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Jason’s Archives: Road Trip 2013

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Greetings, Spectaculars!

This is a very special article, coming to you from a moving vehicle. This morning marked the beginning of Shop Crawl 2013. You may remember Show Crawl 2012 from last year, although the terminus of that trip was a Grand Prix in Minneapolis, which wasn’t quite as exciting as the destination this time around-–Grand Prix Las Vegas.

Listeners of Brainstorm Brewery will recall a bet between Corbin Hosler and Ryan Bushard regarding the projected attendance of said Grand Prix. Ryan took the over, betting that Grand Prix Las Vegas would set a to-date record for attendance, and Corbin bet the under. He surmised that the remote, desert location of the venue, the increased entry fee for the event and the then-unknown appeal of Modern Masters sealed as a format would all contribute to attendance numbers dwarfed by, for example, Grand Prix Providence which was Team Limited and on the East Coast.

It’s six days before the event and we already know who won--at nearly 3,000 pre-registered attendees, Grand Prix Las Vegas is already the largest Grand Prix in history to date. Corbin lost the bet and owes Ryan dinner at Fogo de Chão, but all of it seems fine by Corbin--this was, after all, the second such bet, the first of which concerned whether Jace the Mind Sculptor would be unbanned in Modern. Corbin won that bet, but that doesn’t make his dismissal of Grand Prix Las Vegas as the must-attend Grand Prix of the year any less foolish in retrospect.

I don’t know that I want to rehash my “how to shop crawl” article from a year ago because you can just go back and read that, nor do I want this to turn into the first installment of a road diary I won’t ever update. What I can do is tell you a few tips I’ve learned in the year since the last trip was documented and which will inform how this trip aims to improve on the last.

The first major difference is the amount of money we’re bringing with us. The goal was to bring enough money to buy entire (smaller) stores’ inventories if necessary, so it fell upon us to carry as much cash as we could. Luckily, Origins was the weekend before the trip so we were able to sell a lot of card stock in order to have cash to buy with.

Even if that meant taking some of the cards that haven’t sold yet on eBay and taking buylist numbers on them, it was worth it to have the maximum amount of cash. We brought twice as much money as we did last time, which allows us to buy the whole way there without having to pass up any good deals.

A second improvement is the type of shop we target. This required a bit more creativity on our part, but it is paying dividends. I’ll back up. The first Shop Crawl was predicated on the idea that every shop in America that sells cards has a great deal. Whether by a mistake or just the item not being quite right for the shop, you will always find something to make money selling at a Grand Prix.

On the first trip, we found a large list of the stores along our route to the Grand Prix, using the store locator on the Wizards of the Coast website. This located two types of stores--ones that ordered product from Wizards and ran tournaments, and stores like Walmart and Target which just sold booster packs.

Stores that hold tournaments usually stay on top of their singles pricing very well, aren’t inclined to sell large amounts of inventory in bulk and in general don’t have a ton of value. Stores like Target, as well as stores that sell mostly comic books but happen to keep an open box of Dragon’s Maze booster packs next to their cash register, similarly won’t have a ton of value.

What we’ve found is that there is a third classification of shop, which is the best value for a venture like this--a store that sells Magic cards poorly, infrequently, and unenthusiastically.

Sports cards/collectibles shops are harder to find if you’re just passing through an unfamiliar city, true, but if you do manage to locate them, it’s well worth it. There may even be a shop like this near you that you’ve never been inside. They could have old binders of Magic singles just waiting for someone to buy up.

Any $3 Transmute Artifact that was priced in 1996 and left to rot in a binder at a shop where lots of players play regular events probably got snapped up in 1997. But there are other copies gathering dust in a shop that repairs computers in an obscure strip mall a mile off of a major highway.

My advice for finding shops like this is to pick out towns along your route and simply type “[town’s name] hobbies” and “[town’s name] collectibles” and similar search strings. Cross reference the results (small towns will likely have one or fewer) with the results from the Wizards locator and you can find which shops are less likely to have players traipsing through them often. It is work-intensive, true, but it’s something you can even do on your phone from the road--ain’t technology grand?--if you didn’t quite get a comprehensive list done before you leave (but you really should have).

Craigslist is another excellent tool. I’m sure you check your local area on a weekly or even semi-weekly basis, but how often do you check cities hundreds of miles away? When you’re on the road, the Craigslist listings of towns you’re travelling through is a great way to locate collections for sale, and why not buy a collection on the way to a Grand Prix?

As long as you’re savvy enough not to overpay and only pick the collection up if there is money to be made with a quick flip, this can be a great “in”. We found a shop that was going out of business via a Craigslist post--four hours later we were loading his entire inventory into my car.

Craigslist is a great place to check for collections on a regular basis, but being in a time crunch gives you an advantage that isn’t necessarily intuitive.

