2013 Year in Review: Financial

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This game of Magic means a variety of things to each of us. For most of you, competitive events drive you and motivate you. You read my articles chronicling my adventures traveling across the east coast of America in my efforts to qualify for the Pro Tour as well as to find sweet new decks to try out.

Recently I have been including morsels of financial information sprinkled into some of my articles too. What you may not know is that the financial side of Magic is a huge part of my life.

Throughout my years playing this epic game, I have been an avid trader. Before there were articles on the financial aspect of Magic, I was funding much of my play through trading. Many of the skills the writers on this site help readers to learn, I’ve been using for years.

After a while, I stepped up my game by buying collections and speculating on cards I thought would increase in value. Even though I had much success with those things, I am a cautious person so I did not expand my investments as rapidly as maybe I should have.

I’ve buylisted more cards than I can keep track of, ran the singles for a store, and now I own my own store with a friend of mine. This all said not because I am trying to arrogantly tell you what you should do with your investments, but rather, to bring to light that this is not a new endeavor.

Magic finance has been a part of my life for a decade. It has always been there regardless of how well I am doing this month in tournaments and it will still be there after I bomb an event. The trade tables will rejuvenate me after some poor performance now and then because I love trading.

After last year, I wondered just how effective my speculating was becoming and decided to keep a log of all of my investments throughout the year.

1-1 Whispering Madness

Ordered 12 copies for $18.

Chapin is a great writer and had me hooked with this bait right away. Obviously this spec did not pan out, nor will it ever most likely, but I keep them as a reminder to trust my instincts rather than someone else's. If some other cards had been printed in Return to Ravnica block though, I think this could have been part of a crazy combo deck.

1-11 Auriok Champion

Bought 2 copies for $5. Sold for $10. Profit $5.

There are so many shops all across the US, don’t just hang out at your local one. When the opportunity presents itself, check out a new shop. You may find some underpriced cards as well as have a fun time in a new shop. Always inspect the case for cards you can make money on.

1-20 Razorverge Thicket

Ordered 12 copies for $25.

From the information I’ve gathered, nearly everyone in the finance community has tons of these lands in their spec boxes awaiting the day when they go up in value. I traded for all the lands in the cycle aggressively because they should be going up in value due to Modern play.

The green-white land in particular still seems like the best bet because it sees play as a four-of in two different Modern decks. Despite how much play it has seen, the price has not been affected. At this point, I am debating bailing on the investment to reinvest the money elsewhere. I will probably wait until Modern season to move them though.

3-8 Craigslist Collection

Bought for $655. Sold for $775. Profit $110.

Hunting down collections is a ton of fun and I don’t do it nearly enough. I started off buying cards from friends who needed money or were selling off chunks of their collections.

Even though I hate to see someone leave the game, I’m excited to look through their assortment of cards. No two collections are alike, so even though there will be some big overlap with bulk commons and uncommons, each group of cards you acquire will be an interesting journey into someone's gaming life.

Craigslist helped facilitate the purchase of this particular collection. Looking over a Craigslisting can be a tricky affair and I recommend always flipping through the collection before you purchase it to make sure you are paying a fair price. Obviously you want to make money on the purchase, but the main goal is to make sure you don’t drastically overpay for a huge pile of bulk.

For this specific collection I was excited about the specific cards that were listed. Things like Survival of the Fittest and other sweet cube cards I’d been looking for were all on the post for this collection.

When I went to see the physical cards though, I found out that many of these desirable cards were gold bordered. You can imagine how much that changed the value of the the whole lot. I did manage to talk him down some and still walk away with the collection, but I was worried about it being profitable. Luckily Grand Prix Pittsburgh was right around the corner, so between buylisting at that event and selling to friends, I was able to come out ahead on the investment.

3-13 Friends Collection

Bought for $760. Sold for $1120. Profit $360.

Right after I bought the last collection, a friend of mine decided to get out of the game again. He has sold his collection a number of times, mostly to me, but he will be back just like he always is.

This time through he had decided to buy playsets of each set once the Magic Online set redemption hit. That made it an easy collection to price and an easy one to move.

I ended up holding onto many of the cards from his collection, like all his shocklands, which helped a lot when my shop got off the ground. As it turns out, I did make some money on this collection but mainly because it turned into inventory so I could get full value out of it.

When buying from friends, I always try to keep a small profit margin. Basically I look at it like selling their collection for them. They pay me a small fee for my time and they still get most of what they would have gotten if they had done it on their own. This model has been working for me for a while because players are encouraged to know that I’m going to give them as much money as I can.

