Insider: An Explosion in Casual Circles

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Let’s pretend we’re playing the Pick the Pic game Doug sends out regularly in the newsletter. I show you a pile of cards worth a buck or so and I throw in a Darksteel Plate.

I trust that most of you reading this will know that the Darksteel Plate is worth the most. After all, it’s been worth a dollar bill to dealers since it was printed. And, if you had asked me a week ago, I would have said it still was.

But I’d be wrong. Darksteel Plate is up to $5 retail and dealers are buying at $2 or more.

As someone who prides himself on dealing in casual cards, I was taken aback that I missed this rise. As you can see from the chart, all the growth has come in the past few months.

Armed with this information, I began checking out other casual hits from the past few years. Sig touched on this earlier in the week, and it holds true across the board. We are seeing large gains in previously-stable casual cards.

Platinum Emperion. Up $5 since January. Celestial Mantle. Up more than 100% since January to reach an all-time high of $5. Command Tower has doubled in price in the last three months to $5.

I can’t overstate how important a development this is. This growth in the casual market is a direct result of the growth of Magic as a whole, and it’s turning people’s “near-bulk” bins into gold. All of a sudden digging through a box of old Zendikar cards has become a lot more exciting.

I’m writing this article to make you aware of these developments because it’s the sort of thing that can slip by if you’re not paying close attention. Unlike the headline-grabbing Modern cards that double in price overnight, this slower but steady growth flies under the radar but is arguably more important to be aware of.

Cards like these are the reason I do the “Casual Hits from...” series. For the rest of today I want to look at cards from the last few installments to see if there’s any movement on those fronts yet and stay ahead of the next wave.

Vexing Devil

Here’s a card from Avacyn Restored that I called when it was around $5-6 dollars. Since the beginning of the year it’s up a dollar or so to $7.50. This card never really bottomed out despite seeing virtually no Standard play, which is interesting. As such, I don’t ever expect this to go down from current levels unless reprints are involved.


This has been on a tear. It’s nearly doubled since the beginning over the year and is pushing $8 now. Sure, some of this is from Legacy play, but it takes more than that to hold $8, and the casual appeal is doing that.

For a Core Set mythic, I think this has a lot higher ceiling than some of the other cards on this list, which is something to keep in mind.

Primordial Hydra

After the first printing of this card in M12, it was a little secret of mine and I got them cheaply even though they were around $5. The reprint disappointed me in this regard, but it’s shown that it can quickly shrug that off. It's now back up to $7, making it one of the most surprising comeback stories of the year.

With another reprint the ceiling lowers, but without one this will push $10 before too long.

Vampire Nocturnus

This is still sitting at $4, which I feel is way too low for a card that used to be $20. The next time vampires get pushed this card is going to rebound hard, so picking them up at current prices is an excellent prospect.

Akroma's Memorial

Another card up 50% since the beginning of the year. I feel like we’re pretty early in the spike here, so there’s time to get in on these before they hit $8-10 again. Do so now.

Of course, not everything I initially had eyes on has spiked, at least not yet, and the Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash stuff won’t happen for another six months or so at least. But if the evidence tells us anything, it’s that it’s going to happen, and something like Sylvan Primordial (and especially foils) is looking at a nice financial life once the set is done being drafted.

That’s good news for us, and this type of low-risk, easy-money investment is an invaluable tool in the good speculator’s arsenal.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

10 thoughts on “Insider: An Explosion in Casual Circles

  1. Another good article, though I don’t know how much casual is pushing vexing devil…he was hyped and then shrugged off because your opponent got to choose, but he’s so efficient its hard to complain. I ran him in pre-gc r/b aggro because he was efficient and a devil (since I named devil with cavern a lot anyways)

    1. He is seeing play in Modern (burn) and I suppose for a lot of players burn is their introduction into Magic somehow. Easy to assemble, cheap and feels easy to play.

      As a LOT of new players are entering, I suppose that’s part of the popularity.

      So “casual” demand.

      1. Vexing Devil is one of my top rotation targets from AVR. It’s a staple in Gruul Aggro and Burn in Modern, and fits into Legacy burn as well.

  2. It’s an interesting shift – here’s what I’m wondering about it. If it’s due to an influx of new players (which there have been a ton of), is this something that you all think will continue indefinitely? Or is this a case of, new players tend to like to play casually until they figure things out, and move into competitive formats? One thing I’m thinking about is, as casual prices rise, is your average casual player with a good number of FNMs under his/her belt going to start thinking “this casual deck is getting expensive to assemble, maybe I should just spend the money on a standard deck and then I can at least try to win some prizes”. Some players are just going to play casual forever, but I think some are going to shift into standard. So what do you think, is casual the marijuana of magic? (that sounds cool, patent pending on term ‘marijuana of magic’).

    With MM on the way, some may go directly into Modern. But in my own opinion the eternal formats are percieved as being a bit unattainable for beginners. I only converted to modern when my friends who played a lot longer than me wanted to play it, and when I did the math on how much standard decks were to buy and how crappy a return you got when you sold.

    1. I honestly believe the percentage of casual that switch to competitive may only hover around 25% or so (I know a lot of casual players and many would rather win 1 in 10 games in some epic way (or with the deck they created) than play a competitive deck and win 6 or 7 of those 10.

  3. GREAT timing on this article Corbin. I’ve noticed this trend lately as well, and it’s very telling. Don’t forget Asceticsm – a card which has not seen a constructed game like ever but buy lists for around $3. This card will never drop in price barring a reprint or a better replacement (and even then EDH decks would run both).

  4. Asceticism Is a great one as well. As for the rest of it, even if some of the new players transition into competitive, that still leaves a ton of increased casual demand for older cards, which means price will still continue going up if the growth rate continues.

    In this particular article I was looking back at some I had suggested as casual pick ups from recent sets, rather than just pointing out good casual cards as a whole, Because it is such an expansive list. Basically, any card you knew to be popular casually is just going to be worth even more now, making them good pick ups

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