Conjured Currency #9: Which Spec is Right for You?

Welcome back, readers! If you keep up to date on price trends at all (which you should), then you know that [card]Tropical Island[/card] is approximately $200 TCGplayer median at the time that I am writing this (Monday, April 14th). In the weeks prior, when the card could be found for $100-120, you may have seen several prominent financiers recommending you buy the card. The increase was inevitable. There was no reason for [card]Tropical Island[/card] to be half the price of an [card]Underground Sea[/card] or [card]Volcanic Island[/card].

And they were right. Those who bought [card]Tropical Island[/card]s can be happy that they bought in at the lower price, and either play them, hold them, or resell them. But not everyone has the ability to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on single cards. Today I want to go over where your budget lies for speculation, and the most effective way you can allocate that towards cards that you feel will rise in price. I’m going to take a look at a few cards in each price range that I feel have a strong chance moving forward.

Cheap Pickups

In this section, we will look at a few cards from recent sets with playability and strength that don’t match up evenly with their very low prices. For the sake of newer players, who are mostly relegated to FNM or casual Magic nights at the LGS, I am going to restrict this section to cards that were printed in the past couple of years. Snag these out of binders in trade, but don’t go rushing to buy out the internet. The upside isn’t extraordinarily high with the large print runs, and you won’t see 1000% increases. Regardless, these are cards that have (or are just starting to) proved their worth, and will continue to be in demand in the future.

[card]Rest In Peace[/card]

The most powerful graveyard hate spell ever printed costs approximately $1 with shipping. Of course, there’s a massive price discrepancy between the non-foil and the foil copies. Players who put RIP into their Modern and Legacy decks tend to stick with their decks longer, and therefore have a higher chance of wanting to foil out the deck. If the non-foil creeps up to $3 over the next few months as we approach Modern PTQ season, I don’t think that anyone will be surprised. If you have these in your binder, I would reconsider having them available for trade. I’m gladly snagging these at a dollar.


Until today, I had a bunch of these in my $.25 rare boxes that I let people pick through every week. I did not know they were up to $1.50. I don’t play Standard, so I don’t know if [card]Pharika, God of Affliction[/card] is good enough for Green-Black Dredge, but [card]Nighthowler[/card] is definitely a staple in that deck. I doubt it’s the next [card]Desecration Demon[/card], as so much of the deck is lost upon rotation, but go ahead and pick these up at near-bulk prices if you can find them, or trade for them at a dollar. I’d be happy if I could turn an [card]Underworld Connections[/card] into a RIP and a Nighthowler. Up to $4 doesn’t seem unreasonable for this guy, in my opinion. The bestow costing only one more mana than the actual creature makes me like him even more. I might actually play Standard again if this deck becomes good. It’s a very cheap list to build right now, so something will start jumping if it gains popularity.

[card]Pain Seer[/card]

No, this is not [card]Dark Confidant[/card] 2.0. However, it could find a place in black aggressive decks after rotation. Seer curves out nicely with [card]Tormented Hero[/card] and [card]Herald of Torment[/card]. This is another one that will take a while to come to fruition, but I don’t see it dropping below $2. Born of the Gods was a set that everyone mocked and bought less of when it was released, so these could be in short supply come rotation. As long as you’re trading away irrelevant stuff from RTR that’s on the downturn ([card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card], [card]Desecration Demon[/card], etc.), I like this as a pickup in trade.

[card]Herald of Torment[/card]

Apparently, Wizards really wanted to make Black a strong color in Standard this time around, and not just as a support color. Where [card]Nighthowler[/card] is more of a short-term spec (short-term as in the span of a couple of months), I like Herald and Pain Seer going into next year’s Standard. They could also both see slight bumps before rotation hits. Herald is very aggressively costed in black, and just like Pain Seer, $2 seems like a low point.

Trade, or Buy?

While I understand that some (if not all) of these speculation targets have had their praises sung by other finance writers, I would like to impress how these pickups specifically should be acted upon differently than other cards. If you are new to the finance game, don’t have a lot of initial capital to dump on high-end Legacy cards, and don’t have a massive trade binder, then targeting the small stuff while getting rid of niche, less-desired cards will usually be the correct play.

When picking up cards like [card]Sigil of the Empty Throne[/card], [card]Endless Horizons[/card], or [card]Edric, Spymaster of Trest[/card] that have already spiked, it’s a better maneuver to actually buy the card from places where the price hasn’t yet been raised. Scour the internet (Cardshark, eBay, Amazon, and your LGS all exist. They are alternatives to TCGplayer and take longer to be bought out.) I managed to grab copies of all of these cards at their pre-spike prices from vendors at Grand Prix Philadelphia last weekend, so there’s definitely money to be made! Trying to trade for cards after their prices increase might work a few times, but it also has a real possibility of your partner looking up the card and seeing the real price and realizing you’re trying to shark them. Don’t be that guy. We’ve been over that.

I didn’t expect the part on extremely cheap trade targets to get this long, so I might turn this into a bit of a mini-series if I get enough positive feedback. The main point that I want to impart is that while we all have approximately the same goal (making Magic cheaper), we all have different budgets and incomes. Not everyone can buy into [card]Tropical Island[/card] at retail, and the people who can buy into dual lands at retail shouldn’t be buying 70+ copies of [card]Herald of Torment[/card], even if it is a “good spec.” Your targets should change as your budget does.

Loose Change

On another note, I asked last week if anyone had any questions for this article. One of the questions that a friend asked me after reading was why I haven’t played Standard at all. The answer goes back to the same article that the question came from. I absolutely hate switching decks every week, and Standard often requires one to do just that in order to keep up to the minute on metagame shifts. Even if a deck is still viable, the 75 cards in it may change drastically over a few months. I hate needing cards, so I would rather just keep to a format that I find fun, without having to change my deck. This isn’t to say that Standard is a bad format, it’s just not for everyone.

Have comments on today’s article? Sound off below!

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.

One comment on “Conjured Currency #9: Which Spec is Right for You?

  1. Jason Alt says:

    It’s gratifying to be referred to as a prominent financier indirectly.

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