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

All Magic Has a Price #5 – Is It Time to Get Out?

True Cost:
The lowest amount of real cash needed to acquire a card.

All Magic Has a Price


J. Graves
Tampa, FL


Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]
Follow @jwgravesFL


About AMHaP

All Magic Has a Price focuses on Magic: The Gathering finance from the player’s point of view. AMHaP discusses the true cost of playing Magic: The Gathering by reviewing strategies to acquire a playable collection of cards for Standard as a returning player, a new player, or a continuing player, and by discussing potential investment opportunities in older formats. AMHaP targets those of us that play casually and competitively on a local level, and AMHaP is written for casually-competitive players by a casually-competitive player. If one would like further explanation of the viewpoint and scope, please read: All Magic Has a Price Issue #1.

If you would like more information on determining true-cost value, please read: All Magic Has a Price Issue #3 – Accounting for MTG.

Visit my eBay Auctions.



Is It Time to Get Out?

I have divorced my third wife. I know, I knowI think my picker is broken. It is tax season, and I am working at least 50 hours a week. I have two intensive writing classes and I have this article. What little extra time I have will be devoted to getting out and to meeting people. Logo

MTG has taken a back seat to other needs, but I enjoy this game very much. I continue to read articles on and, to study the top decks on, and to play the occasional game online or with a friend.

Knowing I would no longer be playing competitively, I began to wonder if I should get out of Standard. When is the best time to get out of Standard to retain the most true-cost value? The answer: a month ago.



What does one do until rotation?

That answer is simple: Limited. Draft is [arguably] the most fun, competitive, and compelling format of Magic: The Gathering. Sitting around the table and passing packs makes for a truly fun evening. Talking smack as one builds his or her deck and laughing at folks for passing a shock land is fantastic. In a past article, Limited Finances, I calculated the numbers and showed that Draft is an ideal method of receiving additional true-cost value while playing this beloved game. On a recent episode of Brainstorm Brewery, Marcel said he was going to focus on Modern and Legacy. As someone looking to sell out of Standard, Modern may be worth looking into.


Why Now?

Looking at the price-history curve on, focusing on cards from Innistrad block and Magic 2013 before rotation, assisted in determining the answer to that question. allows one to see the historical pricing of Magic: The Gathering cards for up to two years. Several options for prices exist on MTGprice. However, knowing the true-cost system, one can imagine eBay pricing is preferred. The prices from Channel Fireball may help to smooth out times when the eBay prices are erratic. Mining data is not easy, and it is not concise.

The obvious start to a conversation about Return to Ravnica Standard is [card]Thragtusk[/card].



On December 2, 2012, I purchased Thragtusk x4 for $75.02 or 18.80 per card.




I bought the pieces for Bant Control, and the deck was almost immediately no longer tier-one. The Thragtusks were sold on February 28, 2013, for $46.99 plus 1.75 shipping (I offer free shipping now), equaling $48.74, or $12.18 per card. With PayPal fees, $47.02 was left. After eBay fees of 9%, I was left with a total of $42.79. Shipping was $0.66, lowering the final total to $42.13, or $10.53 per card.

Because eBay is the best way to unload cards (see All Magic Has a Price Issue #3 – Accounting for MtG), the eBay and PayPal fees become less relevant to the current conversation. In all situations, one would prefer to trade the cards for cards that will maintain true-cost value. Unfortunately, time to trade is not available, so eBay was utilized.


The first thing one might notice is the almost exact prices on the chart. Looking at the chart for December 2, 2012, [card]Thragtusk[/card]s were selling at roughly $17 to $19, and looking at the chart at approximately February 2, 2013, they were selling at roughly $10 to $12. This verifies the accuracy of had similar results.

Using the full cost method, 44% true-cost value was lost in the [card]Thragtusk[/card] experiment. Between August 2013 and October 2013, [card]Thragtusk[/card]s would have only sold for $3 to $5 per card, raising the losses to 74% to 85%.


The Other Cards

Magic 2013. Viewing most of the currently top-selling cards from M13, the Thragtusk curve was obvious. From [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] to [card]Sublime Archangel[/card], each of the cards in M13 had the same curve as Thragtusk.

