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This Week on Insider: June 23-29th

Sylvain Lehoux – Nine Months of Portfolio Management-Standard Rotation Opportunities

Sylvain’s basket-based approach to investing in MTGO is a personal favorite of mine.  He treats groups of cards as a single “position”, knowing that individual assets within that basket may or may not pan out.  He’s betting on the movement of a “class” of cards, and this does a great job evening out the variance that comes with just making upside picks.  This week he discusses timing the market and when different kinds of demand hold the most sway.

The idea behind the speculation with rotating cards is that, by the end of the summer, with players getting rid of their soon-to-be ex-Standard cards, the supply is maximum for a demand at its lowest. Consequently, prices fall like stones and should be at their all time low. This is very true for rares, and a little less true for mythics.

Mikaeus worth more than Huntmaster?

This chart boggles my mind, frankly.

This has been one of the strongest series-based articles on QS in a long time, and I want to publicly applaud Sylvain for his tenacity producing such a quality serial.  If you’re an Insider, take the time to read through the entire series.

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Danny Brown – Why Speculate When It’s Already a Staple? (Part Two)

Danny sets a price target on Mutavault (although he’s bearish on Mutavault at the moment) and Scavenging Ooze (which he’s bullish on).  He’s got some interesting theories on Anger of the Gods, which may have some room to grow.

He also makes a great point about the value in long holds as opposed to trying for quick flips.  As I once told the MTGFinance sub-reddit, making money in this game isn’t about who has the quickest trigger finger on a “spike”.

As I’ve related before, I prefer long-term holds to short-term specs. I don’t like to have to be on top of every spike to make a profit, so I choose cards that should increase permanently, but might take a while to do so.

Very few Standard cards fit this description, but as a Draft enthusiast, I don’t always see good Eternal cards in binders at my LGS. Slowly picking up underpriced Modern and Legacy cards while their sets are being drafted is a great way to stretch your Standard stock into something with a little bit more longevity. Just be careful with cards that are also heavily played in Standard, as there might be a better opportunity to buy in when that demand is no longer present.


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Ryan Overturf – Vintage Tournament Report with Grixis Keeper

Ryan usually covers strategy, but his descent into Vintage was an unexpected treat this week.  Check out this deck, which is luckily from a proxies-allowed Vintage event:

He explains a trick that you’ll want to know if you play in any format where Voltaic Key and Sensei’s Divining Top are legal.

I used the Key-Top trick to trade up my Top, untap it in response and then tap it again to draw the Top back in addition to a fresh card, which is a very cute and sometimes relevant trick worth knowing. Going that extra card deep allowed me to replay and spin my Top into Dack Fayden, stealing one of the Hellkites and winning a game that otherwise would be difficult if not impossible.

Turns out his singleton Dack Fayden was a worthwhile inclusion.  Others played multiple, but he found more than one unnecessary.

Oh, and it turns out he did pretty well in the event, too.


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Sigmund Ausfresser – MTG Finance’s Triad of Desirability and Achieving a More Fulfilling Experience

I love when an author dips into real life to teach lessons about Magic.  Sig talks about a difficult time in his life and what he learned, explaining a parallel with MTG investing.

Risk level. Profitability Potential. Convenience/Time. Choose two.  

IRL, the parallel was “career growth, job satisfaction, location”.  You can generally only optimize for two.  Or, as one of his engineering colleagues posted on a cubicle, “Cost, Time or Quality.  Choose two.”  If you’re an engineer at a Fortune 500  company, you’ll generally be best served by using Time to increase Quality and optimize Costs.  In MTG, it’s not that clear-cut.

Sig teaches by example here, examining decisions he’s made in his own portfolio.  His decision to buy a bunch of Innistrad booster boxes is a great case study.  Just as Danny explained the importance of having your own style when investing, Sig did the same:

Your MTG Finance style may be completely different from mine. Some people enjoy the thrill of a quick buck despite the risk. Others buy up hundreds of copies of Temples anticipating modest gains in the coming months. Whichever style you prefer, it’s wise to acknowledge that sacrifices are almost always made. Knowing my priorities helped me move towards a more fulfilling career at work, and, by keeping these MTG Investing priorities in mind, I should also have a more enjoyable experience here as well.


Can profitability, risk, and convenience all be managed simultaneously? Perhaps. Sometimes we get lucky and the right opportunity presents itself out of the blue. Just don’t plan on making a living with such occurrences. They never happen as often as we’d like.


