything to replace [card]Birthing Pod[/card]’s slot in the deck. Does that sound obvious to you? It should, but I recently saw a Facebook post on my feed that suggested [card]Yisan, the Wandering Bard[/card] as a spec target to replace Pod in Modern. Please don’t buy copies of that card expecting them to be played. It costs a lot more mana, a lot more time, and is much easier to kill than Pod.

Sleeping Banned Cards

We’ve already learned from past experiences, such as [card]Wild Nacatl[/card] and [card]Bitterblossom[/card], that a card doesn’t have to make an impact on a format to shoot up in price after its unbanning. GGT and Worldgorger were both sleeping in $1 boxes, and weren’t on many people’s radars. They were easy to pick up, and had very low risk of dropping in price during their slumbers. Suddenly, they became easy money and profit. Since we’re already on the subject, let’s take a look at the Modern banned list for cards that also have low risk and might eventually be unbanned.

[card]Sword of the Meek[/card] stands out to me the most in this situation. Back in the day, it was known for comboing with [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] in order to create an engine of flying creatures and life, and being exceedingly hard for aggressive decks to break through. I can imagine that a shell nowadays might include [card]Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas[/card] for an easy tutor package and fast win condition. However, Modern is a format where you can easily get blown out on turn four by [card]Splinter Twin[/card], or torn to pieces by a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] while having all of your spells denied by cheap countermagic. Even [card]Siege Rhino[/card] will likely trample through the banning of Birthing Pod and live on in an Abzan shell of some sort. I don’t think that the Thopter-Sword combo stands to overshadow this type of metagame, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come off the banned list at the next update. Although the card is an uncommon, it’s also from Future Sight with no alternate printings. An unbanning could see us into a world of $10 Swords, just like with our rare friends this time around. I’m definitely willing to invest in these in trades at $1 each.


[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. Big Jace. One of the most iconic cards printed in recent memory, Jace never even had a chance to shine in Modern, as he was slapped with a BANNED sticker as soon as the format came to exist. Is that correct? This single topic probably holds enough discussion to produce an entirely separate article, but I’ll keep it to a minimum here. Personally, I don’t think it’s correct for Jace to come off the banned list, and I wouldn’t recommend trading into him expecting him to be unbanned. Even if his power level isn’t oppressive to the format, I’d argue that Wizards doesn’t want another Tarmogoyf-level price running around if they have the ability to contain it. While they can’t ban ‘Goyf at this point, they can take a passive approach to keeping the Mind Sculptor inside his cage.

Predicting Future Bannings

It’s not exactly a secret that I love [card]Birthing Pod[/card], and I’ll admit that I still have quite a few copies that are leaving a bad taste in my mouth right now. I took apart my Modern deck several months ago, but didn’t end up getting rid of very many Pods since then. Whoops. When I pieced out Kiki-Pod, I rationalized that Pod could very well be banned in the Khans of Tarkir update. To support my claim, I looked to the reason that Wizards of the Coast decided to ban [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]:

On turn one, this can give the acceleration of a Llanowar Elves by getting a Dryad Arbor. On later turns, it can get a large creature or a one-of “toolbox” creature such as Gaddock Teeg. While this is interesting, it is also too efficient. If one intends to build a deck that has turn-one accelerants, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. If one wants to more access to utility green creatures, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. If one wants to more reliably get a large green creature, such as a Primeval Titan, onto the battlefield, Green Sun’s Zenith is a great choice. However, this ends up with fewer different decks being played in practice, as Green Sun’s Zenith is such a good choice that there are fewer green decks that do anything else. The DCI hopes that banning Green Sun’s Zenith increases diversity among Modern green decks.

Although Pod can’t tutor on turn one, it certainly spawned its own family of decks over the course of its lifetime: Melira Pod, Kiki-Pod, Spike Feeder Pod, eventually ending up with Rhino Pod. There were only really two or three different green shells in the entire format, and Pod was almost mandatory if you wanted to compete on the highest level of play—similar to how GSZ was in 2011. Looking back, I should have realized that the time for Pod was coming to an end and gotten rid of my copies a long time ago. While hindsight is 20/20, it’s still important to use this information and look towards the future as to what might be banned. That’s nearly impossible to do in a brand new format like this one, but it should still be kept in mind as the format develops. Go back and read the past updates to the banned and restricted lists, and find cards that tend to break the goals that Wizards has set for the format.

Restricting my Word Count

Normally I hate going over 2,000 words for fear of boring my readers, but the banned and restricted list updates are definitely worth going the extra mile for, especially when there’s a lot of interesting information to digest. Do you have a personal spec target based on the result of these bannings? Are you going to tell me to buy Yisan? Do you think JTMS has earned parole? Tell me more.

Conjured Currency #45: Pack to Square One

Have you ever heard of the phrase “Pack to Power”? For those who are new to the world of Magic finance, or just never came across the term, let me explain. Back in April of 2010, Jonathan Medina (known to some as one of the forefathers of the Magic finance lifestyle), began an article series on Gathering Magic called Pack to Power.

Basically, he wanted to open a single booster pack (at the time the most recent set was Rise of the Eldrazi), and trade the contents of that booster pack as a bubble collection separate from his own inventory, eventually picking up a piece of the Power Nine. He wasn’t allowed to accept charity cards to increase the value of his “pack” collection, and he wasn’t allowed to rip off unknowing/new players. On August 27, 2010, the final installment of his series went up, where he showcased his newly acquired [card]Mox Pearl[/card]. He had turned a $4 investment into a piece of the Power Nine. Aspiring Magic financiers around the world were in shock: if he could do it, why couldn’t they? It couldn’t be that hard to continuously grind for value—it was like free money!

Author’s aside: Looking back at some of those prices is just mindblowing. $10 [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] and $8 Inferno Titan[/card]? [card]Chains of Mephistopheles[/card] at barely over $50?

Now about $350...

Now about $350…

From $10-$70. Will it be in MM2015?

From $10-$70. Will it be in MM2015?

Currently sitting in my $1 rare box, waiting for an EDH player

Currently sitting in my $1 rare box, waiting for an EDH player

Unfortunately, it wasn’t free money. While some other players managed to replicate the project (sometimes with their own sets of rules only loosely based on Medina’s), it eventually tapered off as smartphones became a staple of the Magic trading floor. It became a much rarer instance to use one of Medina’s trademark phrases, “What do you value this at?” when the truth was a few button clicks away instead of having to rely purely on price memory. Knowledge of casual gems became less of a way to make massive jumps in value, so you can no longer trade for $10 [card]Mana Reflections[/card] because you knew the Standard player thought they were bulk rares.

While Pack to Power is now more commonly seen as a “this is a thing some guy did almost five years ago” piece of Magic history, attempts to complete the project have not entirely died down to zero. Newer players enjoy hearing war stories like this one, and think, “I could do that.” Just recently, I saw a post on Facebook in one of the “Buy/Sell/Trade” groups, where a player was attempting to do a Pack to Power project, through the mail. He posted a picture of his binder page to Facebook containing a bulk rare from Khans of Tarkir, an uncommon Charm, a foil common card, and a token. He also made absolute sure that everyone knew he was doing a Pack to Power, and everyone should “help him out to finish the project.”

Yes, that’s a bad idea

I can already feel what you’re thinking. I can taste the disgust in the future when this goes live on Thursday. “Why on earth should I give this guy value and trade through the mail just so he can fail his pack to power two weeks in when he runs out of money for stamps?”

The answer is simple: you shouldn’t. I’ve only actually traded with a few people who were trying to complete this project on the floor of an event, and none of them were a very pleasant experience. The phrases, “Come on, buddy,” and “Help me out here,” were thrown around more often than I was comfortable with, and at one point one of them even added a card from his own collection into the pile I was getting, and then put [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] that I gave him into his pack to power binder, breaking one of the cardinal rules. Now that smartphones exist, it’s much more rare for players to misvalue their own cards, or accept a number that strays too far from what their phone says is even. And that’s a good thing.

This is Not a Green Light

Now, there might be a select few of you reading this who are thinking, “Wow, that Jon Medina guy is a legend. I sure want to be like him when I grow up. I think that this article DJ is writing is a great way for me to learn what not to do when I do my P2P, because I’m not a jerk and I’ll be the best there ever was!”

I’m writing this paragraph to tell you that doing a P2P nowadays isn’t worth it. Stop now, before you start. It’s not just because of my poor experience with those who have tried, either. Isolating the contents of a single booster pack and trying to turn them into a piece of the Power Nine (or any other high-dollar card) just isn’t worth it for you, financially or time-wise.

Time is Money

It took Medina from April until August to turn $4 worth of Magic cards into his Mox Pearl, valued at $360 (how times have changed). That was over four months of constant binder grinding, looking for value, and using questionable trade tactics to slowly accumulate value.

Now that we live in smartphone land and more players than ever are up to date on the financial side of the game, it would take infinitely longer for you to finish the project. Power costs a lot more money now, you probably don’t have the reputation that Medina did back in the day, and your margins will be thinner on every single trade. It’ll take way too long, just for the bragging rights of getting a gold star to hang on your fridge at home.

Juggling Collections

For the entirety of his project, Medina kept his “pack” in an entirely separate bubble from his real inventory, so as to not contaminate the exercise. If someone wanted one card from each collection, he would have to make two separate trades, which became awkward if the values in the person’s binder didn’t make that possible. If player A wants one card from each of your collections that costs $15, and the only thing in his binder worth anything is a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], what do you do? This is a trade that would be a lot easier if the P2P wasn’t getting in your way, especially since Snapcaster is looking like a pretty juicy pickup due to the fact that it can’t be included in Modern Masters 2015.

Modern Value Trading

While the wild west days of “What do you value this at?” and “I think this is worth X, do you agree?” are pretty much dead and gone, there’s still room to make that invisible “value” on trades that we financiers enjoy. It doesn’t have to rip off your trade partner, and both parties can walk home happy. You don’t have to shout to the world that you’re doing a pack to power project for people to toss in free value, or any other sort of similar project.

For example, if you tend to buylist cards back to stores a lot when you’re not using them, you can trade for cards based on the buylist price. Two different cards might both be $10 based on the TCG mid, but one of them probably has a higher buylist price than the other. If you were going to sell to that buylist anyway, trade for the card that will give you a higher cash value. Your trade partner didn’t lose anything, and you got more actual money out of the deal.

Alternatively, you can act as your own personal buylist for your community if you have the inventory and reputation for it. This is a mantle that I’ve personally accepted in my college town, because we don’t have a store that buys or sells singles. If you’re in the same boat as I am, get the word out that you’ll trade for (or buy) anything and everything, as long as you get that margin.

Cracking up

Value trading does not have to be a project where you become famous through turning a booster pack into a Mox. There are so many more ways to save money and make money in this game that I can’t possibly go over all of them.

However, I can cross the terrible ones off of your list: stop doing Pack to Power, or you’ll end up pack to square one. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concepts that you think can be written about, let me know!


Conjured Currency #44: The Common Rares

Welcome back, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve actually written a finance article that revolved around buying and selling actual Magic cards. Last week I was on break for Christmas, but if you listen to the Brainstorm Brewery podcast like you should, then you’ll have heard my beautiful voice berating my personal sub-hosts Ryan Bushard and Corbin Hosler. While I was on the cast, I talked a bit about bulk rares during the Finance 101 section. If you’ve been reading this column for as long as I’ve been writing it, you’ll know that I pepper in the phrase “bulk rare” into almost every article I create, but I’ve never really dedicated an entire week to talking about what exactly constitutes a bulk rare, what you should be doing with them, or why they’re some of my favorite investments in Magic.

Different Types of Bulk Rares

Let’s start by trying to create an exact set of conditions for what constitutes a  true “bulk rare.” I’ll grab a random rare from my alphabetized box and analyze it: [card]Labyrinth Champion[/card]. It’s a four-mana 2/2, already expensive for a body, but it requires additional investment to gain any sort of value. There’s zero Standard demand, close to zero EDH demand, and Theros, up until recently, was the most-opened Magic set of all time. Due to these facts, Labyrinth Champion has a TCGplayer mid of $.24, and there are currently zero buylists on the Trader Tools app that show interest in purchasing the card. If you took the card to SCG, ChannelFireball, or several other large stores at a Grand Prix, they would offer you a flat $.10 cash for the card as long as it was English and in Near Mint condition. On rare occasions, you’ll find dealers aggressively buying bulk rares for as high as $.11 to $.13, but that’s about it. True bulk rares can often be noted by the fact that they have a price of $.49 on SCG’s website.


The most this card has ever done for me is teach me how to spell “labyrinth” correctly on the first try.

On the cast, I talked about certain cards having a TCGplayer mid price of close to $1.00, but their buylist price not reflecting their supposed retail value. [card]Ash Zealot[/card] is currently a great example of this, because it has a TCGplayer mid value of $.80, and an SCG value of $.75. While I didn’t have a name for these at the time of the recording, I’d like to consider them “fake” bulk rares. While you can’t even get a dime on a buylist for a card like [card]Chandra’s Phoenix[/card], people who trade using the retail price will offer closer to $1.00 for the card, allowing you to get rid of it in exchange for more liquid assets. You can trade for multiple “true bulk” cards, quadrupling up your cash value from $.10 to $.40, or you can trade the “fake” bulk rares for a different dollar rare, who’s buylist value is approximately half of the $1.00 TCGplayer mid price.

Lastly, there is an entirely different category of cards that often get bulked off to me that shouldn’t  be treated as bulk at all. These are cards similar to Ash Zealot or Chandra’s Phoenix: previous Standard staples with prices that didn’t decline after rotation, even though it’s assumed that they had. [card]Dreadbore[/card] is not a bulk rare, it actually has a buylist price of 80 cents. An even bigger surprise might be that [card]Thragtusk[/card] has a TCGplayer mid of exactly $2, and a high cash value of $1.35. Yes, that’s the same Thragtusk that was printed six trillion times in Event Decks, and barely sees occasional one-of play in Modern and Legacy.  It might seem tedious, but I highly recommend scanning through your piles of bulk rares every so often and checking if some still have some life left in them.


“You thought I was a bulk rare? Just who the hell do you think I am?” – Swagtusk

Why Do I Care?

Bulk rares can serve any number of different functions, depending on what the size of your collection is and how you tend to work toward your different outs. If you tend to trade more than you sell, and if you hate the prospect of dumping your copies of [card]Heartless Hidetsugu[/card] to a vendor en-mass for a dime each, I highly recommend separating them entirely from the rest of your trade binder, and creating an organized bulk rare box for the casual players in your community to dig through. I personally have multiple $.25 boxes that I throw all of my true bulk and fake bulk rares into, and they have an extremely high success rate for both new and experienced players finding cards that they can’t wait to jam into 99- and 60-card decks alike. It works out for everyone, because the people that find the fake bulk rares remember them being $1.00, so they get a great deal at 75 percent off, while I get to liquidate the stuff that’s not going anywhere else.

If you want to keep this box appealing, I recommend combing through and eviscerating all of the completely unplayable bulk rares, and shipping those to a dealer separately. While [card]Myr Battlesphere[/card] is an adorable bomb that fits perfectly into multiple decks, [card]Vizzerdrix[/card] and [card]Goblin Hero[/card] are not. No casual player is going to want these, unless they’re trying to collect 800 copies of the worst cards in Magic for style points. Pull out anything that seems like it doesn’t have a home, and try to ship off cards that you have more than four copies of. While I consider [card]Tower of Fortunes[/card] to be an amazing bulk rare in ramp-heavy EDH decks, I don’t need 15 copies to fill the goal of supplying everyone who needs one.

