We spend a lot of time buylisting, but do any of us really know what cards are worth?
Seriously, Do We?
If you're on the QS mailing list, you got a pick-the-pic e-mail this week all about foil cards. It was inspired by some real shocks I got while buylisting these past few weeks. I have a large backlog of cards, I get new collections all the time and I am buylisting a gigantic collection for someone for a cut of the profit. In short, buylisting, not speculating, takes up the bulk of my time lately.
Any card under $5 is really just not worth selling on TCG Player due to their fee structure and if you buylist, you'll often find you make more than what you'd make on TCG Player after fees and a stamp. I don't recommend buylisting a Force of Will necessarily, but I don't think it's worth listing foil Kor Skyfisher on TCG Player either.
Kor Skyfisher in my mind has become the poster child for "Holy crap, I'm glad I looked this up" cards. I don't know what you use to buylist--Trader Tools, Bidwicket, manually navigating store websites. Personally, I use Trader Tools 2 and it saves a lot of time.
...You Are Paid to Say That
Absolutely. Part of working at QS means that I support QS offerings whenever possible, and that involves talking about Trader Tools. I am absolutely paid to tell people to use Trader Tools. However, I am not paid to actually use Trader Tools, and that is an important distinction.
I used to use Bidwicket and now that Kelly has incorporated everything I want a buylisting site to include into Trader Tools, I use it despite not having to if I don't want to. Don't take my word for it, either, Shawn Massak at Hipsters of the Coast used it to buylist a large collection and our Insiders have lots of success with the tool as well.
I'm not here to sell you on Trader Tools. Use it, don't use it, it's up to you. Besides, don't get emotionally attached to Version 2 because Version 3 is coming and it makes Version 2 look like a piece of crap. I merely wanted to address the fact that although I would probably say I did regardless, I do actually prefer to use Trader Tools, found at mtg.gg, to buylist.
OK, I Believe You--What Was That About Kor Skyfisher?
As I was saying, one night I was plugging along listing a bunch of foils when I came upon a foil Kor Skyfisher and foil Steppe Lynx.
My mind started to wander a bit, thinking about how funny it was that two cards that both got a decent amount of play in Standard both rotated out, but here was Steppe Lynx, a powerful card that was featured in Tier 1 decks and would buylist for a buck or two and here was Kor Skyfisher, a total bulk casual card that I was going to end up throwing right back in the box it came out of. As a joke, I wanted to type in Skyfisher to see what it buylisted for.
I literally (no, of course not literally) pooped my pants when I saw that foil Kor Skyfisher was being bought for $0.89 and foil Steppe Lynx was being bought by the same vendor for $0.49. Sure, Steppe Lynx isn't seeing Modern or Legacy play, but its power is still etched in everyone's memory.
Lynx is a cube all-star, whereas Skyfisher seems more casual, and are casuals driving the foil price market? Did I just happen to do this on a weird day and get odd results? Whatever the case was, this experience upended a lot of my assumptions about how to pick and what to bother looking up. I found a lot of surprises.
In fact, let's play a game.
Let's see if you can pick which of the two cards is worth more. Remember, these are the foil prices.
Buylisting for $0.26, compared with $0.10 for the other card.
Buylisting for $0.73 compared with $0.35 for the other card.
Buylisting for $1.46 compared to the other card's $0.39.
It isn't just foil cards either. I was going through a pile of cards from Return to Ravnica and this one made me glad I looked everything up.
One of these cards is being bought for $0.50 (down from $0.75 before its reprinting in Commander 2013) and one of them doesn't show up if you set the buy price threshold at a dime.
I'm sure you've figured out that Guttersnipe is worth 10 Dryad Militants. Would you have guessed that? Maybe. But I am willing to bet that there are quite a few people out there who might pass over a card like Guttersnipe or freaking foil Kor Skyfisher when they do their picking.