Innistrad. In Innistrad, several cards break this curve. [card]Lilliana of the Veil[/card] began a steep rise in October of 2013, and has since continued her incline. [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] has held value and is likely to see further play in Modern and Legacy. [card]Geist of Saint Taft[/card] saw the same decease as the M13 cards, but due to its recent Modern activity, Geist has begun to rise again. Other than these three cards, the rest of Innistrad follows the Thragtusk curve.

Dark Ascension. [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], along with all other Dark Ascension cards, followed the Thragtusk curve.

Avacyn Restored. From Avacyn Restored, [card]Griselbrand[/card] and [card]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/card] are increasing in value currently, but had very little-true cost value during their time in Standard. [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] did follow the Thragtusk curve, but is currently realizing a slight uptick. [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] was a pick by Jason on a recent episode of Brainstorm Brewery. CoS is an awesome pickup. Beginning with [card]Tamiyo, the Moon Sage[/card], the Thragtusk curve reappears.



Join Marcel and trade Return to Ravnica block and M14 cards for Modern, Legacy, or future Standard cards. Play Limited. With there being a total of six cards from M13, Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored that gained or maintained true-cost value after January of 2013,  this analyst has determined that the time to sell the cards rotating from Standard in October 2014 is: a month ago.

Visit my eBay Auctions.


$#%^&^%, I’m In.

The great Jason of the Brainstorm Brewery Podcast has bestowed, pun intended, a nickname upon me.


I have enjoyed my time writing for, and I hope to continue the success I have found to date. I appreciate each and every one of the readers for taking time out of the day to read the amazing articles on It is humbling and appreciated.


Mailbag #4

@CalebGothberg (check out Caleb’s – Getting L.U.C.K.Y. on tweeted his appreciation for I am glad I was able to help you prepare for the prerelease, Caleb. Let us know how you did.


@sushihipster and I had a great discussion about Born of the Gods prerelease targets. Although I need to read the cards better, he and I did determine the targets would be [card]Spirit of the Labyrinth[/card] and [card]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/card]. I still believe those are the only two cards worth targeting from the set. Born of the Gods does offer a nice selection of $3 to $7 playable rares that may be worth picking up in a month.

Once again, Nick pulls through, leaving a fantastic comment. Nick reminded me to talk about the Judge Joe Bono Limited Resources podcast. The Judge Joe Bono Rules podcast is usually the week before the set review. Listening to this podcast is very important to a successful prerelease weekend. Because I listened to this podcast before the Dragon’s Maze prerelease, I knew the rule surrounding [card]Runner’s Bane[/card]. I corrected a judge’s decision at the prerelease. He was appreciative, of course.

Thanks for the feedback guys.


Mailbag #5

Theros has been out for a while now, and prices have begun to stabilize. Now is the time to be picking up playable cards from Theros that can be sold or traded next January.

[card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] will be played in Standard after rotation in October. At its highest price, Hero’s Downfall was selling at 13 dollars. Currently, they are selling for five to six dollars. Hero’s Downfall is a great pick up right now.

What cards from Theros are you targeting right now?

Please guys, I need more feedback. I want to learn stuff, too. In a past article, I discussed how my mother would be a mad bro if I was not a success. Without your help this week, my mother is going to be one seriously mad and disappointed bro.

Email me [email protected]. Follow me on the Twitter machine @jwgravesFL and then tweet at me. If you would like to leave a comment on this article, all you need is a name and an email address. Love me, hate me…let me know!

All Magic Has a Price #4 – The Big Winner at the Prerelease

True Cost:
The lowest amount of real cash needed to acquire a card.

All Magic Has a Price


J. Graves
Tampa, FL


Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]
Follow @jwgravesFL


About AMHaP

All Magic Has a Price focuses on Magic: The Gathering finance from the player’s point of view. AMHaP discusses the true cost of playing Magic: The Gathering by reviewing strategies to acquire a playable collection of cards for Standard as a returning player, a new player, or a continuing player, and by discussing potential investment opportunities in older formats. AMHaP targets those of us that play casually and competitively on a local level, and AMHaP is written for casually-competitive players by a casually-competitive player. If one would like further explanation of the viewpoint and scope, please read: All Magic Has a Price Issue #1.