If you truly don’t mind going through your entire collection with a microscope, you can find some bulk rares that have randomly high (high is subjective here) buylist prices. Some true bulk rares happen to have a store looking to purchase them for upwards of $.25, and you can squeeze every single possible penny of value out of all of those dregs of Standards past. While I don’t recommend this if you value your time extremely highly, it’s probably fine to check the semi-playable bulk rares if you already have a large buylist process preparing to be shipped to multiple different stores.

Speculating with Bulk

Although I don’t buy cards to speculate on anymore, being able to buy bulk rares for $.10  is a great way to speculate on a low-value card without the risk of having to resell for less than you bought it for. During the Block Constructed Pro Tour where [card]Prognostic Sphinx[/card] was a hit, there were a number of community members suggesting it would be a strong card to spike post rotation in a control shell where it could act as a finisher. Instead of going out and risking $.50 to $1.00 a copy, I simply stashed them away while I was buying bulk rare lots instead of throwing them into my quarter boxes. I currently own more than 20 copies of the card, and while it hasn’t panned out exactly the way I wanted it to, there’s always the ability to bulk them back out for anywhere between $.10 and $.13 each at the next Grand Prix I attend.


There’s still time…..

How Do I Buy Bulk Rares?

A lot of you probably read that last paragraph and are now going to ask me the question: “But DJ, how do I buy bulk rares for $.10 when the cheapest available copy on TCGplayer is $.35 plus shipping?” The answer to this question is similar to my methods of buying bulk common and uncommons: there are very few Magic players who care about owning large amounts of bulk rares that they’re not currently using, and many players are willing to turn these [card]Drakestown Forgotten[/card] from their Conspiracy days into actual cash, or trade them up towards useful cards that they’ll actually play in Standard.

While I’m going to add my usual disclaimer of, “Please don’t try this at your LGS without discussing the policy with the store owner first,” I’ve learned that many local card stores don’t want to deal with buying bulk rares and taking the time to sort them, similar to bulk commons and uncommons. Just let them pick out what rares they want to bulk to you, and kindly push back the [card]Felidar Sovereign[/card] that they think is a bulk mythic at $.25. Let them know the real value of cards that are ridiculously out of the range of true bulk, and you’ll have more customers in the long run. That reminds me: buy splashy mythics like [card]Necropolis Regent[/card] and [card]Essence of the Wild[/card] for $.25 from players who don’t care, and then resell them for $.50 to $1.00 to the casual crowd.

Wrapping Up

While bulk rares aren’t as exciting as finding the next hot Standard or Modern tech, they’re a consistent source of income that can keep casual players happy if you know how to work with them. You’ll always have cheap cards to help newer players into the game with, and you can occasionally hit a gold mine on cards you specced on for dirt cheap.

It feels good to be back with a real finance article that I feel proud of. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for next week, feel free to hit me up on Twitter at the link below. I’ll also be hanging around on Facebook, Reddit, and in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Conjured Currency #43: Lessons Learned in 2014

Welcome back, everyone. I just now realized that this is probably going to be the last article of mine that goes up on Brainstorm Brewery for the year of 2014. Next week I’ll be off for the holiday, and the Thursday after that will be the first day of the new year. To end 2014, I’m going to go over some of the things I’ve learned since January about Magic finance, or maybe just Magic in general.

Lesson #1: Learn your Role

When discussing matchups between two different decks, a common piece of advice given to a player is for them to “know their role” in that matchup. Most of us are aware of the “combat triangle” in Magic of aggro, combo, and control, but it takes time and practice to learn exactly how controlling and how aggressive one needs to be in a particular matchup.

I recently learned that the same holds true for a person’s place in a community. I wanted to do it all in Magic: I wanted to be on the Pro Tour, I wanted to travel the world going to every possible event, and I wanted to buy collections and run a small singles business. I couldn’t do it all, and I started to get worn down. I found my niche in buying and selling cards in my local area, picked up writing about finance, and dropped the competitive side of the game. My stress levels have thanked me since. If you have dreams for the Pro Tour, that’s great! If you want to just grind FNM every week and just keep ahead of the trade prices so you can afford a Standard deck, more power to you. I just learned from experience that it might not be the best idea to try and do everything at once.

Lesson #2: Creature Tokens (Reprints) are Important

Tokens allow us to traverse the vast abyss of the Multiverse and prevent players from misrepresenting the board state with a rubber band and a red solo cup that are supposed to invoke the image of a savage 2/2 Wolf and a 5/5 Giant. They restore balance in the world. Either that, or some people just like to make their deck look more “official”.

Either way, Tokens can make us some money, and you can read more about that here. However, they’re not immune to reprint. That’s kind of obvious for common ones like soldiers and angels, but even the $3 wurm tokens made by [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] got hit with the reprint hammer in the red Commander deck, as I recently found out. I had been holding onto a few of them in hopes of finding a buyer, but I probably should have gotten rid of them when I got the chance. If you’ve got “rare” tokens you’re not using that could be jammed into supplemental products, I recommend buylisting them when you have the chance so you’re not stuck with them.

Lesson #3: Dual Lands Are Their Own Kind of “Power”

While a large majority of us will never own real [card]Mox Jet[/card]s or [card]Black Lotus[/card]es, [card]Savannah[/card]s and [card]Plateaus[/card] are much more affordable and still have that “piece of Magic history” flair to them, even if they’re not played in competitive Legacy decks.

For this reason, it’s often acceptable to ask for a premium when trading them away for lower-end Standard cards, or even bulk rares. Everyone values cards differently on a personal level, and not every deal made by a financier has to be “ripping someone off.” Would you rather have 2,500 bulk rares, or one Revised NM Tundra? I don’t think there’s a true correct answer to this question—it depends entirely on who you are, and your own personal goals.

Lesson #4: Sticking to What I Know

My specialty does not lie in Standard specs. If it did, [card]Duskmantle Seer[/card] would’ve been reprinted in every set, and I would be living like a king. Some people are much better at figuring out the Standard metagame before it changes, and those are the people who can capitalize on [card]Dig Through Time[/card] and [card]Siege Rhino[/card] a couple of weeks in advance.

On the other hand, I do have a knack for buying collections, and picking out the most unexpected cards from bulk. Since earlier this year, I’ve learned to stray away from buying and selling Standard cards unless they’re at buylist prices and I am planning to resell them immediately on TCGplayer or in my display case. Instead of trying to cover every base, I’m focusing only on what I have the most control over. While it’s good to have multiple revenue streams open at once, it’s only efficient if you have a strong grip on each and every one of them.

Lesson #5: Sealed Product is Not a Guarantee

I was always taught the mantra of “Sealed product is like interest at a bank. It never goes down, as long as you don’t touch it.” When I tried this myself with From the Vault: 20, Avacyn Restored booster boxes, and Commander 2013 decks, I found myself with basically zero gain over the course of a year, realizing that there were much better places to plant my money. Also, sealed product takes up a real amount of space in a college dorm room. While some limited-print-run sets will still likely be a good investment (like Modern Masters and its newly announced successor, Modern Masters 2015), the majority of sets will be printed to demand, and we won’t see the gains we expect.

Lesson #6: Social Media is One of the Best Places to Sell Magic Cards on the Entire Internet.

There are at least a dozen Facebook groups dedicated solely to the buying, selling, and trading of Magic cards, so taking a half hour out of your day to post some binder pictures can net you sales while avoiding the fees that will be incurred by selling on TCGplayer or eBay. While avoiding scammers and rippers is a necessity, there’s a network of individuals dedicated to keeping an up-to-date list on shady individuals to stay away from when trying to buy or sell cards. It’s also a great place to get rid of niche things that you can’t find a buyer for elsewhere, like playmats, sleeves, deck boxes, or collectables related to Magic history. 

Lesson #7: Prepare for the Worst

It’s a great life lesson overall, but I’m more specifically referring to any trips you make to large tournaments or other Magic events. Things will go wrong. Your car might break down, you might get lost, a deck might get stolen. Come prepared with extra emergency spending money and a backup plan. And than have a backup plan for your backup plan. While I’ve had many amazing people help me along the way when I ran into trouble, it’s a good idea to be ready in advance.

Lesson #8: Understanding Bias

It took me a while to realize that over 75% of the cards in my speculation box at one point were green. It just so happens that green is the color I play most with, and it gives me an unhealthy obsession with [card]Life from the Loam[/card] and [card]Eternal Witness[/card]. Even though both of these cards’ expensive price tags were mutilated by reprints, I kept them in my “hold” box, stuck in my belief for the longest time that they could both reach $5 someday soon. After having other people take a look at my box of shame, they finally knocked some sense into me and helped me realize that I should just be buying them at buylist, and selling them as soon as possible.

Looking Forward

As you may have been able to tell, I’ve run into a bit of a writer’s block for new material going into next year. I want to write about things that you all are interested in reading, but I’m not sure exactly where that falls. Should I go deeper into the steps to buylisting? Would a step-by-step guide to sorting a collection be helpful? I’m willing to take any questions for my first article of 2015. Let me know in the comments section, or hit me up on Twitter. Hopefully I’ll get enough questions to do an entire Q&A type article, and I’ll go from there.

Thank you all for reading what I wrote this past year, and I hope everyone has a happy holiday!

Conjured Currency #42: Protecting Your Cards

Welcome back, everyone. Because I’m relentless in wanting every eligible person to sign up for this year’s Gamers Helping Gamers scholarship, I’m going to leave the link to the application right here. How do I find out more information about this scholarship, you may ask? Well, I’ll leave the link to last week’s article right here so you can find out for yourself.

On the off chance that you’re here to read more about Magic: The Gathering finance and not Magic: The Gathering scholarships, you’re also in luck. However, instead of telling you which cards to buy, sell, or trade, I’m going to try and go over the best methods to protect the cards you already own.

Back in 1995, Magic players used to shuffle up unsleeved [card]Time Walk[/card]s and scrape [card]Black Lotus[/card]s against the pavement. While we’ve come a long way since then by developing protective card sleeves, not all sleeves are created equal. Some are of poor quality, and need to be replaced after only a few short uses. Certain trade binders have the unfortunate side effect of damaging the cards that they’re trying to protect. When things like this happen, it costs you money.


Ever since sleeving our decks has become normal, the type of sleeve that we use has been just as important. Some buy for durability, some buy in bulk for Cube, and some buy for style points to try and “bling” out their deck even more. The recent [card]Brainstorm[/card] sleeves from Grand Prix New Jersey were going on eBay that weekend for as high as $30, and a month after the event they can still be found on eBay for $15. I’m going to tell you right now that there isn’t a correct answer to what sleeves are right for you. It ultimately comes down to personal preference. What I can do, is make your life easier by listing the positive and negative attributes of each of the most popular types of sleeves.

Ultra Pro

ultrapro ultrapro2

First, we have the basic Ultra Pro sleeves. These come in multiple types: the two most common are a 50-count pack of a single color or an 80-pack with some type of illustration. At most LGSs, the 50-count Ultra Pros will cost about $5, and the packs of 80 go for $8. As far as durability goes, I don’t trust these to last more than a week before at least one sleeve starts to peel or split. While they do give you a few extras, it doesn’t take too many events to make the sleeves appear as though you’ve been using them for years. In addition, Ultra Pro tends to change the color of their sleeves slightly as the years go by. It’s hard to notice while in the packaging, but you might end up buying a pack to match one you got a while ago, only to find out that they’re not exactly the same color.

Unless you’re a huge fan of the artwork or just need a set of 50 for tonight’s draft deck, you’ll be looking to replace them on a regular basis. On the other hand, they’re cheaper and more available than a lot of the other brands. Ultra Pro also got the thumbs up from Wizards to use their images on the sleeves, so that’s why the [card]Brainstorm[/card] ones exist.



These are the sleeves that I personally use for all of my Commander decks. I used to only use black, but the dirt on those ones is much more visible than Silver, so I’m gradually making the switch when I come across good deals. After around 3 years of only using Dragonshields, I can say from experience that I’ve only had one sleeve ever split and need to be replaced. They’re by far the most durable sleeve I’ve used, and you can find them pretty much anywhere at a safe $10 for 100.

As for downsides, they tend to pick up dirt much easier than other brands. They can take a beating, but they certainly don’t look brand new even after a few uses. It gets annoying, but I personally don’t mind that much considering how rarely I play Magic nowadays.

Also, I’ve heard of more than one instance of someone being called out for cheating for using Dragonshields. Apparently they’re glossy enough that if you peel the top card up, you can technically see the reflection of that card in the back of the sleeve beneath it. While I’ve tried to test the validity of this claim, I can’t get it to work. Maybe it’s because mine are too dirty and old. Overall, I’d recommend using these for Commander decks. They come in packs of 100, and are extremely durable. The colors are also tasteful and not too flashy.


While I have a ton of experience with Dragonshields, I have less experience with the 80-count packs of KMCs. I’ve heard great things, though, including that they rarely break and stay clean throughout play. The KMC Super series and the Matte sleeves will each cost about $8 for 80, the same as the Ultra Pros.

However, I don’t think these are what you want to buy for Commander. 80 is a pretty awkward number, meaning the best bang for your buck would technically involve buying ten sets of 80 for $100,  but most people don’t have ten Commander decks. Buying three sets of 80 gives you enough for two Commander decks, and than 40 leftover for a Draft deck. I think these are better suited towards 75-card Constructed decks, but it’s ultimately up to trial and error, as well as personal preference.

Perfect Fits


For those who don’t know, Perfect Fit sleeves exist to allow you to “double sleeve” your deck. You first suit up the cards in these clear cases (the top of the card goes in first), and than you sleeve over it with your outside sleeve, whether it be KMC, Dragonshield, or UltraPro. This provides an additional layer of defense against spills and other hazards, while also making your sleeves stick together less (maybe this is just me, but I find shuffling a double-sleeved deck much easier then a single-sleeved one).

However, adding an additional layer to your cards does make it harder to fit into a traditional deckbox, and double sleeving can be a tedious process if you’re the kind of person who switches decks every FNM with only one pair of sleeves. The Perfect Fits are usually about $5 for a pack of 100, but that’s if you can find them at your LGS. Only a couple of stores that I’ve visited have had these in stock, so you might end up having to hunt them down online for $6 a pack. Alternatively, If you want to split a bunch with your friends, you can buy them in bulk online for around $3 a pack.


Let’s start this off by saying this: Stop using anything that looks like the following:


Do you see how the binder closes and the circular ring will press down onto the contents of the binder? That’s how cards get damaged. For the love of all that is holy, stop using these type of three-ring binders to store your collection in. It only serves to destroy you. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at a couple of other variants.



Although it looks relatively similar, notice how the side of the ring lies flat on the pages of the binder when closed, so it doesn’t imprint a dent into your cards. While you’ll have to buy the nine-pocket pages separately, this is by far the cheapest way you can go while still keeping your cards relatively safe and organized. You can find binders like this at the dollar store, or given away at yard sales. Regardless of what kind of binder you get, make sure to find 9 pocket pages that are free of any acid or other damaging material. Ultra Pro makes these pages as well for pretty cheap, although they do get dirty and cloudy very easily.



These are the binders that I personally use. They’re a bit expensive (anywhere from $30 to $40 a piece), but almost all of mine have been acquired as throw-ins from buying all of the cards in the binder from someone selling their collection. They’re pretty sturdy, and are extremely hard to steal from due to the side-loading nature and small pocket size.