A card's power, your demand for it locally and the number of times a card has been printed matter, but they aren't everything. Being a Legacy foil like Putrid Imp doesn't help it be worth more than a casual foil like Fire Servant. Being first-pick removal in Eventide draft doesn't help Unmake end up worth more than a durdly aura like Clout of the Dominus.
Are there rules to help you pick? I have to tell you, I buylist a lot and I haven't really found any rules that have helped me in my picking. What I have found is that there are certain cards, especially foils, that I am very glad I looked up.
A few guidelines may help you though.
- Power in Standard only matters if the card hasn't rotated. No one needs Disfigure anymore, but Spreading Seas wasn't a pick and now is.
- Cube and Casual cards are cards you may miss. I didn't know what Fire Servant did until very recently. Not a bad card at all, but no one card when it was Standard-legal.
- Being played in Legacy doesn't matter as much as you think for cards under five years old.
- RTFC. Not knowing what a card does isn't justification for skimming past it. We all miss valuable cards because we're not all casuals.
If you're inclined to use Trader Tools, what I do is pick a set and display just that set. Then I sort by buy price to see if there is anything above a dime that I would otherwise skip over. You pull every rare automatically, but do you pull every Child of Night? (Trick question, you shouldn't--that card isn't worth anything.)
Not every collection you get will be set-sorted, but if you spend an hour every few months checking the sets sorted in this way you may find a few surprises. If you are already picking Shrieking Affliction, great, but if you didn't know it was being bought for a dime while dealers are all set on Dryad Militant, seeing it in the list in this way is a big help.
Check store buylists and bidwicket periodically. If a card has a high buy price, it could be because the store needs copies badly in which case once you satisfy their demand the price will normalize. But it could also mean there is something you don't know and really should.
I have learned to treat these little surprises as opportunities. If these little price discrepancies surprise someone who is primarily concerned with the price of a card, they are likely to be lost on someone who only cares about a card's playability. If someone traded you a set of foil Skyfisher straight up for a set of foil Steppe Lynx, you'll both come out of the deal ahead, and isn't that the goal?
The Star City Games Open in New Jersey was cancelled due to weather so that means all I need to do is cover the Legacy Grand Prix. Mexico City had a Limited Grand Prix, but that doesn't give us much info we can use. There were some PTQs, and a lot of my friends did well in some, but those are a pain to track down and I'm sure you wouldn't mind not talking about Standard for a week, even if it's new.
I will show you one thing in Standard, though, because everyone thinks it's funny.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The same people who brought us tentacle porn and used panties in vending machines have brought us a deck with maindeck Chromanticore.
For the record, I never said Chromanticore was a bad card. I said it was a stupid card, and it looked like it was designed by a nine-year old. If it finds a five-color shell where it's a Baneslayer every once in a while and pairs well with Xenagos the God, so be it. That doesn't change the fact that it's a durdle card for durdles, and should be legendary so I could build an EDH deck around it.
Let's talk about the Grand Prix in Paris, and also about why there aren't four Legacy Grands Prix a year. Actually, that last question we can tackle first. The official Wizards position on that question is "because." Now we can move on.
Let's Talk Legacy
Grand Prix Paris was not expected to break any significant ground, but a little bit of tech did pop up.
Armed with hindsight, we know that Sylvan Safekeeper appeared as a one-of in one sideboard. This isn't particularly new tech--the card was already good in Maverick decks.
Protecting your Mom, filling your yard with land to buff Knight of the Reliquary, and, Jesus I am dating myself here, but Terravore and even sacrificing Tropical Island against Merfolk--the card was a thing. Tutorable with Green Sun's Zenith, the card was a fine one-of.
As the sun set on Maverick, Safekeeper went with it. At its height, the card never really went above $2, and it would need significant adoption to get even that high after sinking below $1.
That's why when I saw this,
I was a little skeptical. I am certainly not buying a card that has historically struggled to go above $2 on the basis of "some number of copies in some number of decks doing well in Paris."
