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Insider: Portfolio Update

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Fall rotation is a busy time of year for the Magic world in general and speculators in particular. I've been paring down many positions and actively building up ones. Typically I am putting in a little work every day in this regard as I simultaneously look for good buying and selling opportunities. This week I'm going to cover some of the recent changes in my MTGO portfolio in order to give readers an overall sense of what I feel are the best moves at this time.

Bread and Butter Buys

M14 boosters are a low-risk and highly liquid position with an expected return of about 0.5 tix per booster in a two-month time frame. Once Theros (THS) release events wind down, many players will gravitate towards other drafts formats. Core set draft is relatively popular online and like Return to Ravnica (RTR) block, it is no longer being awarded in the Standard, Modern and Block Constructed queues. Thus supply is not increasing, which suggests higher prices in the future.

An additional factor that goes into the choice of which format to draft is the value of the cards in the boosters. A draft set of Dragon's Maze-Gatecrash-Return to Ravnica (DGR) is about the same price currently as a draft set of M14, but the expected value of M14 is buoyed by a number of pricey rares such as Mutavault, Scavenging Ooze and Lifebane Zombie. Compared to DGM, M14 is a gold mine of value and even though RTR and GTC are more comparable to M14, the difference between DGM and M14 tilts the value proposition in favor of core set draft.

Lastly, the historical record of how the price of M13 boosters moved after the release of RTR also suggests higher prices for M14 in the near term. I will continue to buy my limit of M14 boosters while prices are below 3.2 tix. Currently I am up to 500+ boosters and I'm not concerned about buying too many. Speculators looking to get their feet wet on MTGO with a low-risk way to pay for a draft or two should strongly consider accumulating M14 boosters.

Rotation Buys

One of the time tested speculative strategies on MTGO is to load up on cards that are rotating out of Standard which are either Modern playable or are mythic rare and thus attractive to redeemers. Modern season got pushed back this year so I am less keen on nonmythic rares, but even still I have been buying the odd play set of Restoration Angel, Terminus, Vexing Devil, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Snapcaster Mage.

There's some evidence that Innistrad (ISD) and Avacyn Restored (AVR) might have bottomed last week although we won't know for sure until we get closer to November. Regardless, in the past ten days I began buying the many of the mythic rares from these sets. The list of my recent buys include Garruk Relentless // Garruk, the Veil-Cursed, Geist of Saint Traft, Liliana of the Veil, Olivia Voldaren, Bonfire of the Damned, Craterhoof Behemoth, Griselbrand, and Sigarda, Host of Herons.

Dark Ascension (DKA) doesn't appear to be a very redeemable set in my estimation so in general I am not acquiring mythic rares from this set. The two exceptions are Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Both should see varying degrees of play in Modern, but if you have to choose, be sure to prioritize Huntmaster of the Fells over the vampire planeswalker.

Modern Staples

If you read my article from last week, you could probably guess I have been buying the Zendikar fetchlands. These are not the only Modern-playable cards that have dropped in price since THS was released though. I have been targeting Goblin Guide, Horizon Canopy, Scapeshift, and Leyline of Sanctity as well. There are many Modern cards on sale at the moment so be sure to hedge between deck archetype and set. Note that speculating on Modern right now is riskier than either buying ISD block mythics or M14 boosters, so before you establish positions in Modern cards be sure to get comfortable with the amount of risk you are taking on.

Watching

After the devotion strategies broke out at Pro Tour Theros in Dublin, there were tix to be made selling into the hype if you had the good luck or the good foresight to buy into these earlier in the week. For those wondering, I did not make any buys and thus missed the boat on this short-term opportunity. With the new release queue entry fee and prize structure, I took a 'wait and see' approach rather than dive into a speculative strategy I was not comfortable with.

It looks like the change to the release queue prize structure has affected the price path of a set over time. I think we'll see THS eventually reach a similar price as RTR did last year, it just won't happen as quickly. If the changes stick around, then there will be interesting short-term speculative opportunities on new cards immediately after a set release. With supply more constrained than it has been in the past, prices will be more volatile, as was observed last weekend when cards like Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea both spiked to over 20 tix.