3-27 Ajani Vengeant

Ordered 11 copies for $55. Sold for $104. Profit $49.

Right after Jund with white mana broke out in Modern, there was a small window to get in on one of my favorite planeswalkers of all time. There were tons of copies of this card available because it has been printed three times. The prerelease promo really kept the price of Ajani down and limited how much he could grow, but he still doubled in value over a short time period.

The key to spikes like this is often how quickly you flip them. As soon as I got these in the mail, I was on a mission to move them and successfully did so at one of the events I attended.

3-30 Bruna, Light of Alabaster

Ordered 8 copies for $9.

Our very own Sig recommended this spec here on the site and I agreed with him that it was a good investment. The price point was extremely low, which means low risk. Unfortunately this one has not panned out because neither the Commander community nor the casual community have adopted this angel as was thought they would. There is still a possibility for a lot of growth on this card so I’ll happily hold onto her for a while yet.

6-1 Dark Depths

Ordered 6 copies for $98. Sold for $118. Profit $40.

Here’s another spec generated from Gatecrash. This one came about because of the combo with Thespian's Stage. If you have a Dark Depths and Thespian's Stage you can make your Thespian's Stage into a copy of Dark Depths and get your 20/20 right away.

With this combo Legacy-legal and easily fetchable, the price jumped quickly. Thankfully the price stayed up because I did not have a chance to move these cards until July.

8-1 Collection via a Friend

Bought for $100. Sold for $325. Profit $225.

The nice thing about buying collections is that once players in your area know you are buying, people start bringing the collections to you. In this case, a longtime friend of mine got me in contact with the seller and facilitated the deal.

It was a small collection, but the lower-end portion of the rare binder proved to have higher buy prices than I estimated so I ended up coming out pretty far ahead on this one for little work. Normally it takes a bit more effort than this, but I was happy with the quick and easy collection flip.

8-10 Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Ordered 8 copies for $104. Sold for $160. Profit $54.

M14 was being spoiled and not enough players or writers were talking about Garruk, Caller of Beasts. From my perspective analyzing the set, this was one of the best cards in M14. It took a couple days to convince myself, but when I saw copies for under $15, I jumped on the opportunity. I was only able to move them for $20, not as much as I had hoped, but profit is still profit.

8-20 Doom Blade (Full Art)

Ordered 12 copies for $36. Sold for $76. Profit $40.

The full art cards are some of my favorite Magic cards. Not only do we have lands, that many players use now, but the textless spells are also awesome to look at. If there is a textless version like that of Mana Leak or Rampant Growth, I like using them instead of the normal or foil versions.

Surprisingly not many players share this opinion with me and so the textless spells are worth significantly less than what I think they should be. Either way, I was still able to make a small profit on some sweet Doom Blades.

9-13 Nightveil Specter

Ordered 6 copies for $5. Sold for $30. Profit $25.

This spec is my one regret of the year. I regret it not because I bought in, but because I didn’t buy in further. When Gatecrash came out, I felt this card was strong enough to see play. Unfortunately the metagame did not agree with me and all the copies I traded for moved in and out of my binder frequently.

Players genuinely liked this card but it was not quite good enough to keep up with Jund and the rest of the meta at that time. When Theros came out and devotion became part of the new metagame, I knew it was time for my pet Gatecrash card. I wish I had followed my gut and obtained more copies of this metagame pillar, but there is always next time.

10-10 Thassa, God of the Sea & Tidebinder Mage

Ordered 4 copies of Thassa for $56 and 4 copies of Tidebinder for $5. Sold them all for $120. Profit $59.

Thassa, God of the Sea and Tidebinder Mage both happened shortly after Nightveil Specter. Once the Pro Tour results started coming in and Mono-Blue Devotion showed how dominant it was, I jumped on board quickly. Not only did I want to play this deck, but so did everyone else.

Quick money can often be obtained just by watching Pro Tour coverage and thinking about the financial implications. Pro Tours and Grand Prix move prices more than SCG or TCG events do, so keep that in mind as well.

Current Specs

Here are some of my current specs that I have not cashed out on yet.

*10-22 5 Primal Vigor for $25
*11-20 11 Prime Speaker Zegana $25
*12-5 22 [Card]Saxos of Meletis[Card] $11

Primal Vigor from the Commander 2013 set seems poised to gain value due to its similarity to Doubling Season. Doubling your tokens is a potent strategy in Commander and having more ways to do so facilitates that plan more effectively. This enhancement should be double digits hopefully in the near future.

