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Insider: Rebalancing Your Real Estate Portfolio

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Real Estate is always a large portion of my portfolio. No, I’m not talking about buying houses or owning REITs. I am talking about lands! Zero-casting cost, once per turn, easily playable in many archetypes and formats, these Magic cards have always been a main focus of financial discussion.

Because they are very relevant and very predictable, I try to go deeper in my speculation on these cards. Rarely will a classic mana-fixing land jump too quickly in value because of a GP breakout, but, on the other hand, these lands won’t tank after a strong showing in one tournament. You’ll rarely see a land card follow the chart of say, Craterhoof Behemoth (from mtgstocks.com):

Though you do have the oddball scenarios such as Contested War Zone, traditional mana-producing lands rarely go through such rapid fluctuations over time. These are much more stable and, as such, they could be easier to profit from.

But knowing which lands are worth sitting on and when to sell is absolutely critical. The buying and selling windows on lands is usually wider than those on spikes like Craterhoof Behemoth, but timing is still very important to maximize profits and minimize risk. And because I’ve recently shifted the lands portion of my MTG portfolio, I decided it’d be good to recap and provide explanation as to why you should consider rebalancing as well.

Zendikar Fetch Lands

Non-blue Zendikar Fetch Lands have doubled in the last couple months, while Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn have nearly tripled. Modern is, of course, the main driver. Now that we’re in the midst of Modern season, I’m not sure how much room these have left to grow. At least in the short term, these may pull back slightly as players shift focus from Modern PTQ’s to Standard in a couple months.

For this reason, and because of the rapid jump in profits I made from these, I am cashing out of my extra Zendikar Fetch Lands. Could these run higher? Absolutely, in time. Does Wizards want Modern to have expensive mana bases? Absolutely not, as evidenced by reprinting of Shock Lands. Therefore, would a Fetch Land reprint in the next 2 years surprise me? Nope.

The chart below is the price history of Verdant Catacombs from mtgstocks.com:

Just looking at that curve’s shape, it’s difficult to claim these have peaked in the short term. They may just rise a little further. But in a reality of finite resources, the opportunity cost is no longer justifiable to me. I’ve made my profits on these lands and it’s time to move onto something with more upside potential. Which brings me to…

Scars of Mirrodin Fastlands

These have not yet recovered from their Standard rotation, and this does not surprise me. A few months ago, everyone had a handful of these in their trade binders, all so eager to send me their copies in trades for Innistrad block cards.

But while the chart below on Blackcleave Cliffs (mtgstocks.com) may not reflect much movement in demand, my situational observations suggest they are dropping in circulation:

I’ve historically kept my Scars of Mirrodin lands in the back of my binder, in order to keep them sequestered and largely unnoticeable. But at last week’s FNM, multiple traders saw the two pages of these mana-fixing fast lands and asked if they were for trade. Each time I waffled, stating I was speculating on them (I’m too honest) and that I don’t want to trade them, but would for a small premium.

This blatant honesty still did not discourage everyone from wanting my Fast Lands. I ended up trading away just one set of Blackcleave Cliffs, but the trader was willing to value them at $6. Also, I received a Darkslick Shores and Copperline Gorge as part of the trade. This made the deal more palatable since I didn’t lose too much from my position.

Looking at the bottom curve in the plot above, Blackcleave Cliffs has clearly bottomed. The rise has been small, but it’s not negligible. The window to acquire these cheaply for profit is still open, and it may be a year before they really peak. But when I got home last night, I removed them from my trade binder altogether because I want to keep them all until next Modern PTQ season.

Speaking of which, I moved another set of mana-fixing lands out of my trade binder last night…

Return to Ravnica Shock Lands

I keep forgetting that after Modern PTQ season is over, Standard PTQ season begins. Since I’m so caught up in Modern and I dislike Standard, I’ve neglected to consider how many Shock Lands are played in Standard! With so many multi-colored strategies around, Standard decks may be playing even more copies than Modern decks! After all, Standard doesn’t have Fetch Lands to rely upon for reliable fixing, so they often have to run full sets of their respective Shock Lands.

