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Insider: Tidbits from SCG Worcester

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In a coincidental stream of events, I managed to attend Star City Games Worcester (pronounced like Rooster with a “W” for whatever reason) this past Saturday. My mother-in-law was in town visiting my three month old son and my wife, freeing me up to get away for a few hours. Since I live only one hour from Worcester, I decided to check it out.

The main purpose of my attendance was not to participate in the main event. While only my second time attending an SCG open, I already had enough data to know I was ill-prepared to play in the now $40 entry tournament. I’d be better off betting $40 on the long shot racehorse at the Belmont Stakes, which also took place this past weekend.

Instead, I attended this Star City Games event with three primary purposes. First, I hadn’t played a game of Magic since my son was born and so I was desperate for a game of EDH. Second, I was interested in doing some trades in an attempt to refresh my binders. Third, and most importantly, I planned to sell some cards to Star City Games at their buyers booth.

The EDH Game

I know this is a finance column, but I would not be doing myself justice if I left out this significant portion of my experience. Three of us sat down for an epic battle of entertainment. Although there were three players, the only general to be cast was Vendilion Clique as the others, including my “fun” general Jerrard of the Closed Fist, were never once cast.

The game’s board state quickly become complicated and hilarious at the same time when cards like Psychic Battle, Shimmer and Confusion in the Ranks all had their dramatic impact on the battlefield. If you haven’t had a chance to play these cards in an EDH deck, I’d strongly encourage it.

Summing up the important turns, damage was sparse until a combination of Titanias Song and Ixidron created a dozen face down creatures on the board. Soon after, the victor used [card]Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded]’s ultimate ability to kill the other two players simultaneously.

The Trading

I stopped by the trade tables tentatively, feeling a coat of rust on my once-sharpened trading skills. It had been months since my last trades and a wave of doubt passed through my mind. Were it possible my prices were obsolete? What sites were people using to establish prices nowadays? What was the latest Standard tech?

Turns out none of this mattered.

What Was Hot?

It may come as no surprise that my Zendikar Fetch Lands received a lot of attention. People truly view these cards as cash. Whenever value needed to be made up in a trade, people were always willing to take these on.

I need to come clean and admit – I refused to trade them every time. In each case I found myself preferring the Zendikar Fetch Lands over whatever it was I was trying to trade for. Cash is king, and these Zendikar fetches are equivalent to cash in nearly every way.

Despite my resistance to trade the fetches, I did manage to complete a few trades. Modern season is on its way and that was evidenced by what people were seeking. I was pleased to move my promo Cryptic Command, considering I failed to sell the card on MOTL even at $10. Also traded away a Dual Decks Elspeth, Knight Errant at a surprisingly high value. Either these are on the rise or some people don’t recognize there is a reasonable value difference between the Dual Decks version and the far-superior Shards of Alara printing. Noted.

Finally, I also observed another interesting trend – people’s perceived value on Innistrad Dual Lands varied significantly. In one trade, my Sulfur Falls were valued close to retail, so I regrettably let them go (most of you know I’m accumulating these). The next trade partner proceeded to trade me his copy of the card at closer to auction prices.

Lesson – it seems not everyone respects the upside potential on Innistrad Duals (besides Isolated Chapel). Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Instead of buying these on MOTL, maybe I should be trading for these more frequently.

What’s Not

Innistrad Planeswalkers seemed avoided, at least from my perspective. I only own one Liliana of the Veil and one Garruk Relentless // Garruk, the Veil-Cursed at the moment, but they sat on the front page only to be skipped repeatedly. These appear to have momentarily fallen out of favor. Even Star City Games only offered me $10 on the Liliana, which I promptly rejected (more on that later, chart courtesy of blacklotusproject.com).

These once hot cards are likely overshadowed by flashy Avacyn Restored cards such as Bonfire of the Damned. That being said, no one asked about my two Restoration Angels, either. Perhaps people feel those are overvalued and, as such, didn’t bother to inquire about them? Surely they will see plenty of Standard play.

Lastly, I’ve decided to completely abandon my Merfolk cards. The deck had its day in the sun once upon a time. But after having the pieces of this deck sitting in my trade binder for a year with no interest, I bit the bullet and sold the Merfolk cards to Star City Games for quarters on the dollar. I am not ashamed of the decision.

My Sales and, More Importantly, Why I Sold

I saved the best for last in this article – I want to review the cards I sold and why I decided to let them go at Star City’s buy price.