For as powerful as Prime Speaker is, her price has dropped dramatically low. I’m tempted to buy more copies of this card-drawing beast for under $3 because the possible upside is astounding. In addition, I have been casting her in Standard to draw a new hand in the midgame, and no one can keep up with it. I don’t think my BUG deck is the next big thing, but I do like how it attacks the metagame.

Comparing Daxos of Meletis to Nightveil Specter seems obvious, but I might argue Daxos is even better. Not only does he have the same card advantage ability, he also gains life!

Daxos is lacking a home right now, but he is powerful enough to see play so keep your eye on him. Tons of copies can be found for $.50 each and you should be able to get this card as a throw-in on your trades.

One way Nightveil Specter is better is that you can cast the card as long as you control it, whereas with Daxos you must cast it that turn. Even though your window is limited, you can cast any card no matter if it’s a different color than you’re playing. All of your opponent’s powerful spells are at your finger tips.

Throughout this article and others I've mentioned that I opened a card store. So, most of my efforts in the financial community have been managing our buylist and prices on cards in the case. I have done some speculating as I mentioned above, but the shop has kept me pretty busy. I love managing the buylist and being able to offer more than a typical buy price for cards I think will go up in value.

Our store, called Galaxy Games out of Wintersville, Ohio, is doing fairly well for being open less than two months. We are looking forward to growing and improving the store for our local players. If you're in the area, come say hello.

One tip from watching what singles we move more than others, Mutavault is not done increasing in value. You may have noticed its continual growth, but you may not have known that all the copies under $25 are disappearing from the internet very quickly.

I expect it to continue to rise as long as it continues seeing tons of play. $30+ is not out of the question for the second coming of Mutavault.

Overall, I am extremely happy with my results in Magic finance this past year. I was able to invest relatively small amounts of money at a time and still make almost a grand in the process. Plus, it's a ton of fun seeing your spec hit.

There were no really big jumps like I've had in the past, but I'm happy with the profit margins I was able to achieve. Keeping a log of my transactions was extremely beneficial and I highly recommend it for others. While I may not invest as some of the other financial experts in the community, I did lock in profit on 10/13 investments. Finance is a ton of fun.

Give me some feedback in the comments about how you liked this article.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the #MtgFinance Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

Tournament Tips

"Every single deck requires a lot of technical skill to pilot well regardless of whether it is aggro, combo, midrange, or control. Many players unfairly assign judgments to decks and label them as either newbie or impossibly difficult decks to play."

- Brian DeMars

The short story is that every deck is complex to play and requires a lot of decisions. Even if you are playing an aggro deck, you need to decide how many threats to commit to the board as well as when to attack.

Magic is wonderful and complex and every deck is skill-intensive. Some decks may be harder for you to pilot than others but that does not mean the one you are playing is easy, it's just easier for you.

Whatever deck you decide to play, practice with it so that you can play it at a high level. These days, every card is so powerful that the average deck at FNM or a SCG Open will be good competition. The part you can control is your level of skill at the deck you chose to play.

6 thoughts on “2013 Year in Review: Financial

  1. Another great article! What is your opinion on the future of Domri Rade. He’s so powerful, and as each new set comes out, bringing with it new strong creatures, he’s bound to see more play…. Or, perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part. What do you think?

  2. Domri is great. I think he is a long term great investment. I’m not sure there is a ton of room for growth but I’d get a set and hold onto them. What I know is that he definitely playable, and quite good, in modern. That says to me, he should hold more value than others when rotation comes around.

  3. Thanks for the year of articles Mike. Although I only got into mtgfinance mid-year, articles like yours have kept be entertained and knowledgeable across multiple facets of the mtg scene. Looking forward to your 2014 articles!

  4. What a wonderful article. I am currently starting a shop myself. While I have been into mtg finance for a while, even these free articles can provide insight. Did you purchase an existing store or make one yourself? I too have been buylisting higher than other websites on staple cards with high turnover rates.

    Any other tips for managing a shop would be welcome. Are there any stickies in the paid forums?

    1. Good luck with starting your new shop. It can be quite demanding so hopefully you have some friends to help you out. My friend and I did purchase an existing store, but he was not very successful and didn’t have a lot of stuff. Most of our start up was from our personal collections. I’m not sure about the forums, I don’t have much time to spend on them. Feel free to message me with any questions you might encounter though.

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