If you would like more information on determining true-cost value, please read: All Magic Has a Price Issue #3 – Accounting for MTG.

The Big Winner at the Prerelease

I walked into a room the size of a coliseum. White tables where lined across the floor. I felt at home.
The prerelease structure is different now—I am not saying better, but different. Supporting the local card shop does feel like the right way to do it, but let me say, prereleases in the old days were big events.

Prereleases are a fantastic way to add true-cost value to one’s collection. The big winners at the prerelease will be those that prepare to win in all phases of the weekend.

Winning is by far the most important phase of a prerelease. How does one give himself or herself an advantage? The answer is simple: study.

Usually, the full set will be released a week before the prerelease on Saturday at 12 a.m. We’ll refer to this week as the “pre-week.” The pre-week gives one approximately 168 hours in which to prepare to dominate.

First and foremost, one has to know the cards. Several sites post the revealed cards from the new set. My personal favorites are Mythic Spoiler and the mothership itself, Daily MTG. As of this writing, 21 cards have been spoiled. Being aware of spoiled cards as they are revealed will give one additional time to prepare during the pre-week. The Monday of the week of the prerelease, the entire set will be spoiled. Take time to read through every card. Evaluate the value of each card in the context of playing it in Sealed. While evaluating, keep mindful of current archetypes in Standard. Is the card Standard-playable? Does it have a possible home in current Standard? What is the prerelease true-cost value?

The Friday of prerelease weekend, the Limited Resources podcast will have a commons and uncommons set overview. These reviews are up to four hours long, but find time to listen to the entire podcast while sitting in front of the computer. This way, you can follow along with the spoiler and do some expanded evaluation. Listen closely to what Marshall and Brian have to say. These two a very good at what they do. Study the new keyword abilities, look for interaction between cards, and evaluate the strength of each—this will add the most value to your limited study time.

After one has read every card, other practice options exist. Several websites offer virtual packs in order to practice building decks in the new Limited format. is currently my favorite. is another good one. Continue reading the cards to make sure you fully understand them all. Look further for card interactions or specific deck archetypes.


Other phases of the prerelease can be as lucrative as winning. When Gatecrash came out, I studied the cards and noticed a very fun-looking one: [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]. Three mana for a 3/3 that can be given first strike seemed really good to me. Reckoner also did damage to a player or a creature for the damage Reckoner took. Wow, a great card. I looked up the price of the card, and found it was less than five dollars. I knew this was going to be a playable card in Standard, so I decided I was going to target it at the prerelease. I ended up winning the event and trading into six [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]s. As you might know, this worked out well for me.


An example of the reverse is [card]Aurelia’s Fury[/card]. The hype around this card was intense. An instant-speed fireball that could be split just made everyone happy. I personally didn’t understand how a [card]Fireball[/card], even at instant speed, was any better than a [card]Fireball[/card] ever had been. When is the last time a [card]Fireball[/card] finished a Standard game? For that matter, when had a [card]Fireball[/card] finished any game? Not since [card]Channel[/card]/[card]Fireball[/card] have I won a game with a [card]Fireball[/card]. I decided this was a flop. I pulled two of them prerelease weekend. When I got home, I immediately put them on eBay, and the Furies sold for approximately $22 each. Again, as you might know, this worked out well for me.

Being the big winner at your prerelease does not require winning the event, although that certainly helps. Other phases exist in order to recoup losses from a bad draw or a lucky opponent. Look at the current Standard to determine what cards might fit into current archetypes and evaluate the potential of new archetypes. This will give you an advantage when looking to build value in your collection during prerelease weekend. Properly evaluating over-hyped cards is another way to add true-cost value to one’s collection. But remember, in order to consistently be the big winner in all phases of prerelease weekend, one must study.

Mailbag #3

LogoTwitter chimed in this week on the mailbag question. Awesome Twitter, thanks for the feedback. @sushihipster talked about eBay and PayPal fees versus selling to card shops—what is the time value of money? The time value of money is a fantastic concept, and one that very much fits into the conversation. I am going to do a future article on the time value of money versus MTG historical prices. Thanks for the input @sushihipster.

