I’m writing this on the Monday after the Pro Tour, which is always a fun—and by fun I mean tense—time for speculators, since today is the day we’re going to find out how many orders ship and how many get cancelled. Speaking of the Pro Tour, it was great and all, but the real action this weekend was on Twitter. Watching the finance community go crazy over the many opportunities and price spikes was truly entertaining, and if you were on the ball, it was also profitable (again, assuming our orders ship).
I had a chance to make some nice purchases this weekend, but instead of feeling good about the money I’m going to make, I’m really just annoyed with myself for not being deep on any of these cards in the first place. Particularly vexing to me is Nightveil Specter, a card which many times was in my TCG Player shopping cart but was always deleted before submission. No, I put my money toward Advent of the Wurm and Prognostic Sphinx, neither of which showed up in the top eight at all. So how much did I lose?
Well, actually Advent is up $1.50 from where I bought in and Prognostic Sphinx has doubled. I was obviously hoping for better, but it’s hard to be too upset when a “failed” spec is still moving in the right direction. And it’s important to remember that we still have a ton of time for these specs to pan out—Advent will be in Standard for another year and Prognostic Sphinx for two. The results of one tournament, even the Pro Tour, do not dictate the metagame moving forward, and while this one caused a lot of spikes, nothing has crashed hard yet. So even though things didn’t go exactly the way I wanted, these specs are not failures unless I’m still holding them at rotation.
The mono-blue devotion deck received the most attention this weekend, resulting in huge increases on cards like Master of Waves, Tidebinder Mage, Nykthos, and the aforementioned Nightveil Specter. That’s old news by now, though, and the money to be made on those cards is going to come through selling them, not buying at this late hour. The fact that mono-blue devotion won the whole event actually bodes well for speculators, because the other top eight decks have not been hit as hard by hype-based spikes. Are there money-making opportunities, though?
A Look at the Top Eight
The top eight of Pro Tour Theros consisted of three mono-blue devotion decks, including the one piloted by eventual winner Jeremy Dezani. The rest of the top eight was a mix of Esper control, Orzhov midrange, colossal Gruul, mono-black devotion, and mono-red devotion. The decks that won the first two SCG Opens in Theros Standard, mono-red aggro and green-white aggro, are conspicuously absent from this top eight, which is honestly kind of cool. Diverse metagames are fun and potentially more profitable.
The ship has sailed on most of the cards in the mono-blue devotion deck, but I want to draw your attention to one in particular:
Eighteen copies of Mutavault appeared in the top eight, spread across six of the eight decks. Despite this, there was no movement on the price at all. Given that Mutavault is only a rare and also a reprint, there’s probably limited upside. But it’s also a Modern staple and has an obscene price history (the original printing was approaching $40 before the reprint), so who knows what to expect? I’ve been hoping it would eventually drop as low as $10, but after these results I don’t anticipate that ever happening. There’s probably not a lot of money to be made on such a high buy-in, but I am convinced now is the time to acquire a playset if you don’t have yours yet. For my part, Mutavault is now my primary trade target.
Most of these cards are already expensive, so I’m not really seeing a lot to excite me here. I do think I’ve changed my opinion on Aetherling, however. I have viewed this as a trade target for the last several months, but seeing as how it’s never played as a four-of, I just don’t think there’s very much upside. I’m going to hold my copies and see what happens, but I’m not going to actively seek these in binders anymore.
So I’m pretty embarrassed about my complete miss on Desecration Demon. A couple months ago I wrote, “I’ll be selling mine, but holding your copies isn’t horrendous.” I sure hope you disagreed with me, because the card has nearly quadrupled since then. I still don’t like the card, really, but the adage about a card not needing to be good in order to make you money is something I’m still learning. At least I erred on the side of not buying than buying in and having the price crash. It’s not like Desecration Demon was available for bulk prices—$2.50 is a significant price for a card I don’t like. How can I endorse such a buy?
Moving on, many of the cards in this deck have already seen a spike. Of those that haven’t, Precinct Captain is intriguing, as it is a rare four-of and the buy-in right now is only around $2. That price represents a 100% increase, though, so there may be no further bump. Soldier of the Pantheon is too high of a buy-in for my tastes, but it could see a double-up if white-based aggro decks start to post a lot of results. You need to be confident in your ability to move your copies quickly, though, since a ton of Theros will be opened and the ceiling isn’t too high.
I didn’t have a chance to see this deck in action, so I’m not sure how well the individual cards performed. Arbor Colossus is certainly a cheap purchase if you’re interested in penny stocks like I am. It seems a little generic for my tastes, though, so I’m not planning to buy in until I see more of the card.
Other than that, everything seems too high. Polukranos would probably be a buy at $8 if it weren’t in a duel deck, but duel deck printings seem to depress prices more than other supplementary products. The Planeswalkers or Nylea are worth a look, but my gut says “meh.”
For me, the coolest card in this deck is Gray Merchant of Asphodel, since I love seeing Limited staples perform in Constructed settings. As a common, though, I can’t really recommend buying.
The intriguing financial pick here is Underworld Connections, which can be had for less than a dollar and provides double value in the form of powering devotion and providing card advantage. It’s possible that costing a mana each turn makes this not quite good enough to blow up, but the price is certainly right.
It’s interesting to me that the previously-most-expensive god, Purphoros, was a three-of in a top eight deck at the Pro Tour, and yet is one of the few cards this weekend to actually drop in price. Still, I can’t imagine there’s much upside buying in at $17, so despite the results and the lower price, I’m continuing to avoid this guy.
Ember Swallower was also a three-of in this deck. I think it’s similar to Arbor Colossus: an inexpensive purchase, powerful but generic, and good with devotion strategies. Like Arbor Colossus, I’d like to see more of Ember Swallower before buying, but its aggressive cost has piqued my interest.
Is Hammer of Purphoros a buy? It saw some speculator attention after mono-red aggro took down the first SCG Open, but hasn’t moved up in price much since. Seeing it perform in a second archetype might push the card’s ceiling a little higher, so if you were on the fence on whether to buy in, this might be a sign to go for it.
This was an absolutely crazy weekend in the world of MTG finance, but where do we go from here? Personally, I’m much more interested in selling than buying in the coming weeks. Prices have jumped across the board and it’s time to start outing all those Return to Ravnica block staples you’ve been hoarding this summer.
After a month or two, Theros will have been drafted a whole lot, people will have their Standard decks built, and prices will start to settle. MTGO redemption will flood the market with these cards, and soon enough we’ll get to previews for Born of the Gods. When all those things have happened, Theros cards are going to be undervalued, and that’s the time to start establishing new positions.
If you are anxious to buy now, looking outside the Pro Tour top eight might be the best play. There are surely cards that received little to no attention this weekend that are being undervalued, and if you can identify those cards before they break out, you’re going to make money. On the other hand, there are very few cards that appeared in the top eight this weekend that haven’t been hyped to the point of overpricing.
Too often I see speculators who just want to buy in to something. To me, that’s similar to forcing a draft strategy. If you’re determined to take some action without considering the external factors, it’s probably going to go badly for you. If you instead stay open to opportunities and adjust when necessary, then you’re going to end up with good decks and juicy spec targets. And isn’t that what we all want?
@dbro37 on Twitter