Going Infinite in a Different Way

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By Mike Lanigan

I am fascinated with the concept of going infinite, but there are a variety of ways to accomplish this goal. One of the most fun is on MODO. All you have to do to achieve an infinite stream of Event Tickets is to win more than you lose, and then you can almost draft for free, after of course your initial investment. This is a great concept and a ton of fun if you can manage it. If you find this interesting, I recommend trying the 4-3-2-2's because then the impact is less if you don't do quite as well, especially until you get good enough or know the draft format well enough to be wrecking the 8-4's.

This is supposed to be a financial article so I guess I should move on. Magic is expensive. If you play the game at all you know this to be true, now in many ways more so than ever. Also true, Magic players are often poor, or at least often don't have a ton of money to be buying all the hot new Mythic Rares. We revisit this problem frequently as authors write articles complaining about what the Mythics have done to the game and how it is too expensive for many people to play. I'm sure you have read one of those articles and they are great… this is not one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I do love the financial content to death and literally read every financial article I can get my hands on anywhere on The Internet, but we need an actual way to deal with the rising price of Magic cards. How can we actually stop focusing on the problem and figure out a workable answer? Well, I have it for you today. For the past year I have been playing competitive magic on a budget, playing top-tier decks, and doing it with almost no money. You're still with me, right? Good.

Now that I have your attention, let me share this little secret with you: First, you need to save enough for your initial investment. This needs to be at least one hundred US Dollars. Usually, given enough time, this is not going to be much of a problem, but you can always supplement by selling cards (we'll get back to that shortly). What is this first one hundred dollars for? Well the truth is, it would be nice if the investment were larger, so feel free to increase the amount of dollars to however many hundreds you are capable of. OK, so you have your investment ready to go, what now? Go preorder boxes of Magic cards: one if you saved up one hundred dollars, more if you were able to save up more than that. But how are we going to make our money back? Well, you have to be willing to sell some cards! If you have never done this, have some faith. Most sites online are reputable and are great to do business with. Any of the big sites are a good place to start, but talk to your friends and try to figure out where they have sold to before if you are skeptical. If you are reading this, you most likely have a handful of places you have sold cards to, or even regularly sell to. Though this article is geared toward the budding financial expert, it should be pertinent to everyone.

Right, so now we have received our box(es). This is the best part: Open them! Isn't it a great feeling, searching for that money Mythic in every pack? How exhilarating! Now that you have opened your box, sort out all the Rares, Mythics and even Uncommons you think you can sell or trade. An example of good Uncommon would be Arc Trail or Memnite from Scars of Mirroden. Now here is the real problem, what do you keep? Well, that's a difficult question to answer. You need to start by planning what decks you are going to be playing this season, and that can be really difficult to do. For me, I saw Koth of the Hammer and knew that I wanted to be playing that card. The Venser the Sojourners, Elspeth Tirels, Molten-Tail Masticores, etc. were not a priority for me. You can always trade for most of these cards later if it turns out you want them. If you don't open any of the Mythics you are looking for, that's actually better for you, so don't feel bad. Continuing to use Scars as our example here, let's say you opened an Elspeth Tirel and a Venser the Sojourner, but you were looking for that Koth just like I was. You are in luck, do you know how much the other Scars of Mirrodin Planeswalkers were being bought for originally from dealers? Over 30 dollars each!

Whatever online store, real life store, eBay, or person you know that you decide to sell to, make sure that you make them give you some amount of bonus store credit. Did you know that many online retailers offer up to an additional 30% store credit just for selling cards to them? If there is a store that offers more than that, message me in the forums because I will do my business there instead! That bonus store credit is our bread and butter. It's the oil that makes this machine continue to move. Keep in mind that you need to compare the actual buy prices of the cards too because they can differ quite a bit between sites, but you really want to settle on one dealer and send them all of your cards.

Alright, so we have these two Mythic Rares we opened, and really, they could be anything that fetches some significant amount of money. Let's estimate the buy prices for both cards at close to what they were, even though they are much lower now. That gives us $30 each, so that's $60, plus an additional $18 from our bonus 30% store credit. That gets us $78, so we need to add a couple other cards like maybe that Sword of Body and Mind you know you probably will never play, a couple lands for $2 each, and a playset of Memnites because you already traded for your set at the Prerelease. Now we have $60 for the 2 Planeswalkers, $10 for the Sword, $4 for the two new duals and $6 for the 4 Memnites. That gives us a total of $80 plus $24, since we are choosing bonus store credit, for a grand total of $104. Selling just 3 Mythics, 2 Rares and 4 Uncommons out of our box, and we are ready to afford another box.