The easiest decision was to sell my two Firestorms at a solid ten bucks each. For whatever reason, Star City Games is having the darndest time finding these and so they’ve upped their buy price to above auction prices. I purchased those two cards for $9 just a week earlier and while an 11% profit is nothing to write home about, it’s virtually free money with no effort. I couldn’t even move these for $10 on eBay once fees are considered.

I also admittedly sold two of my recent Alpha purchases – a NM Two-Headed Giant of Foriys for $60 and a MP Island Sanctuary for $30. I made a solid $17 profit between the two and I learned a valuable piece of information: Star City Games is willing to negotiate on Alpha rares, even if played. In this case, the buyer asked me what I wanted on the Sanctuary. Knowing I paid $17 for and they were paying $60 for NM copies, I asked for $30. The buyer snap-agreed.

Other notable sales were my MP Vampiric Tutor for $12 (which is what I paid) and an assortment of $1 and $0.50 cards. These are a pleasure to unload since it’s not worth selling them on MOTL or eBay and shipping them to SCG in a mail-in is not worth shipping costs. I also sold 2 Spindown Dice for $2 each because… why not? I had six of them and I have no attachment to any of them. A nice little bonus.

Finally, I decided to sell my Karn Liberated for $8. While the card has sustained its value surprisingly well, it should be due for a price drop once Standard rotates and I did not want to be left holding this one.

Biggest Gain from the Event – Knowledge Gained

On top of the fun I had at SCG Worcester, I also gained some valuable information. I learned what cards are generally easier to move and which ones are seeing less interest. I also got a sense for which cards Star City Games was aggressively buying (Alpha rares, Firestorm).

Just as important, I learned which cards Star City Games was not offering even half of auction prices. This includes Innistrad Duals (maybe they feel they have enough?), Liliana of the Veil and even Chrome Mox. They either have excess of these cards or they feel they are destined for a price drop.

One of the most valuable pieces of information I learned was Star City’s willingness to negotiate on Alpha rares, especially in person. It was reassuring to see that my hypothesis on their buy prices, that they would buy played copies for roughly 50% of their NM prices, held true. This will be a valuable rule of thumb to implement when shopping for played copies of Alpha rares.

Lastly, I learned that Magic: the Gathering is still a fun game to play for me. This is a hobby I intend to maintain for years to come. Noted.

17 thoughts on “Insider: Tidbits from SCG Worcester

  1. I think to me it seems like you didn't get as much on your Alpha rares as you could have. I think that if you had said $100 for both they probably would have accepted as well and I think that because of the Giant's condition you might have been able to get them to go beyond that as well. I imagine their online prices are somewhat lower than they can go on cards to compensate for the fact that many people will grade their cards too high and the hazzle involved. They of course won't have that problem when dealing in person. Glad to see your Alpha theories work out though :).

    I cringe at the thought of having a confusion and battle in play in an EDH game. A former member of our playgroup used to be incredibly fond of such cards. He'd play something like that, protect it, and the games would become very long, drawn out afairs. He would not even include a win condition in his decks, though after I commented on it he started doing that (his wincon in his confusion deck: Rust Elemental, but at least it could win an worked with the confusion).

    I have to wonder, why did you guys let Tibalt reach his ultimate? Or was that unavoidable?

    Which D20's did you sell them? Some, most importantly the Black Lotus ones, have a pretty decent value.

    1. Thanks for the comments! Here's my response in bullet form since it's easiest 🙂

      – I really hope you're right on the Alpha rares. I just shelled out $176 for 9 Alpha rare cards. They aren't NM, but I made sure to pay around 1/2 SCG's NM buy price. I think this should be a relatively safe place to enter on played Alpha cards, and hopefully I'll have some freedom to negotiate at GP Columbus if I decide to sell.

      – The EDH game was a lot of fun but became drawn out. We pretty much let Tibalt ultimate as it was the only forseeable event that could end the game. The Clique player had Tunnel Vision in his deck somewhere, so there was certainly a win condition. Never drew it.

      – I sold an M10 spindown and a Rise of the Eldrazi spindown. I had no attachment to either 🙂

      1. 1) You sent me the list on FB, I sent comments back there. Basically on the whole I think you paid a decent price, some a bit high, but others lower, but I think I would try to get in at about 40% or less. Also I'd consider if some cards might not be worth getting into.

        2) Glad you enjoyed the game anyway :). Tunnel Vision will only kill one player right?

        3) Right, I'd snap-sell those as well for $2 each.

        1. I would snap sell any spindown at any price. 😛

          SCG does have a buylist for some of these now, so always check there first. Most other dealers just pay $1 across the board.