@nikvenar said, “I like to use the option in eBay where you can get eBay credit and pay no fees.” @nikvenar, this does sound like an awesome option. However, I was unable to locate it! @nikvenar, if you read this, please leave a link in the comments below so that we can look at this. I would really enjoy reading about this. This is exactly why I write these articles. I want to learn stuff.

Awesome questions, @shushihipster and @nikvenar!

In the comments of my last article, Nick talked about the mailbag questions. Nick said in regards to last week’s article, “This one (Accounting for MTG) seems to go against the previous one (Supporting the Local Card Shop) of what value using the store and giving up a few pennies or dollars can really add to you long term”.

Nick, this is a fantastic point, and is the main reason I wrote Supporting the Local Card Shop. Unfortunately, in order to minimize the actual cash needed to acquire a card, one must sometime go outside of his or her local community. Of course, if one can find good reasons to stay in the community, there will be additional value. When discussing true-cost value, it is important to be honest with oneself. One cannot always do what is best for the community; most times, it is prudent to focus on one’s own personal interests. I hope that the concept of opportunity costs was understood by most readers. If not, please send me questions.

Reddit, notice how I spelled it right, ty kihashi, was not as active this week. Come on guys, give me some feedback. vVvtime did have interesting thoughts. Be sure to check out the forum for other members of the community’s feedback, and get in there and give me some feedback!

Mailbag #4

I have taken the time to discuss my preparation for the prerelease. Now it is your turn to repay the favor.

How do you study for the prerelease exist?

Feel free to respond on, or follow me on the Twitter machine @jwgravesFL, or if you have a name and an email address, you can leave a comment below. I need you, get in there.

All Magic Has a Price – #3 – Accounting for MTG

True Cost:
The lowest amount of real cash needed to acquire a card.

All Magic Has a Price


J. Graves
Tampa, FL


Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]
Follow @jwgravesFL


About AMHaP

All Magic Has a Price focuses on Magic: The Gathering finance from the player’s point of view. AMHaP discusses the true cost of playing Magic: The Gathering by reviewing strategies to acquire a playable collection of cards for Standard as a returning player, a new player, or a continuing player, and by discussing potential investment opportunities in older formats. AMHaP targets those of us that play casually and competitively on a local level, and AMHaP is written for casually competitive players by a casually competitive player. If one would like further explanation of the viewpoint and scope, please read: All Magic Has a Price Issue #1.

If you would like more information on determining true-cost value, please read: this article.


Accounting for MTG

True-Cost Value

I had gone through a divorce, and all my cards were gone. The game I loved was gone.

A couple of years later in 1998, I was driving down the road in Burnsville, Minnesota when I noticed a familiar sign, Magic: The Gathering. My heart fluttered—could it be? Is she back in my life?
This was when I first found Limited. Oh, what a neat concept. There were new rules, and the stack was all screwy. What do you mean damage on the stack? Yay for [card]Snap[/card]. Packs of Urza’s were selling for $2.75 apiece, and card prices were rising. I am a struggling musician. How can I afford to play this game?
Playing on the internet, I stumbled upon eBay. eBay was a place to buy cards at a significantly cheaper price than the card shop. Cheaper cards made the game seem less expensive.

I began thinking to myself, Scrye was okay for trading, but if one really wanted to get the most value for the lowest cost, Scrye was not the source to determine value. eBay was. Why would I buy a card for $17.50 from the local shop or other internet retail site, when I could grab it from another MTG player for $9?

I fell in love with Draft the very first time I played in one. At prereleases, I would get the starter pack but  sometimes wouldn’t even play in the event. Instead, I would draft all day long. In those days, there were so many people at prereleases that they felt like Grands Prix. As I began to start winning in Limited, my collection grew.

I watched a couple Type 2 tournaments. Type 2 looked fun. I checked eBay for prices, and I found the prices to be extreme for the previous year’s block. Considering I would only get to play with the cards for another couple of months (except for in Extended), I couldn’t justify buying them.

I determined that I would wait, collect some cards, and play after rotation. I began bidding on eBay, and I bought cards that were low in price but were being played. My collection grew.