What if you want to go all in? Sure, have at it. Sell every card the site will buy from your box(es), and typically this will double your investment. Wait did you hear that? DOUBLE your investment. Using this method will allow you to repeat this process every time a set comes out to continue buying your boxes.

Alright, so where's the catch? Well, there are a couple things you have to watch out for. The most important thing that you have to realize is that you have a limited window of opportunity. You cannot falter on your plan otherwise you stand to lose a ton of your investment. The sooner you sell, the better. Open a pricey Mythic you don't need at the Prerelease? Put that sucker on eBay when you get home and you could make more money than you thought was possible. A good example here is the foil Scalding Tarn I opened at the Zendikar Prerelease. It sold for I think $45 or $50, and you would be lucky to get half of that now. The important thing to remember is that your window is open for about two weeks once the set is released. After that the majority of the cards in the set drop significantly, or at least stabilize as demand goes down. Usually they do not show a dramatic increase. The exceptions are cards that financial experts highlight as cards to watch for or to invest in.

What does all this get me? Well, if you were like me, I always had to trade for even the Uncommons I needed for my decks, but that is now a thing of the past. It's basically the same with regular Rares now too because they basically cap out at $10 and are usually much less. Also, what about all the rest of the cards you didn't sell? Talk about increasing your trade binder. You would be surprised how much of the stuff you can't sell but that you can actually trade away. Players want all kinds of crazy cards for all kinds of crazy decks so make sure you put all those extra cards in your binder. If you're not into that you can just bulk them out to increase your investment a little more.

Another thing you can do with the extra cards is to sell them as repacks. A lot of players in my area will buy repacks, with these junk rares, for a dollar each. You can draft with them, practice sealed decks, or just buy them if you're short on cash. I have been having a lot of success with my repacks, just make sure your shop owner is OK with it.

Once you trade a bunch of the cards left over for cards you actually need or can then resell, you can increase your investment for the next set that comes out. With most sets you won't want to reinvest your money right away, you will want to hold onto it so you can buy more boxes of the next set. This is not always true though. There have been two sets in the past year that have been extremely profitable for me and you need to watch out when sets like this are printed. The two sets have been M11 and Rise of the Eldrazi. These two sets broke my “Don't sell after the initial two weeks” rule. I ended up buying six boxes of M11 and eleven boxes of Rise. That's a ton of boxes if you consider that my initial investment was just that one hundred dollars I advocated at the beginning of the article. I did add another one hundred dollars later on, but that's about it. If you think about it, this system may just revolutionize the way you buy and sell Magic cards. The thing with those two sets was that the Mythics were so in demand that, even after the two weeks was over, you could just keep buying and selling cards from your boxes because so many people wanted the cards. It's a hard thing to spot, and even though I should have continued with M11 in particular to buy and sell even more, it was still quite a profitable ordeal. After all, you can just keep the money as profit instead of buying cards that you need, but then what are you going to play with?

Now you know my secret. It's been working for me for a year and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. If you plan to use this method, make sure you keep your Magic money separate from the rest in your wallet, you need to still have it when the next set is up for preorder. My four boxes of Mirroden Besieged are ordered already, are yours? I hope it has helped you see just another way you can go infinite.

Next time, we'll take a look at what else we can do with all our extra Rares and try to improve our investment a little more through trading.

It's an exciting time to be playing magic, selling cards, and having fun.

-Mike Lanigan-

mtgjedi on twitter

shadowrunner11 in the forums

30 thoughts on “Going Infinite in a Different Way

  1. Although this does work you have gotten fairly lucky in your sets, since mythics came out this is much more plausible but you can still stand to lose money. M11 has been one of my most profitable sets as well but be careful to watch each set because you never want to go all in on a saviors of kamigawa….youll lose everything you put into it. I think this is a good secondary way to make some extra trade stock for essentially free but should be combined with smart initial trading to really guarantee you dont take a loss.

  2. Agreed, caution is always needed. However, with almost every set released since the creation of mythics, this has been quite a profitable endeavor for me. You do have sets like worldwake though where I had no choice but to sell my Jace the mind sculptors in order to break even. Thanks for the comment. Come back to see how my Besieged boxes turn out with this model.

    I encourage anyone following this model to post your feedback and results!

    Have fun opening those packs!

  3. I am very skeptical about this. Looking over SCG's buylist, nothing is even close to $30. New Tezz is the closest at $15. In fact, Tezz is the only double digit card on the buylist. Same goes for Blackborder's buylist. (note: CFB does not have besieged on the buylist at the time of this post).

