The Importance of Evaluation

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In public relations, one of the underlying tenets of good practice lies in the acronym ROSIE. That is – Research, Objectives, Strategies, Implementation, and Evaluation. As a PR student, this is how I formulate every plan I work on. While I could get into how the whole thing applies to Magic, today I’m going to focus on Evaluation and its place on the financial side of the game. Also, I hear there was a Pro Tour.

Just about every Magic writer on the interwebs has talked about how important evaluating their play is, regardless of the outcome of the game. The right play is the right play, even if it blows up in your face three matches in a row. But how can we apply this to the finance side of the game, where we "play?"

As a writer, the best way for me to do that is look back at my past work and find out where I went right or where I may have been mistaken. This is something I plan to implement moving forward, though I’m unsure as to when the best time to do this would be. End of each Constructed season? End of the calendar year? Let me know in the comments what you think is best.

I plan on looking back at some of my recent advice today and see how I did, and I’m going to be as blatantly honest with you as I can be and not pull any punches. I’ve written before about how I think accountability is huge in this burgeoning field of financial writing. Everyone seems to think they have some insight into the Magic financial world these days, but it still takes hard work, practice and patience to stay on top of your game.

There are other applications of Evaluation besides predicting card trends (which I’ll get to), but let’s start by looking at some individual cards. I’m dividing this into three sections – Calls I was right on, calls I was wrong on, and calls I missed entirely. Let’s start with the part where I get to brag a little bit.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

At the time I wrote this column (Feb. 1), you could find Tezzerets for around $25 on Ebay or $30-35 at some online stores. Since his strong showing in Paris, you can’t get Tezzeret for less than $50 on any major site and its price is skyrocketing on Ebay. I hope you’ve picked yours up, because this guy isn’t going anywhere and I expect his price to stay stable for the foreseeable future.

Contested War Zone

On Feb. 8, right after Kuldotha Red broke out in the SCG Open that weekend, I suggested picking up Contested War Zone, and was able to get a few playsets myself for under $2 a card. It’s up 40 percent since then, and still has a little room to climb.

Stoneforge Mystic

Though I wasn’t as early on this as I would’ve liked to have been, I suggested picking these up back on Jan. 12, when they averaged around $6 on Ebay. It’s gone up 20 percent since then, and has a little more room to grow before it peaks. It was nice to be ahead of the curve on this one, though I wish now I hadn’t sold a playset in December.

[card]Sword of Body and Mind[card]

In that same article, I suggested picking up the Sword. Since then, it’s also up about 20 percent and seemingly headed higher. Stoneforge-Equipment decks look like they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future, and hopefully you got a jump on this card already.

Venser, the Sojourner

While this one isn’t incredibly recent, I’m still going to take the chance to point out that I was calling this a $15 card when other financial writers were talking about how crazy it was and how you should buy at $30. And Medina still owes me dinner over this 😉 With that said, all the low-priced Planeswalkers are worth keeping an eye on post-rotation.

Missed calls

Genesis Wave

While this card is actually up a fairly large percentage on BlackLotusProject, I’m considering this a miss because it didn’t see anywhere near the kind of move I expected after Kansas City. I thought the card would quickly hit $2 on Ebay and you could easily flip them, but it hasn’t done that. It’s still on the way up, so we’ll see.

Reflecting Pool

While this card (along with pretty much all the Extended staples) may have risen, it isn’t quite as high I thought it would go. I expected $13-15 on Ebay, but it topped off around $11 and is on the way down.

Primal Beyond / Hoard of Notions

Unfortunately, the Elemental deck never really took off during Extended season, and these two cards are basically unchanged since then. Luckily, as I pointed out when I first wrote about it, they were so cheap to begin with you aren’t losing out on these cards. If you bought into these (I picked up some foreign Primal Beyonds myself) you are out a bit of your time and maybe a few dollars, but that’s the way it goes. There is risk associated with any investment, and unfortunately this one didn’t quite pan out. But luckily it didn’t exactly kill us, either.

Cards I missed entirely

Knight Exemplar / Student of Warfare

I guess the printing of Mirran Crusader made people decide to build their Knight decks, because both these cards are up a TON since the spoiling of Besieged. Exemplar is up to $5 apiece and Student is at $4.50 a pop on Ebay. I strongly suggest trading for these from people who haven’t caught up to the shift, and flipping them within the next month. Without any competitive play, these aren’t going to stay high forever.

Green Suns Zenith

It hurts to write this, because I knew from the start the Zenith was nuts, and I talked and wrote as much on nearly every outlet but my column. When I saw the initial pre-sale price I knew immediately I wanted to trade heavily for it during Prerelease Weekend, but I was stuck in the mindset that pre-sale prices nearly always come down. It’s a lesson learned, because you can now sell these to StarCityGames for more than they presold for.