I noticed that by playing and winning at Limited, I could add additional value to my collection. In trades, I noticed that if I kept in mind the amount of real cash that it would take to acquire the card, I could add additional value to my collection.

I decided to stop thinking about cards at Scrye prices, and I focused on this new concept I had: true-cost value.

True Cost is the lowest amount of real cash needed to acquire a card.

True-Cost Value = the lowest amount of real cash needed to acquire a card, determined by an averaging the last 10 eBay sold auctions, including shipping, or the low on TCG Player, including shipping.

Whenever I traded, I stayed mindful of the TCV. I bought cards low in true cost and high in Scrye cost to trade. I studied Limited incessantly, because winning sometimes gave me 3-1 value in TCV. I continued buying low-cost, long-useful-life Type 2 cards. This became more fun than playing MTG. When rotation hit, I could play any deck I wanted. I loved it.

True-Cost Value is not going to help one win a PTQ, although it will help build a collection that allows one to attain a competitive deck. For the casual collector/player, which most of us are, TCV will help one to make better decisions as to how to spend a limited MTG budget.

I have never won a PTQ, but I have been a terror at a Friday Night Magic events. Magic: The Gathering can be an expensive game. Whenever possible, one should do his or her best to minimize the real cash needed to acquire cards by keeping in mind the true-cost value.



When one is looking to unload cards due to rotation, trading is superior to selling in retaining true-cost value. When trading, we will not have to worry about card-shop profits or eBay and PayPal fees.

If one cannot trade a card, other options exist. One can sell to the store, one can trade to the store for credit, one can sell on eBay, or one can attempt to sell on Craigslist or to friends.

Using SCG as a reference, selling to the store is an extremely low return. [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] has a SCG buylist price of $8 and Channel Fireball has a buylist price of $10. Copies on eBay are selling for approximately $15.

Trading cards to the card shop, one can receive an additional 20% – 30%, approximately $10.40. The store credit is spent using the retail/SCG price. One is paying an additional 20% – 30% above TCV when using store credit. Store credit is a wash with real cash selling at buylist price, thus making this option almost identical to selling at buylist price.

In order to sell on eBay, one must pay eBay fees and Paypal fees. Paypal fees are, 2.9% + .30 cents. eBay fees include 10% of the total amount of the sale, and there are also fees for listings in excess of 50 per month.

Sunk Cost:
Money already spent and permanently lost.


Chandra, Pyromaster

Click Here!

For example, Chandra is going for approximately $15 on eBay at the time of this writing. Calculating this by: 15 * 2.9 = .435 cents plus .30 cents, giving us a total of .735 cents, PayPal’s cut. For eBay, 15 * 10% = 1.50 dollars. So the total for eBay and PayPal charges is 2.235. Taking $2.24 from $15 leaves us with $12.76. One would receive $12.76 in TCV. eBay’s and PayPal’s combined fees in this example are 14.9%. If one can not trade the card, Paypal and eBay fees can be considered a sunk cost. My preferred shipping method costs 66 cents for postage, and 4×7 bubble wrap cushioned mailers cost 25 cents a piece.

Craigslist and other classified sites are primarily used to sell collections. Selling individual cards is rarely done, if ever, and doing so would be tedious. If one were looking to sell his or her entire collection, this could be an opportunity to receive 5% to 15% additional real cash than would be offered by the shop selling in bulk.

Unloading cards is not easy, and it seldom feels good. Trading is the best way to retain TCV. If one cannot trade, several options are available. Selling to the card shop, trading to the card shop for store credit, or selling one’s collection on Craigslist are a few of those options. Clearly selling on eBay, even though fees will be incurred, is the best way to sell unwanted or unneeded cards.

For additional information on selling cards, please listen to Jason, Marcel, Corbin, and Ryan on Brainstorm Brewery every Friday.


Foil Yoked Ox

Click Here!


Mail bag #2

AMHaP issue # 2 had a huge response on Reditt this last week. Thanks, you guys, I appreciate the feedback—even if it was critical. For the success of AMHaP and for me, that type of honest direct feedback is a necessity.

