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Insider: A Diverse Finance Article

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As I’ve explored our forums here at Quiet Speculation, I’ve discovered we have a very diverse readership. Some players are returning to the game after years of being away and they are looking for how to reenter the game in a financially wise way. Others have been avid floor traders for years and they are interested in reading about potential speculation plays.

Others still are long time players and collectors, interested in the theory behind the invisible hand driving the MTG Market. Finally, others are looking to apply some theories to the MTGO market.

Personally, I am fascinated by each and every one of these perspectives. While I may dwell on some more than others in my articles, I do recognize this diversity exists. For this reason, I want to try something different this week.

Rather than cater to one type of MTG player in a deep article, potentially disappointing others, I will seek to write a précis of multiple topics to try and address most of my readers. We will see how this goes…

The Classic Collector

After exploring the value of Alpha cards a couple weeks ago, I began actively looking to acquire them at favorable pricing. The thinking was, with the recent jump in prices at major retailers, I may be able to identify some profitable opportunities.

After a couple weeks down this path, I’ve learned three tidbits of information – not enough for an entire article but certainly valuable to share. First, I have been able to find significant price discrepancy on Alpha rares between retailers and individuals. As a result, I have not had a difficult time negotiating with individuals on these cards. My target price for acquisition has been roughly 50% of SCG’s NM buy price, since all the cards I’ve bought have been at least SP.

On the other hand, commons and uncommons have been priced far more competitively amongst retailers. Channel Fireball has a dozen NM Alpha commons for $0.99 each, with a couple others at $1.49. Star City Games charges $1.99 for NM commons, but they sell played versions for just $0.99. On Uncommons, Star City Games does even better, charging just a couple bucks for played versions.

Individuals have frequently sought as high as twice the price of these retailers on their bulk commons/uncommons. Perhaps there is some emotional attachment driving this discrepancy – or perhaps people are convinced that any Alpha card is rare and merits at least a couple bucks. Either way, I’ve done almost all my bulk commons buying from CFB and I intend to buy some bulk uncommons from SCG.

Floor Trader

The latest bit of information we have on this front come from two sources – M13 spoilers and GP Yokahama.

On the M13 front, I must be honest – I do not see many obvious opportunities. I am fairly confident Sublime Archangel will be relevant. But as for its or other M13 card’s impact on Standard, I am left guessing.

The set seems a bit underpowered so far. Sure, there are ridiculous bombs like Omniscience and Diabolic Revelation, but their casting cost is far too prohibitive to see constructed play. And all the buzz about improving the Dream Halls deck may sound fun, but I honestly see the deck stuck in the world of Tier 1.5 or Tier 2.

Net, my recommendation is to stay the course – Innistrad Dual Lands are still a safe place to move into. Though, keep in mind there are a handful of M13 spoilers we haven’t seen yet, so it is always possible something is printed that will impact Innistrad Dual values. Restoration Angel is a powerful control card that I also see maintaining value for some time.

As for GP Yokahama, here’s a breakdown of the Top 8:

Pod Kiki-Jiki / Restoration Angel Combo – 4
Jund
B/W Tokens
Affinity
Mono Blue Fairies

Is any elaboration really needed here? The newly improved Pod deck now adds Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker for additional combo shenanigans.

Key pick-ups are somewhat tricky to identify since the decks run such a diverse field of cards. That being said, the key combo pieces are safe bets, and I see even more reason for Restoration Angel to remain a buy. Search engines Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling are crucial enablers in the deck, and I see these as safe pick-ups as well. Especially Birthing Pod, which goes for just a couple bucks as it nears rotation out of Standard. (chart courtesy of blacklotusproject.com)

Getting Back Into Magic

I’ve seen in the forums recently that a few QS subscribers are looking to re-enter into Magic and try to trade and speculate in order to keep the hobby as close to “free” as possible. I love this approach as this is the primary reason I speculate and trade. Many hobbies, such as golf or art, are expensive to maintain and very difficult to make bank in. With Magic, one does not even have to be a good player to profit – all it takes is some research and discipline.

I take that back – there is one sacrifice I have had to make in order to drive profitability in Magic, and it is a piece of information I believe may be valuable to share. In order to truly profit maximally from Magic: The Gathering speculation, one has to emotionally detach from most of their cards.

When I am emotionally attached to a card, I value it incorrectly. The result is small value loss in my collection. While an occasional blip to work on a personal collection is okay, the occurrence needs to be minimal. This has been a difficult lesson for me at times, but my mistakes have made me savvier. I have traded for Angels I need at prices far above retail, and I have even occasionally preordered the latest and greatest [card Linvala, Keeper of Silence]Angel[/card] card – and most of you know how costly it is to pre-order cards.