If you’re picking up a collection from Craigslist from your local area, you’re going to be much more inclined to make a deal happen. The closer it is to you, the more it will resemble low-hanging fruit, given how little you have to travel to get it and therefore your desire to snap it will be greater. When you’re blowing through town, not only do you have “I’m going to be here at X time and then leaving” as a negotiation tactic, it’s not a bluff. You have no shortage of local areas to check because you will be moving through all of them on your route as opposed to being anchored to your own local area.

This lets you pick the best, hassle-free listings. Since you’re not going to be as inclined to give in to make the deal happen, you’ll make more deals on your own terms. Just say “no thanks” and move on to the next town. Sure, you can take the same attitude into your next local negotiation and maybe the bluff will work, but if you’re not in the midst of a road trip, there actually likely isn’t a “next town” and the deal is more likely to fall through.

For this reason, aggressively checking Craigslist along your routes is recommended, and can coincide with shop visits. In fact the shop can serve as a good meeting point and you can kill two birds with one stone--buying cards in the shop and a Craigslist collection in the parking lot.

Lessons, Etc.

If you’re not inclined to do a similar road trip yourself, I think there are still a few lessons you can learn from our experiment and the subsequent refinements.

The first is to have money. If you keep money set aside for when a bigger collection comes along you won’t have to quickly out stuff, potentially at a loss, or worse, miss out on a good opportunity. Having less of your money tied up in cardboard is the goal, so if that means more frequent buylisting in between major events, so be it.

It’s cool to go deep on a spec, but as an advocate of the hybrid Bushard-Medina method, I believe striking a balance is important. Always have money socked away for collections. Normal people call this a “savings account” and banks will even give you interest payments for it! Beats a box full of Seances. I have both.

The second is to play a bit more hardball and say no to high prices on local collections, but also to consider traveling a bit farther to access more collections. It’s garage sale season right now--go buy some kid’s childhood from his parents.

The last thing I will say is go to new shops. Sure, everyone knows about the LGS that runs FNM and prices their case at SCG prices. But how many people drive thirty miles to the obscure coins and baseball card shop in a small, nearby town? If the answer is “not as many” why not try and find a few places like it? There might not be a $70 box of Unhinged in that shop, but there definitely isn’t one in the same shop everyone goes to every week.

You don’t have to drive from Michigan to Las Vegas to find a good deal one town over. You just have to bother to go there.

Origins-al Gangsters

Very briefly, since my internet is limited in this, the most moving of vehicles, I want to touch briefly on the metagame report, since you would be lost without it and I'm not 100% sure I'd get paid if I didn't.

SCG Columbus Standard Decks

As you probably correctly guessed, Jund won the event. John Wallace played a stock, uninspiring list, but he played well and deserves congratulations. There were something like 600+ players at the event, so winning was an accomplishment to say the least.

Surprising me was a G/B Zombies deck. What is this, 2012? With no Gatecrash or Dragon's Maze cards in the maindeck, this deck reminds me of a simpler time when Miracles held sway. Maybe now is the right time for this throwback deck. Whatever the reason, Adam Minniear got there. You know you're jelly.

Reanimator was the only repeat in the Top 8, which gives lie to the notion that the archetype is all but abandoned. It's the only real unfair deck right now, so I expect we'll be prying the Unburial Rites out of players' cold, dead fingers.

I like Andrew Shrout's Bant list, but it feels like a throwback deck as well. I am really looking forward to Restotusk leaving Standard, in fact, but at least control is using it more effectively than midrange right now.

On a side note, are people just jamming Voice of Resurgence in every deck because they heard it's good or is it actually getting there in all these different archetypes? Regardless, it's worth a mint right now, but it has peaked and I would be selling it right now. I don't think it's going up again, but it totally could. Don't listen to me, I said it was a bad buy at $22 preordering.

However, while the "price" keeps going up the spread is increasing along with it. Star City hasn't increased its buylist price on Voice since it was retailing for $50. They clearly think the card is on borrowed time and have no confidence in the current price, even though it's mostly their fault it's so high. If they aren't buying above $30, you want to be selling now.

A 60% spread is ridiculous, even though that's for one site. The spread is closer to 30% because TCG Player sellers know this card is a $50 card at best right now and are selling accordingly.

I don't want to be holding Voice when it falls. It's tough to get paid $6 on Boros Reckoner right now and the fact that I got $20 instead of $6 makes me regret getting $20 and not $25 because I didn't wait a week less.

I was all ready to discuss Timothy Paddock's G/W Midrange deck as something to play after rotation until I actually clicked on the link and saw that 90% of the deck is rotating. False alarm, gents. Move along, nothing to see here.