I took a beating for suggesting foil [card]Yoked Ox[/card] was worth one dollar in True-Cost Value. I had decided that normally I would not include it in TCV. I looked at the eBay sold auctions. Several foil [card]Yoked Ox[/card]en had been sold recently, and that led to the question: if foil Yoked Ox was selling on eBay, does that explicitly imply that someone wants them? And, if someone wants them enough to buy them, then would not someone want it in trade?

After reconsidering my position and taking into consideration the view point of those on Reddit, I have decided to continue with my position that there is value in foil Yoked Ox.

I also took some guff for suggesting that the point of drafting was to gain value. Please do not “next level” yourself by passing money. Leave the “Pro Pick” to the pros. Why would a Friday Night Magic event player pass a shock land when the entire point of drafting is to win and open a shock land or get store credit to buy a shock land? Take the shock land, smile a little and pass the pack. Honestly at a Friday Night Magic event, if you are pro level player, you should be able to win with one less card, right?

Besides the amazing passion from Reddit, a good discussion on the actual mailbag question was had on Some very good suggestions on buy opportunities were made.

Mail Bag Question #2: What value-priced card available in Theros do you believe will see play over the next 18-20 months?

[card]Soldier of Pantheon[/card] appeared most often. I agree this is a fantastic buy opportunity. [card]Whip of Erobos[/card] was also mentioned. I personally am not sure about this card; however, the source that suggested Whip is a source I trust. I would not be surprised if Whip was in a deck after or before rotation other than mono black. Then there was [card]Fleecmane Lion[/card]. This is by far the most exciting pick up at the moment, in my opinion. A card that costs WG for a 3/3 that becomes hexproof and indestructible seems really good to me. I love aggro. Getting a 3/3 creature for two mana with an upside? That is a win.

Thank you for the feedback guys.


Mail bag #3

Selling cards is difficult. Few avenues exist to retain true-cost value.

What other options are there for unloading unwanted cards?

Also, in the Full-Cost Method, one must account for hidden costs. What hidden costs are there in Magic: the Gathering, and what are some ways to lessen those hidden costs?

Lastly, how useful is in determining values?

Thanks to all the readers of AMHaP. Please leave comments or feed back below. All you need is a name and an email address. If you think I am right, tell me. If you think I am dead wrong, please let me know so you and I can discuss. Thaeyde and CorpT, thanks for the awesome discussion, and I look forward to our next round.

Follow me on the Twitter machine @jwgravesFL

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

All Magic Has a Price


J. Graves
Tampa, FL


Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]
Follow @jwgravesFL


Supporting the Local Card Shop


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

Supporting the Local Card Shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Limited Finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pick a Card

Scrying my eyes out

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Issue 1 Mailbag Question

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

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

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

Thanks for all the wonderful input.

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

Issue 2 Mailbag Question

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

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

The week’s question is:

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

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

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J. Graves – All Magic Has a Price

All Magic Has a Price


J. Graves
Tampa, FL


Let me know your thoughts at [email protected]
Follow @jwgravesFL


Early in 1994, a not-so-young version of myself saw a set of friends playing an odd card game at his job. I can still remember asking them, “What’s this?” This is probably the most expensive question I have ever asked besides, “Will you marry me?” Although I never lost my love for the game I met that day, over the years, life happened. Keeping up with new sets became difficult to impossible. But eventually, I was able to play again. This raised the questions: what is the best way to return to Standard or to start from scratch, what is the best way to keep a current playset for Standard as a continuous player, and why would anyone in their right mind subject themselves to trying to play Modern or older formats? All Magic Has a Price will focus on the true cost of playing Magic: The Gathering, both competitively and casually.

About Me

Knowing a little about me should help you understand the viewpoint of this series. I am 42 years old – yes, I am an old dude – and am married with an 18-year-old son. I am a tax accountant for a Big Four accounting firm, and I have degrees in accounting and business management. I am currently a student at the University of South Florida for an IT information architecture degree.