          1. I kept 4 of them, for which they offered a quarter. I'm hoping that in 2-3 years, they will fetch $2 haha. Spindown Dice never rotate or lose value due to "reprints" or "bannings". 🙂

            1. Mine do rotate quite frequently…

              😉

              In fact, when I bought one of them, an oversized one, I was specifically told not to use them at the table in that shop. So, in fact, it was actually banned from being used there.

              😉

              Couldn't resist.

  2. Hey man, enjoyed the article. Its always nice to basically get a "trading tournament report" if you get what I mean, haha.

    I hardly ever sell to SCG as their prices are typically very bad compared to others, but I think you did well. I would have sold those Firestorms too, heh. Definitely up on a hype as they are really only in one deck. Also, you definitely misplayed on your played Alpha rare. You should have started higher…..they turned a new leaf with Alpha and Beta rares since the whole ABU craziness started (paying infinite for NM A/B rares) so they are aggressively buying that stuff now. You should have been able to get minimum $40, but just note for the future with that stuff, always start way too high. At worst they say no and you come down, or they just counter offer you.

    Also, speaking of ABU, if you didn't know (think I mentioned on Twitter, ABUGames.com), always look there first to see what they pay on A/B rares. Usually they pay pretty insane on NM copies, and sometimes they pay pretty good for Played as well. Just a heads up for those 9 new rares you got in. I have sold to them before, and they can be picky on condition, but they will accept a few tiny flaws as NM for old stuff usually.

    1. Didn't know they pay so well when buying.

      I can say from experience that they will accept some minor flaws for NM cards, they sell them that way too. Unfortunately all their actually NM cards get graded.

    2. Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed the article!

      Glad to see you agreed with my SCG sales. Perhaps you and pi are right that I could have negotiated for more on the Island Sanctuary. Do you also think, then, that I'll be able to negotiate well on the MP/SP Alpha cards I picked up most recently? I sure hope so.

      I did a quick look through ABU's buylist, but played buy prices are pretty sad. Definitely thinking I'll have a better chance negotiating with SCG. Hopefully there will be a vendor at GP Columbus looking to acquire some SP/MP rares from Alpha. If so, I think I'll do alright. It's so tough with no rule of thumb on these buy prices. I've been generally halving SCG's NM buy prices to identify what SP buy price I should use. And as always, I don't HAVE to sell to a vendor in order to profit. I can always hold and list them on eBay indefinitely until the prices rise. Let's face it, they should never really drop.

  3. I actually think that you should have also tried to negotiate for a little more on the Giant. $100 seems pretty doable as a price for both, but you might even start it at $125 and have them counter, I think you could end at $105-$110 if they're that actively looking.

  4. I'm not sure if anyone has pointed this out to you, but ON SCG's BUY LIST, they state they'd give you $40.00 for that Island Sanctuary. If anything, you "negotiated" a discount for them.

    1. Do they? Have you read the little message at the top of their Alpha table telling you to mail them if you want to sell them Alpha cards in less than NM condition? Not to say that $40 might not have been a good place to start the negotiations at, but their buylist does not list that price for the card.

      1. Yes. Just under the bulk rates, they give a chart for values of less than mint cards. The only thing they leave out and tell you to contact them on is less than NM cards with value over $100

          1. I saw that. My point is you should look under the bulk rates at their chart. I have never had them offer less than that chart, and on the off chance that they ever did, I would point that same chart out to them. There is a reason he snap agreed, you gave him the green light to give 10 dollars under the number that has been drilled into his head.

            1. Quite possibly, but it simply isn't what their buylist suggest. I also think it would have been absolutely right to try it, you could always say you didn't notice their note. It's just that you cannot expect them to. Alpha and Beta are the only sets for which they have this specific note.

            2. You are right in that I should have tried it. I will grant you that.

              But I know for a fact that SCG has a different SP/MP scale for Alpha and Beta cards because I asked via email previously. If you'd like, I can send you the email. I asked what their buy price was on a SP/MP Granite Gargoyle and Helm of Chatzuk, which I picked randomly. Their response was:

              Gargoyle: 60/30/25 for NM/SP/MP and Helm: 30/15/10 for NM/SP/MP

              That is WHY they ask you to email them with SP/MP Alpha and Beta cards. Their scale is different because NM copies are SO much more valuable and harder to find. Trust me on this one. You may be right that I should have asked for more, but I know I asked for what they would have likely offered to begin with.

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