Every year about this time, I like to start combing the current block on TCGplayer to see what rares are priced at bulk rates. I generally define bulk as anything available at 15 cents or below, but you could make a case for 25- or even 50-cent cards being bulk, too.
Buying into a card at bulk prices is often a waste of time, but it also entails very little risk. You can almost always get 10 to 15 cents for bulk rares, so buying in at or barely above that price means you’re putting very little money on the line. If a 15-cent card starts seeing Standard play, the multiplier on these types of specs can get absurd. If a 15-cent card hits $1 on buylists, that’s nearly a sevenfold increase. We’ve seen this type of thing happen in Standard recently with cards like Sever the Bloodline and Nightveil Specter.
There aren’t always opportunities, especially as more people get interested in MTG finance, but it’s worth taking a look. After more than six months of constantly drafting Theros, the time has come to start keeping a careful lookout for these types of specs—all the way until the fall release.
A Look at Theros Bulk
Going by TCGplayer low with shipping included and/or lots of copies for sale, the following cards are available for 20 cents or less:
There’s not a lot to love here, but the card with the most possibility is Triad of Fates. As a legendary creature in a color combination popular with casual players, this could see some play in Commander. It’s so, so slow, but it’s also cool if you’re the type who enjoys durdling. Oblivion Stone is a similarly slow Commander staple, and both use fate counters. Did somone say sssyyynnneeerrrgggyyy? That said, I’m not necessarily buying in yet. There’s a few dozen copies available at 16 cents, but since I don’t anticipate this ever seeing Standard play, it’s going to be a year or two, minimum, before this sees any growth.
There’s much more to like here, although buying in at current prices would entail some amount of risk. If you believe one or some of these cards has nowhere to go but up, it could be a good time to buy, but I’m mainly planning to keep an eye on the following and snag them when they fall below the 20-cent mark.
Legendary creatures: Anax and Cymede, Tymaret, the Murder King, and Daxos of Melitis all deserve a mention just because of that single word on the type line. Unfortunately, none are particularly appealing as commanders, but they could still see play as utility cards. Each is powerful enough to warrant Standard play—but only in the right meta and specific decks, and it’s unclear if that situation will ever come to pass. The maze runners from Dragon’s Maze show us that rare legendary creatures that aren’t particularly flashy don’t get much of an immediate bump from casual demand. We’ll see if the long-term turns out differently, but I’m not rushing to buy quite yet.
Steam Augury: This is the first one I really like. With a whole bunch of copies available in the 30-cent range, this can’t fall much further. Once Sphinx's Revelation rotates out of Standard, instant-speed card drawing will be in demand. Keranos, God of Storms may just be powerful enough to make blue-red decks the default for control, and if that happens, Steam Augury will likely be a four-of.
On the other hand, this is no Fact or Fiction. I’ve had the opportunity to play with and against the card in Cube, and it’s proven to be average at best. Of course, part of my bias against it comes from the number of times I’ve been able to deny my opponent a game-winning combo piece—something that won’t be as much of a factor in control decks. It’s good to be aware that not getting final say on the cards you get is a serious downside, but there aren’t a lot of good card-drawing options in Theros so far.
Colossus of Akros: I bought a few copies of this at 24 cents a while back. It’s since gone up to around 50 cents. I’m testing the idea that Timmys won’t allow a 20/20 to be under $1 in the long-term. I could, however, be way off base, since the card only says 10/10 and doesn’t really do anything all that flashy. As a rare in the most-opened set of all time, I definitely have doubts about its future, but it’s hard to imagine this being straight-up bulk a couple years down the road.
Moving on to Born of the Gods
I don’t like any of these as buys, now or later. Don’t try to force something that isn’t there. I’ve seen Arthur Halavais touting Fated Intervention on Twitter, but I’m not sold on it yet.
Frankly, I don’t much like what’s here, either. Born of the Gods may have not been out long enough for good cards to fall to bulk prices. There’s always a chance that Gild or Whelming Wave end up being role players in next year’s Standard, but I’m not looking to acquire copies at this time, except perhaps as throw-ins.
Just a Few More Picks
If we’re going a little higher on value, there’s three more cheap-ish cards I like from this block.
Swan Song is down to about $1. As a hard counter for half of the pertinent card types in Magic (since lands can’t be countered), this has some real potential in Legacy combo decks. Those decks don’t care about the 2/2 and a one-mana, hard counter for instants may be just what those decks need to get a little bit more consistency. It likely has some time before hitting, but I think the spike on Swan Song is more a matter of time than it is of “if.”
The Brainstorm Brewery guys called Karametra, God of Harvests on the podcast last week, and I think they nailed it. At around $3, this might have a little room to drop off further, but this is long-term casual spec that I love. I’ll be picking these up in trade at the current price and watching for $2 to $2.50 for a potential buy-in.
Spirit of the Labyrinth started out with some hype because of its potential in Legacy. The card has actually gone on to see a little play in Death and Taxes, but the hype has worn off. As a result, Spirit has all the same factors going for it, but is available at $2, around 20% of its preorder price. Although the cards serve different in-game purposes, Spirit has a lot of similarities to Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which recently saw the spike that everyone long expected. If Spirit follows a similar trajectory, you have time to acquire copies, but you should definitely be doing so.
Sorting by Ascending Price
Starting from the dregs of a set and seeing what’s cheapest isn’t always fruitful, but it can be a great way to find low-risk investments. I’m deep enough in Modern cards that I’m just waiting for Modern season and I don’t feel like putting money into expensive Standard cards in an uncertain format. This is a perfect time to start looking at budget specs that can really pay off. As the summer doldrums approach, this will be a big part of my strategy moving forward.
Think I missed calling any of the cards in the lists above? Let the community know what you think in the comments!