As promised last week, this week’s article will deviate a little bit from the usual format. Try and keep up because I have a lot to cover!
Last Monday I piled into a Jeep with Quiet Speculation’s former feature writer and friend of the site Ryan Bushard, and our mutual friend Aaron Sulla, and set out to see if we could increase the success Ryan had on his last shop crawl if we had more initial investment capital.
Some of you may be wondering about what a shop crawl is, how you go about deciding if it is for you, how to get started, etc.. Ryan wrote an excellent article series on Gatheringmagic.com here first, then here, so there is little point in my rehashing his articles.
We followed his same method for preparing for this trip. The phone calls ahead were key and made for smooth sailing later on in the trip.
A collection of my tweets about the trip can be found at this hashtag.
An important part of this process was planning ahead.
In this case, it meant deciding whether or not to buy bulk. There is a risk associated with buying bulk sight unseen, namely that it’s HEAVY. Douglas Linn wrote an article on the topic here: Dream Cache – How Much Do Magic Cards Weigh?
Pure bulk Magic cards are worth roughly $4-$5 per thousand, which is not a great profit margin, especially when you calculate how much the extra bulk will be a drag on your gas mileage. It may be a net loss if you pick up pure bulk, so if you think the cards are picked through or you can’t get them for about $1 per thousand, it’s rarely worth it.
The only exception is unpicked “bulk” which may yield treasure. Nothing beats paying $20 on 10,000 cards only to discover that there are Imperious Perfects, Strip Mines, Squirrel Nests or any of the myriad other gems that weren’t printed at rare but are worth much more than half a cent per card. Picking gems out of a dirt-cheap collection is extremely time-consuming but can pay huge dividends.
How do you know if the cards are pure bulk? Usually this can be accomplished by scoping out the type of store you’re dealing with ahead of time. This is where the phone call ahead comes in.
On this trip we decided not to buy much Magic bulk. None of the stores we called seemed like the type of places to be either
- Desperate to get rid of their stock, or,
- Clueless enough to have unpicked boxes they were willing to move as bulk.
That being the case, we decided to shift gears and go after singles we thought were underpriced at the shops we visited and also pick up some sealed product. Russian AVR packs at English retail and Shards block foil packs at $6 each seemed like prudent investments. We bought every pack we could find.
We won the pack lottery, netting a foil Elspeth, some other nice foils, and nearly every card we had wished to open. I wouldn’t rely on sealed product to make your trip be profitable, but if the price is right, a few good opens can make for some nice gravy.
So if we didn’t buy Magic bulk, and we didn’t make our money in packs, how did we make any money at all? The answer to that lies in your end goal for the trip. Are you looking to end up back home with card stock? Will you end up outing at a retail location like Troll and Toad in Kentucky? Or, like us, is the rainbow at the end of your shop crawl a Grand Prix?
In our case, the end goal was GP Minneapolis and we rolled up with a Jeep that was totally stuffed.
That’s right- the best buy on the Magic shop crawl didn’t turn out to be Magic cards at all.
At a GP or event where a dealer like Troll and Toad is present, bulk Pokemon is worth 10 times as much as Magic bulk.
You can make as much as $45-$50 per thousand, making it well worth picking it up and hauling it. We managed to sell the Pokemon bulk we had accumulated in our shopcrawl for over a thousand dollars. Not bad for some cards we couldn’t pick if our lives depended on it.
I’m sure we left hundreds in $1-$5 uncommons, but the amount of profit we made made this a moot point. I’m sure the dealer was happy to get extra value and we were happy to have an easy out. A win-win like this can help establish a future relationship with a dealer and ensure you always have an out for bulk. Just make sure the dealer knows you’re coming with a ton of Pokechaff or you may end up stuck with it because they couldn’t take it.
Some dealers are flying home and don’t want to pay hundreds in weight overage fees and may pass on the whole collection as a result. An alternative is visiting the dealer’s retail location. They generally pay better rates if you mail it in (expensive!) or drop it off in person, which isn’t all that expensive if you make plans to end the trip there.
So is that all? Buy some cheap packs, try to scan cases for bargains (even dealers who use a website for prices won’t know what to do with weird stuff like foreign foils) and maybe pocket some monsters? Sure, that’s part of it, but I have a little more wisdom to impart.
I think we’ll leave it here for now and I will fill in some of the gaps next week. You won’t want to miss part 2 of this recap!
The end of the road was the beginning of the story
Once our road trip was over with our arrival in Minneapolis, the real work began. Aaron signed up for the Grand Prix main event and Ryan and I still had to turn our cardboard money into paper money. Walking around and talking to the dealers gave us two very important pieces of info.
- The Wolfir Silverheart bubble is bursting
- The weekend price for Bonfire of the Damned could approach $40
This information isn’t always useful if you’re not at the GP or after it’s over, but Quiet Speculation Insiders frequently receive advance info like this when it’s far reaching. It’s nice to get the word before Monday rolls around, the buy-ship’s sailed and it’s too late to move anything because everyone knows the results.
As it was, Ryan and I had been picking up Wolfirs since the Insider email blast calling them at $1.50 and dumped them immediately on our first few trade partners who were hoping to get a premium from people who came with unbuilt decks. Paying $20 cash on Bonfire actually wasn’t unreasonable, as $30 to $40 in trade was easily attainable and cashing out could leave you with that $20 back in your pocket and a few choice pieces of trade bait in the binder.