As a downside, some people I’ve interacted with have stated that they believe the binder has the potential to damage cards over time, due to the fact that the surface the cards rest on is ridged and bumpy. I was told that cards had the ridges imprinted into their backs because someone left a binder under a stack of textbooks for too long. I’ve never experienced this problem myself, but I believe any worry can be removed by simply sleeving your cards in your binder. Your biggest obstacle here is price, but you can sometimes find great deals that make them worth it.

Ultra Pro


And, we’re back to Ultra Pro again. If you’re looking for a cheap, specifically Magic-related binder that will just get the job done, then this is probably for you. They’re around $20, they’re side-loaded, and they have that cool strap thing to prevent the binder from falling open randomly. And since it’s Ultra Pro, you can get the one with Gideon and Aurelia on it, because that seems to be the most popular binder in the world for some reason. One personal problem I do have with these is that the pockets seem to be really large compared to the Monster binders, and the cards have room to move around a bit while the binder is in transit. It’s probably not gamebreaking, as long as you sleeve the cards in the binder, but I feel like it’s a bit easier to steal from.

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go over every single type of sleeve/binder, but I think I hit the important ones. Even if you just want the cheapest available option, it’s good to know what exactly you’re  buying and approximately how long you should expect it to last. Cards are valuable, but only if they’re protected well enough. Until next week!

Conjured Currency #41: A Gamer Helping Gamers with Gamers Helping Gamers

Welcome back, everyone! I took a week off of writing about Magic finance for Thanksgiving, so I hope you enjoyed the throwback article that we posted, found here. Clicking on that article brought back some memories, and I realized it’s now been officially a year since I started writing for Brainstorm Brewery. I actually just went back and read my first article ever on the site, and it’s funny to see how some things have changed. I’ve learned a lot through my writing, and I’ve gotten to meet some people who I looked up to as role models.

Back in my first article, I introduced myself as a kid who won a $20,000 scholarship for Magic: The Gathering. It’s undoubtedly the achievement in my life that I most pride myself on, and one of the reasons I can focus my money toward Magic instead of drowning in student loan debt. Back when I first won that scholarship in the summer of 2012, I wanted to let the entire world know. It was a huge goal of mine to write an article for a website—any website—and help every high school- or college-aged Magic player learn that this was a thing. Teachers and guidance counselors will tell you that there’s a scholarship for anything, but usually it’s something along the lines of, “Here’s $200 for your parents being divorced, it helps our admissions statistics look better.” That’s what this week’s article is for. Now that I have a platform, I want to help spread the word about the opportunity that I had, and let everyone else know that they have a chance at it, too.

Who’s Helping Who?

The organization that started all of this is called Gamers Helping Gamers. Headed by some old-time MTG notables such as Tim McKenna, Bob Maher, Jr. ([card]Dark Confidant[/card]), Chris Pikula ([card]Meddling Mage[/card]), and Jon Finkel ([card]Shadowmage Infiltrator[/card]), GHG is a charity organization that looks to provide scholarships to Magic: The Gathering players.

If you’re a senior in high school or currently attending college, you’ll need to submit your FASFA (Free Application for Student Federal Aid) information, a high school transcript, and answers to a few essay questions (some related to Magic, some not). When I first saw that GHG was being put together during my senior year in high school, they weren’t ready to accept applications yet due to not having enough money. That changed after Finkel donated portions of his winnings from Pro Tour Dark Ascension and Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, and I ended up submitting my application in the nick of time—I think it was on the day before the deadline.

I’m here to suggest that you not do what I did. Instead, start working on your application right now. Entry just opened up this past Tuesday, and the last day for submissions is on March 31, 2015. Start thinking of ideas for the essay questions, and get your paperwork ready in advance. I personally enjoyed the look on my high school guidance counselor’s face when I asked for my transcript so that I could submit it for a trading card game scholarship.

Break Out the [card]Bloodletter Quill[/card]

Essay 1 asks for a few personal statements: What is your background in Magic, what is the role Magic has had in your life, why would you be a good applicant, and what are your personal academic/career goals? When I answered this, I started at the beginning and simply told the story of how I learned to play Magic: sitting at a cafeteria table in exchange for teaching a friend how to play Yu-Gi-Oh!. The game has been a huge influence in my life ever since learning it, from making friends, to strategic thinking, expanding my vocabulary, and a bit of knowledge about economics and finance.

Essay 2 should be a piece of cake. Everyone has that one card, or maybe that one game mechanic that they’re emotionally attached to. Maybe it was your first rare out of a booster pack, or maybe you just played with a Mirrodin Sunburst precon for five years before meeting other players who shared your interests. This is your chance to tell people who care what that aspect of Magic that you love is, and potentially get paid to do so. My story involves [card]Glissa, the Traitor[/card], and a perfectly healthy obsession of hoarding every existing copy of the card in the state of New York. I own a copy of the card that someone sunk their teeth into, put into their trade binder, then stared me straight in the eye saying, “You know you want it anyway.” He wasn’t wrong. I still own that card.

On the other hand, I wrote about how I absolutely abhor storm as a game mechanic. Looking back, I’m surprised that I wasn’t instantly rejected, considering Finkel was probably involved in passing down judgment on the essays. Anyway, I ended up discussing how storm is a very linear gameplay mechanic, and how it allows for very little interaction between the two players. Either player A enjoys his game of solitaire and wins, or player B resolves [card]Rule of Law[/card]. Do you hate how bestow was absolutely the worst thing to happen to Limited Magic in the history of the world? Do you think [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] ruined Standard for over a year? Let’s hear it. Even if you don’t or can’t submit an application, I’d love to read your love/hate relationship with cards and mechanics. Everyone’s got their own stories.

Apparently, there are new questions that have been added to the roster since the inaugural year that I was a part of. You have a choice to pick between one of these;

4a)  What can be done to increase diversity in the Magic community?  What factors, if any, do you see as inhibiting or encouraging diversity?

4b)  It is your turn 3.  Do you attack your 2/2 into your opponent’s 3/3?  Please explain the factors that would influence your decision.


If you’re looking for some ideas for 4a, maybe discussing how enforcing stereotypes doesn’t help our community, or how the boys’ club mentality of the game needs to be removed. As amazing as this community can be when we all work together, sometimes that group cohesion can lead to the alienation of others who just want to feel included.

Apparently Worlds is This Week

On a more positive note, day one of the Magic World Championship just wrapped up. By the time this article goes up, the tournament will probably be finished, and someone else on this website will be writing about the financial implications of the tournament results, as well as cards you’ll want to look out for. On an unrelated note, I’d like to mention that I’m currently rooting for Patrick Chapin, Tom Martell, Sam Black, Paul Rietzl, William “Huey” Jensen, Reid Duke, and Owen Turtenwald. Sorry Ray Future Pro… nothing personal.

Gamers Helping Gamers has been a huge reason for my successes in life these past few years, and I wanted to do what I could at this point in my life to try and give a bit back. If this article convinces even one person to go for it and try to win this scholarship, I’ll consider it a success. One of my goals in this column has always been to help other Magic players play the game without having to go broke, and removing the dark cloud of college loans definitely falls under that category. Good luck to all of my readers who apply!

BSB Classic: Trading to Your Outs

Editor’s note: Due to Thanksgiving, we’re taking the next couple days off. Enjoy this BSB classic and your holiday!

Hello again! For those of you who took the time to read my last article and still bothered to click on the link to my second piece, I thank you. I hope I was able to share enough information to make it worth your while. If you’re just jumping on this article series (if you can call it a “series”…I don’t even have a cool name for it), you can read my last piece here.

Last time, I mentioned that I would be discussing your “outs” to make the most out of every card you own. To some of us MTG financiers (someone really needs to come up with a better name for those of us who dabble in the MTG finance market), the things I’m about to list are common knowledge, but I hope that everyone reading this learns something. Either way, I’d greatly appreciate any constructive criticism or feedback on my writing to help me improve the reading experience for you.

Somewhere in your Magic lifetime, a friend may have walked up to you after you scooped up your cards in the face of overwhelming odds and told you that you still had “outs.” This means that, no matter how small a chance, there was a sequence of events that could have followed that ended with you pulling an amazing comeback and taking the game for yourself. Barring situations where you concede to save time on the round clock, it’s generally correct to play the game until your possible outs approach as close to zero as possible.

This philosophy of playing to your “outs” applies to the financial world of Magic as well. If you picked upMaster of Waves at $12 in the middle of its massive spike before the Pro Tour, then you were probably happy when it proceeded to climb as high as $25. However, if you didn’t get rid of them immediately, then you were gradually less happy as it progressively dropped back down to $12 where it is now. If you have all of the knowledge in the world of when a card will spike in price, that doesn’t help you at all unless you can actively get rid of it (unless your goal is to just get cards cheaply for decks, making Magic less expensive to play competitively). Let’s discuss a few “outs” you can use to get value out of your cards when they hit that sweet spot on the top of the price graph.

1. Trading:

This is the most obvious method. Trading off cards that have spiked (i.e. Hero’s Downfall) to Standard FNM players for sleepers looking to spike soon (i.e.Inkmoth Nexus and Birthing Pod. How are these not $10 yet?) is a good way to continuously increase the invisible value of your binder and make connections with your local community. The downside is that you don’t see any actual cash return by solely doing this. As much as we wish they did, Magic cards don’t pay the rent, or help towards gas and hotel costs when traveling to events. However, trading is a good way to get full retail value for cards, considering most people trade at TCG average or SCG.

If you plan on trading a lot, it’s important to remember to see as many binders as possible. I know that I am personally guilty of only going to a very small LGS because it’s five minutes away from where I live. After a while, trading can get quite stale. Take advantage of opportunities to broaden your connections, and you’ll meet many new players who need your cards!

1.5. Pucatrade: is a website that just recently came out of beta and is now in revised (ha). You put up a list of cards you have for trade and send them to people who have that card on their want list. When the recipient confirms he or she got the card, you receive the cards’ value in “PucaPoints.” Once you’ve accumulated some points, you put cards on your own want list, and people can send you those cards in exchange for your PucaPoints. Unfortunately, there are some features that are behind a paywall, so if you’re looking for things like foil cards, e-mail notifications, or an advanced search feature, there’s a subscription fee involved.

Personally, I’ve had great success using the site to trade off cards that are hard to move in my local area (getting $72 in trade for a Rishadan Port and $90 for a Polluted Delta seems fine, especially when there is nobody else in my local area who plays Legacy). I can save these points to get other cards for speculating or foils for my EDH decks. It’s also a good way for players who don’t have high-dollar cards to slowly trade smaller cards into bigger ones little by little. If you don’t care about special features and just want to trade, the site is free to use, so I highly recommend trying it out regardless of if you can afford the paid benefits. Just take Nick Becvar ‘s word for it, he’s certainly using it to his advantage to speculate on targets such as Forced Fruition, foil Griselbrand, and foil ZEN basics.


Also, if you’re not following Becvar on Twitter, you should be. He’s often ahead of the curve on price spikes, and is good at pointing out cards with stupidly low spreads (the difference between the highest buy price and the average sell price). You can find him @Becvar, because he’s probably the only person in the world with that last name [Ed. Note: except possibly for his dad].

2. eBay and TCG Player:

I’m going to lump both of these outlets together because they are very similar. I have personally sold very little on eBay but am max level on TCG Player. Both websites provide a solid way to turn your collection into cash (well, money directly deposited into your bank account, but you get the point). From here on out, when I refer to eBay, I am talking about BIN (Buy it Now) listings and not auctions. Here are some benefits and downsides to each site, so you can figure out which works best for you.

  • Cost to list: eBay’s listings are free initially, but cost an insertion fee once you pass 50 listings in a month. Listing a card on TCG Player is free no matter what. If you plan on selling more than 50 items in a month, but don’t want to set up an official eBay store, then TCG Player might be better for you. You don’t want to eat the costs for putting up items that may not even sell, and that will happen on eBay.

  • Fees: TCG Player’s fee for selling a card is 11% + $.50 per order, not taking shipping into account. eBay’s fees are 12.9% of your sale (10% goes to eBay, 2.9% goes to PayPal), also not including shipping. Given these fees, it is more cost-efficient to sell cheaper cards on eBay, and more expensive cards on TCG Player. I believe that the tipping point for being better to sell on TCG Player is approximately $26.00 for a listing (my math skills are really bad, and that may or may not be correct. Feel free to correct me).

  • Time to list: Multiple friends of mine who sell on eBay (including Brainstorm Brewery’s own Jason Alt, @JasonEAlt on Twitter. If you’re not following him, you have me honestly astounded) have informed me that it takes much longer to list cards on eBay. One of the reasons is that eBay will no longer accept stock pictures of cards from Gatherer, so you would have to take the picture yourself and upload it. Doing that for every listing takes much more time. As financiers, we all know: time is money.

  • Extra options: eBay gives you the option to pay $50 and become an “eBay store”, which grants access to lower fees and more free listings. This is obviously a benefit if you would have otherwise spent over $50 in fees while selling on eBay.

  • Navigation: The storefront on TCG Player is extremely easy to navigate and is very user-friendly. For example: when listing a card, TCG Player will bring up the current lowest price + shipping per card, per listing. This is very helpful when trying to match the lowest price to ensure your card sells quickly.

In the end, it’s up to you to take these pros and cons and figure out which of these sites is right for you. The nice thing is that neither service requires you to take much time out of your day. Just a few clicks on a computer or phone, and a few minutes to package and ship.

To me, it appears that TCG Player is a better out if you want to get rid of higher-valued cards at a slower pace, especially if you don’t have much time. eBay looks to be your better option if you plan on doing a much higher volume of sales and have more time on your hands to spend listing items.

3. Social Media

Most of you reading this article (if I have a readerbase large enough that the word “most” can mean two or three, I’ll be overjoyed) probably have a Facebook, or some other form of social media. Making an Excel spreadsheet of the cards you have for sale and slapping it onto the page of your local Facebook MTG group can net you a surprising number of sales (don’t have a local Facebook MTG group? Make one. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with everyone you regularly play or trade with, and allows you to contact all of them at once).

You can list cards for the TCG low, or a certain percentage under the average, and still make more money then listing on eBay or TCG, because you won’t have to deal with fees, shipping, or supplies like toploaders, sleeves, printer ink, and envelopes. This is personally my favorite way to sell cards. You can almost always meet face-to-face to check condition of cards, you build a reputation as an honest seller, and both parties have the opportunity to negotiate. If my Hero’s Downfalls aren’t selling on TCGplayer at $13.00, and I list them on my spreadsheet that I’m selling them at $11, I’ll probably take $10 if someone asks, considering the highest buylist price right now is $8.00.

3.5. Craigslist:

Craigslist doesn’t have to be the land of $300 shoeboxes of Ice Age commons. In addition to Facebook, posting reasonably-priced singles on Craigslist might bring players out of the woodwork. I’ve also heard that this is a good place to unload bulk commons and uncommons for anywhere from $8-$10 per thousand, where most retail stores will only give you $5 per thousand. This also beats dragging massive amounts of bulk to larger events, or eating shipping costs by sending it to stores in the mail.

4. Sell for your LGS:

This option will be feasible for fewer readers then the previous three, but I feel the need to mention it because it is a huge boon to the community if you can pull it off. I have lived in two cities in the past three years where the LGS was unable to sell MTG singles. While you do need a larger collection to attempt this, it’s an option to offer a deal with your LGS owner: if they can provide you with the space to sell cards, then they can take a cut of your profits. Even if they don’t have a spare glass display case, you can generally find those on Craigslist for only a couple hundred dollars, a cost you might be able to split with the LGS.

