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Insider: Applying The System

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Last week, I detailed the method that Kelly and I have used to make hundreds while minimizing our risk. It's a growing process and we've made several mistakes along with plenty of successes. This week, I'll go over some of our previous purchases, along with some predictions for good cards to pick up.

You've got to cover your spread

One of the things that Kelly and I had to learn early on was to protect our profits from really wild speculation. This means that you should be very wary of grabbing things with zero retail value. When we saw Caleb Durward's R/W deck, we were really excited about both Buried Ruin and Razor Hippogriff. Excited to the tune of grabbing 242 Hippogriffs at three pennies apiece. That was $7.26 that we just threw away, because the birds had no resale value, nor do they have any now. If Caleb had T8ed, we could have bought them then - it's an uncommon and there would have been infinite copies still available. As it was, the deck never took off and we blew money that we'd already made on other margins. I endorse taking really crazy risks on cards sometimes, but this was one that didn't pay off and had little chance of paying off.

In this instance, we didn't cover our losses to manage our risk. That $7.26 doesn't look like much, but that amount is scary because it represents undisciplined speculating that was 100% risk. If you're picking up a few different cards on an order and you don't stick to the 40% risk that I talked about last week, you can end up obliterating real gains with long shots.

Decide whether to get out, and get out quickly.

Here's another cautionary tale. When we bought those Hippogriffs, we also jumped onto Buried Ruin. At the time, it was a quarter and it could sell back for 20 cents. That's an incredible margin - only 20% between its buy and sell price! We were correct in grabbing it at the time; Caleb's deck really depended on the Ruins, so if it did well, we would turn a nice profit. But unfortunately, RW Control isn't exactly tearing up the tables right now. When the deck did not perform well on the weekend of PT: DKA, we should have gotten rid of what we'd sunk into them at a 20% loss. Ruins are down to about 10 cents apiece on buylists, meaning we are now out 60% of what we put into them.

As a postscript, we are holding onto the Ruins at this point, since we don't think they'll ever sell for less than ten cents. If we stuck to our guns and cleared out what didn't gain, we would have still made plenty of money and we would have recovered some of what we have now lost. The chance to make up the money we lost gets smaller by the day, though.

Keep a list of good sources for buying and selling.

You need to work with accurate information. Quiet Speculation is developing some excellent pricing software - if you see Kelly at an event, have him show you our beta iPhone app - but right now, readers must work a little harder for good info. I use TCGPlayer for buy prices; they are very upfront about the cost of shipping cards and you can assemble orders from multiple stores on the site and only pay once. They also have some crazy voodoo gris-gris that prevents most of our big orders from getting stopped because we're clearing people out of cards. I've tried to assemble a good selection of buylists, and it's worth checking Troll & Toad, Coolstuffinc and StrikeZone. I usually end up just going to BidWicket and checking buy prices from stores on there. It's not the prettiest site, but it typically does have the highest buy prices.

Solid picks and analysis

Drogskol Captain Buy: 0.80/sell 0.50 37.5% margin

I know that we've talked about these for awhile and while they didn't pick up after PT:DKA like I thought they would, I still believe that this lord is a steal at under a dollar. Lingering Souls is a real mistake of a card and this makes it much better. Duplicating this with Phantasmal Image is really bonkers, too. It hasn't seen a huge amount of play, but Tom Martell just T8'd PT: SLC today with what is basically an updated version of Jon Finkel's Esper Spirits deck. While a single Spirit token isn't great these days, a couple spirits with Vault of the Archangel backup is worth talking about. We're sitting on these for October when Ratchet Bomb rotates, but they might jump sooner when people are looking for more UW Delver tech.

Dungeon Geists Buy: $3.00/Sell $2.25 25% margin

Like I mentioned last week, hot cards often have really low margins. simplistic_1 corroborated this in the response to the article last week - as a buyer for a store, he's willing to pay more for hot standard cards because he knows they'll sell. Dungeon Geists is an unlikely standard hit (and one that we called at $1.00, by the way!) and it's an important facet of the Delver mirrors. UW Delver decks lack good removal, so a Geist locking down their guy and swinging in the air for three damage is pretty solid. I'm reminder of Sower of Temptation in that regard. This isn't as good as Sower, but it's still incredible. At a 25% margin, we've just got to see this hit about $5.00 for this bet to really sing. PT:SLC had Delvers in over half of the decks present and we're a month from a new set, so Geists could really take center stage soon.

I wish I could call a big pile of good cards right now, but Standard is just the Delver deck and the anti-Delver deck at the moment, with occasional Zombies tossed in. There are few interesting changes, which is why we were not exactly blowing up your inboxes with hot tech from Salt Lake City this weekend. In May, Avacyn Restored will come out and the whole staff of QS is looking forward to a changing Standard environment. Cards like Hellrider and Lingering Souls are otherwise-solid bets, but they don't meet the 40% margin threshold that we're looking for with short-term speculation.

As always, I am happy to answer questions in the feedback!

Until next week,

Doug Linn

Douglas Linn

Doug Linn has been playing Magic since 1996 and has had a keen interest in Legacy and Modern. By keeping up closely with emerging trends in the field, Doug is able to predict what cards to buy and when to sell them for a substantial profit. Since the Eternal market follows a routine boom-bust cycle, the time to buy and sell short-term speculative investments is often a narrow window. Because Eternal cards often spike in value once people know why they are good, it is essential for a trader to be connected to the format to get great buys before anyone else. Outside of Magic, Doug is an attorney in the state of Ohio.  Doug is a founding member of Quiet Speculation, and brings with him a tremendous amount of business savvy.

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