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Insider: On the Trading Floor at Gen Con 2015

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I'm not going to lie to you all--I didn't tune in for even five minutes of the Pro Tour coverage this weekend.

Typically, I'd have the Pro Tour coverage on and be following the event round by round, but last weekend was different because: I WAS AT GEN CON AND I WAS HAVING TOO MUCH FUN GAMING.

In all seriousness, I'm sure the coverage was entertaining (I know that lots of people had lots of nice things to say about the commentary...) but I was simply too busy getting my game and trades on.

The last time I went to Gen Con was to play in the Vintage Championship the last year it was held before being moved to Eternal Weekend.  With the prestigious Vintage Champs at Eternal Weekend (which is a fantastic and better event), there really hasn't been a pressing reason for me to return to Indy for The Best 4 Days of Gaming in the world.

Vintage brought me to Gen Con my first time and this year was no different.  I was pretty excited to get a chance to go back to Gen Con just to play in some sanctioned, no-proxy events and win byes for Eternal Weekend.  There were three scheduled Vintage events over the course of the weekend and I was hoping to take one down in order to maximize my chances at Eternal Weekend.

Fortunately, I took down the very first Vintage tournament I played in with a unique Mishra's Workshop variant that was jamming Hangarback Walker in the main deck.  Unfortunately, I can't discuss my Vintage tech here today (that will be an exclusive strategy article on Vintage Magic next week), but I feel the Walker part is highly relevant to a finance article.


The card has spiked dramatically this past week based on its success at the Pro Tour.  However, I think it is also significant that it is playable in any format because, well, it is just an OP card.  I think foils will end up being very desirable in the long and short term.

After me and my friend Hangarback Walker Texas Ranger secured byes for Eternal Weekend, it left me without much of a purpose to play more Vintage.

So I decided to hit the trading tables with an absolute vengeance. One of the cool things about doing a ton of trading with a ton of different people is that you can really learn a lot about what is going on in MTG Finance.  Gen Con is a pretty awesome place to be a student of MTG Finance because there are a lot of people from all over the world, and it also tends to be a locus of collectors.

1.  APPARENTLY NOBODY OPENED JACE, VRYN'S PRODIGY

I must have looked through 200+ binders this weekend and I'm certain I didn't see a single copy of this Magic Origins mythic rare for trade.  So, I guess that nobody opened any because apparently the card was simply non existent.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

It is also interesting that there were no copies of the card in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour.

Personally, as a pretty good Magic player, the new Jace isn't anything that blew my mind.  Merfolk Looter is a fine card but not something I'd feel compelled to play no matter what. I was also aware that there were multiple dealers on site at Gen Con who were offering $35.00 for the card.  The demand was basically sky high on this single.

I'm not sure how much of it was speculative leading into the Pro Tour or if there are just that many people who want to own the card.  Jace is strange because it is a card that I keep hearing people talk about: "Put it into a Delve deck in Modern," "The card is going to make Modern Dredge a thing." But that I very rarely actually see people actually playing with.

My general confusion of knowing it is pretty good but not knowing what to do with it seems to mirror the way everybody else feels.  The game seems to be that everybody wants to have it for when it "gets broken" but the speculating has already pushed the card's value up well above where it would be if it was actually good in a niche deck somewhere!

I decided to just pretend the card didn't exist.  I have my play set in case I want to use it, tucked away in my player collection. Other than that, I didn't have any for trade and wasn't looking to trade for the card.

2. PEOPLE WERE TRYING TO DUMP DUALS

I'm not saying that everybody should go out and get rid of all of their Revised Edition dual lands or anything, but there were a lot of people specifically trying to trade off dual lands aggressively at the trade tables.


I know that SCG has dramatically reduced their support of Legacy via the Open Series, and perhaps this is a big reason.  All I know is that typically collectors and players don't want to trade away dual lands for other cards and are instead are trying to trade into more duals.

I did not see this to be the case at Gen Con last weekend.

I had multiple people try to "offer me dual lands" for good Modern Staples in the form of: "Hey, I'd like to get these two Emrakul off you--I'd give you a Savannah for them?"

It kind of makes sense to me that with SCG reducing their support of Legacy, maybe the supply of duals is simply higher than the demand, at least in the sense of the cards being so darn expensive.  We have to keep in mind that there was TONS of Revised printed.

I also saw a lot of people trying to move FBB and Beta dual lands, which is not typically the case.

