Insider: There’s a New Speculator In Town?

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This past weekend saw over 400 Magic players battle it out at the Star City Games Open in Cincinnati, Ohio. This was the first major event broadcast online with the new Standard, and there were certainly some significant shifts! The metagame will never again be the same, as evidenced by incredible number of Return to Ravnica cards seeing play as well as the Innistrad block cards not seeing so much play – namely, Delver of Secrets // Delver of Secrets.

But there was a different type of shift I noticed from this past weekend. As the tournament evolved and certain decks rose to the top, Twitter was abuzz with the cards to grab for speculation. What was particularly interesting to me was Star City Games’ effort to remain on the cutting edge of this speculation.

There were a handful of examples of this behavior. Let me explain further.

U/W/R Miracles Deck - The Winning Deck

Many of the Star City Games veterans, including Todd Anderson and Brad Nelson, were on this deck. It basically consists of lots of removal spells, lots of Miracles, Jace, Architect of Thought and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. Many of the removal spells, such as Detention Sphere, are from Return to Ravnica, but the deck relies fairly heavily on cards from Avacyn Restored, so naturally it has my attention as a speculator.

Before the event, Tamiyo, for example, was averaging $12-$14 in auction and was retailing for just a little more (chart from

But once this deck broke the scene, Star City Games was one of the first retailers to adjust accordingly, increasing their price first to $19.99 and then $24.99. Their buy list price for Tamiyo is now $15, where as many eBay auctions are ending in this area. Clearly Star City Games wants to remain ahead of the curve, and they are almost speculating on Tamiyo here, which was only a 2-of in the deck.

They also turned an aggressive eye to the other Planeswalker in the deck, Jace, Architect of Thought, by increasing their buy price to $30 and their sell price to $49.99!

Another card that Star City Games has quickly become bullish on from this deck is Terminus. I’ve been on this card for a while after seeing it make Top 8 in major Legacy events, and the card has finally moved some. Star City Games are again on the forefront, upping their buy price to $4 and their sell price to $7.99. This is astronomically high for a board sweeper. Once again, the card usually auctions for around $4 each (chart from


The other deck that made the finals was a remake of Frites, relying on Unburial Rites to unearth large creatures. The newest member of the team: Angel of Serenity. The only card I preordered from Return to Ravnica is likely to payoff. For those of you who joined me in buying the card when it was $6-$8, we can now immediately profit on our copies by selling to Star City Games, who is buying the card now for $10. Their sell price has been upped as well, to $19.99.

What’s surprising to me is not that Angel of Serenity is making a splash in Standard. Rather, it’s Star City Game’s immediate response to increase their buy and sell price that has me raising an eyebrow. Paying $10 on a Mythic Angel that saw play in one specific archetype may be the right move, but doing so after the first weekend the card is legal seems to me a bit gutsy.

While I’m at it, the price increase on Trostani, Selesnyas Voice is even more intriguing. Going through the Top 8 lists, I don’t see a single copy of this legendary creature. Yet Star City Games is selling it for $19.99 and buying at $10. I understand that this card is already a casual favorite, but paying $10 on the card when it reliably sells for $10-$12 on eBay seems flat out premature.

Again, I understand it’s a casual favorite, but without making an impact on Standard I’m not sure how this card is worth $20. I grabbed a few at $9 each and I intend to sell or trade them very quickly once they arrive.

Jund/Zombies – Yawn

I cannot discuss the Cincinnati SCG Open without at least mentioning Jund and Zombies strategies. There were three Jund decks and one Golgari Zombies deck that made Top 8, so clearly this deck is a force to reckon with.

The biggest mover I see from these lists has been Olivia Voldaren. This card is once again retailing for $15 after seeing a major pullback from its previous peak (chart from

The success of this card largely hinges upon the continued success of these Jund/Rakdos strategies. I saw the card in action watching the live coverage of the SCG Open and I am on the fence. I’m not going to call this card a buy at $15 without seeing it make Top 8’s repeatedly. For now, this card will continue to be my “pick-up if cheap” play.

Under the Radar

I also want to touch on a few cards that saw decent play this past weekend and may be due for a price increase despite not seeing an immediate price bump at Star City Games.

First, consider the Miracle Entreat the Angels (chart from

Since June this card has been on a steady decline. The chart finally appears to have reached a stable bottom, and, with three copies in the U/W/R Miracles deck, that price floor just became more stable. I expect this card to see a small bump up and I’ve bought my set in preparation for the new metagame, even if Star City Games hasn’t shifted their price just yet.

