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Insider: When to Hold ’em, When to Fold ’em

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No matter what the price of a card is according to any particular site, you haven't made an actual profit until you've converted the card back into cash.

This week's article is primarily a response to all the crazy price spikes happening in Modern right now. People are getting super excited that their $5 card suddenly jumped to $15 dollars but then they try to unload it and nobody wants it.

I constantly have people try to unload cards that recently spiked for my stable high-dollar cards (dual lands and other Legacy staples) and I just say no thanks. Part of the problem here is that price memory works both ways. When a $2 card suddenly jumps to $10 a lot of people will pass because they remember it at $2 just a short time ago.

Now, if you're in the boat of "has a bunch of cards that just spiked," right after (or during) the spike is often the best time to unload. Price spiking often creates false demand, which just means that demand is artificially increased due to people rushing to pick up a card and not wanting to "miss out", but this false demand dies quickly when the price peaks.

This is one of the main reasons our authors constantly re-iterate the concept of "leave the last 10% for the next guy"--it's always best to lock in solid profits as quickly as possible.

It's also important to understand whether a card's price jump is a price correction or a spike. Spikes occur very quickly and are usually caused by a buyout, a tournament breakout, or a new spoiler.

Price corrections occur when a card is underpriced given the amount of play it sees. These are typically more gradual price increases (though they may have a sudden jump) because the demand is sustainable as players are buying the cards to play.

Hold 'Em's (Recent Price Corrections)

Tectonic Edge

This card has gone from $2 to $4.75 within the past two months. It's been a known Modern staple, but many believed as an uncommon its ceiling was relatively low.

However it hasn't seen any additional printings (outside of Worldwake and FNM promo) and demand has finally outpaced supply. The fact that RWU control decks running four Celestial Colonnades have started to dominate the Modern scene just makes it that much more critical to run a way to deal with them--and they happen to fall right outside of Bolt/Helix range.

Birthing Pod

This card is a pillar of the Modern format, finding play in both Melira and Kiki-Pod decks. Until less than two months ago it was sitting around $5 for the longest time. The many fellow QSers who have been bullish on this card were clearly correct as it's now $10.

Phantasmal Image

A two-mana clone is nothing to sneeze at. It was dominant in Standard and remains excellent in Modern. The mana cost fits perfectly in Pod chains to allow for quick combo kills. The fact that almost every card in Modern that can target a creature is a kill spell already heavily mitigates its drawback.

In the past two months it has steadily increased from $4.75 to $7.5, slightly over a 50% increase.

Stoneforge Mystic

While not a Modern price correction, the sheer amount of X-Blade decks seeing in play in Legacy courtesy of True-Name Nemesis meant that this card was far more in demand than its previous $10 price tag suggested and was bound to jump. It has managed to hold its existing price of $27-28 for almost two months so it's safe to assume that price is here to stay.

Cryptic Command

This card was already on the rise before the Faeries deck become viable again (see the "Fold Em" section for my thoughts on the rest of that deck). This card is heavily played in the UWR control decks and now that Deathrite is banned, Snapcaster becomes better--snapcastering Cryptics is obviously brutal in the mirror.

A month ago this card was sitting at $25 before it began its ascent to $43-46. While it has been printed three times (including the Player Rewards card) its return to dominance along with blue in general means this price will likely stick until the next reprint.

Spell Snare

While this card hasn't actually jumped yet, most UWR control decks are running 2-3 of them (as are those damn Faeries players). With the return of Snapcaster/Helix decks, Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant's reprinting, and the rise of Merfolk, the number of two-drops in Modern has steadily increased.

Last year (pre-Modern Masters) this card was sitting in the $8-9 range mostly courtesy of Legacy play. It only has two printings, Dissension and Modern Masters. I believe it can easily jump to $4.5-$5.5 come Modern season and is a relatively safe buy. Given this is only a 50-60% price increase this seems better as a trade target though.