Sitting at the kitchen table in 1994, so very sad that I just lost my Sengir Vampire as ante, Sengir Vampire Magic: The Gathering was only a game. I loved buying packs to see what thing I would get that I had never seen before. Nowadays, I enjoy Limited a great deal, and I believe Draft is the most competitive, fair, and compelling format. That being said, I also enjoy building a deck with which to destroy a Friday Night Magic Standard event. If I am going to play Standard, though, I prefer to have a playset of all the playable cards. I want to be able to build any net deck that is hot at the time, and I want to be able to deal with the current metagame at the local shop. As one can imagine, this can become very expensive.

Returning Players

Last November, I returned to Magic from a layoff. Life was busy, and I lived too far from a shop for it to be easy and affordable to play. Luckily, I moved, and now I have a shop within two blocks, a great shop: Anthem Games in Tampa, Florida. I wanted to play Standard, so I bought the pieces for Bant control from eBay for a little under 700 dollars. Of course, as soon as I got the deck together, Bant was terrible. I determined that I was not going to be able to be competitive until I had a better collection of cards. What is the best way to build a playable collection? The answer is patience. Take your time.

I love Draft. Draft is very skill intensive, and the more one studies the better he or she gets. By winning a Draft, I could bring home 40 dollars in true-cost value, if not more, for only 12 bucks. I prefer to use the average of the last 10 eBay auctions, or the low on TCG Player, as the true cost in cash. Because I determined that I would not try to be competitive in Standard until the next rotation, I was able to speculate a little on what might be good from the current set after rotation. One speculation that worked out very well for me was Supreme Verdict. I paid $11.99 for four copies including shipping, the true cost. Today I looked at the last 10 auctions, and I would now have to pay an average of 17.01 for four copies including shipping, the true cost. Sphinx's RevelationAnother example is purchasing Sphinx’s Revelation in December of 2012. With the hype around the card at the time and with my own love for drawing cards, I knew this card would be something both in the current format and even more after rotation. I paid 51 dollars in December of 2012, and today I would have to pay on average $75.95. Compare this to buying Thragtusk for the deck. I paid 77 dollars for four, and I sold them for $46.99. I spent 30 dollars for the privilege of playing with Thragtusk for about three months, a total of about five tournaments. That seems like a waste compared to Sphinx and Verdict where I will have 18+ months of play, and I could sell them at a profit in the current setting. Not all specs will hit, but if one is a good card evaluator, most cards will be playable, and having playable cards is the point. Coming back to the game is exciting, and very expensive. A returning player’s job is to find ways, like concentrating on being amazing at Limited and preparing for rotation, to minimize the true cost of reentering the world of competitive Magic: The Gathering.


New Players

Having not been a new player of Magic: The Gathering for about 20 years, it is difficult for me to relate to not having Magic: The Gathering in one’s life. New players, I welcome you to the game, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Many of the same concerns of a returning player plague the new player. However, the new player doesn’t understand the costs of the cards. The new player either overestimates the true cost of a card, comparing to SCG prices, or the new player underestimates the true value of a card. Either of these concerns can be fixed by focusing on understanding the game itself, and by trying to unravel the concepts and intricacies of the MTG economy. I suggest beginning slow. Spend a lot of time researching values of cards and the power of the game. I suggest playing Limited, both Draft and Sealed, as often as possible. Study a lot, listen to podcasts (such as Brainstorm Brewery and Limited Resources), play as often as possible, and listen while at the card shop. The best info is found at the card shop. The new player’s job is to get to know the game and the economy whilst not spending a ridiculous amount of money. This game can be very expensive.

Continuous Standard Players

In years past I have been very competitive at Standard. As I said earlier, I like to brew decks. In order to be able to brew a deck, Therosone must have access to the cards. I like having a playset of all playable cards in Standard. Nowadays I am too busy to brew, but I still want to be able to put together a net deck that looks fun and competitive. Winning is fun!

The main purpose of writing this series is to minimize the amount of actual dollars that one pays out and to still maintain a playable set of cards. I will talk about true cost a lot during this series. I will also discuss opportunity costs involved with ditching cards early. For example, in order to minimize the cost of rotation, one can focus on selling cards at their peak, accounting for opportunity costs like not having the cards with which to play.

