Outlined here are a number of predictions, pickups and positions that I have been taken in the past four months. Described is what originally motivated the position, a summary of how things have worked out, as well analysis and follow up strategies.
During October, Arid Mesa and Marsh Flats both got below 2 tix, Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest hovered between 3 and 4 tix, and Verdant Catacombs was in at around 3 tix. Between 20 and 50 copies of each were purchased.
Motivation: These are all format staples that were rotating out of Standard. Demand would be at an all time low and supply would be high as players sell their cards that they can no longer use in Standard. Modern PTQ season in the New Year would reignite demand, bringing the opportunity to sell to bots and players for profits of 3 to 5 tix per land. Emphasis was put on the most played lands from the Modern format (Scalding Tarn, Misty Rainforest and Arid Mesa).
What Went Right: As a long term purchase, they will never be cheaper than they were during October. Sold 52 copies of Scalding Tarn for 3.5 tix profit on each. Avoided symmetric investing, defined here as buying equal quantities of a cycle of cards, thus amplifying returns. The 1st MOCS of 2012 was a Modern tournament with over 500 participants, and many opted to play U/R strategies, temporarily pushing the price of Scalding Tarn to over 8 tix. This provided the best opportunity to sell during the current season.
What Went Wrong: Thus far, Scalding Tarn is the only fetch land to have risen to a price where it is worthwhile to sell. The market might have largely anticipated this particular strategy, thus reducing its short term profitability. Take up of Modern as a competitive format might have been muted due to the high cost of some of the staples.
Analysis and Follow Up: Although symmetric investing is pleasing in a conceptual manner, it ignores the different levels of playability of the cycle of fetch lands. Putting an emphasis on the most played lands yielded higher returns than symmetric investing would have. Tix invested in Scalding Tarn has yielded a profit, while tix invested in Marsh Flats (for example) hasn’t up to this point. In the long term this trade will work out, but in the short term it will tie up capital that could be deployed more profitably elsewhere. Following the PTQ season, buy copies of Scalding Tarn as they become available, with a target price of 3.5 to 4.5 tix.
Knight of the Reliquary
Motivation: An all format staple, Knight of the Reliquary is a powerhouse in the Zoo archetype. Although not historically cheap, 6 tix had been the most recent price floor for this card. The card had reached prices over 10 tix during the initial hype around the announcement of the Modern format. Target sell price of 9 to 10 tix.
What Went Right: Sold 10 copies during December for between 8 and 9 tix, yielding 2.5 tix profit on each.
What Went Wrong: The Alara Block nix tix drafts over the holidays proved popular and injected a large amount of supply into the market. Wild Nacatl and Punishing Fire were banned from Modern; subsequently Zoo has fallen from the top tier of decks in Modern, eroding the price further. As a result of these two factors, KotR has fallen back to 6 tix, with the possibility of falling further.
Analysis and Follow Up: Reaction to the impacts of the Nix Tix queues and the December bannings on the market for KotR was too slow. If this had not been the case, reducing the position would have protected a small profit, with the ability to buy again later at a price no higher than the original purchase price. Although not a large position, capital will again be tied up in cards with poor short term prospects. Nix Tix events appear to have a large impact on the price of cards from more recent sets than on older sets. Monitor future Nix Tix events and react accordingly.
Motivation: One of the more powerful counterspells in the Modern format, it hadn’t seen much play due to its mana cost and the speed of the format. Anticipating a slower format as a result of future (at that time unannounced) bannings, 6 tix seemed a low risk entry point on a card that had seen significant play during previous Extended PTQ seasons. Target price of 10 tix, although higher targets were possible.
What Went Right: After the December bannings, interest in Merfolk and Delver decks drove demand much higher for Cryptic Command. 30 copies were sold at prices between 11 and 14 tix during January, yielding an average profit of 7 tix per card, a return of 100%+.
What Went Wrong: Nothing to this point. Although 10 copies remain of the position, demand for Cryptic Command remains stable and the PTQ season has just begun.
Analysis and Follow Up: The Modern format did indeed slow down and shift as a result of the bannings, pushing Cryptic Command to be more playable than it was previously. Overall this turned out to be the most profitable trade of the fall. Sell the remaining copies during the season and monitor the price of this card for future buying opportunities as it appears Cryptic Command will be a staple in Modern constructed.
More Recent Trades
Liliana of the Veil
Motivation: This card has show up in Innistrad block constructed decks as well as in Modern Jund decks. Jund has been a deck to beat in the early stages of the Modern PTQ season. Look to sell during the PTQ season and avoid the glut of supply which will enter the market during Dark Ascension release events. Target price of 25 tix.
What Went Right: Reached a recent price peak of 23 tix or so, putting this trade in the money.
What Went Wrong: Take up of Modern and the Jund deck that features Liliana has been less robust than anticipated, possibly due to the price of staples like Tarmogoyf which make it a costly deck to assemble. Combined with being an in print mythic, the price of Liliana has reached a temporary peak.
Analysis and Follow Up: Sell copies on the classifieds in order to squeeze out a few extra tix and then plan to repurchase during and after Dark Ascension release events. As a staple in block and Modern, this card will hold value and supply will be limited going forward due to Avacyn Restored being a large third set expansion.
Motivation: A big bad monster largely overlooked due to the Titans and the fact that it requires a heavy, if not mono, Black commitment. Look for a shift in the Standard environment as Dark Ascension is released. Price has been largely stable at 11 tix and downside risk seems small. This card carries a target price of 16 tix.
What Went Right: Early speculation has brought the price to over 14 tix, putting this trade in the money with further gains possible.
What Went Wrong: Nothing to this point.
Analysis and Follow Up: Mono Black is one of the primal archetypes of constructed Magic and has enduring appeal. Any apparent increase in playability due to Dark Ascension entering standard should increase the profitability of this trade. In particular, this card will benefit from the 3rd set effect. If the status quo is maintained in Standard two months out, look to reduce this position. Projected losses are 2 to 3 tix per card in that case.
Motivation: Tokens, as a theme, have received a continued push in playability from the cards appearing in Dark Ascension previews. Having tested and played a W/G token deck during the early stages of the current Standard environment, Elspeth Tirel was judged to be integral to the deck as a 3 or 4 of. The most recent price floor of 15 tix suggests any position would be low risk, with the most recent ceiling being 24 tix. Target price of 22 tix.
What Went Right: This card has recently spiked to over 28 tix for reasons that are not yet clear. 12 copies were sold at a profit of 7 tix per copy the week of February 5th. Mythics from sets not currently being drafted have the most upside potential due to their supply being less elastic.
What Went Wrong: Nothing to this point.
Analysis and Follow Up: Continued monitoring of the potential around a token strategy appearing in Standard is required. In particular Pro Tour Dark Ascension should reveal the direction of Standard. This card has lasting appeal as a planeswalker so if playability of this card does not change as a result of the new standard environment, holding until the release of Avacyn Restored will add little risk.