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Jason Alt – Geography

Jason’s articles crack me up.  I mean, who else in Magic would open up a column by quoting Dave Attell?  I couldn’t help but hear a little bit of Lewis Black in his tone when he tried to figure out why people in nice climates play Magic.  I’m in Chicago, which gets similarly demolished by winter as his native Michigan does, and I’m also a bit confused.

Why do people in California play Magic?

Michigan gets buried in snow half the year, Nevada gets so hot the pavement on the highway melts and Utah has Mormons everywhere. The East Coast gets pummeled with more hurricanes than a Serra Angel in 1994 and got buried with so many snowstorms this winter that children in Maryland are still in school this week. Buffalo, New York gets more snow than any other city in America and when it thaws the Bills and the Sabres still suck.

lewis black

Beyond waxing…poetic…about climate, Jason talks about why you should follow Tomoharou Saito on Twitter (for the sick tech, obv), looks at the fact that Black Market is suddenly worth $10, and talks about the future of Copy Artifact which has been reprinted  4 times (but not since 1994).

Jason makes a strong point about why you should be paying more attention to EDH.  It’s lack of seasonality is his #1 reason, but there’s more to it than that.

Stay abreast of EDH and you have lots of solid gainers. Rising tides lift all boats, and a new deck can make 99 other cards go up just by virtue of a new card coming out inConspiracy or M15. A lot of wacky EDH stuff is moving up.

Cards tend to not go down once they’ve gone up lately, so try to be ahead of the game and anticipate what the next big thing will be. If there is a local EDH playgroup and you can’t bring yourself to play with them, at least ask them what they want to build with when the new sets come out. You can end up supplying them with cards and they can supply you with cards to target.

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David Schumann – Rotation Targets from Return to Ravnica

First off, David’s article this week generated a ton of discussion.  One thing I love about QS Insider articles is that the comments aren’t filled nonsense.  When someone takes the time to comment, it’s generally for a good reason.

The most obvious targets from RTR are the Shock lands, which are on David’s radar.  He discusses price history, reprint risk, price targets, and the logic behind player demand (or lack thereof).  I found his price targets fascinating, especially how low his target on Blood Crypt is.

We’d expect the price of non-Steam Vents to drop a little bit, however it is important to note that the RTR are the main colors of a lot of different archetypes (Steam Vents covers Twin and Storm, Hallowed Fountain UWx Control variants, Overgrown Tomb BGx variants (Jund or Junk) with Blood Crypt or Temple Garden being minor color combinations or more often paired with one of the major ones).

He also sets targets on Abrupt Decay, Sphinx’s Revelation, Vraska the Unseen and a handful of other RTR staples.   An aside:  it was interesting to pull up RTR Rares and Mythics in Trader Tools and  look at the spreads.  Some of the staples are so close together, but others are rather wide.  Neat.


This was a thorough review of the best cards in Return to Ravnica, which will serve as a valuable guide to anyone building a basket of rotating staples.

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Mike Lanigan – GP Chicago & M15

I’m very glad Mike decided against a vitriolic rant about GP Chicago.  Frustratingly ( or thankfully? ) I was out of town for the weekend of my hometown GP, so I didn’t get to experience some of the…issues…first-hand.  There are plenty of others who have complained rather publicly about how this event was run, so if you’re curious, just google around.  Mike, on the other hand, had this to say:

For many writers and players, GP Chicago will be remembered for the plethora of ways in which it was poorly run. Rather than focus on there only being one small bathroom for thousands of men to use or the absurd fifty dollar entry fee, instead I will remember this Grand Prix for what was done right.  For me, this event will be remembered as the epic artist event. Never before have I been to an event where there were seven artists in attendance.

Sounds unpleasant.  But moving right along.   Mike was asked about Eidolon of the Great Revel and Courser of Kruphix constantly throughout the weekend, which matches up well with Jason Alt’s advice from the prior week (which was: get on Eidolon!).   Mike was in contention for Day 2 up until the last round, but suffered a devastating mana flood to knock him out of contention.  Variance sucks.

Mike also passes his judgment on two of the new Planeswalkers in Magic 2015:  Ajani Steadfast and Nissa, Worldwaker.   Mike is real long on Ajani, and thinks Nissa is so powerful that if she hadn’t been spoiled officially, he’d call “hoax”.  That’s a pretty ringing endorsement.


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Alexander Carl – Version 3 Shutdown & Other Investment Opportunities

Alexander’s opinion on the v4 client is pretty clear.