Another “under-the-radar” card worth mentioning is Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells (chart from

This creature has already been on a rebound since bottoming in July. Two decks in the SCG Open Top 8 ran a full set of Huntmaster, and his relevance may still be in tact post rotation. If you can find people offering this one up on the low end, it may also be worth acquiring a couple. Star City Games is selling these at $18 and I don’t see too much immediate upside from there, but should we see more Jund in the future, he seems like a mainstay in Standard.

A New Speculator In Town?

I’ve always considered Star City Games on the forefront of MTG Finance. They have many people working for them who keep their finger on the pulse of the metagame, identifying where price changes are needed. This has not changed.

Where I see a subtle difference is in their reaction time. This past weekend we saw a few cards show up in Standard decks that we haven’t often seen before, and Star City Games has moved accordingly. In some cases they increased their buy prices so high that they are paying more than the cards sell for on popular sites such as eBay and TCG Player.

Are they trying to capitalize on the hype? Are they acquiring frantically in anticipation of States? Or are they simply desperate to gather copies to meet pre-order sales?

In any case, they are definitely revealing their hand a little earlier than usual by upping so many buy prices (and dropping others, such as Vraska the Unseen to $10). Our task is to respond accordingly and to identify the cause for the rapid changes. Either way there are some profitable opportunities available to us right now if we make some wise pick-ups.

But you can’t pick up everything as the overall average value of the set will eventually drop. The trick is to pick up the cards that will continue to impact Standard after all the hype has settled down.

Here are my weekly tidbits of information. I think from now on I’ll call this section “Sigbits” to keep the explanation here to a minimum.


  1. Woodland Cemetery did see a lot of play this past weekend at the SCG Open, but the retail price remains $14.99 with a buy list price of $8. I can’t see this going up any more and I hope you’ve sold yours for a nice profit as I have.
  2. Blue Zendikar Fetch Lands are on the rise, thanks to Modern. Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest are both retailing for $19.99, and they are difficult to acquire on eBay for less than $14. I suspect there will come a time when this will be the bottom of the price cycle instead of the top.
  3. Gaeas Cradle is out of stock at Star City Games at $79.99. What may be more interesting is that the price of the Judge Foil version seems to be dropping. Slightly Played copies can be had for $175, even though eBay auctions are ending in the $180-$200 price range. This discrepancy seems odd, but I don’t see an easy way to profit from it.

-Sigmund Ausfresser

27 thoughts on “Insider: There’s a New Speculator In Town?

  1. Trostani is a 2 off in Bant Midrange and I am going to play it in my Standard weekly events as well. From goldfishing Trostani in play with either Selesnya Charm or Call of the Conclave just wrecks aggro with the lifegain. Adding Thragtusk/Cloudshift/Restoration angel you can do some absurd things.

    I would say a $10 is a good price for it, anything above is pretty risky to acquire since it is a niche card in a deck. But the fact it can create a lifegain engine itself is also pretty good.

    Now this is just from a brewer perspective but people are kind of aware of Thragtusk with Restoration Angel. Now G/W has Angel of Serenity, Armada Wurm (Meh) & Trostani

    Thanks for the highlights of the other cards, Entreat is a card I want to target

    1. While lifegain is often fun and it does wreck aggro, I just don’t see the lifegain being too relevant against super control decks that rely on Jace and Tamiyo (miracles.dec). Let me know how the testing goes!

      1. Great article sig! I wonder if SCG will attempt more speculation in Legacy as well, in light of the recent tourney. The opportunities to profit in that area are more difficult to identify/predict though.

        I agree with the lifegain comment above. Did anyone else see the Rhox Faithmender sideboarded in the Frites deck? I thought that was interesting.

        @Gerv, I’ve been playtesting the same GW deck. Try using elvish visionary, he synergizes well with the Cloudshift/Restoration angel. The deck is really fun to play and does well, but sig is right, it has a hard time those board sweepers in control.

        1. Thanks for the kind words! Your comment on Legacy is intriguing. Let’s do a quick test *looks up Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas on SCG*…Nope, still 37 of them at $6.99. No major shift there yet.

          Lifegain is always loved by casual players but every time a new life gain engine comes out, it doesn’t make it far in constructed play. Perhaps in the right metagame it is strong, but at larger events like Pro Tours and SCG Opens I’m not sure if there’s a home. Still, with Restoration Angel there sure is a lot of opportunities for synergy. So maybe there’s a chance this time! 😉

  2. Sold my Falkenrath Aristocrats BIN to benbleiwess , they are being aggressive in capturing profit from the early meta shifts. They buy them the card goes up then they publicize it and sell. Need to invest in SCG portfolio.

    1. They also get the info first so hard to move with them.

      Once they start buying the other web sites tcg , channel fireball , maybe even this one. Buy some of the larger better run shops. Start their own eBay for magic only. Have a Paypal clone with less fees. Then near monopoly. I’m not saying this will happen but they should be thinking about it. I would.