I scoured coverage trying to get a glimpse of a deck tech interview, camera time, something. If this was somehow the cornerstone of a new deck I wanted to see what was what before I actually paid money. Before I saw exactly what was up, I saw another tweet.
I figured this was an excellent test of the market. Chas shared the tech with the Finance subreddit and if I was right about that subreddit being populated by sheep, bait like that dangled in front of them would have been too much to resist. For whatever reason, that subreddit has developed its own set of criteria for what determines a good spec, and chief among them seems to be "number of NM copies on TCG Player," which isn't the worst criterion, although that information is almost meaningless on its own.
With Safekeeper starting to sell, would the sheep follow over the cliff? Was I a moron for not filling a shopping cart with the 20 copies one dealer had for $0.79? Was I missing great new tech?
Weekend results show us that the Lands deck was using Safekeeper as a one-of out of the board to protect their Merit Lage token from doom as it swung for the win. Not bad tech, certainly. Is it a reason to buy Safekeeper, especially now that the $1 copies are gone?
I was proud of and disgusted with Reddit at the same time. I was proud of them for not pouncing on this obviously iffy (to me) spec like they might have in the past. Low downside isn't a good thing if there is a historical basis for low upside as well. I expected a feeding frenzy. Instead, they were almost insulted that Chas would dare try to use them to buy the card out for him.
Now I know Chas and Chas is a good guy. There is a 0% chance that he was attempting a pump and dump here. The fact that he told people immediately on Twitter and on Reddit instead of his weekly article meant that people could buy in while there was still time to actually benefit from his tip.
It is puzzling to me that someone like Chas with a reputation to protect and who would not sacrifice that reputation for like $50 tricking people into buying Safekeeper was regarded with such suspicion, but Joe Blow Nobody with a week-old account can tell people about Fist of Suns and watch the internet sell out.
A few trolls treated Chas so poorly that he said he'd never be back. I don't blame him. He tried to do a good thing and let people in on some inside info and even the people who didn't say that he was cancer (direct quote) did, in my opinion, something much worse, and that was to treat him like he was attempting to trick them in some way.
The people who regarded him with suspicion as if he valued his reputation so little probably don't think what they did was worse than the troll who called him cancer. They're wrong.
While they seem to be getting better at evaluating specs, or at least waiting for results the way they didn't with Fist of Suns, they aren't better at evaluating motives, and that's unfortunate. Chas, if you're reading this, buddy, that subreddit needs you more than you need it, and stick to doing nice things for people who deserve it.
Safekeeper may not have panned out, but with such low upside it's not like anyone took a bath. Low risk specs like that are rare, and Safekeeper could easily have been the cornerstone of some meta-breaking deck. If Fist of Suns can hit $10 in a weekend, $1 on Safekeeper seemed, pardon the pun, pretty safe. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
As long as we're talking about it, I love this Lands deck to pieces. The best part for me was that from what I can gather, the reason Kasper Euser didn't run Tabernacle is that he didn't have any. Is that why he got 14th? Probably not, but Tabernacle is a helpful card indeed. Still, eschewing it carves hundreds off the cost of the deck and that makes it attractive in my opinion. The deck is posting results and it's fun.
Elves and Sneak and Show did worse than the Lands deck to round out the Top 16 "14th place and worse" segment of the article.
We had Sneak and Show in 12th and 13th place, and none in the Top 8. A deck that had people complaining about its power level and predicting bans should have done a little better if the bellyachers are correct as they so infrequently are.
Sneak and Show is a powerful deck and gets free wins but it takes more than that to win a GP. You need consistency as much as you need luck, and having games where you get all of your enablers and no monsters or all monsters and no enablers do more to hurt the deck than any sideboard card. Combine that with a miserable mirror match and you have a recipe for a deck that is just another good Legacy deck and nothing more.
RUG Delver in 11th is no surprise. The deck ran two True-Name Nemesis which reassured me that the deck wants them. SCG Open results are all we've got, but better players means you can have a bit more confidence in the choices given the better field and longer event. I expect this is a card that belongs in this deck.