Getting away from the short-term potential of a new set, the long-term trends are not favorable for any card from THS. This set will be drafted into the Summer of 2014 so we are a long way off from having a fundamental reason to acquire these cards. There might be some value in riding out or anticipating shifts in the metagame, but this carries higher risk. I prefer to take positions when supply is close to a peak and to take measured bets on cards that are intrinsically powerful but underplayed.

Return to Ravnica Block

There are quite a few cards worth selling from last year's sets, so I've taken the opportunity to completely sell down my Jace, Architect of Thought, Mizzium Mortars and Supreme Verdict. These are some of the most played cards in Fall Standard so it's no surprise that they are worth selling.

Meanwhile I am working on selling down my Boros Reckoner, Domri Rade, Nightveil Specter, Obzedat, Ghost Council, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Some of these, such as Nightveil Specter, I've been selling faster than others due to recent hype. Most of these are 'in the money' plays I've been sitting on since the Spring, so I'll patiently sell these down and move my tix into other specs. Catching the peak price on these is not a big concern as long as there are good opportunities for speculating elsewhere.

The GTC and RTR shocklands have started showing some price strength after falling in price during the second half of September and early October. Those who have built up positions should be patient with these and sell the trendier ones. I've been selling the odd Godless Shrine and Watery Grave this past week. In general the GTC shocklands seem to be holding more value than the RTR shocklands, for what it's worth.

Voice of Resurgence dropped a lot in the past week. At the same time, the paper version has been heading higher. This kind of divergence is interesting to me as it suggests that we're bound to get a correction in one of the markets. Keep an eye on this one. If there's going to be a Standard card that cracks 50 tix this year, this is it. I've been nibbling at this card as it has headed lower.

Cards like Sphinx's Revelation and Advent of the Wurm are languishing at low prices but I expect them to rise at some point. Don't get discouraged if they haven't broken out in price in the early going of Fall Standard. There are plenty of metagame shifts to come and we are still in a period of heavy THS drafting. Once focus drifts back to Constructed, there should be higher demand for constructed staples.

Core Set Moves

The reprinted core set planeswalkers are all at profitable levels if you had been buying these in August and early September. It looks like Ajani, Caller of the Pride might remain homeless again this year, but Liliana of the Dark Realms has started showing up in mono-black devotion decks. If we start seeing some results in paper, Liliana could push closer to 10 tix than the current price of about 4.5 tix. I can't advocate a 'buy', but it's worth watching.

Jace, Memory Adept hasn't really done much, but should probably head a little higher over the coming weeks. Taking small profits from Ajani and Jace is fine if you are moving the proceeds into M14 boosters or ISD block mythic rares, but Liliana should be a 'hold' right now.

Of the non reprints that I have been interested in, Chandra, Pyromaster and Garruk, Caller of Beasts have both performed very well and I've been reducing my stock of these. Chandra looks like she has topped out at around 20 tix, and Garruk might make it that high, but 15 tix is still a nice price. So far, Archangel of Thune has been a bust. I've reduced my position in this card, but I'd be an active buyer if the price drifts down in the 8 to 10 tix range.

As for the junk mythic rares from M14, I typically am looking for 0.6+ tix for these and will wait until I get the price I want. For this reason, I've sold down my stock of Ring of Three Wishes but I continue to hold the other junk mythic rares.

Plenty of the rares have seen sizable upside since Rotation. Although I did not go deep on Mutavault, it's at an attractive sell price at the moment and I would not hesitate to sell them. So far, the monocolour decks of Fall Standard do not suggest that Scavenging Ooze will find widespread use like Thragtusk did last year. Scavenging Ooze has been hovering in the 6-to-7-ticket range, and with Modern season a long ways away and M14 draft continuing to be popular, I don't think this will head higher in the near term. Lifebane Zombie and Tidebinder Mage have both moved higher this past week with the interest in monocolour Devotion decks. I've been selling down my copies in response.