Fold 'Em's (Recent Spikes on Their Way Down)

Determining when to sell is one of the more challenging aspects of MTG finance. Some are obvious--you got the chase mythic from the new set worth a ton of money right now as supply is severely limited, you should get rid of it. Others are not obvious--this card just got banned in one of the main formats that played it, should I hold onto them or unload them before everyone else?

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

This card showed up as a one-of in the sideboard of the "Blue Moon" deck which broke out at PT Valencia. The basis of the deck was to lock your opponent out via Blood Moon and Spreading Seas and then win with Snapcaster Mages, burn, and Batterskulls. Teferi creates a "must counter" threat you can cast at the end of your opponent's turn.

The card quickly jumped to $30 and within a few days has already dropped down to less than $20. While the spike was artificial I feel that this card has a lot of potential in other decks--I only advocate selling now because the price is continuing to drop and you can rebuy them back later when it starts to plateau again.

Amulet of Vigor

This card showed up at the PT as the key card in a Summer Bloom deck with Hive Mind and Primeval Titan. The problem with the deck is that without the Amulet it is much slower (it plays a lot of ETB tapped lands and bounce lands) which lets any control deck just focus on countering the key cards.

Unfortunately Amulet lives and dies by this deck. While it does look fun to play, it lacks consistency and relies on a unique card with no suitable #4-8 replacements.

Porphyry Nodes

This card showed up in a few sideboards in the Top 8. It acts as a repeating removal spell (on the play) against creature-heavy decks. It's pretty "techy" and I imagine a lot of the creature-heavy decks were not prepared for it.

One of the real beauties is the downside of killing the "weakest" creature can actually be a huge boon they tend to be mana dorks which increase the aggro deck's velocity. By playing it turn one against an opposing Noble Hierarch they either have to pass the turn without doing anything, or lose both the Hierarch and their next threat.

This card was a bulk rare for the longest time until this breakout. The ability is powerful and it's not tied to any specific deck (it's good in any control deck which features white--a majority of them). However, as a one- to two-of in the sideboard, its current price is not likely to stick.

Bitterblossom, Mistbind Clique & Secluded Glen

It appears WoTC was correct in unbanning Bitterblossom. The fear of Faerie's dominance was clearly unfounded as people playing it at PT Valencia came away with nothing.

While I don't think Bitterblossom will drop back to the pre-jump price (as it was steady at $15 before the unbanning) I do think its decline will likely continue until it hits that $35-$40 mark. It will likely stay there until a reprint (which many believe will be in the Modern Event Deck coming out this spring).

The Mistbinds and Secluded Glens are far more likely to drop back to near their old prices (with maybe a 25-30% increase from those pre-spike prices).

13 thoughts on “Insider: When to Hold ’em, When to Fold ’em

  1. Great Article. What is you opinion on the other big cards of the format, mainly, Liliana, Fetchlands, Geist, Griselbrand, Cavern of Souls, etc. who have slowly climbed recently, which is a fold’ em and which is a hold’em? What about Creeping Tar Pit?, is that a price correction?

    1. Honestly…cards that creep up slowly are cards that are showing continuous increasing demand….thus they are not spikes. They are certainly not cards to just unload because you fear a price drop. Now that the Jace vs Vraska decklist is out everything but Remand appears to be safe for the moment (though we don’t know how many Remands you’ll get in the deck yet).

  2. How do you feel about Inkmoth Nexus? I’ve sold a couple sets but am still sitting on a couple more. Not sure what upside is left for this PTQ season, but also don’t know if there’s anything else worth buying into here?