10th place's Pod deck was a surprise. Six months ago people argued with someone on the podcast (it might have been Corbin or maybe it was even me, I don't remember) who said Birthing Pod was a good pickup at $3. "It's in an event deck as a two-of, idiots" was the general tone.
Now people wonder how the card could ever have possibly been cheaper than $10. With implications in Legacy on top of its marquee status in Modern, this "feels" like a $10 card to me, and while it's most likely too late to buy in, I am confident socking these away at $10 since I expect them to hold value. Recurring Nightmare misses its friend, Survival of the Fittest, but this deck is a nice evolution of Nic Fit and I like seeing Pod in Legacy.
Esper Stoneblade made 9th and that does it for the "almost Top 8" portion. Stoneforge Mystic is looking more and more like a blue card every day with how well it pairs with True-Name and how much card advantage it can get you.
The Top 8 Esper Stoneblade deck piloted by Stefan Böttcher also ran this powerful combination, although I like Böttcher's build a bit better. Maybe it's because he makes me feel okay about all the Deathrite Shamans I am sitting on.
Jean-Mary Accart opted to run Painter's Stone against the metagame. I feel like as far as "combo" decks go, this one can see a lot of dead draws, but modern builds have made use of cards like Jaya Ballard to make sure you get mileage out of Painter's Servant if you can't resolve a stone. I like the Chandra Reuben Bresler ran in his list, but this is a stock list and it's fine. It was good enough for Top 8 after all.
Loïc Le Briand opted for Reanimator. There has been a real renaissance (pun intended) of this deck lately, which has buoyed Griselbrand's price quite a bit. I expected Gris' price to be what it is now a year or so from now and I thought I had more time to pick them up. Not so as it has seen myriad uses between Legacy and Modern and despite its banning in EDH casual players still like it, too. Expect this to be high for the foreseeable future.
Jóse Manuel Fernández Castelló decided to run BUG Goodstuff. He called it "Team America" and I suppose this was the inevitable evolution of that deck. Running smaller creatures than before and cutting Dark Confidant, the deck leans on its spells more than before.
Not as ballsy a choice as it was when Gerry T said "Screw it" and jammed both Tombstalker and Force of Will in the deck along with Dark Confidant, the deck is really benefiting from True-Name Nemesis if Delver and Tarmogoyf can't get the job done. This is always going to be a good color combination in Legacy.
Philipp Schönegger, Maxime Gilles and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa were all on Miracles. While Miracles didn't win the event, seeing three copies in the Top 8 bears noting. Do I think there is financial opportunity here? I don't, no. Seeing this many copies of Terminus and Entreat the Angels is interesting, but this is hardly a new deck in Legacy.
The deck didn't get better, the players did. I don't think players who are worse at Magic than PVDDR are going to pick this deck up and all of a sudden this will be three in every Top 8. Two of these Top 8 finishers have been playing this deck for years, after all. I wouldn't crack my piggy bank to buy Terminus, folks.
Javier Dominguez had the best BUG deck, in my opinion, and he won the event accordingly. I can't advocate not running Dark Confidant in this deck. Zero-mana card draw is very important and if you're cutting Tombstalker, the lower mana curve makes Dark Confidant a great choice.
He'll eat removal they could use on Delver, he is practically unblockable when your life is low and he draws cards. He's one of the best creatures ever designed and he belongs in a deck with one- and two-mana creatures.
Deathrite Shaman will always be sicko in Legacy and I don't expect Abrupt Decay's price to dip as much at rotation as some others do. I like my foil Abrupt Decays long term--I think $50 will happen sooner than I had initially anticipated. There may be a bit of a dip at rotation, but with as many poised buyers as sellers, I wouldn't bet on a precipitous one.
No pet decks in evidence, if you ask me, besides Elves although that's been a real contender of late.
That does it for me this week, folks. How I managed 3,400 words on a week where I thought I'd get to take it easy because of the SCG Open being cancelled, I'll never understand.