If you’re a regular FNM goer, this doesn’t have to be much more effort than you already put into MTG finance. Just restock the case when you stop by as you normally would. Selling cards out of a display case also gives you an opportunity to get cards for buylist prices.

5. Buylists:

I have to admit, I cringe at the word “buylist” sometimes. To a lot of players, buylisting means getting rid of cards at much lower than full value, taking hours to fill an online shopping cart, sort the cards in the correct set order, and then waiting forever to get paid, only for the store to reduce your payment because they felt that the cards were not up to their standards of NM. Sometimes these things can indeed happen.

Buylisting is my least favorite part of making money off of Magic, but sometimes it can be a necessary evil. Buylisting copies of Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, and other liquid staples generally isn’t the correct play, but where else are you going to get someone to pay you the TCG mid price of $.50 for each of yourJudge’s Familiars or Selesnya Charms? This is where buylisting comes in handy, especially if you tend to purchase a lot of collections, since you probably have a lot of playable commons and uncommons around.

Since buylisting is so boring and time-consuming (well, at least for me. If you actually enjoy the process, you might be able to market yourself off to lazier financiers such as myself), some noble paragons from the MTG finance heavens have created tools to help us quickly determine which stores have the highest buylist prices. Quiet Speculation’s Trader Tools, a wonderful little program found at, lets you search for the highest buylist price of any card. If you want to see which store is offering that price, though, you’ll have to subscribe to become an Insider at the site, which grants a bunch of other neat features. MTG Price also offers a buylist aggregator on its website, so you can figure out exactly to which store you should send your 10+ copies of Exsanguinate. Each program has some stores that the other doesn’t, so using both can secure you maximum value. In my experience, Card Kingdom, ABU Games, Adventures On, and Troll and Toad consistently have the highest buy prices and process orders quickly.

Now You Know Your Outs

I hope that at least some of this information was new to everyone, because it’s a goal of mine as a writer to make sure that readers walk away with something new every piece. I know that this article could be improved, so please use the comment section below. Have constructive criticism as to outlets left out? Care to critique the content of the article itself? Here’s your chance. I want to learn from my readers as much as you do from me. Also, I’m looking to name my column, and am very open to ideas. Thanks for reading!

Conjured Currency #40: Lessons from Grand Prix New Jersey

Grand Prix New Jersey has come and gone, and it was certainly an event to remember. With 4,003 people playing in the main event, Magic players have proven once again that Legacy is not a dead format. MTG even finally managed to beat Farm Simulator 2015 on Twitch, reaching over 15,000 viewers at its peak. But I’m not here to tell you which deck won, how many copies of [card]Treasure Cruise[/card] were in the top eight, or how many copies of [card]Forked Bolt[/card] you should be selling at $4 right now (hint: all of them). That information is just a Google search away. Today, I’m going to explain to you my methodology while buying/selling/trading, my first-hand experience with the vendors on site, and why you should tie a balloon to your backpack the next time you walk into a convention center containing 5,000 people. Let’s get to it.

Wheeling and Dealing

After suffering through the six-hour drive from Upstate New York, I arrived at the Expo Center at approximately 11:00 a.m. After saying hello to a few friends, my first order of business was to stop by every on-site vendor, pick up a copy of their printed-out buylists (if they had one), and quickly skim through the binders. Some vendors have multiple binders off to the side where they mass price random EDH/casual stuff that doesn’t deserve to be in the high-end display case. This is a great place to pick up things that have crept up recently (I found a foil [card]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/card] for $5), or grab the weird foils you’ve been missing for EDH.

Anyway, step two is to bunker down with your multiple sheets of homework, grab a pen, and circle/star/whatever you need to do to mark off prices for cards that look acceptable. I managed to throw all of mine away in my infinite wisdom, but I think you get the picture without having to actually have a picture. Circle the boxes that say, “[card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]: $12,” and stay away from the boxes that say “[card]Polukranos, the World Eater[/card]: $4.” Once that’s done, dig through your binders for the cards, and separate them by store. You save a ton of time (both yours, the vendors, and the people that would’ve been waiting in line while you sat at the table) by doing this.

“But DJ, what about the stores that don’t have printed out buylists?” Honestly, I usually stay away from the stores that don’t have a physical copy. You only have so much time in a weekend, and I’m not going to sit down at the table just to say “no” to 80 percent of the cards and prices they name. There are certain exceptions to this rule, though; LegitMTG at Grand Prix Philadelphia had a promise to honor every single other paper buylist on site unless their prices were “unreasonably high,” and I was perfectly happy to just give them everything. Some promise to match their online buylist in person, and others are well known to buy specific types of cards (like bulk) for a high price. Still, a few quick questions should determine whether you want to sit down at their table or not.

Individual Vendor Review

My first stop of the weekend was CoolStuffInc. The name might sound familiar to you, because you’ve probably heard Marcel telling you to show your support to them. I’ve always had an amazing experience with unloading casual gems to CoolStuff, and Jersey was no exception. They took stuff like [card]Fabled Hero[/card] at quarters, [card]Essence Warden[/card]s for $.50, [card]Rancor[/card]s for $.75, and all of my Ravnica bounce lands for $.10. It doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up over time. The dealer that handled my buy was very friendly, and we talked a bit about the weird cards that I was selling (also getting $.50 for [card]Congregation at Dawn[/card] that I used in the stupid [card]Skill Borrower[/card] deck was great). He was also happy to pick through several thousand bulk rares and pull out the cards that he would buy for higher than bulk, keeping my cards in order when I told him they were alphabetized. Overall, I highly recommend CoolStuffInc when getting rid of the casual gems and near-bulk cards that I talk about all the time in this column. Very personable, great prices on a specific niche of the market, and a fast transaction. 10/10, highly recommend.

After CoolStuff, I noticed that GamingEtc was having a deal on Monster binders. These binders normally go for between $30 and 35 on most retail sites, and many vendors on location were unloading them for $25. GamingEtc took it one step further, and created a bunch that had their logo on them, dropping the price on these to $20. I’m perfectly fine being a walking label if it means I can get supplies for cheaper (even if you for some reason hate GamingEtc, three minutes and a roll of duct tape can solve your internal crisis), so I had my target. At the same time, the store was offering $.50 cash for any NM bulk mythic, with a 25 percent trade-in bonus. I counted out all of my [card]Malignus[/card]es, [card]Tree of Redemption[/card]s, and [card]Champion of Stray Souls[/card]s, and dumped them all on the table (metaphorically), walking away with five new binders and a small wad of cash. Considering I buy bulk mythics for $.25 a piece, it was a great way to stock up on supplies for very little buy-in.


Next up was a certain famous (or infamous, depending on your past experiences) store that has built quite the reputation throughout the community, StrikeZoneOnline. The abridged version of my experiences with this vendor have always been, “Don’t mail cards to them, but always stop by and sell things to them in person.” This past weekend, I managed to sell a [card]Sublime Archangel[/card] to them for $7, original [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]s for $5, and a few other nice deals that were oddly close to retail. Normally, I ask them to skim through my binder for odd foils. I remember buylisting a foil [card]Sorin Markov[/card] for practically retail, and was hoping the same would happen this weekend. Unfortunately, I was told that, “If it’s not on our paper buylist, we don’t want it at all this weekend.” That also meant that they wouldn’t honor their online buylist, which I was really hoping would be the case. I guess they wanted to save their cash to grab up dual lands and Legacy staples, but it left me not being able to execute my plan of action. My recommendation going forward is to still stay away from mailing cards (they’re much harsher grading when you’re not sitting across the table from them), and only plan on selling cards that are on their list when you pick it up.

After SZO was a store called Card Advantage. After hearing about issues with them not honoring their paper buylist in person, I wanted to see for myself. I pulled my cards from my binders that were on their hot list, and they honored their prices without giving me any trouble. Getting $3 per Thalia was more than what I was trying to get in my display case back home, so their hot list was definitely worth picking up and scrolling through. In addition to having great prices on certain cards, the people behind the booth (@amistod and @zachsellsmagic on Twitter) were very personable and nice to talk to, which wasn’t true with every vendor that I visited over the weekend.

Other Notes

[card]Containment Priest[/card] was impossible to find this weekend, and I watched a few copies sell out of cases for $40 or more. This does not mean that Priest is the [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] of the set. Priest is not a four-of in its deck—it barely sees main-deck play. These new Commander decks will be printed to death, so wait until Priest is $10 in a couple of weeks, then buy in if you need your copies for Legacy or EDH.

Keep an Eye on Your Stuff!

Yes, this is supposed to go without saying. Yes, it’s a broken record to say, “Don’t let people steal your Magic cards.” However, here’s a story from this weekend. I sat down to trade with a young gentleman (probably younger than myself), and he hands me his binder to flip through. It’s not a bad binder, probably a couple thousand dollars (retail) worth of stuff in it. Before I’m finished, he tells me, “I’ll be right back, I’m gonna go get the rest of my cards.” Before I can even hand him his binder back, he sprints across the hall, awkwardly leaving the binder with me and two people I was sitting with. We are sitting less then 50 feet from the exit to the convention center, and are shell shocked as to what just happened. It takes him almost ten minutes to return with a few more fat pack boxes, and I end up letting him know how lucky he is that neither I nor the people I was sitting with were terrible people. Do not let anyone else watch your collection for you. There are already multiple stories of stolen collections surfacing from this past weekend, and there’s no guarantee that things get returned.

On the Other Hand…

There are some good people in the world. My experience on the New Jersey road system was less than ideal, and I ended up hitting a massive pothole in the middle of the night, and breaking the exhaust pipe on my car. The back half of the pipe dragged on the road the entire way back to the hotel, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have lasted the entire drive back to New York. Thankfully, a good Samaritan decided to help my group and me before we drove back on Sunday morning. Shout out to Bobby for patching my car back together! As much as everyone tends to focus on the negative, there are definitely some amazing people in our community who will stop what they’re doing and help others out.

How Was Your GPNJ?

Did you play in the event? Did you get any good trades or notice any financial trends? I can’t cover the entire weekend in one article, so feel free to fire away any questions about what happened on the floor last weekend, or anything about Grands Prix in general. I’ll reply in the comments section here, on Reddit, or on Twitter. Until next week!

Conjured Currency #39: The Nekusar Effect

Hey, everyone! I’m going to take a moment and assume that not all of you reading this article have been playing for longer than a year. For those who are unaware of what the title of this article is referring to, let me give you a brief refresher: [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card], was one of the three legendary creatures that came attached to the Mind Seize Commander 2013 deck last year. While almost all of the people who purchased Mind Seize ripped open the packaging for [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] and threw the other cards to the wind, there were a tiny number of players who realized that [card]Underworld Dreams[/card] on a stick in Grixis colors made for a damn good commander.

Just kidding, that “tiny” number of players was enough to make [card]Forced Fruition[/card] jump from $1 to $7 almost overnight, because making people eat a [card]Searing Wind[/card] every turn was fun. Not only Fruition, but [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card], [card]Teferi’s Puzzle Box[/card], and [card]Winds of Change[/card] also managed to skyrocket past their previous slumbering bulk box prices. Meanwhile, Nekusar himself drifted down to bulk status, and remains there a whole year after his release. The card’s only other printing is a $35 judge foil, so it’s safe to assume that there are enough Mindrazers to go around for people who want him.

Now, where does that leave us with Commander 2014? While I don’t think any of the new (or reprinted) legendary creatures will be above single dollar status a year from now, its’ entirely possible that EDH players find a common ground in one of the cards from the set to build around. Just like with Nekusar, there will be weird, old cards that have low supply and a sudden spike in demand. Let’s try and have a discussion to see if we can pinpoint which general can rise to the top, and the older cards that will end up supporting him or her!

[card]Daretti, Scrap Savant[/card]


While I don’t recommend buying in at $11 at all, I do think this will be the most opened deck by far. The mono-red deck has goodies such as [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], [card]Dualcaster Mage[/card], [card]Chaos Warp[/card], [card]Goblin Welder[/card], [card]Reliquary Tower[/card], and [card]Solumn Simulacrum[/card]. While you can definitely expect these to drop in the coming months, that doesn’t mean players won’t rush out to buy the deck because they believe it to be “more than worth it.”

If we run with this assumption, then there will be tons of spare Feldons and Darettis lying around once people figure out he’s not good in Legacy. For what it’s worth, it looks like Wizards tried really hard with this deck to dispel the (currently true) myth that “mono-red is the worst color choice in Commander.” Where should we look for potential “artifact matters” mono red EDH pieces?

[card]Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer[/card]

Chas Andres of SCG made an excellent point on a recent Reddit thread discussing this topic, and suggested this as a pickup. As someone who already likes bulk rare specs, I support this 100 percent. It’s strong in the deck, has an extremely low chance of reprint, and is running on a very low comparative supply, considering it’s only been printed once, back in the original Mirrodin block. Although there are a few hundred copies on TCGplayer, it’s a very low-risk pickup with high reward potential.

[card]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/card]

I talked about this card a few weeks ago, about how it was a bulk rare that really only needed one more card to be absolutely broken. I’m assuming it’s incredibly powerful in the Daretti deck, and I really don’t think you have long before this card starts gaining financial traction. It’s freaking [card]Tinker[/card], people. If you untap with it, you basically win. Out of every card in this article, I’m loving this more and more as a spec each day.

[card]Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient[/card]


Besides having a stupid name and looking like a boss monster out of Legend of Zelda, this seems like it deserves a spot in the mono-red deck. I don’t think this is poised for an immediate spike, like Fruition or any of Nekusar’s buddies, but I also don’t think it deserves to be a bulk rare a year or two from now. Definitely something to grab out of bulk rare bins and set aside for later. M15 had quite the low supply, as we could tell from $40 Nissas and $20 Rabblemasters.

While the red deck definitely seems to be the winner of “most popular,” I don’t think the green deck is too far behind. They reprinted almost all of everyone’s favorite elves this time around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many a Johnny looking at the below card, wondering how to break it.

card]Titania, Protector of Argoth[/card]


I admittedly wasn’t super excited about any of the new cards in Commander 2014, at least until I saw this baby. For those who don’t know me, I have a five-color [card]Child of Alara[/card] deck that runs approximately 60 lands, and runs entirely off of land-based engines. Titania seems absolutely absurd in any sort of land-themed deck, although I think she works better as one of the 99 instead of as a commander. Still, maybe her existence is enough to spike interest in land-themed decks. Let’s see if there are any old cards that could see a resurgence due to her interesting mechanics!

[card]Zuran Orb[/card]

Quite possibly the easiest way to sacrifice your own lands in the entire game, and a quick way to get an army of 5/3s at the end of your opponent’s turn. While I don’t think Titania is going to make Orb spike to $7, it’s still probably worth having the interaction on your radar just in case the deck does become popular.

[card]Realms Uncharted[/card]

A bulk rare designed to be a land version of [card]Gifts Ungiven[/card], but it never really got anywhere. I play it in my Child deck to great effect though, so maybe I’m biased when I argue in favor of its power level. You can search a number of different fetch lands to crack for elemental tokens, or go full utility and grab stuff like [card]Thespian’s Stage[/card], [card]Maze of Ith[/card], and [card]Vesuva[/card].

[card]Crop Rotation[/card]

It’s always been an extremely powerful tutor at first glance, but having a 5/3 attached at instant speed seems worth enough to be an auto-include in any Titania decks, and most decks that include her. You only get to play one [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card], and this finds it quickly and easyily.