      1. Haha, that is a bit of paranoia there, but I suppose it’s not impossible. I often wonder why SCG doesn’t go on eBay and TCG Player to buy out stock if their buy list price is so close to market price. But apparently they’re doing this some now. In a way though, they are showing their hand. We can react accordingly by simply following their behavior closely.

  3. Good article, sig, I’m happy to see someone approach this topic. It did ring to me as odd that there were so many cards being bumped up in price, but I chalked it off as paranoia on my part. Thanks for covering this, I think your conclusion that SCG is trying to get into the speculation market is quite correct- Something to add, however, is that their prices are based on real time demand at their tournaments. If people see Armada Wurm working, the go pick up armada wurm, and especially this early in the season the easiest place to get those is from SCG. Therefore starcity sees much of the early action in the form of high performance decklists, while simultaneously having real time info on demand by players. If a card does well but everyone has it, there’s no point in bumping it. If, on the other hand, it does well and no one has it… many people come asking about it, and the dealers put 2 and 2 together well before any online speculators.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I went out on a limb a little bit by suggesting SCG has changed their behavior, but your confirmation makes me feel more like it’s not just me 🙂

      This could just be an approach SCG is taking at this time with the new set being out and relatively hard to find. Often times when a new set comes out, prices start off very high and eventually drop as the market becomes saturated. This could explain the bumps in Armada Wurm and Trostani. But what about the AVR cards? Their action on Tamiyo and Terminus is not related to supply issues. Their behavior of buying Tamiyo at $15 when there are (were?) copies on TCG Player, eBay, and Amazon for less is what strikes me as the most odd.

      We need to remember that any time SCG feels they can move the market by bumping the price up, they will. This is how they make more money, after all, so we can’t fault them. But their reaction time to drop Vraska’s price was equally fast, and this is also interesting to note. Glad to see price moves in both directions.

          1. Agreed. That seems like a major step up in speculation. I’m still wondering why one store had so many Tamiyo too. FCG is from California, but I’m not certain where. He’s pretty reliable though.

            1. It’s not much ‘ speculating’ if you can manipulate the market. It’s not paranoia it’s business. They know trends , have info before most, react accordingly.

  4. So you’re saying my 75 or so blue fetches are a good idea? 🙂

    On another note, very nice article. I’m not sure if it was because it’s the first weekend or because SCG has grown so much, but there was a time not long ago where these events did not move the market at all.

    1. Yes, definitely a good idea 😛

      I’m not sure either why they’re moving the way they have this past weekend. But it’s definitely noteworthy and it definitely impacts the market.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      1. I think they’re actually pushing this so hard because of State season. The last time they went for a format price bump was legacy, and while a lot of prices stayed up many fell not too long after. I’m not sure how much money they made, but I doubt it was as much as they’d hoped: Despite getting a significant number of staples at buylist prices in some situations higher than the sells on other sites, the prices didn’t spike over any discernible amount of time. I can pretty easily get a playset of Forces for 210 dollars one ebay, about 10 dollars more than I could have two years ago.

        However, by making this move before states, many people have a specific tournament they need cards for, and without the next two sets you have less options than you would in July. Combine this with a formidable lack of product, and even if Trostani isn’t a 20 dollar card long term, people who know that price is extreme will still pay it. What else do you use in trostani’s spot? A forest? Even if this fails completely, and nobody buys any of the inflated product (unlikely) they’ll still have several weeks during which they can announce a ‘sale on RTR singles!’ or simply drop the price, and clear inventory before the price equalizes. I think their liliana price last year was testing the waters of this practice, to see if anyone would bite. She peaked at 70 (or was it 80?) and I was picking copies off of ebay for around 40. Nevertheless, rumor has it that she was still sold, as many people tried to catch the boat on lady jace: black edition.

        1. Very thorough analysis, and I agree with every bit of it. They likely saw how inflated prices could get with Liliana leading up to States, and so they are taking this to a new level. Duly noted.

  5. They probably just ran the numbers on what the cost to be OOS vs. Increase in Inventory is. With almost a quaranteed flow of traffic, getting stuck with a card is not really likely. If they buy 500 Tamiyo at $16 and can sell 300 at $25, 100 at $20, and 100 at $15 they still come out ahead. If they can sell all 500 at $25, it is just ridiculousness; Tamiyo is never going to be a $10 card while it is in Standard.

    We have to be more careful with our specs because we are operating on margins of buy prices. Granted as individuals and hobbyists we don’t have the overhead either, but how deep and how high would you go on a spec if you could cash out hundreds of copies at retail???

    Good Article too btw!

  6. There will be one Woodland Cemetery in the event decks…so it has to drop. Besides that, in long term, I don’t see that dual being as much used as it is (in T2) compared to others innistrad duals.

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