I think G/W Midrange will be a real contender after rotation--I keep saying this particular Block Constructed season will be an especially prescient indicator of the post-rotation landscape, and Wescoe's winning deck is a nice shell. The buy price on Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and Armada Wurm is above where retail on those cards was two weeks ago. I said to pick them up and it's not too late. These are good trade targets. Trostani is too cheap in a world where Voice of Resurgence is so high.

That's really all the Standard that's worth discussing.

SCG Open Legacy Decks

Three Esper Deathblade decks in the Top 8, including a repeat from Todd Anderson? I think we have a new contender. This deck refuses to go away and it's only getting better.

Pet Deck of the week goes to Lands this time around. Speaking of lands, did you notice the City of Traitors I told you to pick up at $35 last week just hit $50? I should have taken my own advice and bought some instead of putting all of my money into this trip. J/k--City is buylisting at $35 so if I wanted to cash in, I would have had to trade and I'm not super jazzed about trading in Vegas. Ain't nobody got time for that. Still, if you plan to play with City, try and find them under $50.

No Tezzerator in the Top 16 despite last week's winner Chris Andersen running it back. At least someone named Anders(e/o)n won. The deck is real, and I got shipped nearly half of the Transmute Artifacts I bought for $15-$20. The rest got relisted at $40-$50--those stores are lucky they got them back in stock so quickly after running out when I ordered a day earlier.

This deck looks interesting. If Jund doesn't make a comeback or end up replaced with something like this, I'm not sure Liliana of the Veil won't tank significantly at rotation. This would be a great opportunity to scoop her cheap since she will inevitably go back up. She is the second most powerful planeswalker ever printed.

That's all for now, but I just want to say that any weekend where we get over 250 players for Legacy and the best Delver deck finishes under Death and Taxes is a good one.

Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on Gatheringmagic.com. He is also the Community Manager at BrainstormBrewery.com and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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11 thoughts on “Jason’s Archives: Road Trip 2013

  1. Great article. I really like the idea of a Store-Crawl and the “treasure hunt” idea sounds like a lot of fun. Though I imagine it’ll take quite awhile to get to Vegas from Michigan, especially with all those stops.

  2. I think it’s a great idea, and have done it before.

    I have to travel often for work, so whenever I get a day, I spend it looking for the small types of stores that might just have a lone binder. Flea markets are also a great place to find goodies. Most of them have a hobby stand or two, sports cards etc, and they usually have some magic product floating around. (like the 2$ helm of obedience from last week).

    Thrift stores on route are also worth taking a look into, you’d be surprised just how much mtg stuff gets donated and sold there. Seriously, I had a part-time job at Goodwill in high school, and I was sorting donations. I’d fill boxes of cards every week, and then the manager sold them to me for next to nothing. Force of Will, Dual Land, even one time a mint cond. starter set from revised, and a random half box of onslaught boosters… Thrift stores are where you can find the real goodies… You should pop into a few along the way!

    great article
    cheers

      1. It’s possible that people that consider Elspeth KE better than Liliana OTV are looking at the holistic picture of how good Elspeth is in practically any format. Elspeth is one of the most ridiculous limited cards ever. It is probably a huge casual card. It has seen play in Standard, Modern, and Legacy, though probably not as much as Liliana. They are both very good. There’s also something to be said about a planeswalker that doesn’t really present you with a hard choice, since only its final requires removing loyalty counters, and so there are multiple good abilities that add loyalty, which is pretty unique.

  3. Just wanna say as a paying member to this site for quite some time Jason is a huge baby. One reply to a tweet of his about his card choices snap blocked. Even after apologizing refuses to unban. Grow up Jason and take criticism like a man.

  4. A woman with a flag and a copy of the Declaration who identified herself as “Chaplain Desiree Bernstein” (also an anti gay marriage and anti Khalil Gibran Academy protester) said, “I have been in this fight for a long time. I welcome your beautiful faces and we can do it, But I’m gonna tell you now without any offense: if you think we’re gonna do it without invoking the Almighty, you can forget it!” She invoked the 19th Century prayer campaign of Jeremiah Lanphier in which, Bernstein said,After being cleared of indecent exposure charges last week for an anti airport security protest that gained worldwide attention, Brennan is still facing a potential $11,000 fine from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). It’s uncertain whether the federal powers that be will agree with Oregon law that nudity is a protected form of free speech.

  5. The dramatic flight from the state stalled a proposal that seeks to ease Wisconsin budget woes by cutting the pay, benefits and collective bargaining rights of many government workers. Democrats who stayed in Madison scored a victory, forcing the state Assembly to adjourn until at least Tuesday without taking a vote.

  6. The New Republic’s review said “Mitt” was a great look at the Romney family. On top of showing several grandchildren, the film reaffirmed the Romneys’ place as a strong family. “And the film’s main revelation is that the family’s Hallmark public image seems to be pretty close to accurate,” wrote Laura Bennett for The New Republic.

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