[card]Elvish Harbinger[/card]


For all of the new elf Commander decks out there, this is one that I control-F’d on the decklist page and didn’t end up seeing. It’s not quite [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] in terms of power level, but it’s one card that you don’t have to worry about unloading as a result of the massive number of reprints. She’ll most likely continue to slowly creep up until she hits $5 like [card]Imperious Perfect[/card] did.

It’s a Gruul Kind of Week

Unfortunately, there’s not the same “build around me” feel in the blue or black decks as there is in the green, white, or red. The Teferi and Ob Nixilis decks feel much more generic instead of having a dedicated theme. This is something you might want to take into account if you feel that’s a strong enough reason for one deck to be opened less than the rest. Personally, I believe that the mono-red deck has the largest room to have a Nekusar effect, either with Daretti or Feldon.

Do you have any pet specs that you think have a chance to shine because of the new legends and planeswalkers? Let me know in the comments section, Reddit, or on Twitter. Also, I’ll be off at Grand Prix New Jersey this weekend, selling cards to dealers and enjoying the vacation. Message me if you want to hang out, talk finance, or play Commander!

Conjured Currency #38: Finance 101, Arbitrage

Arbitrage. Noun. The simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, commodities, or foreign exchange in different markets to profit from unequal prices.

In “Finance 101” terms, this basically means that we’re going to buy something at one price from some entity, then immediately turn around and sell that exact same thing to somebody else for a higher price. As such, this tactic would be most commonly found in the stock market, where an individual can make make dozens of transactions in a single minute.

While the stock market has razor-thin margins where fractions of a penny are made in each transaction, Magic corrects itself far more slowly. While it’s true that [card]Mesmeric Orb[/card] can climb from a bulk rare to $4 in less than a day, that’s still much slower than the “real world economy.” Every single store and dealer doesn’t update its prices by the hour, so there are definitely opportunities to be taken advantage of.

“Free Money”

Maybe a vendor on TCGplayer has a $40 card listed for $25 (whether to rapidly increase his store level, or due to a mispricing, or any other reason). At the same time, a buylist might be offering to buy the same card for $30 cash. If we account for packaging and shipping, we’re still likely ahead for a couple dollars if we act fast enough. Now, is that honestly worth the initial money and effort? That’s up to you. There’s also the possibility that the buylist updates while you’re waiting for your purchase to come in the mail, and now you don’t have an immediate out for $30. Whoops.

Many other websites and authors have called this method “free money” in the past, and I’ve never been a fan of that analogy. It’s not free if you have an initial investment cost, and you’re still taking multiple risks along the way. For all we know, our buyer could just refuse our sale.

Where to Look?

I’m assuming you’ve realized this by now, but arbitrage is not exactly the secret golden goose of Magic finance. This isn’t like buying a collection where you can easily make a 200-percent profit when you’re finished. As a matter of fact, solid arbitrage opportunities are probably more rare than collections. You don’t want to spend all day scouring TCGplayer for every single card and checking it up against every single buylist. Thankfully, our friends at have released a tool (still in beta) that can help with your search for “free money,” as some people call it: the arbitrage tool.

If you’re already in the habit of checking the MTG interests every day, adding one more webpage to the routine can’t hurt. Even if there aren’t any amazing buy-in opportunities, this page shows how absurd some buylist prices actually are. StrikeZoneOnline, for example, is buying foil [card]Breeding Pool[/card] right now for higher than retail! I know where I’m dumping my copies at Jersey this coming weekend.

If you have a Quiet Speculation Insider subscription, you can sort lists of entire sets on by the spread (the spread is the difference between the lowest sell price, and the highest buy price). If a card has a negative spread, then there should be red lights going off in your head that there’s an arbitrage opportunity. Just click on “lists,” pick your set in the dropbox, hit “View Edition,” and then click the “s%” column. Any negative spreads will jump to the top of the list, which can also be a great help while sorting through bulk.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lag in the time it takes for the card to arrive. Like we went over in our initial example, the price could have changed in the few days it took to be shipped. Thankfully, this is much less of an issue when on site at a Grand Prix. I think I’ve previously told the story in this column of when I bought eight copies of [card]Chromanticore[/card] from one vendor for $1 each, then walked across the hall and got $12 for all of them from a different dealer. Zero lag time, and minimal effort required. If you see one vendor advertising an absurd cash offer on a card and you don’t have any, it might pay (literally) to take a walk around the cases and see if someone else is selling the card for lower than the first store’s buy price.

Which Cards?

Often, the cards with the highest buylist prices will be the ones that haven’t been touched in ages, and nobody has bothered to update. Sometimes a store already has a buyer lined up for a very particular EDH foil, and they’re willing to offer retail or higher to get the card in stock, because they know their loyal customer will pay even more than that to get their hands on it.

If you look at the MTG Price arbitrage page, you’ll see (at least if you’re reading this on the week of the article’s release) that a large majority of the cards with an absurdly high buylist price are EDH foils that StrikeZoneOnline is willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for. (Quick aside on StrikezoneOnline: Do not mail your cards to their buylist, even if you have a nice arbitrage opportunity. They will grade cards extremely harshly if you’re not there in front of them, and they will flat-out refuse any card that is not “NM” in their eyes, sending it back and charging you for the shipping. On the other hand, they’re a great store to sell to in person at events.) Often times, these are the cards that you can make an offer to if you find the correct store. If the dealer you’re talking to enjoys having new EDH foils that he’s currently out of stock of, don’t be afraid to create an arbitrage opportunity out of nothing.

Bulk rares can have an oddly low spread as well. If you can be the guy in your local area who buys them at $.10 apiece, you can find the strangest bulk rares with a buylist price of $.17-$.20. ABUgames and AdventuresOn seem to practice this the most, and I’m not sure why. If you were planning on shipping a buylist to a store anyway, there’s no harm in getting a few extra dimes for a few seconds of work.  I’m ok with getting $.27 for each of my [card]Myr Battlesphere[/card]s, and so should you be.

Arbitreasured Information

Hopefully I was able to teach you a little about the concept of arbitrage, and how you can use it to your advantage. You won’t make a fortune by being the quick middleman between two parties, but it’s easy money (not free money!) if you know where to look, and what tools to use. If you were left hanging with any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to let me know! I’m also looking for topics to write about for next week, because the week after that will be my return from New Jersey. Thanks for reading!

Last-Minute Interesting Things

[card]Chord of Calling[/card] has dropped down to about $5, even though it’s from M15. I don’t see how it can go lower, and I like this as a long-term pickup going forward. Nobody’s opening up any M15, and it’s poised to spike if it sees increased play in Standard.

[card]Mishra’s Bauble[/card] is a $3 uncommon. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. Buylist them if you have them, because you can put that money towards things that aren’t this card.

These are your last couple of days to buylist some of the commons and uncommons that are reprinted in the Commander 2014 decks for maximum value before the decks start being cracked. The green deck is absolutely full of casual elves like [card]Imperious Perfect[/card] and the black deck has [card]Dread Return[/card]. Get rid of them while you can.

Conjured Currency #37: Cheating 101, The Finance Edition

As you may be aware of, a recent cheating scandal has rocked our beloved game in the most recent weeks. Trevor Humphries was suspected of (and admitted to in a subsequent Facebook rant) cheating  at the SCG Open in Worcester, and the well-known Alex Bertoncini got thrown in the cell for another three years.

As I sat back and watched the community raise their pitchforks, I was saddened that people still have to resort to trying to game the system to obtain an unfair advantage. In the back of my mind, however, I thought for an instant (naively and stupidly, I know), “I’m so glad I switched to the finance game so I don’t have to deal with people cheating and lying to obtain an unfair advantage.” That thought bubble lasted for about two seconds before I realized that our finance game is no exception to the rule. We hear horror stories all the time of stores cancelling orders after a card spikes, as well as brag stories of, “Yo, I traded this 12-year-old a [card]Shivan Dragon[/card] for his [/card]Rishadan Port[/card] that his dad gave him. We both were happy with the deal, so it was totally fair, duuuude.” Neither of those are exactly the same thing as stacking an opponent’s deck during a match worth thousands of dollars, but I think we can agree that there’s a degree of scumbaggery in it all.

This week I’m gonna take advantage of the fact that everyone’s mind is focused on ethics and behavior for the moment, and take a look at some “Finance 101” dos and don’ts in order to avoid garnering a bad reputation (and to avoid being a jerk without realizing it). I recognize that everyone has their own ethical line in the sand, so if you disagree with my logic then feel free to leave a comment explaining your side of the argument.

Ship Your Damn Orders

If you’re relatively new to the world of Magic finance (well, you don’t even have to care about finance to have experienced this), then you might have had the following situation happen to you at some point: you order a playset of a card ([card]Master of Waves[/card], [card]Dig Through Time[/card], take your pick) off of a website like TCGplayer, only to get an email in the next couple of days that states that your order has been canceled. Some stores will use the reasoning of, “Our system wasn’t able to adjust our inventory in time,” and sometimes that’s true. Crystal Commerce often lags behind by five or ten minutes after a transaction on one site (e.g., eBay), and the inventory doesn’t change on TCGplayer until it’s too late. Other times, the store just uses that as an excuse to not send you the card, then just relists it at a higher price.

You might save 20 or 30 dollars by reslisting your [card]Dig Through Time[/card]s at $15 a piece instead of $4, but you’d best be prepared for the scathing negative reviews that customers will leave after getting shafted. If you’re not worried about that, be aware that TCGplayer has been cracking down hard on sellers who don’t ship, and you can have your account canceled, as failing to ship violates the terms and agreements you signed up for when you registered as a seller on their website.

Don’t Burn Your [card]Trade Routes[/card]

This will probably be a much more hotly debated topic than the previous “obvious” tip. If I get asked to flip through a kid’s dusty, beat up, three-ring binder filled with bulk rares and old stuff from the 1990s that was a present from his dad, I’m going to pull out that [card]Rishadan Port[/card], [card]Deserted Temple[/card], or any other card, and tell my trade partner what they’re worth (assuming that he or she doesn’t already know). If he’s a casual player, he probably would have been more than happy to dig through my box of $.25 rares, pull out five or ten cards, and call it even. Though “both parties are happy,” I don’t feel comfortable doing that. Even if he’s willing to take bulk rares and dragons, make it worth his while and let him take cards until the value is as even as possible.

This topic came up rather recently in a debate on a Facebook thread regarding Alternate 4th Edition cards, and accepting your trade partner treating them as regular cards. I’m taking Corbin’s side here, because I would much rather remove asymmetric information from an open trade than have my trade partner look at that [card]Rishadan Port[/card] online when he gets home and realize that he got scumbagged. Keep your trade channels open and mutually beneficial (for real), and the whole “friendship/respect/repeat customer” thing is going to follow.

Personal Grading

I sleeve every card I own that’s worth at least $1 TCGplayer mid, and I try to keep up-to-date labels on the sleeves with a Sharpie. I jot a little “sp,” “mp,” or “hp” on the sleeve to keep track of conditions, or use abbreviations like “jp” and “chi” for languages. If you’ve ever sold cards at a grand prix, many stores will instinctively trust you on grading simply because of the large volumes that are moved at once. They don’t have time to unsleeve everything and check every little imperfection on your $3 [card]Beastmaster Ascension[/card]s to see if they should knock off $.50. When I sold my [card]Caged Sun[/card]s at Richmond after the spike, the vendor scooped all of them up without even counting, trusting my number. I had expected him to double check their condition, so I had to stop and mention that two of the Suns were pretty beat up. A vendors’ job can be extremely tiring and chaotic over the weekend, so try and help them out by pointing out your own cards’ imperfections, and not tricking them into overpaying for played cards.

Most dealers that buy bulk rares do so as long as the cards are all NM and English. While I was in Philadelphia (yes, I only get to go to a couple of grands prix a year, so all of my stories involve Richmond and Philly at the moment), I watched a vendor start going through some of the bulk rares that he had purchased. He had trusted the seller to be honest about all of the cards being NM, but it turns out half of the cards were MP, and several were just unplayable beyond hope. You could argue that it was the store’s fault for not checking thoroughly enough, but his only real fault was trusting the seller to speed up the process so that he could get back to the table and not keep other people waiting. If you’re going to sell bulk, please don’t try and cheat the vendors by upping your own number or lying about condition or language.

One Simple Adage

Thankfully, this entire article can be summarized in a few short words: don’t be a jerk. Finance used to be a wild west, and the fresh meat went to the wolves who were vicious enough to bleed new players for their cards when they didn’t know the values. We’ve grown since than, and should work just as hard as when we play the game to eliminate cheating behavior and scumbaggery from our culture. Profits can be just as tantalizing as the glory of winning, but it’s not worth the sacrifice of other players’ fun and love of the game. Until next week!

Conjured Currency #36: Battle Plan

What’s the first thing you decide to do when you cement plans to attend a grand prix? If you’re a player and not a financier, the answer might be “figure out what deck I want to play, and start testing for various matchups.” If the event is local and within your home city, you might make the decision to roll out of bed Friday morning and hang out at the convention center on a whim (I’d also be jealous of your situation, considering upstate New York doesn’t have that luxury), and in that case, there might not be any planning involved at all. However, if you’re planning on using the convention center as an out for a large number of cards to a large number of dealers ( for me, it’s Grand Prix New Jersey), there are a number of steps that I’m going to take in advance to try and maximize my time and money spent during the trip, so I can make things go as smoothly as possible.

[card]Travel Preparations[/card]

Are you going to GP:NJ on the weekend of November 15th? If so, do you have your sleeping arrangements already planned out? If not, I highly recommend getting on that, because the prices of hotels will only go up as the date creeps up, and removing the stress of needing to secure a place to stay has value in itself. Figure out who’s going to be making the trip with you, and make absolutely sure that nobody’s going to have to drop out at the last minute. Liking the event page on Facebook can also help you find sweet deals on hotels, information on the best places to eat while in the city, and additional details about the event itself.

Speaking of the event page, it’s always a good idea to keep checking the actual website of the tournament to know the address to jam into your GPS on the day of departure, a schedule of potential side events, a link to preregister for the main event, and my favorite: the list of vendors that will have tables set up for people like me to buy and sell cards to.

[card]Strategic Planning[/card]

The amount of preparation you need to do will obviously scale with the amount of cards you want to bring. In my case, I am planning on bringing a rolling suitcase I refer to as the Red Luggage Case of Death.

As such, I e-mailed SCG a couple of weeks ago, and sent them pictures and measurements of the case, as well as my intentions to only sell cards to the established vendors. I assume that most of you don’t intend to bring that much stuff for the purpose of selling, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind so you don’t get stopped and asked to leave because you didn’t ask first. You can also send out emails to every individual store that will be attending the event, asking them questions so that you can formulate a plan ahead of time of who to sell to. Here are a couple of example questions that I’ve asked in the past when preparing:

  1. Are you interested in buying bulk on-site? If so, how many rares/mythics/foils/etc. are you interested in purchasing, and at what prices?
  2. Will you be willing to match your online buylist price on the day of the event?

Usually you can find at least one store that wants bulk rares at around $.12 or $.13 each, as long as they’re all NM, English, and have a gold rare symbol. These deals don’t last long though, as there are several other sellers who want to dump 50,000 Theros block bulk rares and satiate the dealers until they don’t need anymore. On the other hand, some stores don’t even want to touch the small stuff, and are only there to buy and sell hot singles that will move to the players who need them for that weekend.