    What is your approach going into this set? I'm not seeing the same potential for profit, but maybe you can change my mind.

  4. The thing with starcity is their buylist sucks. Yes they do by consistently but in general, i hardly ever use starcity. I deal a lot with channelfireball and troll and toad. What I said in the article though is that the store credit is really what makes this work. Hopefully next week or the week after I plan to detail how I went about dealing with this set. Beseiged is similar to worldwake it seems, where you would need to sell a lot more of the little things to make it worth your while. Wait until channelfireball posts their buylist to see if this will work for you. I would imagine that to make this work, selling all the tezzerets would be in order, but we'll see.

  5. This is bad, bad, wrong, misguided advice.

    I don't care how good a store's buylist is, with a large enough sample size the amount they'll pay out is less than you paid for your boxes of cards. I promise you that this is true. Otherwise, they would just open more boxes – boxes, remember, that they get at WHOLESALE.

    MAYBE you can take advantage of high buylist prices at the prerelease, but that is before you can buy product anyway.

    You want to make money cracking packs without opening a store? Sell preorders on eBay and then buy cases.

    You want to play the lottery? Do this.

    I don't want to crap all over Mike's post because I am sure that this *has* worked for him in the past. Just like gambling, you can buy one, two, three, four, five boxes and re-sell the singles to dealers and make money. It happens. It happened to Mike.

    That doesn't mean the odds are good that it'll happen to you.

    A good article would get into the mathematics of this. Break down the buylist prices from Scars' release and cross reference it with the price of boxes at the time. See how your logic holds up. But saying "this worked a few times for me!" is just going to mislead some people into making a bad decision with their money.

    1. There may be hidden economics at work that may affect the pricing, too. For example, a store might may a $4 premium over what they would pay for a box, simply to get that same box sorted and in a printable order that can be immediately added to their online inventory. Sorting a box can take up employee time, especially when that time is a finite resource and training isn't especially easy.

      I agree with Chas, though, that this is a bit like a lotto. For me, the biggest payoff would be being able to subsidize the physical thrill of cracking packs, which is very fun.

      1. I've never worked in a card store myself, but I do know that when a new set comes out, CFB has a bunch of their employees crack case after case over a full day, sorting new product all at once. They buy their product en masse, and sort at the same time to make it easier. Anyone with a large enough card collection knows that sorting through 1,000 cards takes almost as long as sorting 5,000 – at a certain point, you're just adding more cards onto a stack.

        If this were a sure-fire way to make money, everyone would do it. I've seen people in Superstars (the CFB store) buy boxes to crack for singles to sell back to the store. They do it right there with the buylist in front of 'em. Sometimes they're ahead for a while, but it always ends up in the same place.

        At a store near where I live, Japanese WWK boxes were being sold for $100 each. One person bought one and cracked a Jace and a foil Jace.

        The remaining boxes were bought and cracked within a day. I watched one get opened – not a single card worth more than $5-$6.

        If you want to pay $15 for the thrill of opening a box and keeping the crap cards, this is a fine idea. But it's terrible financial advice.

    2. Chas, I respect you a lot and read your articles every week, so what you said hit me a little hard. I know that you are just being honest. The next article I have planned is to outline exactly how I will do this with the product I get sometime soon in the mail. I agree there is something of a lottery feel to this and certainly you are putting a small risk out there not to return all of your investment, but I think you would be hard pressed not to return most of it even with the unluckiest of boxes. Keep in mind I did advocate selling imediately in the two week window, this is key and also if you are not willing to accept store credit, you certainly wont be able to recoup your investment. I have used this strategy with m10, zendikar, worldwake, rise, m11, and scars to great effect. This system is perfect for the budding magic player with their eye on finance and most likely is not worth a seasoned vets time like yourself. Certainly I speculate and have other investments as well, but this is what really made me gain interest in the financial side of magic.

      1. Everything I know about MTG finance is telling me that there's no way this can work on a large scale. I think you've probably just gotten lucky.

        If you want to back up your thesis, I would love to see an article proving your point with math. Add up all the aggregate best buy prices on every card in the set, then calculate the average 'buylist value' of a pack factoring in mythic odds, foils, rares, and power uncommons. Then see if that price is lower or higher than the price of a pack if you buy a box!

        I am harsh in my criticism because you are making an incredibly radical claim here – that it is possible to 'go infinite' buying product in the first two weeks of a set. If this is true, then this is HUGE. You will have basically just won the internet!