    1. Well to be fair..the official modern PTQ season hasn’t begun yet (that starts in like June or so)..though given we had PT:Valencia and GP Richmond which consist(ed) of modern it appears that the whole “shifting the PTQ season back” attempt by WoTC didn’t really work. I do agree that Inkmoth Nexus’s promise is not looking all that spectacular anymore. Celestial Colonade has taken over as the “man-land of choice” now and Affinity didn’t put up good results at PT:Valencia. It’s still a powerful deck, but like Storm/Dredge in Legacy…the cards that hose it..do so really well and are plentiful. Inkmoth will get a bump when people start shifting their boards to focus on the main decks of modern and then it’ll do well and jump back on everybody’s radar. I do believe that it’s nearing it’s peak of demand and I wouldn’t invest much more into them for now.

  3. I completely agree, but when do you know it’s time to fold card to a fear or reprint because we have the modern event deck and possible reprints in conspiracy?

    1. Well to be 100% fair…WoTC CAN reprint anything (not on the reserved list) at any time for whatever reason…they choose not to for the most part because they understand that Magic cards need to maintain values on the secondary market or else people won’t feel as safe buying them (whether it be via secondary retailers or packs). That being said, they are showing a desire to keep modern affordable and they are willing to reprint the cards that they feel are getting out of hand, though they clearly are doing so from a very conservative point of view (Tarmogoyf/Dark Confidant/Vendilion Clique @ mythic, Thoughtseize kept it’s rarity, Mutavault kept it’s rarity, and only 1 copy of remand in the duel deck (when it could have easily been 2-4)). You will ALWAYS have the risk of reprint affecting your cards value, however, the good news is that (in one of my previous articles) I determined the typical value drop with a major reprinting was only around 27% (though it varied by card…one’s that used to be powerful and now are much more tame had a higher drop, whereas, one’s that are still just as powerful were a lesser drop). That being said, modern season hasn’t even “officially” begun, so any price drops caused by reprint (esp. from non-standard reprints) will likely be mitigated by increased demand for the modern season.

  4. thats a very great point, can you link me back to that article?, i just have a fear that the even deck can cause a thoughtseize effect, 70 dollar card to 15.

    1. Original thoughtseize’s haven’t dropped to 15…sure they took a big hit, but they are still closer to $30-40. There’s a huge difference in what a mass reprint does (i.e. printed in a standard legal set) and a smaller reprint (event deck, duel deck, modern masters, commander product) does because the # added to the supply is drastically different. The beauty there is that it’s rare that a card as powerful as Tarmogoyf/Dark Confidant could be reprinted in a standard legal set. Thoughtseize/Mutavault are fine on their own but they can be put into just about any set without throwing it’s power level through the roof. Thus I tend to avoid speculating on cards which are good at what they do, but can fill set voids like that in order for WoTC to help reduce the secondary market costs for modern players.

  5. I’d have to call a Tec edge a fold em . It already quadrupled up… And is a very likely candidate for the event deck since it can go in any deck

    1. I will admit that I was the most on the fence about tec. edge…but just because it can fit into lots of decks..doesn’t mean they will just throw it in…the price isn’t so out of hand that WoTC would feel the need to include it..

  6. I have no problem moving my teferis, and yeah it is a sell as a sb card. I cannot get behind the logic of “safe” legacy staples, but you know that asbi have sold them on the cheap to you many times. Legacy will die without a change in reprint policy. Too many players too little along the lines of mana base. PS : wizards is all over modern. The remand reprint is the latest along the lines of modern masters price controls they imploy to keep the format accessible.

    Shocks might not be appreciating in price but I am lining up a 250 $ sale at tcg prices for these things, and they continue to fly out of my binder. Demand and relatively cheap prices for land base = growing format.

    Legacy is more fun, but modern without deathrite is making up ground quickly. For me, legacy is useful in trying to predict what is undervalued, overplayed and/or overpowered. Deathrite banning seemed obvious even if I could never have guessed how it leaving modern would effect the meta. Meanwhile, cards like pgantasmal image and izzet charm are under reoresented in modern for now but will see more play as the format gets its own true name/baleful strix. Rug delver in modern already took notice of the charm.

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