Jason’s Archives: Playing to Your Outs

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Every once in a while, the Medina school and the Bushard school debate the merits of their respective positions. This week, Medina himself referred to the Bushard school as "hamsters on wheels" (paraphrasing) albeit in good fun. Even though I'm on record as adopting a hybrid approach I find myself defending the Bushard school of finance every time something like this happens.

To recap, the Bushard school of finance involves speculating on cards you think will go up, going deep on them, breaking even as soon as possible and recouping a large profit whenever you pick correctly. The Medina school of finance involves buying cards for less than an already-established sell price to guarantee you always make money. If the price of a card goes up, just pay more for it, then sell it for even more than that.

In my defense of the Bushard school, I always like to point out to Jon that not everyone is able to buy at buylist like he is or sell at retail. I usually accomplish this with a technique I learned in Dale Carnegie's seminal "How to Win Friends and Influence People," which I like to call "Extreme Sarcasm."

Sarcasm: Because sometimes dramatic irony is too subtle and bludgeoning is too obtuse.

The point is, unless you have a website like Jon does, you might think you can't become a student of the Medina school. However, it's not as impossible as you think. If you want to adopt a hybrid system or go "full Medina," one way to think about it is in terms of playing to your outs.

Considering Your Outs

I think Bayou is about to blow up. Despite a lot of people going all pee-pants in response to SCG's organized play update, I think Legacy will be around forever and the new BUG decks are too good to ignore. Underground Sea and Tropical Island are over $100 already, but when BUG started spanking people Bayou was sitting around $60. It was even cheaper before Nic Fit made a big splash. I found someone online selling Bayous for around $60, which seemed like a good deal considering Bayou sold out on SCG for $90 this week.

I decided not to pull the trigger. The reason was simple. Speculating on dual lands is just bad business. Even if Bayou hits $120, $60 is close to the buylist price. If I wanted to sell around the hypothetical $120 it might reach, I could sell it on eBay. But I don't like to sell anything over $50 on eBay, with a few exceptions. I'd rather crunch stuff like that down into a pile of value and sell that instead.

So if you aren't inclined to eBay a Bayou, you won't make much cash from a buylist and you don't have a ton of time to value trade with it, don't buy it. Spend your $240 elsewhere.

On the other hand, let's say your primary out is to value trade the Bayou and buylist what you get for it. In this case a $60 Bayou, which you can point out is sold out on SCG for $90 before starting the trade, is pretty appealing. Buylisting the Bayou directly is gross, but if trading it out is how you roll it looks like a much better deal. The difference between those two attitudes toward an underpriced dual is a difference in outs.

Ins Matter Too

People love to sell cards, and cash is king. Going somewhere where players congregate with a stack of cash is a great way to pick up cards for cheap. Most people would rather have money than a binder full of cards that have already rotated, are difficult to trade and will never be missed. If your LGS doesn't approve of sales in the store, there are plenty of places to meet people with cards, my favorite of which is local universities and community colleges.

Since everything will sell on eBay (notice I didn't say any card; anything Magic-related will sell), if you pick up cards for buylist prices and out them for retail on eBay, once fees are subtracted you still make a pretty decent profit.

Another excellent way to get under-priced cards is to buy collections. I recommend downloading the Craigslist mobile app for your smartphone so you can check new listings in your local area frequently. People selling entire collections are less likely than the average person to know all of their prices, more likely to want to sell quickly, and more likely to be talked down to accepting a lower price. Collection buying is also generally a good time.

Depending how old the cards are, there are likely to be some decent foils, as well as commons and uncommons, that the seller had no idea were valuable. Anyone who has ever found a mint foil Daze mixed in with "bulk" blue commons or a stack of Imperious Perfects in the collection of someone who knew the price of every rare in their binder knows what I'm talking about.

The only way to lose money buying a collection like this is by paying too much. How could you pay too much when that is the only variable you can control? Know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, chief.

Notable Resources for Selling

If you don't want to sell everything to buylists, there are a few other ways to out cards. That way buying cards at buylist makes financial sense.

  • Card Shark -- Card Shark has pretty steep fees, but you can list a ton of cards very quickly and you make money on every order for shipping.
  • TCG Player -- This site uses the Crystal Commerce engine and it's as easy to list things as on Card Shark. There is a high upfront cost but they sent "exclusive" e-mail invites for individuals to sell there to... everyone. Corbin is experimenting with selling here -- check his articles for updates.
  • eBay -- If you go deep on eBay it's worth it. The fees hurt, but you get decent value and a lot of seller protection if you pay a bit extra to become an eBay store. As a store, I pay a nickel to list each item and pay less in fees on every transaction. I pay a monthly fee, but it pays itself off quickly. This can quickly become a full-time job, but if you want to make close to retail on the outs, my go-to is eBay.

All of these outs are available for individual people to use, so if you're interested in outing at close to retail, consider these outlets. If you're content to sell to buylists, though, I'm always buying, as are a lot of people.

So next time you're deciding how much to spend on a card you plan to resell, remember to think ahead and play to your outs.

Fights of Columbus

There was an SCG out in Columbus this weekend. I wish I had gone because apparently the trades were non-sane, but I spent the weekend listing a ton on eBay so I feel good about my decision. SCG Opens are a terrible place to sell and coming home with cards but no money didn't appeal to me. Still, most people didn't go to sell or trade (I know, right? Talk about doing it wrong!) but rather to play.