        But you need numbers to back it up =)

        1. I agree. I'd have to run the numbers to prove it, but i don't think this can scale. If the total value of cards is X, the total cost (not price) of a box is Y and the price of a box is Z there is no way that you can pay Z, receive X and then have X + (X times 20%-store credit) be more than Y let alone Z. Going infinite online involves mostly winning your events and selling to bots that operate on a MUCH smaller margin then real life cards do. There is no perpetual motion in physical cards, it cannot scale and can only be maintained by luck, not numbers. The house always wins in the long run.

  6. I'm on board with Chas. I liked the article and in some cases it does work out, but I don't think it's very consistent. Mike does have two advantages he points out – getting store credit and capitalizing on high prices right after release. Mike, I think spending time with McNutt's pack EV articles should give you some numbers to work with.

    1. I am familiar with the pack ev articles and they were very interesting. They do correlate with my results though. I was very encouraged by the data, I felt like it proved my idea. Some sets are tricky, like worldwake that Chas used as his example. If you pop a Jace, you can almost filp it for another box, but if you get no Jaces, you would need to sell most of the box to pay for itself.

      1. That kinda proves the scalability issue. the Jace TMS distribution is about 4 in 7.3 boxes. if your boxes are $80 (an amazing price but why not) then you spend $584 as long as you can buy 1/3 of a box at the same price. you open 4 jaces and a ton of worthless stuff you're still left with a bill of $264 you have the bridge. you sell those 4 jaces for 4 more boxes and get 2.19 jaces. you sell off those 2 jace for 2 more boxes and get one more jace. you sell the last jace for one more box and you have a 54% change of getting another one. you're going to eventually land a tails in your coin flipping. a foil jace received at any time in the above shell game and you get maybe 2 more boxes. any way you slice it this cycles to zero as a purely money making scheme.

        so this bring us to 2 issues. one, MBS has more mythics then the WWK so the changes of getting the high dollar ones (topping out around $30) is lower. two, if a store can crack cases to get their mythics for less then they can buy them for, they will do so and have lots of other cards left to them in the mix to subsidize the mythic search even at a loss. over time these case prices go up because they stop being produced, but within the 2 weeks, they are still plentiful to mega-dealers.

  7. I understand everything you guys are saying. There are still a lot of valuable cards from worldwake to sell other than jace, they are just much less. Basically when I sold the worldwake cards I shipped out the 2 highest value mythics, jace and abyssal persecutor as well as some low dollar cards. Using this process I was able to keep all my manlands, stoneforges, and avengers (they were cheap then though. What you get in each box does vary quite a bit but they basically even out per box most of the time.

    Make sure you stay tuned next time as I detail this process for mirroden beseiged.

    Thanks for reading

    1. What price did you receive for your Jaces when you sold them back for credit? Jace prices weren't very high when they first came out. They went for about $40 each on eBay a few weeks after WWK was released and the store buy prices must have been much lower than that. You weren't getting the $75 each that you can now.

      If you have some extra time to allay our doubts, I would love a spreadsheet of what your boxes contained along with the buy prices that you sold them for. The data from Chris McNutt's articles would seem to directly contradict your claims, in that the Avg Pack Ev is lower than the cost of a pack. Maybe you've gotten lucky in the past but I would certainly love to see some math to back up the claims that this process can be repeated, profitably, in perpetuity 🙂

      One more question: If you sink the money from selling your cards back into buying more boxes, at what point do you pick up all those high-value mythics? You'd need to keep selling the good cards back to the store, or else you'd be stuck paying another $100 out of pocket when the next set comes out.

        1. My plan is to do just that, and set up exactly what I get out of MBS and what I will sell it for along with the total amount I intend to receive. As far as the Jace's go, yes they were much lower than they are now. I think I sold the Jace's on ebay instead of to a buylist because they were so in demand. For most cards, I find that if you accept store credit, it is much better to sell to a site that will give you that bonus rather than ebay because it offers consistency and usually more money. The jace's went for between 40-50 at that time. If I had been interested in keeping the Jace's I would have essentially had to "buy out" myself and lose my investment in order to keep the jace's. As a specific example, from scars I was able to keep the Koth's and masticores out of my boxes and basically sold everything else that I could online. I dont remember exactly what all I sold but it was basically two of every other mythic and any of the nonland rares that were selling well.

          **Most importantly for everyone – you cannot continuously loop this process. with most sets, once you sell your stock from however many original boxes you preordered, you window has passed. M11 and Rise allowed for a larger window and I used the store credit attained from the first wave to order more boxes. With MBS for example, the store credit I get from the initial selling will sit online until the third set in the block is released.

  8. What outlets are you utilizing to net a profit? ie: what buylists have you been using to sell for a profit? I didn’t think this could work, so I am curious where you are getting this profit from.