The GP was modestly-attended with just over 1060 players in the main event. The top 8 on day 2 was stacked with a lot of decks that I’m sure won’t surprise many people. Except, that is, with one possible exception.
With a mere 3 copies of Sulfur Falls in the maindeck and a sideboard that looks more like a binder page than a board (14 unique cards!?), a casual observer might think event winner Christian Calcano showed up without a complete deck and threw together enough borrowed cards in his colors to make a legal 75 and hoped for the best.
To watch him play, however, told a different story.
His friends all told him he was nuts for running this build (one of them told me, before the even even started, that his friend was “trolling” by playing UR Delver), but he managed to silence all of the doubters and go 11-0 in Swiss.
QS Insiders will recognize one of these cards from the e-mail blast from Barcelona -Desolate Lighthouse, a card not on a lot of radars that saw heavy play as a miracle enabler in Block. After watching Calcano windmill a Bonfire of the Damned to kill his opponent (when he was dead on board, mind you) from the Lighthouse’s loot, I know it has huge potential.
Brad Nelson must have heard that as well. Nelson’s innovative Grand Architect build used a few Merfolk Looters to great effect.
Could we see a price spike on Architect? As an early adopter of Architect and someone sitting on hundreds of copies, I can’t say I’d be sad to see it go up. This deck is all in on clones and Wurmcoil Engines. Did Brad blow out more than one person when they swung their 6/6 titan at his 6/6 Engine by calmly baptizing the Engine as a member blue tribe, allowing it to survive the encounter? That’s speculation on my part, but that last ability on Architect is forgotten almost as often as Loxodon Hierarch’s sac ability.
If this deck sees some play before rotation, don’t make the same mistake. That trick gets even better after the Wurmcoil Engine dies and thrinaxes into 2 tokens, netting you 8 power in attackers for UU. Sick value.
A better road trip destination
Sunny Orlando was the site of the Star City Open this same weekend. There wasn’t quite the same level of innovation that we saw at the GP, but there were a few surprises all the same.
UB Infect in the top 32! Amazing! I wish I could high five Trek Barnes for having a cool name AND a cool deck.
Infect was on everyone’s minds that weekend, as event winner John Cuvelier included a maindeck Viridian Corrupter. Astute observers among you will be quick to point out that this inclusion was to destroy pesky Swords and Pikes. Poppycock! No one expects the Corrupter alpha strike aided by a quick Wolf Run pump. Gain all the life you want, chump!
Dredge is a fine, fine choice right now. If it weren’t, I could get more than 50 cents from a dealer for Graffdigger’s Cage. Event winner Mark Eilers ran a relatively stock list (Lion’s Eye Diamond is back as the preferred dump method thanks to the printing of Faithless Looting) and played very tight to take home first prize.
With so many players trying to break personal tutor and other short-sighted methods of trying to use Temporal Mastery to take an extra turn, Shawn French, my new hero, quietly brewed up a list that uses the first card that came to my mind when the miracle mechanic was spoiled: Sensei’s Divining Top!
In a list that runs a grand total of zero over-hyped Temporal Mastery, Shawn smashed faces with value-costed angels and ruined lives with 1 mana Wraths all day and put no more work into setting it up than the same Brainstorm/Jace/Top Shenanigans any control player worth their salt was doing already. Instead of Time Walking himself to set up Mastery, this list adds the explosive power of two new miracle cards that may be here to stay in Legacy.
Great innovation, Shawn!
Worth noting, 42nd place was snagged by a deck I said wasn’t a deck – Food Chain Griffin! Packed with a ton of great creatures with useful ETB abilities and finishers in the form of Eldrazi, this deck uses the ramping power of Food Chain with Misthollow Griffin to gain infinite mana used to play creature spells. Quiet Speculation’s own Tyler Tyssedal has been playing around with a Food Chain list, claiming it to be more fun than competitive, although it can consistently land T3 Eldrazi through either Food Chain or Show and Tell.
It looks fun to play and can apparently gets results. Nice job, Christopher Piedra!
How I accidentally legitimacy
If a popular Magic podcast had to put a guest host in the clutch spot between John Medina one week and Conley Woods (hopefully) 2 weeks later, that person would have to be the best of the best, the cream of the crop, someone very special.
At least that’s what I am hoping people will assume about me. By sheer luck (and by knowing Ryan Bushard and writing for the same site [this one] as Corbin Hosler), I managed to lucksack myself into a guest host spot on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast that went up this week. Hey, if I weren’t totally awesome and/or not a donkey, could I possibly follow up their best episode to date, their episode featuring John “John Freakin’ Medina” Freakin’ Medina himself? Of course not, don’t be silly.
Joking aside, I totally lucksacked into the invite to do this podcast as it’s one of the top 3 Magic podcasts on mtgcast.com and the only credible one about financial info. If you haven’t been listening, I’d highly recommend it. It’s both entertaining and educational and it was a blast and a genuine honor for me to get the invite.
I make a total donkey out of myself. I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it.
I’m gonna make like a tree and get out of here
That does it for us this week, ladies and germ tokens. Catch me here next week where I’ll talk more about the shopcrawl and give you more life-saving info.
Same bat time, same bat channel.