So while demand on Return to Ravnica Shock Lands is exceptionally high right now due to Modern, this demand should only increase in the coming couple months! That, combined with the fact that Return to Ravnica won’t be opened in drafts for a while, and you’ve got clear indicators that Return to Ravnica Shock Lands are due for a price bump.

Has this already begun to happen? The chart below for Hallowed Fountain suggests not (chart from mtgstocks.com).

Seeing Star City Games recently drop their sell price on Hallowed Fountain from $11.99 to $9.99 is an even greater indicator that these are not rebounding yet. But they will, I am sure of it. When the next block rolls out and players are desperate to find the Shock Lands they need to play in Standard and Modern, these cards will begin their rebound.

Until then, these lands are out of my trade binder, to remain untouched for a number of months. Every time I can, I trade for more of them. And while I may not be able to buy a car with the investment, like some others are talking about doing in the forums, I really have no upper limit on how many I am going to acquire. If my trade partners will trade them away, I will acquire. If I find underpriced copies on MOTL, I will buy. Easy as that.

Innistrad Dual Lands

If there was an opposite of Shock Lands, it would be Innistrad Duals. These have peaked already and have flattened in price according to mtgstocks.com. Remember how awesome of a pickup Hinterland Harbor was because Simic was going to be so awesome? Much like Wall Street, the right play was to buy on the hype and sell on the news.

It’s very unlikely this card will again see it’s October 29th peak. The others have likely peaked as well. For this reason, I have completely sold out of my Innistrad Dual Land position. These made me some solid profits and I wish I had bought in deeper while I was pushing these every week in my articles.

But there is one caveat I should add here: Boros is looking very strong, judging by Gatecrash spoilers. After seeing a mono-red deck perform well at the last GP, I am anticipating we will see aggressive strategies re-surface in Standard. Boros Deck Wins will be at the helm of this effort. Even though I’ve sold all my Clifftop Retreats, I cannot fault you for sitting a little longer on yours. After all, it’s the only Innistrad Dual Land still sitting at its all time high, according to mtgstocks.com:

Despite this recent run, the Innistrad Dual Lands only have a limited time remaining in Standard. Soon enough they will rotate out and will plummet to $1-$2 much like the Scars of Mirrodin Dual Lands did.

Because of this, I simply cannot advocate buying Clifftop Retreats here. They may rise a little more. They may even set a record for most expensive Innistrad Dual Land. But the window to flip these will be tiny and risky. If Boros does not pan out, then these will drop back very quickly. And even if it does, I’d rather my money be elsewhere because Clifftop Retreat can only rise a little more.

Rebalancing the Portfolio

Every so often it is worthwhile to check your portfolio to make sure it’s balanced the way you want it to be. This is true for both the stock market and the MTG market. It almost forces you to remove emotion from the equation and focus on the facts. For example, Zendikar Fetch Lands have taken off, causing my dollar-position in the lands to have more than doubled. By selling these and buying cheaper lands, like RtR Shock Lands, it forces me to buy low and sell high.

Sometimes we get caught up in our gains. We see how much money a speculation has made us and we hesitate from selling because we feel we can net more. But profit maximization is not about selling at the absolute peak. It’s about opportunity costs and reallocating resources where the most profits have the highest potential.

This is why I’ve rebalanced lately, and this is why I encourage you to take a second look at your positions and make sure you’re consciously thinking about which Lands you want to hold and why.