I wouldn’t worry about bringing bulk commons and uncommons to a GP unless you explicitly have an arrangement already set up. They’re, well, bulky, and take up a large amount of space in both your vehicle and the store’s. Even if you’re happy cashing out at $3 per thousand, you don’t want to be turned away because you didn’t make an appointment first. Then you’re left lugging 200 pounds of cards back to where you parked your car a half mile away.

[card]Seasoned Tactician[/card[

If you’re lucky, you might even find a store that’s willing to match the buylist prices of other vendors who are on site. When I attended GP Philadelphia this past year, LegitMTG was willing to hunt down a paper copy of all other buylists in the room, and then match almost every price if you could prove someone else was willing to pay it. I was able to get almost all of my selling done in one easy stop, and hang out for the rest of the day meeting new people. Obviously most vendors won’t do this, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask ahead of time and potentially save a ton of time on site.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this in previous articles, but learn the process of “ogreing” your cards that you want to sell if you have a large quantity to move, and don’t want to waste a ton of time at the table across from a vendor. Basically, sort all of your cards by the price you want to get for them, and let the vendors pick through what they want at those prices. It’s much faster than having them point at every single individual card in your binder and calling out a number.

[card]Early Harvest[/card]

This is going to sound like another obvious tip, but get to the site early if you want to avoid waiting in line for four hours. Friday morning is optimal so you can be one of the first ones to scan over the display cases, potentially finding underpriced gems that can be flipped to another store’s buylist if you have a close enough eye. As an example, I bought eightChromanticores from one vendor at Philly for $1 each, then walked across the hall to sell them to another for $1.50 each. I got paid $4 for less than ten minutes of my time, just because I got to the buylists before almost anyone else.

At this point I’m going full-on Mom mode, but here’s a piece of advice that I never remember to follow myself, and then regret it during the entire weekend. Pack some degree of snacks, fruits, water bottles, etc, so that you don’t have to suffer $8 convention center sandwiches and hour-long lines for food. Whether you’re a financier or a grinder, these weekends are long.

Have a Plan, and Stick to it

If you just decided that you’re going to your first large-scale event, I’m happy for you. They’re a lot of fun, you get to meet a ton of new people, and often experience new cities that you might not have been to. However, it’s also easy to get caught up in the moment and spend way too much money, or waste unnecessary time in lines to buy cards, sell cards, buy food, or sell foo—

Do your homework first. Research what vendors you want to stop by as soon as possible (StrikeZoneOnline, LegitMTG), and what ones you want to avoid.

Also, [card]Waves of Aggression[/card] spiked this past week because of a silly combo deck that Travis Woo brewed up that involves [card]Narset, Enlightened Master[/card] being able to attack repeatedly on turn two after bringing her back with [card]Goryo’s Vengeance[/card]. Dig Waves out of bulk boxes, and take a look at the list here. I like [card]Goryo’s Vengeance[/card] as a buy, even if the deck is interruptible and inconsistent. It’s a  hard-to-reprint combo enabler that has already proven itself with [card]Griselbrand[/card], and will only become more powerful with additional legendary creatures being printed.

That’s all for this week, everyone. Let me know if you have any comments or questions, or topic ideas that you want written about.

Conjured Currency #35: My Story

Welcome back! I’m going to preface this week’s rant by mentioning that there’s a low likelihood of Magic finance material ahead. If you’re here solely for your weekly dose of new tips on collection buying, buylisting, or value trading, you’ll probably have to wait until next week. To be completely honest, I’m not 100-percent sure of what lies ahead in this week’s article. I have a general idea or theme that I want to stick to, but for the most part I just plan on letting my mind and fingers wander onto the page. I hate wasting other people’s time, so I wanted to get that out of the way in advance. If you’re interested in reading about my life and thinking about your own for a bit, I welcome you along for the ride. If not, I hold no resentment.

Last Week, Corbin “B Dubs” Hosler managed to way to sneak into my residence hall room from halfway across the continent, and steal my article idea for this week that had been sitting on a Post-It note on my desk. I too had been pondering that specific Gavin Verhey article from three years ago, thinking a lot about how my life had been lead up to this point, and where I would be going into the future. I wasn’t en route to Hawaii for the Pro Tour, but I’ve been having unusual success with the whole “Magic Finance as a primary source of income as a college student” throughout this semester, and it got me thinking about my current life circumstances.

Delusions of Grandeur

Throughout the majority of my high school life, I was more focused on Magic: The Gathering than actual schoolwork. Friday classes were something to be tuned out while I scribbled updates to decklists in my notebook, or goldfished opening hands on my iPod. Study halls were a time to get on the computer and lose myself in spoilers for the next set. My goals and aspirations of reaching the Pro Tour one day were more concrete than the decision of what college I would be attending. I was 200-percent confident that since I could beat people who were twice my age at FNM, I would make my mark on the competitive scene without much trouble at all. I knew I wanted to make it on the Pro Tour, and be a psychology major while in college. I had the perfect battle plan, no need to remind me.


Believe it or not, that didn’t happen. Without a car, driver’s licence, or monetary capability to have whatever deck I wanted at a moment’s notice, I was relegated to grinding FNMs for my high school life. I took the chance to hop in the empty seat to a PTQ once every few months if it was within an hour drive, but never made it past the sixth round. I wasn’t surprised—I didn’t practice enough. Magic wasn’t like high school homework where I could show up the day of the test and BS my way to a B+ without any studying or effort. Actual testing, practice, and training was involved. Eww.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, and the “FNM-grinder, reader of every TCG/free SCG article ever, Pro Tour aspirant” version of DJ came across the previously linked article by Verhey. I asked myself the same question that Gavin, Corbin, and others have done, and I came up with an answer. I wanted to live the stereotypical dream of getting married, having kids, and a career that I loved, but I wanted to make an impact on the Magic world. I wanted to have my name known in the community, and be someone to look up to. I wanted to be the source of inspiration for others to follow their dreams down the line. It’s weird, because I can remember back when I read that article for the first time, but I don’t remember thinking of myself as a Pro Tour champion for the first time. I just knew that I wanted to make my mark.


Delusions of Mediocrity

I’m going to press the metaphorical fast forward button once again, to my freshman year of college. I signed up for an SCG Premium membership, and had a roommate who owned a car. I had taught him how to play in the previous year, so in my mind that meant being able to travel to more tournaments. The college campus Magic community was much broader than the group in my hometown, and now I actually lived within walking distance of any number of people to play against. I even had less actual class time than when I was in high school! PTQs, Grands Prix, here we come.

It turns out that I actually just can’t stand studying. Whether it’s in the form of taking a couple of hours to read a textbook for a test I have this coming Thursday, or playtesting a matchup between two decks for 10 games in a row, I get bored easily and want to focus on something fun. The whole Pro Tour dream was just too stressful, and I didn’t want to put in the required time and effort to make it happen. It felt like work, not playing the game like I had been doing at FNM a couple years prior. Even FNM started to feel like a chore or an obligation on some days, not a weekly oasis of relaxation and fun.


Although I had been value trading, picking commons and uncommons, and speculating on certain cards for a large portion of my Magic life, I had always assumed it was just a thing I knew how to do, and didn’t recognize that “Magic finance” was actually a thing that people did as their only source of income. I started to focus on building my collection more than playing, and learning about the various terminologies used in finance. I moved away from Brad Nelson articles and towards Chas Andres. I started listening to Brainstorm Brewery on a weekly basis, and signed up for a Quiet Speculation membership. I could feel the link to the competitive edge slipping away, but I fell into an entirely new world. I had been doing this for just as long as I had been playing at FNM, and I felt like I was better at it.

It wasn’t too long before I was buying binders and collections on a regular basis, and I shifted roles in the community. Instead of a player to test against on our regular Tuesday night gaming, I grew to commandeer my own table and set up shop with numerous binders and boxes. I grew to be “that guy” who almost always had the cards you were looking for, and always had cash if you were looking to sell. I felt like I was contributing much more to the group than I ever was before, and I feel that my friends think the same, especially when they support me in what I do.

I realized what my answer was to that three-word question had been all along. I saw myself in the future having made an impact on Magic, but it wasn’t by shaking hands with Jon Finkel after a feature match, or testing with team TCGplayer for a week before the Pro Tour. I wanted to be the guy buying [card]Master of Waves[/card] for $5 each mere hours before they hit $15, and warning people on Twitter about impending spikes or price changes. I want to go to Grands Prix to relax, sell cards to vendors, buy stuff that’s under-priced, and hang out with friends, instead of going 3-3 drop and suffering a six-hour return drive of self-loathing for not testing more for that one matchup.

When Corbin posted his article on Empeopled, I gave Gavin’s original piece another read. There are a lot of things in my life that are uncertain at my age (I’m still in undergraduate school, I can’t even legally drink yet, and I have no idea where I want to live or settle down), but I know that one piece of my endgame has started to fall into place. I want to continue in my endeavors of Magic finance, and make my presence known in this community. This time, I’m willing to put in the studying, the work ethic, and the hours—because I enjoy it. I love helping out people with their questions, and hearing that people actually read what I write. I’m thankful every time I get to sit down and produce an article, and I mean it from my heart every time I say a generic “Welcome back!” or “Thanks for reading!” The community has given me so much by just listening what I have to say, and I hope that I can continue to provide relevant information for years to come.


Well? What’s your endgame?

Conjured Currency #34: One More Card

Hey there. How have you been? I hope you’re having an excellent Thursday, and that your Magic finance life has been at least slightly improved by reading my articles. I genuinely enjoy writing each week to try and teach at least one person something new, even if I have to stay up until 3 a.m. on the night of my deadline to think of an idea for a topic. However, that’s actually not the case tonight! I’m sitting here at 8:15 p.m. a night before my deadline, and I actually have an idea ready to go.

Do You Have a Ton of Bulk Rares Sitting Around?

If you all have been buying collections or trading away dual lands like I have, then you might have a ton of bulk rares sitting around. However, what if I told you that not all bulk rares are the same? Obviously a [card]Shipbreaker Kraken[/card] and [card]Fated Infatuation[/card] have different text written on them, but not all of my bulk rares go into the same boxes. Some get set aside for later, for when they might randomly become $20 cards one day.

Does this sound familiar? It should, considering two weeks ago [card]Glittering Wish[/card] went from being a $2 or $3 “cute” Future Sight rare with no home, to being a $20 chase rare in a brand new Modern deck that Sam Black hyped up on SCG (and with good reason, the deck looks to be very powerful). While trying to sound the least bit “humble brags” about this as possible, I’d like to mention that I traded for two non-foil and one foil copy of Wish almost two years ago, because it seemed like it could be broken in Modern if the right card were printed. Fast forward, and [card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/card] somehow makes it to print, allowing a fast and consistent combo deck in Modern.


Another example that happened somewhat recently is [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card]. When the card was spoiled, it was immediately thrown aside as one of the worst cards in the set, because it effectively read “2W: gain 10 life”. However, it does have the convenient ability to allow a player to drop below 0 life and not die while losing life via [card]Ad Nauseum[/card], so  that player can draw their entire deck and win the game on the spot with [card]Lightning Storm[/card]. In one weekend, it went from my $.25 box to selling on TCGplayer for $4.00.

The point I want to focus on this week is the whole “picking up bulk rares that seem to have powerful or unique effects, and could be broken if the right card(s) were printed” thing. Glittering Wish is one of the only cards in Modern that allows you to have access to your sideboard straight from your main deck, and being from Future Sight meant that there were only 54 copies in existence from the start. With that said, let’s look at some of the stuff I’m jamming in my 1,000-count box that’s affectionately labeled “bulk rare specs”!

Tinkering Around

[card]Kuldotha Forgemaster[/card]:

It’s [card]Tinker[/card], but you have to put a bit more effort in. [card]Blightsteel Colossus[/card] is legal in Modern and vulnerable to [card]Path to Exile[/card], but maybe we’re headed for yet another artifact block in the future, and we get some sort of giant metal monster with hexproof, or a way to consistently pop this guy on turn three. Either way, there’s an extremely low floor here at $.78 TCG mid, and I don’t feel comfortable letting people buy this guy out of my $.25 box. Even if nothing breaks him open to cause a spike, I feel like this guy is popular enough with the casual/EDH crowd to make a slow creep into the $3 range.

Cheap is Good

[card]Heartless Summoning[/card], [card]Semblance Anvil[/card]

In Magic’s history, the words “cost” and “less” have traditionally paved the way for stupid, broken effects when paired together. When cards reach that magic cost of zero, combos start happening and people start getting dealt billions of damage in one turn. I’m a fan my opponent being at negative 6 trillion life, so I pack these two cards away into my spec box when people sell me their bulk rares for $.10 a piece, or trade them to me en masse for dual lands. Maybe Wizards will print [card]Myr Retriever[/card] and [card]Grapeshot[/card], and there will be an absurdly powerful deck utilizing these cards that will allow our own Ryan Bushard to take down the next Modern Pro Tour. (In all seriousness, though, these seem exactly like the type of card that’s one card away from being broken as all hell). Semblance Anvil takes this to the next level and allows anything to cost less (at the cost of a sizable chunk of card advantage), but its sweet, sweet, bulk rare status prevents me from wanting to sell it for a quarter.


All of the Activated Abilities

[card]Skill Borrower[/card], [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card]

In a format where [card]Griselbrand[/card] and [card]Borborygmos Enraged[/card] are both legal, I really want both of these cards to be broken in some form or another. I actually copied a list off of’s “5 Decks You Can’t Miss This Week” a while ago, and recently built it when I randomly bought a [card]Skill Borrower[/card] in a bulk lot. It’s not competitive enough for a Grand Prix whatsoever (Borrower/Ooze having thre toughness in a format with Bolt just plain sucks), but I had a blast testing Modern against my friends with this:

[deck title=Dead by Dawn]


*4 Birds of Paradise
*2 Noble Hierarch
*1 Children of Korlis
*1 Mogg Fanatic
*1 Lotleth Troll
*4 Skill Borrower
*4 Necrotic Ooze
*2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
*1 Borborygmos Enraged
*3 Griselbrand



*4 Faithless Looting
*3 Inquisition of Kozilek
*2 Zombie Infestation
*2 Life from the Loam
*4 Congregation at Dawn



*4 Mana Confluence
*3 Gemstone Mine

*1 Stomping Ground
*1 Godless Shrine
*2 Overgrown Tomb
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Verdant Catacombs
*1 Forest
*1 Breeding Pool
*1 Hallowed Fountain



*1 Kitchen Finks
*1 Obstinate Baloth
*4 Goryo’s Vengeance
*4 Fist of Suns
*4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
*1 Zombie Infestation



It was so fun to play….

Bringing Stuff Back

[card]Retether[/card]/[card]Faith’s Reward[/card]

download (1)

For those of you who have been playing Modern for at least a couple of years, you might remember dying from boredom to a silly combo deck that involved both [card]Second Sunrise[/card] and [card]Faith’s Reward[/card], allowing a player to loop near-infinitely and eventually kill you with [card]Grapeshot[/card] or [card]Pyrite Spellbomb[/card]. When Sunrise got the axe, Faith’s Reward fell from its $1 high to true bulk. The effect has been proven to be broken before, and I have faith that a single slip-up by WOTC’s R&D team could prove to allow prepared financiers to profit.

[card]Retether[/card] follows the same logic. Cards like [card]Eldrazi Conscription[/card] exist, and I think putting two copies of that card onto a [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] is cute, even if it is vulnerable to every single hate card ever (graveyard hate, removal spells, enchantment destruction, you name it). Maybe [card]Open the Vaults[/card] is a better pick, but that one’s not quite true bulk, so I enjoy buylisting them for $1 when I get the chance, which lets me buy 10 copies of most of the above cards.

