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Zero to Draft Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Howdy, folks! It’s been a while since we checked in on my Zero to Draft project, so that’s the plan for today. If you haven’t read the intro article, you can find that here.
Let’s start with taking a look at my overall stats:
Events played: 11 total – nine drafts, one sealed, one 2HG sealed
Money spent: $114
Money received from card sales: $75.52
Buylist value of trade binder: $62.92
Net money spent: -$24.44
Packs held: 9
Draft record: 19-3
Sealed record: 5-3
When I first began this project, my vision was to combine good trades with occasional prizes to draft for the season at little to no cost. As it’s turned out, besides opening Stormbreath Dragon, Thoughtseize, and Xenagos, the Reveler at prerelease and release events, cards of significant value have eluded me. Those three high-value cards were a great start to the project, but I sold the two mythics right away while prices were still in prerelease-hype land, and used the Thoughtseize to trade up into an Arid Mesa. The fetch land isn’t going anywhere until Modern season, and since that trade, the most valuable card I’ve drafted has been Heliod, God of the Sun. That means I haven’t really had significant trade bait during the course of this series.
Luckily, I’ve been winning a lot. My Draft record is almost embarrassingly good— way better than I imagined when I started this project. I wish I could say I’ve solved the format, but I haven’t been nearly as successful online. Still, I’ve done around 60 Drafts on MTGO, so I likely have significantly more experience in the format than all but a few players at my LGS. My Draft record is certainly impacted by some easy matchups against newish players, but I’ve also won my share of matches versus competitive players with varying levels of Pro Tour and Grand Prix success. Regardless of who I’ve played, 19-3 is way better than I expected.
I obviously think this whole situation is sweet, but the problem is that I don’t want you to think you need an 86% win percentage to play for free. I’ve noted that I’ve been getting unlucky with what I open, but I’d be foolish to think my win-loss record wasn’t at least partially impacted by good luck. These kinds of things ebb and flow—sometimes you might find yourself opening money rare after money rare but completely unable to win a match. We can’t plan in advance for our wins and losses or what we crack in packs, but we can make the best of our situation once it becomes known.
This is a finance website, though, and I’m not here (or probably even qualified) to teach you how to win in Theros Draft. But with so little trade bait, I’ve been making very few trades. How can I bring the spotlight of this series back to finance?
Part of my problem is that I’m not thinking on the correct scale. I’ve been telling folks I need Spellskite and Griselbrand and Cavern of Souls, but I don’t have a binder full of sweet Modern cards or expensive Standard cards to trade for those up-and-coming staples. Furthermore, Draft night at my LGS is Draft only, which means Constructed players aren’t really hanging around in great numbers. The trade binders of Limited players are often made up of only the set(s) being drafted, and I’ve been pretty vocal about not being interested (for now) in what Theros has to offer with regards to speculation.
All this has resulted in me just not trading as much, but dammit, I want to be trading more. So I’m going to have to figure out what Theros, M14, and Return to Ravnica block cards are worth targeting despite my misgivings. In this type of situation, I like to check Trader Tools to determine which cards have the lowest spreads.
The lowest spread for a card in Theros is for Temple of Silence at 30%. The next lowest are:
Stormbreath Dragon (32%)
Erebos, God of the Dead (33%)
Sylvan Caryatid (35%)
Temple of Deceit (36%).
Based on the points I made in my article last week, I’m holding off on getting in on any scry lands. I think there’s a good chance they’ll be worth buying eventually, but I anticipate a drop in price when Born of the Gods is released. As such, I don’t love them as a spec at this time, nor do I like the other rare on this list, Sylvan Caryatid.
This leaves Erebos, God of the Dead and Stormbreath Dragon. Of these, I like Erebos significantly more: it sees play in Mono-Black Devotion, is a mythic, is currently priced lower than $10, and is just generally cool. The dragon is cool, too, but is it really going to spike to Thundermaw Hellkite levels? Remember that the Hellkite was from a core set, which are notoriously undersold. Thus, there are going to be a lot more Stormbreath Dragons in existence than Thundermaws, and this isn’t even taking into account the fact that Thundermaw is probably better. Buying in at $20 seems dangerous.
I’ve been trading for Liliana of the Dark Realms, as the spread is only 29% and $5 is roughly the floor for most planeswalkers. I don’t have a ton of faith that this will ever spike, but Mono-Black Devotion is a thing, so it is possible. I don’t particularly like the card, but I’m happy to pick them up at this price, even if it's just to out them whenever I submit my next buylist.
Mutavault and [card/]Scavenging Ooze[/card] are priced a little high right now, but I still like acquiring them in trade when I have the chance. Eternal reprints in undersold sets like this have a good chance to rebound back in price more than your typical reprint.
Ignoring the 11 cents Troll and Toad is paying for a single copy of Wind Drake, the lowest spreads for cards in Dragon’s Maze are:
Master of Cruelties (26%)
Blood Baron of Vizkopa (32%)
Maze's End (32%)
Progenitor Mimic (34%)
Voice of Resurgence (36%).
All five of these are mythics, and Dragon’s Maze was a small third set that was generally disliked. Add to this the fact that its Draft format was disrupted by the release of Modern Masters. These circumstances alone probably make any cheaply-acquired mythics from the set a good hold, but if I had to choose one, I’d pick Progenitor Mimic for its casual appeal and low price. There’s not much risk here, but there’s a lot to gain if it hits, both in the short term and the long term.
I’m unexcited by the cards with the five lowest spreads in this set, but scanning further down the list shows Prime Speaker Zegana at a reasonable 39%. I’ve been touting this card since it fell below $3, and I still have faith that good things could happen here. Like Progenitor Mimic, this one is nice because if it fails as a Standard spec, it will likely still pay off in the long term as a casual spec.
Return to Ravnica
The card with the lowest spread in which I’m most interested is Abrupt Decay(36%). This is kind of an interesting one, because it’s a rare from a fall set and there are basically infinite copies out there. But the card is a Modern and Legacy staple and there will likely not be a similar card printed for some time. Scooping these up when the opportunities present themselves shouldn't be bad.
With the same spread, Chromatic Lantern is also a good pickup, but in this case, it’s for the casual crowd. This seems likely to be a $5 card in a year or two, similar to Coalition Relic. Remember that EDH doesn’t need new people to start playing to create a demand for more cards, it just needs the current players to build more decks (Jason Alt detailed this line of thought quite well in the Brainstorm Brewery podcast from a couple weeks back).
When I don’t take the time to do this type of research, trading can be a crapshoot. Since I don’t play Constructed, there aren’t often cards I need for decks. If I don’t have specific cards I’m seeking, I just end up winging it. Sometimes this causes me to make bad trades, but more often it just causes me to waste time. Picking out about ten recent cards to focus on acquiring helps both my trade partners and me.
I still think Modern cards are the place to be these days, but since the binders I’m seeing are filled with Standard/Limited cards, it seems prudent to determine which ones are the best to target. As traders, we should know what types of cards are likely to show up in local trade binders, know which specific ones offer the most potential profit, and have the appropriate stock to make the trades happen.
Let me know what Standard cards you think are best to target in the coming weeks. Spread isn’t everything, but it sure can be instructive. Is there a card with a high spread that nonetheless has a high upside for profit? Please share your thoughts in the comments!