Insider: Shots Fired: Wild Goose Chase

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Two weeks ago we covered the essentials of a called shot and went in depth on the topic of small gains. This article will go further into the belly of the beast on another type of called shot, the "wild call". When attempting to make a risky call such as this, you want to be certain that the reward will heavily outweigh the potential risk involved.

A wild call I'm currently working with is Consecrated Sphinx. While Bulk rares carry relatively low risk, mythics and rares along the lines of the Sphinx carry a large potential to cause a loss. However, if the metagame is right, cards such as these can take off and explode in price.

Using the example of Consecrated Sphinx we see that the card does something powerful, but requires a bit of an investment of time. When I started speculating on Consecrated Sphinx the card had a paper value of approximately $4 and a digital value of two tickets. Then, I looked at the power of the card and compared it to other similarly costed pieces of cardboard in order to gain an idea of its possible future value. An obvious comparison in standard was Frost Titan, and the Sphinx's trend seemed almost identical given the history. Like Frost Titan, Consecrated Sphinx costs six and is looking to be a finisher for blue based control decks that could finish the game on its own.

Based on the analysis of Frost Titan we saw that it also began its standard life in the cheap mythic bin. Once the Titan found its home in decks over the next few months, we saw an extreme price increase due in large part to its mythic rarity. Unlike rares that typically have a ceiling of about ten dollars, mythics can reach greater heights based solely on playability due to limited availability. Frost Titan spiked as high as $20 when it was used in multiple tier one decks as a finisher, and Consecrated Sphinx has that same potential.

If we look at the current value of the Sphinx, we see that people have already taken interest in the card due to its showing in multiple RUG and Caw Blade lists. Once it was clear that this card could be "the next Frost Titan," the price instantly doubled. The card now has a paper and digital value of approximately $6-8, which is a solid return on both fronts if you invested early enough. Does this mean it is too late to get on board? Has the card hit its ceiling? That is the next and, arguably, most important point in a called shot like this.

When to Sell and When to Hold

Knowing when to sell and when to hold is key to any called shot, and it's at its most important with a card like Consecrated Sphinx. You again have to look at all the factors involved in such a decision and weigh the potential for gain against the profit already achieved. With enough copies of a card I tend to play it safe so as to avoid any future losses. Usually I will sell copies until I've recouped my initial cost, therefore immediately achieving my break even point. Assuming I collected one hundred copies at $2 each, and I now have the option to sell them at $5 each, I will sell forty copies and keep sixty if I believe there is still a potential for future growth.

Looking at a card's potential for future growth involves a similar process to what I discussed two weeks ago. First we look at rotation, and in Consecrated Sphinx’s case we have over a year until the card will leave Standard. That leaves plenty of opportunity for a new deck to drive the price even higher! The next aspect to look at is a potential ceiling. As I discussed earlier, mythics are harder to judge and are assumed to have a higher ceiling than their rare counterparts. Another key aspect is playability across formats. While Consecrated Sphinx would have a hard time making an appearance in Legacy, a strong performance in Scars of Mirrodin block constructed might drive the price higher. On the negative side, block constructed is only played in large numbers as an MTGO format, as the paper Magic world only really has Pro Tour: Nagoya to raise the cards price. In the more casual world, EDH allows Consecrated Sphinx to shine. Though a very small factor overall in driving the price, it is still relevant in the card's availability to standard players. Finally, you must look at the number of copies a standard build will require between the main deck and sideboard. A card like Consecrated Sphinx is unlikely to see a 4-of in the decks it will fit in, and it certainly does not belong in every blue deck like Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Based on this analysis and a few formulas I have created over the years, I have deduced that the ceiling for Consecrated Sphinx lies around $25. Does this mean it will certainly hit this number? No. In fact it is unlikely, but given the proper metagame, it is reasonable to assume he may see the $20 mark, which makes him worth holding on to.

So now that we have looked at the potential of wild called shots, how do we identity such cards before they spike? Looking at past formats and comparing current cards to the stars of those older metagames is a great place to start. An example of a card in New Phyrexia we can make such a comparison with is Sheoldred, the Whispering One. Such a powerful finisher in black is nothing new to the standard world of Magic. In recent history we have seen cards like Grave Titan and Phyrexian Plauguelord fill such a position, locking down the board and creating a creature advantage to win the game. Sheoldred fills this same role and in turn has the same potential if the same types of decks started existing in the current standard environment. We have already seen Grave Titan filling the role in decks such as U/B and Mono Black Control, and after rotation it appears Sheoldred may be the next best option. There are certainly disadvantages to the Praetor which may affect its playability; however, its potential advantages may outweigh them. Costing seven is probably the biggest thing going against the card at first glance, closely followed by the fact that, unlike Grave Titan, if they kill her the turn you play her, you are left with no actual advantage. Another lesser disadvantage is the fact that she is legendary, creating awkward situations - whether it be drawing multiples or dying to an opponent’s copy. Even with these disadvantages, I feel the potential gain of such a powerhouse may be worth the risks, and if this proves to be true, Sheoldred's future price may see a similar trend to that of Grave Titan.

So what should you be buying these cards at? Should you be aggressive in trading for them? The answer to both of these questions isn't easy. You certainly want to be the first one on the bandwagon if possible, but taking wild leaps of faith may not always work out in the end. The key is to create trades that will ideally let you grab these type of cards to even up the value. If you seem too interested in certain cards, the trader across the table may look at this as an ideal time to unload them at a premium and you certainly don’t want that. Valuing such cards low by using their current perceived value rather than the monetary value is the best idea. If you feel a card is strongly favored to do well in the future and you want to put the investment in place to drive your stock numbers up, that’s a personal choice. I personally try to minimize risk when I can. Another key point is to leave these cards out of your own binder. If you have people asking on a card you believe will be going up in the near future you will likely be overvaluing them and if you do this on to many cards you are running the risk of losing trade partners.

On a final note for this week it is important to remember not to put all your eggs in one basket. Investing in Magic called shots is similar to the stock market: You want to diversify and never rely on one card to strike it big. Please join me next week as I divulge more information into the world of called shots. I will be covering the speculative format calls along with a few others that are rare, but important to have in your arsenal nonetheless. As always, please leave a comment or message me on Twitter for any article ideas or just to leave some feedback!

Until next week remember, diversify to make the earnings multiply.

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand on Twitter

5 thoughts on “Insider: Shots Fired: Wild Goose Chase

  1. Let's just put it this way – this makes me glad I subscribed. Great article, I can't get enough of these. I really liked that you used history to make your point, and that you gave a few would be obvious but at the same time good hints all over the article.

    Diversify is just as important as you say if not more. Buying a lot of one card can be valuable, but at the same time they're a lot harder to move and if something goes wrong, then you're out of luck. The bets that I like the most, is probably betting on cards like Manriki-Gusari. No real risk seeing as you bought them for nothing, and if you sell them for even a dollar or two, you've gone up 4-8 times as much as you invested, for each card. As you wrote previously, small gains but they add up quickly.

    In any case – I'm looking forward to your next article 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it so much if you feel there is something you would like covered in depth shoot me ideas im always looking for great things to write about. Thanks for the positive feedback glad people are interested in the knowledge I have to give!

  2. Ryan, this was a great article. I appreciate learning about some of the conceptualization that goes into speculating and predicting. It helps me understand why they're made and what that means for me as a player and especially as a trader. As Rezefty pointed out, some of what you stated may be common knowledge, but to others like me, it needs to be reiterated. Thank you.

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