I’m sure there’s plenty more I’ve missed, so make sure to let everyone know in the comments! The great part of QS is we have a select group to share financial advice with, and the community aspect is a very strong advantage for all of us. No one can be on top of everything, but we aren’t exactly disseminating to the masses, either.

Other applications of Evaluation

Let’s start this out with a forum post by one of our Insiders.

“Hey guys,

This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but here goes.

I feel like I have all kinds of advanced financial strategies from reading the articles here, but I don't have a good grasp of pricing/values when I am trading, so I sometimes I feel out of my element. I don't have the time to/know how to get to that point, so I would appreciate an article or series of articles to enlighten me and people in my situation.

Thank you ”

Among other things, a common suggestion that came out of the forums was to record each trade you make and compare prices later. Many of us already do this (though I’ve fallen off lately). It really is a great tool and keeps you up-to-date on prices that you might not find just scrolling through the latest Nutt Draw lists.

Likewise, we should do this with every investment we make in Magic. I recently bought eight copies of Contested War Zone at $1.91 apiece, plus $4 shipping. I’ve recorded the total price of the transaction and will do the same when I resell them (I’m aiming for $3 apiece on them). This is very important to managing your money in Magic and in the rest of your life. I wrote more about this in The Myth of Making Profits, if you are interested in reading more about this effect.

In short, we buy or trade cards all the time and pat ourselves on the back for coming out ahead $5 in the deal. But that “value” does nothing if it isn’t converted in hard cash (or more cards, if that’s what you’re interested in). As such, recording prices of things like shipping, envelopes, card protectors and so forth is vital to making money on this game.

This is why we have the “Rate My Trade” section in the forums, where we can evaluate each other’s trades and offer opinions on them. It also is why I started recording my trades in my column every week (which is where my column name “The Revenue Review” comes from, if you didn’t know). This is something I haven’t done much of recently as I’ve moved toward offering specific card advice rather than trading advice, but it is something I’m happy to revisit, if you are interested.

I also record the contents and movement of each lot I buy. I’m currently in the process of buying a $400 lot from a friend who wants to get rid of them, and I know I can flip the binder for at least $500, for a $100 profit. I’m hoping I can do this in person at an upcoming PTQ, but if not I’ll resort to shipping off the cards (which incurs additional expenses). A few months ago I sold off some cards to pay for my half of a new TV I bought with my girlfriend, and I recorded the movement of those cards. It’s a lot of work to take this extra step, but the payoff is well worth it. I plan on revisiting this particular sell and walking you through the process I went through, and let you know how it panned out and how much money I made on the deal.

Relive Your Greatest Success

Another benefit of recording all your Magic transactions, besides my love of a good Excel spreadsheet, is the ability to take a look back at your trades. You can track that Bear Umbra all the way to a Mox Emerald, and the boost it provides you in both monetary value and morale makes the extra time well worth it.

Looking back at my predictions over the last few months gives me renewed confidence in my ability to make myself (and you) money, and I promise to stay on top of my game (for all of our sakes).

That’s it for this week. We’re settling into an interesting time right now where prices have moved because of the Pro Tour and the metagame is ready for a shift. Keep a close eye on the metagame over the next few weeks to see where we go from here.


Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

6 thoughts on “The Importance of Evaluation

  1. Excellent piece. I think as writers we should all take a look back now and then and see how were doing on our calls. After all, we’re here to help or readers make money, and while we won’t ever be right all the time, being right about big calls and wrong about smaller ones (which is the trend you’ve shown here) is perfectly fine because it keeps profits up over the long run.

  2. I have to agree with Stephen, as we all make calls its best to be right on the large ones, I failed on Genesis wave as well but have done well on cards in the past two years overall, most notably mentionable was Dark Depths (I was buying out ebay at an average of .67 each and sold them in Austin (49 copies) at anywhere from 30-35 each. And KotR which I was buying at 2-3 and well we all know where that peaked. Really its best I have found to just speculate on the rares and not always the mythics, theres just as great a profit potential (just greater quantity you must buy/sell) with less of a chance of loss.

    Great article, glad you are willing to see your misses, I catch so many people only hyping the hits and looking past the misses, which may make you look better but you miss trends and overall may think your making great money when your actually flatlining.

  3. I'm interested on where you're getting your prices for some cards. Stoneforge Mystic is around $15 on all major sites, which is QUITE a bit more than a 20% increase. Just giving you a heads up!

  4. Stoneforge Mystic is still around $9 on which tracks eBay sales data. This is often better for measuring trades and performance because it represents a realistic amount that a trader can expect to convert into cash. Using SCG of CFB, etc pricing can be misleading if your end goal is to turn cards into cash.

  5. @Stephen, @Ryan – I'm glad you guys liked it! It's not easy to look back at your own mistakes, but I do think its really important as Magic finance writing moves forward.
    @Austin – I'm using, as Luke said. It tracks average completed Ebay sales. The price doesn't shoot up as much as it does on major sites, but it makes trend spotting way easier to follow. It also represents what you can sell a card for at any time.

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