In order to maintain the proper discipline, I’ve learned a key strategy: when being asked to trade away or sell a particular card that I may be emotionally attached to, I always rationalize my decision based on the fact that I can always acquire that same card again. And if I have a shot at buying back the card at a discount, I’ve then turned a profit.

I actually recently did this with my set of Noble Hierarchs. I fear a reprint of the mana accelerator, yet I want to keep my set for Legacy. Still, I overcame emotion and sold my set for $62 since I wanted to put profitability first. A reprint still has not been revealed, and I recently repurchased a set from eBay at $54.50, in essence profiting $7.50 while keeping my set. And I am in the midst of selling this set yet again, still in anticipation of a potential price drop! (chart courtesy of blacklotusproject.com)

Net, make sure you keep the majority of your cards on the trading block, since you won’t always know when a profitable opportunity will arrive.

The MTGO Speculator

I have recently seen a call for more MTGO content. I have a confession to make: I don’t have a MTGO account. The concept of starting up a second collection is daunting to me and after playing paper Magic for fifteen years, I am not motivated to start from scratch.

That being said, I have come to understand there are some great opportunities for profit in the digital world. The possibility for fast-paced market adjustments combined with the absence of shipping costs is indicative of opportunity. But rather than make baseless recommendations, I would like to first appeal to my readers:

Is MTGO worth it?

I once tweeted this question and I received numerous responses with the majority pointing towards the negative. Since then I have resisted signing up.

Yet it seems inevitable that I join. I frequently find myself desperate for a game of Magic while being confined to home caring for an infant. A chance to play a quick game or even a quick draft could be worth the efforts of starting up a new collection. This especially becomes attractive if I can profit in the process.

Master of None

This article is a bit disjointed and I hope there was at least some value to my diverse readers. In an attempt to cover multiple topics, I haven't dove deeply enough into any one topic.

Rest assured this may be a one-shot occurrence as I attempt to broaden my topics to appease a larger audience. If it worked, please let me know and perhaps I will repeat this approach in the future. If, on the other hand, you feel value was lost due to the sacrificing of depth to enable breadth of content, please indicate this to me as well.

Next week, perhaps there will be some more impactful M13 spoilers to review. Or perhaps I will uncover some other price discrepancies to take advantage of. Or perhaps there will be some additional tournament results to review. Until then, thank you for reading.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

15 thoughts on “Insider: A Diverse Finance Article

  1. When I used to be quite active in floor trading, back in the day, pretty near everything was up for trade. At some point I became an active player again and many of my cards wound up in playsets that I do not intend to trade. Right now I'm in a situation where my trade haves are plenty (even more than back then) even though I also set a lot of cards aside. It would at this point become absolutely disastrous for my back if I should decide to make everything tradeable again (too much weight!).

    What I'm trying to say is that 'everything is for trade' is not always required, but you need a collection of considerable size to support your trading if you want to frequently set cards aside like I do.

    I do not consider myself an active floor trader right now, I just don't go to tournaments often enough. I'm not a returning player though, as I never quit the game. You could say I'm a returning dealer though as for quite some time I was not tracking magic prices as actively as I am now.

    After I moved away from being a floor trader I always remained a trader and mostly my focus was on keeping the costs of this hobby down. In fact it still is. I'm not even looking to break even or make a profit on the whole, but I am looking for anything that makes keeping my Magic collection current, less costly .

    I don't think I'm a very big fan of this disjointed format. I guess I would have focussed on one area, perhaps promising to cover another area in a future article. On the whole I'm not entirely sure what to take out of this article.

    1. Thanks for the comment and your perspective. I agree that once you have a significant collection you can start to afford setting cards aside as "not for trade" while not sacrificing profitable opportunities. My struggle in the past was that I set way too many cards aside and therefore struggled with trading. I would notice that others did not want to trade with me because so many cards were not for trade. I found that I needed to open my binder for trade more fully, and by doing so I opened the door to acquire more cards that were interesting to me.

      If someone offers you a deal on a playset of yours, why not let them go and re-acquire them at a lower price? I sold my set of Snapcaster Mages a month ago at $17 each and now they retail for $16 on Star City Games. Even though I miss my set, I'm glad I sold them, and I intend to pick them up again at a price floor.

      As for article format – thanks for the feedback. Your vote counts, and so far with your comment being the only one, I will not attempt a disjointed article again. 🙂

      1. Offer > (cost to reacquire + time/effort wasted on reacquiring + personal attachment to card) = deal.

        What I mean to say is, a profit alone is not enough to convince me to part with a playset. There is a time and effort factor in the equation as well as an attachment to a card. If my attachment is high there's no chance at all, for example nobody is going to be able to buy one of my decks at any price that is not ridiculous. Time and effort mostly applies to hard to find cards. My playset of Diaochan could be sold, however, not at a small profit as it will be an enormous pain in the ass to reacquire them as they're just not being offered online. Same for many other P3K cards.