That’s So Aggressive

[card]Aggressive Mining[/card]

Alright, I’m digging a bit deep here (hehe). Maybe it’s the Minecraft player in me from high school, but I think that somewhere, somehow, this card might not be bulk in the near future. The “once per turn” really stings, but a lot of us have probably called stuff like this trash before only to be proven dead wrong in the end. If you can design a card that would make this broken/playable, I’d be curious to see what that card looks like in the comments section.

Cost Less, Spells

[card]Battlefield Thaumaturge[/card]

Again we return to the “things costing less” mechanic that always warrants a second glance. Now that the hype train has ground to a halt and this is a true bulk rare, I feel a need to throw it in a separate pile and forget that I own copies until the glorious day that something silly pops up three years from now and causes Thaumaturge to spike to ridiculous levels. Maybe he goes in the same deck as [card]Retether[/card].

And Now We Play the Waiting Game…

This week, we’re not looking to make instant flips or hunt down collections, so it definitely involves being patient and willing to sit on these cards for who knows how long. The opportunity cost is as close to zero as we can get, so it’s not something that needs to be bought out of TCGplayer tonight. Pick the ones you like or agree with, or post your own ideas in the comments below. Sometimes all it takes is the printing of one more card to make previous cards stupid or broken. Sometimes the cards aren’t even broken, but we can at least sell into the hype. Thanks for reading, as always.

Conjured Currency #33: “Comms” of Tarkir

First of all, I’d like to thank the people who commented on Organization Nation to share their organizational methods. It’s interesting to see how others sort and plan out their collections based on what their own needs and interests are.

So I was hoping that you guys would recognize that “Comms” is a terrible substitute for “Commons”, and… yeah, it was a bad pun. Let’s move on. I’ve talked in length about how I’m not a huge fan of set reviews, and I’m sure as hell not going to do a full set review for Khans of Tarkir. However, I realized that it’s been a little while since I’ve discussed the topic of picking bulk commons and uncommons for gems that you can trade off or buylist. I got my start in finance doing almost exclusively this for trade value, and I think it’s a nice Finance 101 topic to return to every now and then to help newer players or financiers establish a growing collection without a whole ton of additional effort on their parts.

Back in the day (well, about four years ago), I had basically zero disposable income to spend on expensive (read: more than $3) rares to put together a Standard deck for FNM. My trade binder was a pitiful husk of bulk rares and… actually, it was just bulk rares. I had a couple [card]Sunblast Angel[/card]s and [card]Dissipation Field[/card]s that nobody wanted, and I treasured my single [card]Elspeth Tirel[/card] like it was a gift from God, jumping up and down when I opened it during a draft. After several weeks of bored Spikes flipping through my binder, I became discouraged. I decided to start putting uncommons that I thought were good into my binder, to make it appear more “full,” and hopefully more desirable.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised when a fellow high-school student looking to build a Myr deck lit up upon seeing a few [card]Palladium Myr[/card] and [card]Myr Galvanizer[/card]. And he valued them at a whole $1 each? Golly me! I vaguely remember getting some number of elves off of him (probably [card]Elvish Archdruid[/card]s or [card]Ezuri, Renegade Leader[/card]s), and being shocked that uncommons could not only be desired by other players at events, but worth actual money. From that point on, I always tried to stay on the lookout for specific commons and uncommons in the new set. [card]Dismember[/card]s at $5 were a no-brainer to stick in your binder, but back then I was willing to throw practically any card I saw in a tournament deck into my crappy three-ring, rarity be damned.


I bring up this long-lost fairy tale because Khans of Tarkir looks to be absolutely loaded with good common and uncommon picks for the future, even if you don’t plan on shipping out thousands of cards en masse to a buylist. Even though times have changed since 2011, there are still tons of players who care only about the rare (and potentially foil) slot in the pack, leaving the remains to rot on the draft table. Embrace your inner [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] with me, and let’s look at some of these quarters and $1 bills that you can jam into your trade binder so that you can work your way towards that ridiculously priced $15 [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]!

Picking the Picks

[card]Jeskai Charm[/card] and friends: Throughout the entirety of the Return to Ravnica block, I pulled aside every single guild charm I found, organizing them all together. Over those two years, I sold or traded a ton of Azorius and Boros charms, some Selesnya, and even a few Orzhov and Dimir. I never got rid of any [card]Gruul Charm[/card]s, but I had them ready and waiting. These 5 will likely fluctuate based on which clan is favored in Standard, but I recommend making sure you treat these like $1 rares when you pull them out of packs or see them in binders, depending on the charm.

[card]War-Name Aspirant[/card]: I hope this Aspirant finds its war-name soon, because the current card name is just stupid. That aside, the power level is certainly there for this to see play in aggressive red/black/x strategies, so hoarding these doesn’t have much downside. Mardu players will raid your binders for them eventually.

[card]Murderous Cut[/card]: For as long as [card]Doom Blade[/card] and I were in Standard together, we had a mutually beneficial relationship where I would trade off playsets of it for $1 rares that I was speculating on. Delve Blade has zero restrictions of what it can [card]murder[/card] and has the potential to be cheaper to cast, even though the delve bit probably prevents this from being a four-of consistently. SCG sells them for $1, and there are players who use that for pricing.


[card]Savage Punch[/card]: There is one guy (at least) in your tri-state area who wants to collect every copy of this in the world, foil or not. Try to get a few bulk rares in return and have them on hand, even if they’re not taking up space in your binder.

[card]Stubborn Denial[/card]: There are rumors at my school of this being played in Modern or even Legacy decklists with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. If you bought a box of Khans or have a weekly FNM draft, pull these aside and wait for a bite. Some players don’t have the patience to proxy things, they just want the cards now. Even if it ends up doing literally nothing in either format, the hype has a few weeks left in it.

[card]Monastery Swiftspear[/card]: If you paid attention to the Legacy Open from last weekend at all, then you paid more attention than I did to the Legacy Open last weekend. Good job, you’re doing better than I am at this stuff. Apparently, this card led the charge of a UR Delver decklist, and it put in some serious work when you can cast multiple spells per turn early on in the game. Because this one is more well-known already, you’re less likely to get them for free off of draft tables. However, when you do pick them up, you can ask for the $1.50 they are on SCG and see if you get any bites.


[card]Chief of the Edge[/card]: Is Warrior Tribal going to be a competitive deck in Standard? Probably not. Is the guy who wants to build Warrior Tribal in Standard going to care whether it’s competitive? Probably not.

[card]Seeker of the Way[/card]: His brother Swiftspear managed to spearhead the Legacy Open, and this one sought the way to the top of the Standard Open in Jersey as a 3-of. ‘MURICANNNNNNNnn Tempo could very well be a consistent piece of the metagame moving forward (UWx generally is), and there are a lot of people who tend to copy the winning decks from the first weekend of the tournament (at least in my local experience).

[card]Treasure Cruise[/card]: Based on the fact that [card]Glittering Wish[/card] is now a $15 card (for now), people are jumping on a hype cruise that [card]Jeskai Ascendancy[/card] is broken as all hell in Modern. The Sam Black list on SCG Premium played this as a three-of. Foils are a trap at $15, but set aside the ones you open in booster packs as an attempt to use as throw-ins or equalizers in close trades.

[card]Mystic Monastery[/card] and friends: These will not only be EDH all-stars like their Shards of Alara counterparts, but they’ll be players throughout Standard as well. The best part about these is that you can pick them up at rotation as well, and they’ll still hold a good amount of value.

[card]Despise[/card]: I highly doubt this card will see any competitive play whatsoever while [card]Thoughtseize[/card] is legal. To put things in perspective for you young-ins, [card]Despise[/card] didn’t see Standard play when this thing was in Standard:


It won’t now. So why am I telling you to pull it out? Because people will want to try it. Have them on hand for when that happens.

[card]Raiders’ Spoils[/card]: People like building tribal decks, and this will probably be in them. Worst-case scenario is that you throw it back in with the rest of your bulk in three months if you don’t get any bites.

[card]Arc Lightning[/card]: Fringe-playable Standard-legal burn spell. Someone might need sideboard tech for the Open two months from now, and you can be that person’s hero by taking four seconds to pull this from your bulk that will be attracting dust in two months.

[card]Ride Down[/card]: I thought this was a rare when I first read it in the spoiler. Powerful effect that could very potentially see play in Standard aggro/tempo decks.


[card]Secret Plans[/card]: We all know that guy. Be the guy that helps that guy make his UG Morph deck as quickly as possible by having a playset of this thing in the back page of your binder, and grabbing a silly $2 rare that you can proceed to trade up from there.

As [card]Stoke the Flames[/card] has proven to us this past weekend, taking the time to pick out those “maybe it’s playable” non-rares out of the gutter can serve to be quite the boon to our collection values, even if you only had a couple copies. While I highly doubt that any cards from Khans of Tarkir will reach a $4 price point due to the high volume opened, it’s always nice being “that guy” who has any of the remotely playable commons and uncommons from the set. You don’t have to be the guy with playsets of foil fetches to get the attention of grinders who need cards.

A Common Ending

Apologies if you read through this entire thing thinking either, “Duh, of course those are decent picks,” or, “You’re an absolute fool and this was a waste of my time.” When I was an aspiring Standard grinder, I found that picking every possible ounce of value out of my birthday booster box of Mirrodin Besieged was one of the best ways to begin the slow climb towards having a reasonable trade binder and collection. The first steps are always the hardest to climb, especially if you don’t have a huge cash spending budget up front.

As usual, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, and offer the chance to start a friendly discussion or debate on this week’s topic. Are there any other picks that I might have missed out on or skipped over? Anything you think isn’t worth your time to pick out out that’s in this list? We saved you some room in the comment thread on Reddit, and 140 characters worth of blank space that needs to be filled up with questions on Twitter. Hope your Khans release has been going smoothly—see you next week!

Conjured Currency #32: Organization Nation

Hey there! Thanks for stopping by this article. Whether its your first time checking out this website, or you’ve been reading my articles since November, I appreciate you all the same. I tend to repeat a lot of things week after week (Craigslist and Facebook are your friends, every person’s goals and resources in MTG finance are different, etc.), and that’s going to hold especially true for this week’s article. I don’t guarantee that my methods and examples shown this week are the best possible option available, and I’m always looking for improvement myself. What on earth am I talking about?

In the past couple of weeks, I received a comment or two asking about how I organize my personal collection (along with the collections that I buy and assimilate into it) for the purposes of buying, selling, and sorting. I’m going to go on a bit of a virtual tour of my binders, boxes, and sorting station, providing rationale on why this system has been working for me in the particular situation I’m in. Before I continue, I’d like to mention that I welcome any readers to share their organizational methods and pictures of their systems as well, as long as this doesn’t turn into a “who’s collection grants them the biggest dick” competition. I don’t want others being belittled for their collection sizes or lack of organization, it’s meant to be a learning experience for everyone. I’m certain that I don’t have the perfect optimal formula for organizing stuff, so if you have a better idea, I’d be glad to hear it!

The Store

I’m one of the lucky individuals who has the connections and opportunity to sell cards at a retail price out of a display case. The case is located in a used video game store (the name of the store is Infinite Lives, for those of you in the northern New York area who want to check it out) where I used to work. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead to take pictures of the case as it is today, but here’s an example of what it looked like last year when I advertised it on Facebook:


The store used to be so clean…

I try to sell around TCG low, and then the owner of the store takes his cut. This lets me sell for more than what I’d make on TCGplayer, and not have to deal with shipping cards out. Instead of a price gun (which I should probably invest in; anyone know a good one?), I just use a sharpie to write the price of the card onto the sleeve that it’s in. Another huge benefit of the cards sitting there is that I buy a lot more collections this way. People walk into the store to buy video games and realize that they still have 15-year-old Magic card collections sitting in their closets that they can get rid of for cash.

Obviously, this method doesn’t help everyone and I’m extremely fortunate to have this setup, but I bring it up because I want you to examine the opportunities around you, and be ready to jump on them. If you see a chance to create a mutually beneficial relationship by selling cards (or putting up a sign that you buy collections) in a highly trafficked area, talk to some people and see if you can’t set something up. Corbin and Jason of the podcast took advantage of an opening in the community, and I’m trying to follow in their footsteps a bit. If you have the motivation, cards, and opportunity, why not give it a shot?

“Strat Night”

That’s basically the name of our college’s “Magic Club”, but there are always additional groups playing other board and card games. Every Tuesday night, I load up this luggage case…


It’s heavy.

…and drag it up to the Campus Center to set up and serve the students and alumni that gather to play a wide variety of formats, from casual 60-card, to EDH, to testing competitive Modern and Legacy decks. After I pull out all of the boxes and binders, my setup looks like this (pieced together with a few terrible phone-quality pictures):


Yeah, I’ve got Pokemon stickers on my laptop. Wanna fight about it?

Com Uncom 1

Casual Naruto playmat photobombing

I buy any NM, English bulk rares for $.10 (or trade for them at $.12), then alphabetize and color sort them into the “quarter rare” boxes. Because there’s way too many to clutter up a binder with, I use the 800-count BCW boxes, and allow players to dig through them to find any cards they want. Casual and EDH players love these boxes, because they can get playsets of bombtastic rares like [card]Shipbreaker Kraken[/card] for only a dollar, or Commanders such as [card]Daxos of Meletes[/card] for just $.25. Even if you don’t plan on collecting thousands upon thousands of bulk rares, I recommend keeping a box on hand at FNM if it’ll fit in your backpack. It takes me back to the good old days to see a new player freaking out about [card]Shipbreaker Kraken[/card].

When the boxes get too full of a certain card (I think I have 30+ copies of [card]Forgestoker Dragon[/card]), I’ll pull the extras and take them to a GP, trying to find a vendor who will pay at least $.12 cash on bulk rares.

As the names suggest, any cards whose TCG mid value falls between $1 and $2.99, I throw into my “dollar box” and “2-dollar box” after sleeving and alphabetizing them. These serve basically the same role as the bulk rare boxes, in that players just love to dig through them and pull out sweet cards. This is also where the competitive players in my group will find their playsets of Standard niche cards such as [card]Boon Satyr[/card] and [card]Nighthowler[/card]. The fact that these boxes are alphabetized helps a ton when I do my buylisting orders through Trader Tools, and being sorted by price helps me to “ogre” them at GPs by picking a cash price point and letting the dealers dredge through the boxes to see if there’s any cards they’re interested from the dollar box at $.50 each. Every time a casual player’s eyes light up at a $2.00 [card]Traumatize[/card], an angel gets its wings. Or something like that.

I also separate out promos, foil rares (there’s a couple of Cube enthusiasts who love digging through these boxes every now and again), and then there are my “common and uncommon picks” boxes. These are also alphabetized, and generally get shipped off to buylists. They’re your [card]Jace’s Phantasm[/card]s, [card]Ajani’s Pridemate[/card]s, and generally any common or uncommon card that I think someone else would potentially want for a reasonable deck. Selling [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]s at a quarter a piece is easy when you’re the only person in the room who brings them, and having these boxes sorted alphabetically helps a ton when ripping my finger nails off—I mean buylisting them.



I try to keep everything in my binders at least $3.00 TCG mid. People don’t like flipping through playsets of [card]Spirit Away[/card] and [card]Fellhide Spiritbinder[/card] to find actual relevant cards. I sort my binders by color, simply because that’s the most efficient way that I’m used to sorting them. Maintaining alphabetized binders is obviously an absolute nightmare by constantly moving cards around, so I just try my best to keep multiple copies of a single card on the same page or in the same general vicinity.

