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Insider: What Cards to Buy Heading Into Spring 2015

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The market continues to hint at signs of a recent bottom.

Eternal and Casual staples alike are bouncing quite nicely. The recent Modern Pro Tour also gave reason for people to speculate on cards across the format, ranging from Wild Defiance to Liliana of the Veil.

Profits are abound for those with exposure to the right targets. Sure, we took a hit on Birthing Pod and foil Treasure Cruise, but was anyone really surprised by the bannings? Probably not.

And it’s not like these cards are now suddenly worthless. Birthing Pod still has some playability, I guess, and it will never become a bulk rare. As long as you didn’t buy in at that peak, you really aren’t losing the farm on this one.


In other words, this is largely a bull market with plenty of upside to come. I’m buying strategically here to grow exposure to key cards.

But not all cards are created equal. This week I want to highlight a couple common comparisons to showcase my thought processes and emphasize which cards I believe will give you more upside. After all, when a rising tide lifts all ships, we can all make some money.

But if we want to try and make even more from our collection, we need to be unemotional and focused on the right distribution of holdings.

Fetch Lands vs. Shock Lands

Ahhhh… the age-old debate of which mana-fixing lands are best to pick up.

Depending on the year, the two sets of cards have performed very differently. But this isn’t about a historical look-back at performances. This is about looking ahead. And my money is very distinctly in one of these land varieties and not the other. In fact, I’m looking to sell one.

My preference: Shock Lands.

It is true that I cut my Steam Vents – I couldn’t help myself. They were the first Shock Lands to bounce and they were buy listing well above my entry price.

Vents

Despite this, I still have all of my other Shocks in a separate binder not available for trading. Next to these, I also have one of each foil Shock Land.

I see both foils and nonfoils going higher depending on the metagame of the moment. Steam Vents may be top dog right now, but that’ll change as new cards are printed and Wizards juggles the banned list further.

Fetch Lands, on the other hand, are either still being printed OR at great risk of reprint.

Of course I’m referring to the Khans fetches in the former case and Zendikar in the latter. Yes, I fully expect Zendikar Fetch Lands reprinted in the next twelve months. Therefore, if I can get away with using Khans fetches in my Modern/Legacy decks, I’m doing so in order to sell my Zendikar fetches.

Again, I want to emphasize that BOTH Shock Lands and Zendikar Fetch Lands are likely to rise heading into the spring. The Verdant Catacombs chart has the same recent uptick in price as Steam Vents. But when trying to predict future performance weighed against reprint risk, my money is in shocks.

Catacombs

Stoneforge Mystic vs. Snapcaster Mage

I truly love both these cards, and feel they are solid pick-ups heading into the spring. Both have been accelerating higher recently as they are dominant 2-drop creatures. I would have even thrown Dark Confidant into the debate if it wasn’t so easily reprintable in Modern Masters 2015. As it stands, I much prefer Snapcaster and Stoneforge for their immunity to this risk.

But which do I like more at this point in time? If I had to pick, my money would be on Snapcaster Mage.


My rationale for this choice is fairly simple. First of all, Snapcaster Mage is playable in both Modern and Legacy. This automatically means the card will have greater, more consistent demand.

But what I find even more compelling is the price performance of the two cards over the past couple months. Stoneforge Mystic recently shot up, and I was advocating a buy on this card during that timeframe. But now that she’s jumped to $35, she appears to have stabilized.

Stoneforge

The same cannot be said for ol’ Snapcaster Mage, which is just now beginning a similar accelerated climb.

Snapcaster

My guess is that Snapcaster Mage has a bit more to run. And while I can’t advocate buying in at $40, I would certainly trade any Stoneforges I had towards Snapcasters.

And you could do much worse than to sit on a few copies of the blue creature as we head into the spring.

Force of Will vs. Wasteland

Both cards are Legacy staples. Both are Uncommon from an older set. Both cards are not on the Reserved List.

But one of these two cards has been repeatedly hitting all time highs lately, while the other has only become a bounce. Which one do I prefer?

My choice: Wasteland.

With the banning of Treasure Cruise in Legacy, players may resort back to strategies that dominated the Legacy metagame before the sorcery existed. If I remember correctly, this means players may once again sleeve up their Stifles and Wastelands.

Of course Force of Will isn’t going anywhere. It’s a mainstay in the format and will continue to be so indefinitely. What I dislike about Force is it’s recent run. This card has been on a tear!

Force

A few weeks ago I wrote in an article a prediction that Force would hit $120 this spring. Well, we’re almost there – TCG Mid is in the $110 range. This means the remaining upside is tiny. Compare this to the chart of Wasteland.

Waste

The Tempest land is only now just bouncing off a local minimum. The slope is going to be more subtle, meaning it could take a while for Wasteland to move measurably. But in terms of remaining upside, Wasteland can nearly double if the metagame shifts in a favorable way.

Not to mention the buy-in price on Wasteland is much easier to stomach, costing a full $35 less!

Time-Tested Choice

Stepping back for a moment, I need to acknowledge my favorite targets right now. There is one group of cards I have spent more money acquiring than any other target in the past three months.

These have recently pulled back significantly, but have plenty of upside heading into this bull market. Finally, these cards are always in significant demand and remain completely immune to reprinting since they are on the Reserved List.

I am, of course, referring to Dual Lands.

I know the buy-in on these mana-fixing lands can be intimidating. They’re not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. I could feed my family for at least a week simply by selling a Tundra – selling a Volcanic Island could probably get us through a month if we pushed it.

But when it comes to comparing potential upside against risk, very little compares to Duals.