Hopefully you've enjoyed a peak into what I've been up to in recent weeks. There's a lot of material here, so if you have a question about a specific move, bring it up in the comments and I can expand on my reasoning.

8 thoughts on “Insider: Portfolio Update

  1. Great article, Matt.

    Quick question: “As for the junk mythic rares from M14, I typically am looking for 0.6+ tix for these and will wait until I get the price I want. ”

    Do you mean you will sell if you see a buy price of over 0.6 tix? Or that you are looking for a profit of 0.6 tix (meaning sell price of closer to 1 tix, since you bought at under 0.4)?

    1. I was a buyer of the M14 junk mythic when they were 0.35 or less, so if the buy price is 0.6 tix or higher, then I’m generally happy with that. Sell price is usually then in the 0.9 to 1.0 tix range. Profit of about 1 tix per play set is fine. It’s grindy, but consistent.

      Essentially you should always be able to double up on junk mythics if you don’t over pay for them. It’s best to wait for periods of high demand. Also, in the off chance that a junk mythic starts to get played, then that’s a big bonus. So, being patient to get the right price also gives time for a junk mythic to potentially break out.

  2. Great article – I love the breadth of trends described, as well as the logical reasoning behind each of your assertions!

    You may have answered this before in a previous article (which I will now have to wade through in more depth!), but when you say you are “selling down” a card – are you selling to bot buylists, or do you run a bot yourself?

    In your “Planeswalkers of Innistrad Block” article last month you mentioned that your personal guess for Liliana of the Veil‘s low would be in the 20-25 tix range. What’s your current thinking for this card, as you mention recently purchasing copies of her (at what I assume is the market rate of ~43-46 tix)?

    1. Thanks!

      To answer your questions, when considering when to sell a card, I have 3 speeds. For me, ‘liduidate’ means to find buyers no matter the price, just get rid of a card. The other end of the spectrum is a ‘hold’, I want more information from the market before selling. In the middle is ‘selling down’, where I look for a good price and sell when I can, ie I’m not in a big rush and can accept some variance in the sell price.

      As for Lily, it looks like many people (myself included) have underestimated the supply and demand dynamics for this card. I suspect this might be mostly due to heavy redemption reducing available copies online.

      I saw some for sale at 42 tix and bought my playset (I dabble in playing Modern constructed), so I think we’ve seen the bottom at around 40 tix. It’s very difficult to make definitive calls on when a card has actually bottomed so usually I like to spread my buys out. If Lily comes down to 42-44 tix again, I might buy another playset.

  3. nice one, I have been tracking the rotation targets and was also wondering if they have already bottomed. Geist and resto both rising a bit in the last week. Do you think there is any value in waiting longer or just start acquiring specs now?

    1. Prices are fluctuating so it looks like some cards have bottomed, and some might go lower. Many of the casual and junk mythic rares have definitely bottomed. Some of the pricier mythics, like Craterhoof Behemoth, seem like they might go a bit lower.

      Overall, I think we’re close enough to the bottom that buying is correct.

  4. When reading the first part of this article, I noticed something interesting.

    You know the value of an m14-booster is better then an RGD one. But just last week, i was tired of therosdrafting and i found myself choosing wether to go m14 or RGD. I was thinking about what was best value… and decided to go RGD. Because Voice and Sphinx are a lot higher then Chandra.

    I guess I’m not the only one making this ‘mistake’ and you shouldn’t expect drafters to know the intrinsic value of a set; like i did, they just look at the highest priced cards to go into ‘the lottery’.

    1. I agree, not everyone will figure out which is better value, but core set limited remains popular online for different reasons. As long as the value in the cards is reasonable, and the price is comparable, core set will be played.

      Even still, I have taken to buying the odd draft sets of DGR. I think the upside is less than M14 boosters, but it’s a hedge and I don’t think we’ll see DGR go lower in price.

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