If you plan on finishing out a page of a binder with a card (or group of cards), remember to leave room for it. The red binder is almost entirely full of shock lands, and I make sure to grant each different shock land at least two empty pages before starting to fill the next land in, so that I can slide in every extra [card]Hallowed Fountain[/card] without having to solve the new edition of Binder Puzzle! every single time.

I personally use Monster binders and sleeve every single card that enters them. I don’t have a whole ton of experience with alternative brands like Ultra Pro, but I can say that I’ve been satisfied enough with Monster that I currently use six of them at any given point. I’ve never had a card fly out while flipping through pages, and I’ve never noticed any damage on my cards from being in the binders. They’re generally available online from anywhere between $25 to $30, but I found a bunch of the ones I currently use at a GP from a vendor who “wanted to get rid of all of the shitty colors” for $20. If you’re planning a trip to a large event, try to see if you can grab deals on the supplies you need!

Also, I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I haphazardly tape sticky notes and business cards to every single binder/box that I bring.The business cards aren’t anything special (I got 250 for $7.00 on Vistaprint), and even if you don’t want to present yourself as a “dealer,” they’re a nice way to add your information to your collection so that it can be returned if lost. Just add a name, cell phone, and email address. The sticky notes are just a simple way for me to remember what binder/box currently has what in it, as they tend to change when I get a bright (or not so bright) idea on a better (or not better) way to organize my collection.

Back Home


Most of the players that know me are aware that I will pay $4 cash on 1,000 common and uncommon bulk cards, as long as everything is NM and English. I try to randomize these as best I can (or leave them color-sorted if they already are), and sort them into 1000-count boxes that I throw up on Craigslist and leave at Infinite Lives. I remember reading a quote by Mark Rosewater (I think) that said approximately 75 percent of players do not have a DCI number and have never played in a tournament before. These are the players that absolutely love buying 1,000 cards for $6 on Craigslist, as long as you don’t include 800 copies of the same card. If those players know that you’re organized and methodical about your business structure, they’ll be more likely to be repeat customers.


I just recently got the idea to draw up this playmat while sorting a collection a couple of weeks ago, but it’s helped me a bit in keeping everything organized and ready to be sorted/alphabetized into the correct piles. Having a specific sorting station helps me stay focused, and have each type of card always be in the same area to allow quicker placement of cards. Maybe marking up a blank playmat wasn’t the best way to do it though.

I’m Forgetting a Lot of Material, But That’s What Comment Sections Are For

Is this type of article something you’d like to see more of in the future? I definitely missed a few (read: probably a lot) of my collection and organizational processes, but I hope there’s at least something in here that sparked an idea. If not, I’d certainly appreciate reading your take on sorting out your collection, and what the benefits of those methods are. Let me know in the comments section below, on the related Reddit thread in the mtgfinance subreddit, or on Twitter!

Conjured Currency #31: Spec…ialization

Welcome back, individual readers of who conjure currency (or cards) based on the information in this weekly column. If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s article, I highly recommend it. If you’re either in the market for dual lands, or getting maximum value out of dual lands that you currently own, you can secure some useful information there. Without wasting any more time (this is a segue, I swear), let’s go back in time even further to two months ago when I reviewed M15. Spoiler Alert: my review was almost entirely incorrect. I predicted almost every card in the set to plummet in value, when in reality almost all of them stood their ground or even increased in value.

Looking Back

I said back then that I would do a “review of my review” during this week of Conjured Currency, which allows (forces) me to look back at my now cringe-worthy predictions and analyze what went wrong, and where I could change my behavior or thinking for the future.



Let’s get this out of the way so I can talk about something that I think is much more interesting and useful. My predictions for M15 were…less than accurate. I overestimated the amount of the set that would be opened, and my lack of ability to properly evaluate Standard-playable cards ended up costing me my one-way ticket on the [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] hype train. M15 was a breath of new life into the concept of core sets, but that didn’t prevent the community from giving it a large, “Meh,” as we anxiously await the destruction of all core sets once and for all. As such, there was a lot less of M15 product opened. Nissa and Garruk destroyed all that I knew and loved, and they maintain (or are higher than) their preorder prices. The same can be said for almost every rare/mythic in the set.

Looking Forward

That’s all I have to say about M15 this week. I don’t want to bore you with a repeat mini paragraph of every single card of, “This is why this prediction sucked. And this is why THIS prediction sucked.”

“But DJ, how will this help you prepare for the future?” Well, nameless voice that asks rhetorical questions, I’m glad you asked. I personally took this stance quite a while ago—ever since I got stuck with more than 40 copies of [card]Ghave, Guru of Spores[/card] that I correctly called but was unable to actually profit off of. I’m done with speculating. Yep.



Well, let’s give a more operational definition. Ever since May of 2014, I’ve officially stopped buying cards for the purpose of awaiting their price increase to sell at a later date. I’ll still trade random jank for other random jank that I believe has more potential, but no more buying out SCG of singleton Commanders that end up tripling in price with zero outs in sight.

There’s too much risk involved, with so very little room for reward other than being able to say, “Called it!” at my LGS. Your order has to not get cancelled (which, let’s be honest, has been happening more and more lately), the card has to double or sometimes triple for you to even make a semblence of a profit, and you have to liquidate your copies before everyone else in the world races to do so at the same time, or else you’re left with a pile of hot garbage.

Speculating is the Worst Thing Ever

Well, it might not be, at least for you. I just made it sound like it was, because of a few of my personal experiences with that particular MTG finance method. I’ve had my fair share of wins (PT Theros paid for a year of my Quiet Speculation subscription with [card]Master of Waves[/card], [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card], and [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card]), and my share of losses (RIP [card]Duskmantle Seer[/card]—never forget). However, it’s just not my thing anymore. I don’t play competitively enough (read: at all) to keep up to date on the constantly shifting metagame of Standard or Modern, so I don’t recognize the potential for new tech when it exists. My “new card evaluation” skills are obviously lacking.


However, each of our individual cases is different. When I first started writing for Brainstorm Brewery, I realized that it would be difficult for that exact reason. I’m writing to a crowd generally interested in MTG finance, but that can mean entirely different things to two people. On one hand, you might be ready to open up your own store and have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on collections using techniques that I teach in my articles. On the other hand, you might be barely scraping the cards together for a tier-two Standard deck to play at FNM. Our goals in MTG finance can be different, and so can our methods.

Speccing is the Best Thing Ever

And it is, especially for me. Wait, wha..? Yeah. Speccing. Spec(ialization). See what I did there? This entire article so far lead up to that pun. I’m throwing spec(ulation) to the wind, and I’m going to try and focus on a fewer, more concentrated aspects of Magic finance that I tend to do better in. For me, that’s collection buying, selling on social media, picking bulk, buying singles at buylist prices locally, and selling locally at TCG low. Yes, I just realized I started a paragraph about specialization and listed five different tactics, but you get the picture. I’m working on condensing my area of expertise, and cutting off the dead weight where I don’t tend to do well. And you know what’s great? This is customizable for you as well, whoever you are.

Maybe you’re awful at recognizing the nitty-gritty dime and quarter cards in a 5000-count box of commons and uncommons, but you’re a legendary Standard grinder, and can pinpoint the exact card in Khans of Tarkir that’s going to be the next [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card]. In that case, go for it and buy as many of that card as your piggy bank will allow. If you’re confident in your outs and your ability to predict the Standard metagame, then ignore everything I said about speculating and focus on your area of specialization that nets you the most coin.

In order for this to work out for you, it takes a good amount of self-analysis. Cleanse yourself of that cognitive dissonance and open your eyes to your strengths and weaknesses. Take a good look at the last collection you bought, or the last buylisting adventure you undertook. Were you able to maximize your profits? Did everything go according to plan?

Also, don’t be afraid to dabble. If you’re new to the wonderful world of Magic finance and have never bought a collection before, head on over to Craigslist and discover the wonderful world of people asking $400 for a box of water-damaged Fifth Edition commons (I say that, but there are some gems there if you check consistently enough. Use Google Chrome Page Checker or something similar to get updates about new listings). Learn what you’re good at, and learn what you’re not so good at. It takes practice, and it takes trial & error.

What’s your Spec?

Not a card to spec on, but what’s your area of specialization in Magic finance? I’ve personally had the best luck with buying and sorting collections, because it requires the least amount of knowledge about the current Standard/Modern metagames, and I’ve always felt at home with a box of unpicked commons and uncommons.

Bonus Round

If you’re still with me, I’d like to share a story about the most recent collection I just bought. After discussing the collection a bit with the seller over text, I learned that he was a casual player who had never attended a tournament in the 15 years he’d been playing the game. Awesome. I love casual players. After flipping through binders of rares and uncommons, it was clear to me that this man had no idea what any of his cards were worth. He had toploader-ed all of his Mythics, but proxied them in his unsleeved decks proudly labeled “ANGELS” “DEMONS” “VAMPIRES” “ASSASSINS”, etc.

While going through the land binder, I saw a [card]Sunpetal Grove[/card] or two, some bulk rares, a couple of shock lands, and… a foil [card]Scalding Tarn[/card]. Unsleeved. In mint condition. Obviously never touched. I immediately asked for a sleeve, and informed him of the find. I told him that the card was worth nearly $200 retail, and was surprised to see it hanging around unsleeved. Since he played casually, he never saw the point of paying one life for a land. That, and he never made a UR deck so he didn’t need it.


When it came time to discuss the price of the collection, I had found tons of additional goodies during my quick scan of the binders and mythics. I did some quick mental math after estimating the bulk commons and uncommons, and threw out a number. “How’s $700 for everything?” I wasn’t about to go higher, considering that was all of the money I had brought, not expecting a nice piece like this. He replied, “How about… $600? I want to thank you for being honest with me about the cards in this collection. You could’ve totally ripped me off, because I don’t know a damn thing about card prices. You handled this truthfully and professionally, and I appreciate that.”

Honesty pays, even literally sometimes. Until next week.

Conjured Currency #30: Power 10 (Not the 10 You’re Thinking Of)

Good afternoon and/or Evening! (See what I did there? Go put last week’s article in your face if you didn’t read it, and you’ll understand the clever use of introduction that I managed to pull off). Last week we talked about the reprinting of fetch lands, and some of the financial side effects that they’ll have. If you’re wondering when to grab your set of Khanslaught (that phrase is patented by Jason Alt) fetches, or what to do with your original allied fetches, I recommend smashing that link and giving the article a quick scan, because we’re jumping into a completely different topic today.

As a college student, my primary weekly Magic fix is provided every Tuesday night, when a bunch of players get together to trade, play, and have a jolly good time. We don’t really have an organized play structure, but I’m graced with being the go-to guy for singles and selling cards. As usual, my goal is to constantly buy, trade, and sell cards, and use Magic as a primary source of income, while making sure the other party is happy with the cards (or cash) that they receive at the price I give them. At our last meeting, I completed a transaction that I believe warrants an entire article (or at least most of one. We’ll see where this goes).

It’s the start of a new school year, so we got a lot of new faces at our first meeting. As one individual flipped through my binders, he made a comment about how I had a bunch of stuff he was interested in, but he doubted that I would feel the same about his collection. After learning that he had a Modern UWR Delver deck completely up for trade, I told him that I’d be happy to trade for pretty much anything in the deck across the board at TCG mid. We made several trades involving fetch lands, [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]s, and other Modern staples, and then he got to my land binder, where he found my collection of dual lands.

He looked longingly at the [card]Tundra[/card]s and [card]Tropical Island[/card]s, and said that he wished he could afford them (don’t ask me why he thought that, his collection was better than he believed). Even then, I’d probably never trade them. Nobody ever wants to trade their dual lands unless they’re for other Legacy staples, right? At one point, he made a half-joking comment about trading two pretty large boxes of rares for just one dual land; Tto his surprise, I didn’t immediately shoot him down. I told him that it’s entirely possible, I just had to count how many rares he had, and do a quick estimate to see if it was worth it to me.

After doing a quick scan through the boxes and realizing that I could make more money buylisting these random rares than I would selling my [card]Tundra[/card] for full TCG mid value, I informed the gentleman that we had a deal. I offered to let him take one last search through the boxes to make sure I wasn’t making off with anything absurdly valuable, and we both walked away much happier. He got a piece of Magic history that I don’t think he expected to come across that night, and I turned my Tundra into a ton of bulk rares, EDH staples, and other goodies that I will have a much easier time selling for more than what I would make off of the dual land itself.

This trade got me wondering how many other people out there were willing to trade their random Standard cards, EDH staples, and bulk rares into dual lands at buylist prices. After doing a bit of asking around, it turns out that there’s a decent group (at least in my local area) of people who want dual lands, but don’t want to spend real dollars on them. With this in mind, I hopped on eBay with the hopes of snagging Revised mana fixing at a reasonable price.


So far, I’ve managed to pick up an [card]Underground Sea[/card] and a [card]Volcanic Island[/card] for approximately $100 below their TCGplayer mid prices. The plan now is to find people who are interested in getting into Legacy and are willing to get rid of Standard, EDH, and pretty much anything else at buylist values to do so. While the demographics might not match up for everyone reading this article, it’s certainly worth a shot asking around to find potential Legacy enthusiasts if you have the cash to drop on dual lands.


If you’ve been following my articles for the past several months, you probably know that I’m not the kind of person who likes to drop cash on long-term speculation that may or may not pan out. I don’t like to preorder multiple playsets of the new toys from Khans and cross my fingers that it’s the next big thing in Standard. I prefer the more slow and steady route of waiting for my deals to come to me, and always buying stuff at buylist. There are a couple of different reasons for me making an exception for dual lands;

1) I don’t expect them to ever plummet in price. I understand that there’s an argument of “Legacy cards are only hanging on in value because of the SCG Open Series,” but I’d like to point out that foil [card]Ingot Chewer[/card]s are sold out at $15 on SCG while normal ones are barely a dollar. Why? Because Vintage is still a format, and people play it even when there’s no weekly organized play structure for it. Even if SCG decides to stop running Legacy events in the next couple of years (which they won’t, because they control a good percentage of the Legacy staples in the market), there will always be players who want to play the format.

2) I believe that I have the ability and connections to get rid of these for a higher value than what I paid, relatively quickly. As long as I keep my highest buy price slightly higher than the buylists of the major retailers (Cardkingdom/ABU), I have a safety net available, and can get out while losing next to nothing if I desperately need the cash (not to say that I’m extending my budget that far into dual lands).

This is Where the Title Came From

I haven’t tried doing this with other Legacy staples (see [card]Force of Will[/card]/[card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card]/[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]) yet, but I have a feeling that dual lands are going to be the easiest ten cards to make this kind of trade with. Coming from my own past experience as a newer and more casual player, dual lands felt like power. They felt like a piece of Magic’s original design, something that was out of my reach, and I would’ve been perfectly happy with giving up value in trades back in the day to be able to brag to my friends about a beat up [card]Badlands[/card].

That’s All, Folks!

Kind of a short and sweet article this week, but next Thursday you get to read about how horribly wrong I was about M15 in my set review… review. Spoiler alert: cards didn’t drop nearly as much as I thought they would. Whoops.

What’s your opinion on trading for dual lands? Are you someone who is willing to give up things at buylist in order to slowly assemble a Legacy deck that you’ll play forever and ever until the sun explodes? Leave a comment in the section below, or on Reddit to start up a new discussion. Thanks again for reading!