Tundra

I still maintain that currency fx are providing headwinds for these cards. With the US Dollar growing in value steadily against a basket of currencies, especially the Euro, the US market is likely getting flooded by international supply. Europeans can now get more in their local currency by selling these lands to Americans.

But, as we all know, the number of Duals that will migrate across the Atlantic Ocean is finite. And with the upcoming jump likely to come (see the jump that happened this time last year in the chart above), I maintain a very bullish outlook on Duals.

Wrapping It Up

It’s very important to remain diversified in this ever-changing environment. If someone had invested a ton of resources in Birthing Pod, they will have lost a lot of value in a moment’s time. I had a few copies since I played Melira Pod in Modern, but, despite the hit I took there, I managed to earn some gains by having exposure to other staples – especially those Bloom Titan pieces I picked up at their “old prices”.

But just because we diversify doesn’t mean we have to be in suboptimal positions. For this reason, I try to think critically about my speculation targets and I prioritize accordingly. This is why I’d push for Snapcaster Mage over Stoneforge Mystic and Shock Lands over Fetch Lands.

Of course, all these options are likely fine (beware reprint risks, however!). I just feel there are some better options out there, with a better risk/reward equation.

We’re faced with these choices every day in the world of MTG Finance (and RL Finance for those who follow Wall Street). The key is to stay in the game, continually evaluate your portfolio, and prioritize based on these comparisons. The method may not be perfect, but it certainly provides some order to the madness that often ensues during the heat of a bullish market.

Rather than buying sporadically, you can go into the spring season knowing which targets you prefer, even as you continue to diversify your portfolio.

Sigbits

  • Here’s more evidence that Snapcaster Mage is a better target than Stoneforge Mystic. Star City Games has 4 English and 59 (?!) foreign copies of Stoneforge Mystic. Meanwhile, they are absolutely sold out of Snapcaster – both foils and nonfoils are likely to be restocked at a higher price.
  • Many people are declaiming Azusa, Lost but Seeking, stating she is not worth picking up during the hype of Bloom Titan. But here’s the thing: she’s good in Commander, she’s good in Tiny Leaders, and the Bloom Titan deck made the Pro Tour finals. Combine all these factors, and it’s no wonder she’s sold out at SCG with a price tag of $36.39. She’s not going to stick at $50, but you won’t find copies under $30 again until she’s reprinted.
  • The only Standard card I like today is Siege Rhino. The rest I am largely ignoring. This is partly because I was burned a bit on my Standard pickups last year, and partly because I see so much more opportunity in Legacy and Modern. As for Siege Rhino, SCG currently has just two copies in stock at $8.59. But remember: this card is still being opened a ton, and Standard rares often have a difficult time cracking $10 nowadays. Being in the same set as Fetch Lands means even greater pressure on this card’s price. I’m thinking of selling my copies into this recent jump, with hopes of picking up when they leave Standard at a much lower price.

Rhino

4 thoughts on “Insider: What Cards to Buy Heading Into Spring 2015

  1. Here’s the question I have – how much trepidation do you have regarding Wasteland and Force NOT being on the reserved list? My question for this extends to Karakas as well.

    1. It’s a very fair point, and one worth exploring for sure. On the one hand, Wizards has had a million opportunities to reprint these Uncommons to get their prices down. Force of Will and Wasteland could have shown up in any of the Commander decks (running Blue), Conspiracy, FTV:XYZ, or GP Promos. Yet they haven’t been.

      Wizards DID reprint Force of Will – as some obscure Judge promo in such small quantities that it had no impact on price. Wizards has also reprinted Karakas and Wasteland – again, as low quantity promos (Wasteland’s promo is very old now, too).

      So are they going to reprint these AGAIN? Maybe one day, but it doesn’t feel so readily likely. Besides, they don’t really care much about the Legacy environment in the same way they are protecting Modern. So while they are committed to keeping Modern entry at reasonable price points, I don’t think they’re as worried about Legacy prices. So there’s little motivation for them to reprint these EXCEPT if they need a way to sell some new product. But I don’t think we’re to that point quite yet.

      Just my 2 cents. There clearly are risks of reprint and I wouldn’t advocate sitting on 20 Wastelands. But if you need ’em now, get them. If you grab a few extra, I think you’ll be well positioned for some short term growth in the coming months.

      Thanks again for your question!
      Sig

  2. I agree that now is likely an appropriate time to sell out of Siege Rhino, considering it’s going to be opened even more and the standard market is likely already near saturation. I’m curious though, what do you think about promo Rhinos? Their supply is relatively small, and if the Rhino continues to perform in Modern (and perhaps Legacy), the price of the promo may appreciate more. Just not sure if $36 TCG-mid is already too much.

    Similarly, I have some exposure to PR promo Wastelands; while I think Tempest Wastelands are set for a $25-50 price correction, I’m not sure if there’s enough potential upside for the already expensive promos to justify continuing to hold them (TCG-mid is $300), as I imagine the buyer’s market for them is very thin and they won’t be particularly sensitive to changes in demand for Tempest Wastelands.

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hadn’t considered the Promo versions simply because I hadn’t been tracking the market for them. $36 does seem quite high for Promo Siege Rhinos. Aren’t set foils usually worth more than Promos? Maybe set foil copies would be better in that case? I’d have to think on this longer.

      Promo Wastelands are the only foil ones, right? I think they can have the potential to move higher, even from $300. But it’ll either be a very slow going process or it’ll take SCG to strongarm the market higher by suddenly bumping their buy prices. At least in the meantime while you wait, they won’t really drop in price…

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