A person that has already been competitive in Standard at rotation will have an advantage in that he or she can trade. Please take into consideration that trading will usually be done at retail or TCG mid pricing. This does not affect at all the true cost of the card. Keeping in mind the actual dollars spent on the cards being traded allows one to minimize the loss or maximize the gain in true-cost value. Another advantage of being a continuous Standard player is winning. Splitting top eight in a 16-man pod is about 20 bucks in store credit. Store credit unfortunately does not work with the true-cost method. In order to accurately count the true-cost method, one must subtract 20-30% from his or her store credit total. Store credit is not, and should not be a 1:1 ratio with real cash or with the true cost. Winning is a great way to build one’s collection. All other concepts will apply to an extent to continuous Standard players. The continuous Standard player’s job is to maintain a playable collection of cards year to year.

Long-Term Investing Players

For the most part, the only reason to ever quit playing the best game in the universe, Magic: The Gathering, is because pesky family gets in the way. Why don’t women and children understand bills and rent just are not that important? Well, hopefully someday we will find a solution to having to feed our families, but until then most of us will not be able to play continuously over our lifetime. Occasionally though, the MTG Gods will be happy, and one may be allowed a period when he or she might be able to put a couple months, a year, or more into playing. Loving the game as I do, it is very hard for me to believe this game will ever stop being printed. What if Hasbro stopped making cards? Would people stop playing MTG? The Magic: The Gathering Wiki page says that as of January 2013 there were 12,988 unique MtG cards. The same article states that by the end of 1994 there were 2 billion MTG cards printed. This number is so high, I do not want to do the math of the total amount of cards that are in existence now. Mafs r hard. There are plenty of MTG cards. Even if Hasbro stopped making cards, and this isn’t happening soon, this game will be played for the rest of eternity. In my opinion, investing money long-term in older cards that will not lose value is as good as or better than being in the stock market. Ancestral RecallExample, I sold an Ancestral Recall in 2002 for 202 dollars. If I had kept this card, I could sell it today for 450 to 500 dollars true cost. That is at least 100% growth, and more than likely is closer to a 200% return. Very few investments have seen a 200% increase in true-cost value in 10 years, especially during the great recession. The long-term investing player’s job is to invest money smartly to receive high returns from cards that cannot or will not lose value over the long term.


All Magic Has a Price will discuss the true cost of playing Magic: The Gathering. In order to accomplish this, I will have four segments, bi-weekly. First I will pick a topic; I have several canned like winning at Limited and buying the new set. I will have a segment that focuses on a paper Draft that occurred within the prior two weeks. I will discuss what my options were, and weigh the factors of picking money or picking to win for money. Where is that line? I will find cards that I believe will be good in the next Standard format and/or that could bring value to the current Standard. Lastly, and most definitely the mostest and bestest, I will have a mail bag piece that will focus on questions, complaints, suggestions, and ideas on me, my choices, current cards, and investment opportunities. So, for me to be a success, I need you! I have very much enjoyed writing this, and I hope it has been helpful. That lad from 1994 could have chosen to walk away from that table. I am certainly glad that he chose to ask the question, “What’s this?” Whether one is a new player, a returning player, a continuous Standard player, or one who thinks that a 200% return is okay, we have to remember, All Magic Has a Price.

Mail Bag Question of the Week

I have been thinking about buying a playset of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] since it came out in Dragon’s Maze. Who could spend $160-200 on one set of Standard cards, and still feel good about themselves? The card looks so fun to play. So the mailbag question this week is:

Do you think Voice of Resurgence will maintain value after it rotates from Standard? And if so, what do you think will be the floor on its price? The current true cost of a playset Voice of Resurgence is approximately 120 dollars. [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] has retained decent value. Do you think Voice will do the same? Let me know your thoughts at [email protected].

This series will not be a success without you, the reader. Please help me to create dynamic content each and every article. Any and all questions or comments will be read, and I will do my best to respond in some way. If, of course, I become a huge star then I will pick and choose. But seriously, if you have a question, ask! Others, including myself, probably have the same question. Think I am flat wrong? Tell me. I know I am pretty, but I am not always right. Have a suggestion or a trick that will help bring down the true cost of playing competitive Magic: The Gathering for our fellow article mates? You are awesome. Even if you just want to BS with me, I want to hear from you.

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