The team has had three years to design a product [and it] feels like a serious step backward.

Ouch.  And I agree.  I actually stopped playing MTGO after I used the Wide Beta client for a few days.   Yeah, it’s like that.  So what are we supposed to do?  If you’re heavily invested in MTGO, you might be terrified that your portfolio’s value is at risk.

There’s a temptation to go out and sell your collection altogether. The problem is that a) lots of other people have the same idea and so offer prices will be lower, and b) prices are already depressed because of heavy VMA drafting, which has been sucking tickets out of the MTGO economy.

He lays out a 6-pronged strategy for your collection, including insights on what to cash out (and what to buy), and when.  He also has a very specific prediction for what’s going to happen regarding VMA drafts, and what that means for the future of VMA prices.  Finally, he lays out a few speculative Vintage-themed targets, both from VMA and beyond.


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Corbin Hosler – Where Have All the Buyouts Gone?

[6 months ago], a new Modern card was being bought out every week, and some of them were truly absurd. Norin the Wary? Runed Halo?  Freaking Summoner’s Egg?

It’s crazy in retrospect, especially given the lull that Modern prices are in right now, and where they seemed destined to be for the rest of the summer at least. This begs a few questions: with the benefit of hindsight, what led to the buyouts, and what does it mean for the future?

These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking ourselves.  The frenzy around Modern was unmitigated, fueled by a lot of people who thought there was easy money to be made.  Sadly, a lot of people got burned by buying into garbage “specs” at too-high prices.  Hopefully those people will try their hand at a more tempered, long-term version of MTG Finance.  Corbin looks at exactly what this post-buyout-frenzy world will look like as the market continually shifts away from individual online stores and more towards community-based marketplaces.

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Dylan Beckham – Event Horizon V

Dylan discusses the fact that Modern isn’t moving, and although he isn’t quite as pessimistic on the format’s future as Corbin, he acknowledges that things are changing quickly these days (including the rate of change, which has slowed down…with me?).

When everything is as expected, there’s no surprise to see coming. That is a true peculiarity for Magic: The Finance. We strive on the unexpected. Pouncing before the next person can. We want there to be volatility, excitement, and panic. We want people to believe there is a down trend.

What to do when there’s nothing to do?  Do nothing.  Stay liquid.  And keep an eye out for signs of change.


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Adam Yurchick – How to Generate Value Playing Vintage and Legacy Constructed

The worlds of finance and strategy are growing ever more connected, and Adam’s most recent article shows why.  Quite simply, one of the best ways to make money on Magic is to be a winning player.

Adam begins by breaking down costs and payouts of various constructed queues – Vintage, Legacy, Standard, Modern, Block Constructed and Pauper.  He lays out which of them present above-average expected value for a winning player, and by how much.   He also breaks down the difference between regular queues and daily events.

Vintage Masters and the influx of new cards has greatly increased the popularity of Legacy 8-player queues, and Vintage queues fire quite often. Through these events, there is a lot of value to capture for the winning player. And with an existing overlay, achieving any win percentage higher than 50% would generate significant gains.

Perhaps most valuably, Adam dissects the metagame by queue type.  This is one of the keys to extracting max value from these MTGO events; picking the right deck for the format is generally important for being a winning player, but even moreso for a situation like this.

Daily Events provide a solid picture of the 8-player metagame, but, in general, 8-player events are filled with slightly faster decks more conducive to double or triple queuing, and, even moreso, they are filled with cheaper decks on average, courtesy of grinders just looking to extract the most value from Magic Online, not necessarily get engrossed in the Vintage orI h Legacy format.

He goes on to explain how this effects optimal sideboard construction,  with specific instructions for some decks that you’ll assuredly encounter due to their lack of significantly expensive cards.


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Weekly Winner(s)

I hate to do this (not really) but I’m picking two this week, one for MTGO and one for “paper” Magic.

MTGO Weekly Winner: Alexander Carl.  This was thorough, timely, and insightful, written with Alexander’s usual style and grace.  He knows what questions are on our mind and exactly how to answer them.  What more can I say?

“offline” Weekly Winner: David Schumann.  David’s guide to RTR staples was so thorough and insightful, I feel like it’ll be a reference for QS Insiders for months to come.  I watch our web traffic like a hawk on the back-end of things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is one of our coveted “long tail” articles that remains hyper-relevant for weeks or months after initial publication.

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