Building on the Basics part 2

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Welcome back to part two of Building on the Basics. We're going to look at the next few blocks of information and how they can be built on for improved trading. If you haven't read the first part, I suggest doing that first. You can find the first article here.

This week we're going to cover the topics of Comparative Pricing, Competitive Pricing, and Dealing with the Unknown.

Comparative pricing continues to build on the research you've done and the baselines that were established last week, and helps establish a cards credibility as a possible tournament staple, and thus a worthy early investment. This is also the first full portion of speculation. Using the research and baselines, you can look at spoilers as they come out and find an average price when compared to other cards like it. Using this you can find cards with higher accuracy that will most likely go up from their original price.

Continuing to use my favorite example we will look at Green Sun's Zenith. Its most easily compared to Summoner's Pact, a card that saw play the entire time it was legal. Even after it got the axe from extended, it still carries a $5.99 price tag on CFB and SCG, and is sold out at that price on SCG. We could then conclude when it was spoiled that even if it only hit $5.99, buying them for $2.99 each was virtually guaranteed profits. At $9.99 each, you should be celebrating if you bought more than four to sell back. I touched on the other Sun's a few weeks back, so lets do some comparisons.

Black Sun's Zenith: Most easily compared to? Mutilate. Mutilate saw tons of play back in its day, since Mono Block Control was a tier 1 deck. $10 wasn't unheard of for the price on this card, and right now Black Sun is sitting low on the pricing scare from where I'm looking. I hear being able to reuse removal without *Yawgmoth's Will is good.

White Sun's Zenith: Most easily compared to? Decree of Justice. Face it, three out of four times, you cycled this for soldier tokens. the casting cost on WSZ is the same as the cycling cost, you get the same number of guys, with double the power and toughness. You don't get to draw a card, but trade-offs. If you hard cast decree of justice, you got 4/4 flyers. For the same cost, you're getting twice as many (+1 because of double X cost in DOJ) 2/2 ground pounders.  Same amount of power and toughness, just less evasion. Control decks may find a love for White Sun's Zenith yet. Did I mention these shuffle back in?

Red Sun's Zenith: Most easily compared to? Disintegrate. Sorcery? check. XR cost? Check. Removes creatures from the game? Check. Disintegrate saw play, Fireball saw play, and if mid-range/control red becomes viable via Koth of the Hammer and Slagstorm then this will also see some play. Oh, and it shuffles back in to be used again. Awesome, its what Beacon of Destruction always wanted to be: useful.

Blue Sun's Zenith: Most easily compared to? Stroke of Genius. You know what the difference is between BSZ and Stroke is? 2U vs. UUU, which isn't really much considering the kinds of decks that normally played Stroke. In fact, BSZ is superior to stroke when you factor in the reshuffle effect. This Sun's cycle is powerful, and shouldn't be ignored as the metagame evolves.

When looking at spoilers and presale prices, ask yourself these questions. Where do the new cards fit? Does it fit into a currently existing archetype, and make it stronger? Does it have a home in Legacy, opening up a new deck that was missing it? If any of those answers are "Yes", then its probably a card that needs to be picked up for future investments.

How do we make use of those investments? Well, you have to sell them when the price is at a point you're comfortable with. If you paid $4 for a card, then selling them for $6 should be something you're happy to do. Its a great profit margin, and as volatile as the Magic market can be, sometimes its just the right way to do things.

Competitive Pricing is best used when selling or trading to another player, since you can't play the competitive pricing game with a dealer and come out ahead. It may sound weird, but my prices on cards vary from the read I get on people. If someone is looking for a card 10 minutes before an event, and I've seen him making the rounds asking for it, you better believe I'm going to undercut the dealer by all of .50. If the dealer is out of stock, all bets are off, and my price may even be $2 higher than the dealer was selling them for. Supply and demand drive prices, and knowing how to be competitive with prices will gain you the extra profits to buy that "free" lunch later in the day, or be able to go out to dinner with your friends after the event and order what you really want.

As with all things, its good in moderation. Don't gouge people too hard, no one likes to give up their kidney to play their deck for the day. Don't ask for an absurd price, because if you want to make the deal, you'll go lower when he rejects the offer, and then the buyer is in control. The moment you say "ok, well how about this (lower price)" he knows he can haggle you down to the price, or at least close to the price, he wants to pay.

I use a fairly simple formula. For every dollar the card is worth, add .15 when someone is looking for it at an event, but stay below the dealer. Once the dealer sells out of the product, feel free to raise it to .30. This prevents you from underselling a card there is a run on, and isn't an outlandish request. Yes, if Jace, the Mind Sculptor was sold out at an event and someone wanted to buy one of mine, i would ask $130. This may seem high, but you're also probably not desperate for that Jace to play in the event.

Dealing with the Unknown is easily the hardest thing to do. The "unknown" covers such a wide variety of topics that its nearly impossible to discuss them all. Do you know the price of every card? No, but your smart phone does, and don't be afraid to use it. Openly telling someone "I don't know the price of this, but I will find out in just a moment" is by far the best and most honest way to deal with any situation regarding price. Loss prevention can also be factored into the unknown, and on that front I would suggest only having 1 copy of a given card in your binder. Keep any extras in an alphabetically ordered box that stays with you at all times. If your binder is stolen, its much easier to accept the loss of one card rather than the loss of all of them. For high ticket items such as Dual lands, Jace, P9, or anything else worth more than $50+, I simply take a common, write the name of the card on the back, and put that in the binder. If anyone asks tell them you have the card and that you are using a placeholder for it so it isn't damaged while people go through the binder. Most anyone will understand this, and some may be even more interested in trading knowing that the cards are protected from the wear and tear of being flipped around in a binder.

Quick aside here, binders cause more damage than most people realize over a period of time. from an accidental bend, to someone holding the page too tightly, and even damaged edges when placing the card into the binder slot; damaging a card is far easier than most people think about.  Protect those high value items.

To finish out this article, I want to address the * I put next to Yawgmoths Will. There is no doubt that the card is amazing, and right now I'm watching Praetors Council for a few reasons. Yes, it costs more than Will, but were not playing it in an era of Dark Ritual and other black accelerators/rituals. We are however playing Council in an era that has seen very heavy ramping strategies in the forms of Valakut and UG ramp. It is a mythic, and currently very low in price for an effect that's breaking in the mid to late game. In extended you currently have Time Warp and other effects to help power it along. It has the better part of two years in standard still, and its been a while since we've seen a viable combo strategy in standard. If there is one, I could easily see this card being a part of it paired with the mana ramp currently available to us. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.

Till next week,

Stephen Moss

@MTGStephenmoss on Twitter

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