        Currently I have so many cards for trade people already find it too much effort to look through it all, so I'm probably fine in that regard ;).

      2. Btw, I would always try to avoid bringing along any cards that are not for trade. It's bound to annoy players if they keep hearing that what they want is not available. Somehow, even when I bring along thousands of cards, people always seem to be asking about the few I've been considering to keep for a deck. Always. I should just take out these cards and improve the experience for them and I try to (though I sometimes forget).

        I see the same happen with online haves lists, where it also annoys me considerably at times when I see something I would like only to hear they don't really want to trade it.

  2. I'm mostly a MTGO player. I was playing paper Magic up until the Ice Age release. I regret I didn't purchase any of the Alpha Rares back then, even though I knew they would be profitable eventually. I think there can be profit with MTGO, but the appeal of trying costly decks and drafting drags my tickets down by a lot. Since I lack the discipline and given the fact that I am emotional by nature, maybe it's harder than one would think to make a good amount of money out of the online marketplace.
    With that being said, after 1 year of trading online, I've increased my collection by 6000 cards (drafts included) and managed to break even.
    When I read your articles, I'm looking for pick up cards in the paper world that are likely to meet high demands online too. I've placed 500 tix so far on modern staples and I'm already cashing in some interesting amounts. So it is very interesting to apply your knowledge about pro tours and metagame shifts to the online community! 🙂

    1. Thank you for commenting! I am often tempted with embarking upon the MTGO journey, but it seems so daunting to have to start from 0 all over again! I suppose through speculation, one could manage the hobby rather inexpensively? Are there many MTGO players with cheap collections looking to play casually for the fun of Magic? If so, I'd be much more tempted. I love playing with random cards (which is why EDH is so much fun for me).

      1. There is actually a huge portion of the mtgo players who dont even know there is a marketplace to trade with bots. There are lots of casual decks around. I used to play an aura deck that cost me like 5 bucks, and I was kicking b utts big time 🙂 There is also the multiplayer interface, and a bunch of other stuff. Overall, I'm playing almost for free now, but like i said I first had to make a significant investment and make sure my buys were solid…

  3. So I like the multi-topic article, especially because the topics are based on things you've read in the forum. I would've been disappointed, honestly, if you'd turned point 1 into an entire article, or spent a dozen paragraphs talking about how you feel about MTGO. This format is a good way to address multiple issues that don't really merit an entire topic, or, if one of them does, you can find out from the feedback.

    Also, well done. I've enjoyed your articles for some time now.

    1. Templeguard, thank you very much for your feedback! I'm genuinely pleased you enjoy my writing – I take the gig here at QS very seriously and I hope my writing reflects that. Thanks also for casting a vote on article format. It's ironic that I tried to write an article that covered a diverse set of topics so as to please a diverse audience, and even this concept itself strikes a dichotomy among the readers.

      Guess it's a lesson learned that you can't please everybody. All I can say is, I will keep the diversity of QS subscribers in mind while I write. But as I'm not a member of the MTGO community, my writing in this department will be sparse. If anyone wants to donate cards to me to get me started, I'd consider it :-).

  4. I snipes a personal tutor before temporal mastery was out for my personal use. $12. Then I sell it for $35 buy it now after avr. Then I snipe a new one for $16. Don’t get attached.

    1. Amen! I am always eager to sell for profit, especially when there's a solid chance of re-entry.

      I sold my Noble Hierarchs for $15.50 each out of fear of a reprint. Then I bought them in an eBay auction for $53.50/set, and then immediately turned around and sold them again for $60. Looking to buy yet again, though I may wait for the remainder of M13 spoiler season first. I smell a reprint…

  5. MTGO is really convenient. As a father of 3, going to the card store for +4hrs just isnt going to happen, but I can sneak in a quick draft (I love 4pack sealed btw) online. The other nice thing, is for constructed, all cards come from your same pool, so multiple decklists can run 4ofs and you don't need more than 4x of any card.

    1. Thanks for the insights, shazam. We just had our first baby back in March so I can certainly appreciate the time savings MTGO has to offer. Plus I am truly a casual player/collector at heart once you get through the thick skin that is my finance savvy. So any chance to play for fun and for free would be great.

      My other concern with MTGO – I see so many horror stories about players being jerks and mouthing off. Do you find most of your opponents as kind and courteous, or do many players through a fit when you win?

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