The countdown to prerelease is upon us, with only a few days remaining until we all get to bust open six packs of M12 to build a sealed pool. With the changeover to the new Core Set format, sealed events have been a lot more enjoyable, and local preleases are now the only way to get your packs early. This brings out lots of players to your LGS that you may not see regularly. I want to pick out a few M12 cards to target at the Prerelease, and also talk about some trading strategies I use with players who are more casual or “pre-release only” type gamers.
I talked about breaking down a cards value upon the release of NPH, regarding the then overly priced Karn Liberated. I pegged that one right on the nose, and hopefully you readers are getting some value out of my system as well.
This time around, I’ve chosen a couple cards worth looking at. The first one is Dungrove Elder. This is the best Nightmare type creature I’ve seen in Standard. The card is a Rare, and it’s certainly playable, but will be limited to decks that run nearly all Forests as the Mana Base, and likely only in Standard. I expect Elf decks to be extremely popular, and while this guy isn’t an elf, he’s a hexproof threat, that only gets bigger as the game progresses. He will just be a role player in any Mono-Green-Aggro deck, and the quality and variety of non-basic lands in the next block will really determine his playability. The appearance of non-basics with basic land types (like shocklands) would make this guy shoot up in value pretty quickly. He does have decent synergy with the new Garruk, so I'd expect him to at least make some appearance. He doesn’t stand up for much Casual appeal, but there will be the few who are either fans of the Treefolk tribe, or have a casual Mono-G deck they want to jam him in. Star City Games has him at a $3 preorder price, and I don’t see that being too far off. I can see this guy finding a window in the Standard environment where gets as high as $3-5. I’m not going to be pre-ordering them, but I will be trying to trade for them at the pre-release. Pick up under $2 if possible.
Another Card worth mentioning, and Corbin mentioned it in his post as well, is Oblivion Ring. Dig up any old ones you have from previous blocks, and get those ready to trade. What was once a common, is now an uncommon, and people will need these immediately. The catch all answer card that slots into any deck that can reasonably pay the 2W cost, will undoubtedly be seen all over Standard for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t pick these up at more than $0.25, but to the right person at the right time these will bring you at least $1. Old versions of this card are already seeing inflated prices on EBay.
The most interesting card to analyze, in my opinion, is Grand Abolisher. Star City is pre-selling at $7. At first glance, this price tag didn’t seem too bad to me, but after some thought, it’s clearly way too high. I can’t think of a single Rare from M10 or M11 to be worth more than $7. Fauna Shaman is the closest, as it Released around 10, then quickly fell to $8 and now sits at $3-4. If Fauna Shaman can sit between $6-8 during a bulk of its stint as a Standard player, that’s got to be the ceiling for any rare from a coreset. The packs are opened in such volume, that nothing gets too high, and Core Set cards are only legal for 1 year (the shortest life of any set in Standard). This card is similar in the sense that it is a splashy Grizzly Bear. This one could even be called a ‘hate-bear’. Hate-bears certainly have slots in Standard, but how many? I don’t see this card appearing in much more than a dedicated White Weenie deck. Ajani Goldmane will be out of Standard for the first time since his printing, is that when a White Weenie deck will finally pop up? The WW cost is very rough, and only aggro decks, or possibly combo decks are even interested in playing this guy. I can see him dipping as low as $1-3 fairly quickly, with some short spikes in price as he suddenly becomes the sick sideboard tech for a particular tournament.
I love this card, I like what it does, and I’ll probably want to own them, but I really don’t see how this card warrants anywhere near the $7 price tag. It seems silly to mention, but people tend to forget that a rare (See: Stoneforge Mystic) really has to be broken before it’s played in enough quantity to ever reach beyond $5 for an extended period of time. While Mythics can be the culprit of expensive Magic, it really does keep the cost of Rares down. I will be dumping this card as quickly as possible if I happen into some at the Pre-Release. Grim Lavamancer fits the same category, as he’s not only a reprint, but also a non-Mythic. His $6 pre-sale price is just too high, even though you'll certainly see a lot of him in Standard.
Solemn Simulacrum is the best Long-Run card at Rare as far as I'm concerned, but I don’t expect you’re able to find him cheaply. As usual, pre-order season is a tough time to be a speculator. I recommended the Fact or Fiction Sphinx last week, as a potential grab, but even that one isn’t a slam. Capitalizing on cards that are cheap early are the only ones that can truly turn a profit. My same general pre-release comments apply, as always:
1) Minimize expenses of the pre-release events by moving inflated cards immediately through your preferred channels. This is the time of year I tend to trade in cards to my store. I know the cards I’m trading in are inflated, so I’m willing to dump them to freeroll more events. Obviously the cards will pick up more steam in your trade binder, so be choosy.
2) Study the buylist at your event when you arrive. Keep that in mind in trades throughout the day.
3) Spend as much time as possible at your LGS during the pre-release. Capitalize on extra drafts and a larger pool of traders.
4) Have a couple cards you want to target in trades in mind. Don’t be attached to anything else, most prices will come down very quickly anyway.
Trading with the non-regulars can be tricky. I certainly don't suggest any dishonesty, but a non-spike's view of the Magic world is skewed, and trading with them can be a benefit.
I make a lot of my trades in Sealed events, when a player plays a card against me and I tell them I want to trade for it. Firstly, it takes them out of their concentration enough, and their response will likely give you an indication of how strong they feel about their position in the game. But also, a newer or less experienced player is typically very open to accepting help regarding game play or deck building. Once the trade talks open up, helping them fill slots in their casual deck out of stuff you have trouble trading to tournament regulars is totally fair game. Often times you may have stuff they haven't seen before, or is a perfect fit for their kitchen table games. I'm never dishonest about pricing when people ask, but don't feel obligated to offer the information. Keep the conversation off of pricing, and about what it is they need for their deck.
At the end, you'll find it doesn't really matter what it is you're asking them for, if they get a great addition to their deck for a card they won't use, everyone is a winner. When pricing does come up, offering to help them with deck ideas either for their sealed pool or constructed often makes them more willing to give up some value on the trade regardless. I do my best to show my binder to every face I don't recognize at the LGS on pre-release weekend, and it's always been a worthwhile effort.
Happy gaming at your pre-release!