SCG Columbus Top Standard Decks

Kevin Brumley won the event with what looks like a very strong Limited deck. Stonewright, Pyreheart Wolf and Hellion Crucible are not cards one expects to see in a Constructed deck, let alone one that took down an Open. However, these cards have a lot of synergy with the efficient creatures in the deck. Pyreheart Wolf's pseudo-falter effect makes control's few creatures like Centaur Healer or Thragtusk much less effective. Ash Zealot is a card I have been on for quite a while and it might get better since I think Lingering Souls will see even more play once Gatecrash hits. When do you board in Reckless Waif // Merciless Predator, though? Clearly this guy knows. Congrats, Kevin!

I like the 4-Color Control deck that took second a lot. I showed up before FNM with no deck and Team Dreamcrush lent me some cards to build with. I ended up jamming a ridiculous pile of 4-color good stuff and it got there. When every card you draw is either gas or Farseek, you have a good chance of winning. This deck rectifies the principle problem the pile I cobbled together in 15 minutes had, which was its average mana cost of 11. Utility cards like Selesnya Charm and both Garruks give it a ton of options. I expect to see more decks like this after Gatecrash gives us more charms, better mana and a few more utility cards.

The rest of the top eight looked like fairly established archetypes. I like Naya humans right now, and Boros will only improve the quality of human creatures to choose from. Gruul gives us Stomping Ground, a decent mechanic, and probably one or two decent creatures. (I would love, love LOVE a reprint of Burning Tree Shaman. Makes the other shaman look more like DeathWRONG Shaman, amirite?!).

Naya doesn't need to be all humans to get there, though. There were two other Naya builds in the top eight here. I don't see the addition of Boros and Gruul weakening these decks. I sure hope Orzhov and Dimir contribute some decent removal or control may be in trouble. I expect very little from Simic because I remember what we got last time. I'm just happy they're giving us Breeding Pool.

People like Junk Tokens. It may get better, but I'm not sure if Orzhov's new mechanic will help much. Flashback spells get a bit better, so expect Lingering Souls to go up in value and I'm not just saying that because literally everyone agrees. Get them cheap while you, well, you probably can't anymore. The QS forums have been talking about this card for months, so I hope you listened.

Standard will probably be a bit stale for the next three weeks because everyone is brewing with Gatecrash rather than trying to make the lame duck Standard format new and exciting.

SCG Columbus Top Legacy Decks

Elves? ELVES?! Elves! Yes! I love when a pet deck wins the event, and elves is a really fun deck to not be playing against. Deathrite Shaman gives this deck some additional reach, and may help it approach Tier 1.

Only one BUG deck in the top eight, which may be explained by the fact that the super serious Legacy players likely played the GP in Denver instead. BUG is the new RUG if you ask me.

Speaking of RUG, one managed to top-eight here as well. The deck didn't get worse, but another deck got better and Deathrite Shaman makes all of RUG's enablers for [card Delver of Secrets]Delver[/card] and [card Nimble Mongoose]Mongoose[/card] a liability. Lots of players have a lot of practice with RUG, though, so expect it to stick around for a while.

Omnishow still manages to top-eight once in a while, but it's not the boogeyman everyone thought for a while. Remember all the cries of "Ban Show and Tell! Ban Griselbrand!" Hilarious in hindsight! Hilarious! I said it then and I will say it now -- brew, don't bitch. People brewed and Omnishow is Tier 2 at best.

The Jund deck is quite intriguing. It's a pile of card advantage with [card Dark Confidant]Bob[/card] and Bloodbraid Elf. It reminds me a bit of what Team Italia tried to accomplish, but this looks like it does it better. Abrupt Decay being much better than Vindicate has a lot to do with that. Bob and Bloodbraid actually make the symmetrical discard on Liliana of the Veil backbreaking. Coupled with [card Hymn to Tourach]Hymn[/card], you can empty their mitt quickly and recoup the card disadvantage with Bob and Elf. People had flirted with Bloodbraid Elf in Legacy for a while and I think it's time we embrace the card.

Eight top eight decks is what I like to see. I feel like it indicates a healthy format and both Standard and Legacy look great in that respect.

The Mile High Club

I expected the top eight in Denver to look pretty different from the top eight in Columbus considering more pros and serious Legacy players would be in Denver. I was a little surprised to see it wasn't different at all.

GP Denver Top 8

Elves was everywhere, that Jund deck is everywhere, both RUG and BUG in the top eight, one Stoneblade list -- swap out the counterbalance list for Belcher and the top eights are nearly identical.

Legacy is quickly becoming a race to find the best Deathrite Shaman deck. Both Shaman and Abrupt Decay have transformed Legacy is a way that is exciting and a little unexpected. I had predicted Shaman was an amazing Legacy card, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would launch so many archetypes and resurrect others. Elves may be the new combo deck to beat in Legacy, so expect those Natural Orders you can't get rid of on eBay to start selling again. I sold a pile of Wirewood Symbiotes this weekend as well. Glimpse of Nature may see a price bump so get them while you can.

Ryan Bushard said on Brainstorm Brewery a while back that Deathrite Shaman could hit $25 before it rotates out of Standard. I laughed at him. I'm not laughing anymore.

That's All You Get

Remember, kiddies, play to your outs, buy before the bump, sell before the crash, and don't pay too much for a collection. That's all I have for you this week. Check me here next week, same Alt time, same Alt channel.

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