Sigbits – Random Lands Edition

Everyone knows mana-fixing lands are worthwhile. I didn’t even touch upon some of the other noteworthy versions (man-lands, Mxx Dual Lands, Pain Lands, etc.). But even non-mana fixers can have surprisingly high values thanks to EDH. Consider…

  •  Mikokoro, Center of the Sea is almost completely sold out at SCG at $4.99. Only a couple SP copies are in stock. I’m convinced I fell in love with this card before others did, as I’ve always played the land in casual games. But now that others have noticed the utility of Mikokoro, the price has gained traction.
  • A few months ago I joked about how Eiganjo Castle is overlooked. I can’t quite claim that anymore, seeing as it’s sold out at SCG for $1.99. The other Legendary Lands from Kamigawa have also gone up in price thanks to EDH. Minamo, School at Waters Edge wins the “most expensive” award retailing for $5.99!
  • How can I talk about older Nonbasic lands with surprising values without mentioning the worst land of all time: Sorrows Path. Now that you’ve read what it does, you would probably agree this land is nearly unplayable. Nearly. But it isn’t uncollectable. SCG just re-listed 2 NM copies in stock earlier this week for $1.99. They’re only paying a quarter for the card, though, so I wouldn’t go too crazy on this one.

-Sigmund Ausfresser
@sigfig8

9 thoughts on “Insider: Rebalancing Your Real Estate Portfolio

  1. I also like Zendikar basics. We know from Unglued/Unhinged that they are too cheap, and big gains can be had on foils for sure. Most people are willing to trade them at $.50-$.75, also. A lot of LGS sell them at that price.

    1. Zendikar basics do seem like a stable investment. To WeQu’s point, I doubt we’ve seen the last printing of full-art basic lands. But if the new ones have different artwork, some people will still latch onto the Zendikar ones as their favorites. No one can argue that Unglued/Unhinged aren’t the best though, so unless Wizards prints something that rivals those, the Un-set basics may be the safest investment.

  2. Great article, I agree that the Shocks are “safe” speculation target compared to mythics etc. One thing I am currently worried of is that Shocks are reprints, and am unsure of how it will affect their price. Is there any other “good” card (lands, or heavily played rare with low mana cost that every deck plays. Such as Tarmo etc) that was reprinted, so that we can learn from its price movements? Hope my English makes sense…

    1. Your questions make perfect sense, thanks for commenting! I’m guessing you won’t accept Dual Lands as an answer (even though they were printed 4 times)? 😛

      Birds of Paradise held onto their value for years and years despite being reprinted numerous times. Even when Birds appeared in Ravnica, they still sold for high single digits if I remember correctly. That could be a solid comparison point. There just aren’t many cards that stand the test of time in an eternal format and then also get reprinted and succeed in Standard. Birds is the only example I can think of off the top of my head.

      But even though they weren’t reprints, look at Zendikar Fetch Lands anyways. They dropped a little bit after rotation but they held their value fairly well. Then a couple years later they take off. Shock Lands should follow a similar trend, but with Modern in full swing already the drop should be smaller even when they rotate.

      1. Ravnica birds were going for around €10 max in these parts. What mostly brought their price down in my view is Rare printings in the Mythic era and even so they remain fairly valuable. I think that if Wizards stops printing them for a bit the card will slowly go up again.

        Not sure if you consider the casting cost low enough, but you could consider Solemn Simulacrum. Life from the Loam could be another option, though with only a duel deck reprint it might not be the best example. In a similar vein we saw Elspeth remain high and increase after a duel deck reprint. The reprint of Sol Ring in the EDH precons might be the best example as down the line many shocks will go to EDH decks. TCGPlayer average shows a slight but steady rise and the card remains fairly expensive.

  3. Good article, and we’re in agreement on all the issues here, which is a good sign. I just sold my fetches as well, and am aggressively accumulating Shocks. I have a giant box of ZEN lands (and a lesser box of Un-lands), so I hope it’s another four or five years at least before they do this again, but I think in reality Un-whatever will be the summer product before then.

    1. Yeah I just took all my Shock Lands and placed them in a separate binder that I don’t bring with me to FNM’s. I will trade for them whenever I can! I may even buy a few more if the price is right.

      Are they really doing another Un-set? I mean, it’s been a while so it’s not impossible. I just never heard the rumor. Would love a chance to draft Un-whatever.

      1. Maro’s been talking about it forever, and these sorts of stories always end with it happening eventually. Only a matter of time before it’s the summer “casual” product, especially if releasing a full set over the summer works out well with Modern Masters.

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