  9. The main site I use is Channelfireball due to the bonus 30% store credit. Troll and Toad often has good payout if you are looking for cash, they are picky with what they buy. Recently I dumped a lot of random stuff to Strikezone because they buy a lot of stuff that other sites wont like random common foils. For this method I am talking about, Channelfireball is the way to go, it is pretty easy to cover your investment with the bonus store credit. Also, keep in mind that the only "profit" I am making is the cards I keep from the boxes.

    1. haha, yeah I doubt they pay much attention to me even as often as I sell cards. The reason I use troll and toad is because they occasionally offer much higher buy price on cards. The only time I use them is when they are buying cards that no one else is and I always get cash from them.

      1. I think the hidden gem here is that the store credit is what can make this feasible, though it seems like it takes a lot of work to profit enough to actually buy Tier 1 decks with it, rather than just keep yourself afloat.

      2. That's true. I sold off a bundle of cards for the first time last week, and the buy price for T&T +10% was greater than SCG and CFB +20% for the cards I had. Big difference on Vengevines, in particular.

  10. Hi all;
    So Channel Fireball's buylist just came out. I did a quick calculation of EV of a box of 36 packs based on a 1/8 chance of pulling a mythic in the rare slot. I get an average mythic price of $6.8 and an average rare price of $0.96. That works out to $60.98 average haul for a box. Even with the 30% trade in value, that only brings us to $79.3 if we sold all our rares. I'm too rusty on probability to try to calculate a standard deviation here, but that doesn't seem too favorable if you're trying to make a profit. I didn't add an EV for foil cards into this calculation but I doubt its going to average the $8+ needed to bring us up to the $89 for a new box. I'm still considering buying a box because $10 seems OK for cracking a bunch of cards and knowing me I'd probably spend $10 on Go for the Throats in a few months with shipping. What do people think.

    1. Good work actually crunching the numbers, Michael. As has been noted in the comments, it's a bit like playing the lottery. If you pull well, you can actually make a bit of a profit (in store credit, which doesn't pay the bills), but once you add in shipping you're lucky to break even. If you want to go this route, I suggest approaching like you should gambling: You expect to lose because the odds are always in favor of the house. That doesn't mean you can't break a profit doing this, but that also doesn't mean you should expect to.
      Obviously this approach has worked for Mike, and even though I don't prefer it or suggest it, if you want to do it and understand the risks, I say go for it. You get to crack packs, which is exciting, just be realistic as you're doing it.
      *To be fair, you also didn't note the prices you can get for selling Go For The Throat and possibly Sphere of the Suns, though I imagine that would only be a priority after obtaining a playset.

  11. Well, as the author let me just say that the intent and the truth of the method is that it does NOT make a profit. The reason that I actually do make a profit is I have an outlet for the rest of my box in the repacks. If your calculations are correct, there is no doubt in my mind that almost every box will be able to flip to cover itself within the two week window. Those were basically the same nubmers I came up with also. MBS is a little low on cards worth money, or atleast after the high dollar cards the drop off is too steep. I still am confident that this method will work for MBS, it will just be a little closer for each box than I like. This was the same thing that happened with worldwake when it came out. The set just needs some time to get played then some of the cards will rise in value, like inkmoth nexis and the zeniths especially green.

    If you or anyone takes me up on my challenge, please post your results. You will see mine in my next article.

    good luck!

  12. I am actually thinking about this approach with Besieged, you won´t catch me selling using a stores buylist.
    (I actually did sell to a store with scars, but they bought out all my Koths and elspeths at MY price)

    My calculation goes like this so far:
    1 box costs me 70 EUR
    the average mythic at the place I sell is worth slightly over 10 EUR (low prices!)
    so, if you only get 4 mythics (4,5 is average) then you should get back 40 EUR.
    There are 6 rares that are worth 3 EUR or more and i calculated that you should get at least 5 of them in a box, so that´s another 15 EUR for a total of 55 EUR (again, low prices and worst case scenario) and 2 of those 6 rares are actually going for 6 EUR+.

    If you atart looking at foils, rares that go for 1 EUR or more, good uncommons and those extra mythics I should be able to make my money back and have leftover cards to play or trade. From what I opened so far I should be fine, I just started the second box and I got 2 Tezzeret´s, Thrun, Blightsteel and 2 Green Suns Zenits among other stuff.

  13. I would have no clue how this method would work internationally so if you end up doing this, please post your findings as I am quite curious how applicable this would be elsewhere. If your cards are in english keep in mind that you can still sell to channelfireball as well, or some other online site.

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