I'm not exactly sure how to put all of these pieces together into a sure thing narrative, but I think it's pretty fascinating.  I'm typically the kind of guy who favors an "old card and land heavy" portfolio with duals being a very solid investment.

While I don't see the prices going down substantially or anything like that, I would certainly entertain the notion that the prices of duals are sufficiently high that, with demand waning, they probably won't go up too much more for a while.

If that is the case, it would make sense that collectors and investors might be looking to sell.  Why hold onto a card that is likely to stay the same or dip slightly when we could be buying into other cards that have more potential to grow?

3. THE SUMMER LULL IS INSANE

I may actually make it a custom to go to Gen Con just for the trades every year from here on out.  It is right smack dab in the middle of a slow period of Magic where the prices are suppressed, which makes trading an absolute delight.  Last week I wrote about my picks for the "Summer Lull" and these were the cards I targeted heavily in my trades.

I can't even tell you how many copies of Rattleclaw Mystic and Hooded Hydra I was able to snag for nearly nothing.

As an avid trader, I know how important it is to rebuild your trade stock over the summer when the prices of the cards are cheap and the latest block random cards are in very low demand.

Honestly, I'm more of a player who has a deep understanding of how the prices work because of my time working in the industry rather than a hard core collector or investor.  When I go to a Magic event, it is typically to play first and to trade as something to do if I get bounced out of the event and am waiting on friends to finish.

However, having multiple days to sit back and just do trade after trade after trade was pretty awesome and I was amazed at how I was able to transform my collection of undesirable trade bait into a new set of cards!  It was crazy.

4. THERE WAS A VERY HIGH DEMAND FOR 'COOL' PLAY MATS

Everybody knows that the play mats have value and that dealers buy them at Grand Prix.  However, one thing that I observed that I didn't realize before is that play mats are extremely liquid for cash.  There were a lot of people buying random GP and Top 8 Mats and paying a lot of money for them.

Typically, when I go to a GP and get the exclusive mat, I just keep it and stash it away and my friends will sell theirs to the dealers.  I'm actually thinking of just buying my friend's mats for whatever the dealers are paying and having multiples stashed away.

I think there is likely a lot of value to be had in play mats that people either don't see or ignore.  A lot of times at a Grand Prix, the artist who illustrated the play mat is on site doing signatures and alters.  Taking the time to have the artist sign, alter, and--importantly--date the mat creates a pretty significant boost in value.  It makes sense, because it's actually a pretty cool thing to have done.  It is something I am going to try and do at every Grand Prix from here on out.

And I had never really thought of that until I talked to somebody who was telling me about it at Gen Con.

Anyways, the fact remains: there is a ton of interest and money in people wanting cool, collectible, and unique playmats--so, what is the best way to use that information in order to generate some value?

~

It had been so long since that last time I'd been to Gen Con that I'd almost forgotten what a fun event it was.  I had a blast playing Vintage and just as much fun fully engaging in the trading and collectible side of the game.  In addition to picking up lots of my summer lull target cards, I was also able to pick up a bunch of awesome Japanese cards for my decks, which was pretty exciting for me.  It's amazing what you can find if you go looking for it in people's binders.

9 thoughts on “Insider: On the Trading Floor at Gen Con 2015

  1. Quick thought, will the summer lull still exist as WoTC has changed from a 3 set rotation to a 2 set one? As in, does that rotation change decrease and/or eliminate the summer lull effect? Thanks and appreciate it!

    1. BFZ comes out in less than 2 months. Previews will start within a week or two of this Pro Tour. I think that the lull will be short, and I think the 2-set rotation will change everything.

      1. Wow! Would love to have an article voice ones opinions on what changes that will have and why. That’s the kind of stuff that to me is the breaking new ground/forefront of the industry (MTG Finance) is about.

  2. Also, on the topic of Rev Duals, with Legacy waning in the SCG circuit, and no clear demand replacement in sight for a long time, do you feel they could stagnant for years?

  3. I’m sorry for being on old curmudgeon, but I don’t think that everyone understands all of the acronyms without any explanation. OP? FBB?

    Please consider spelling them out the first time you mention them in an article.

    All of the content I understood was really helpful, though. Thanks!

    1. I agree with Robert. Acronyms like SCG, GP, and MTG might not mean anything to some of us old-timers. These abbreviations probably make sense to new players who have just started playing, but as a curmudgeon who has been playing since 4th edition, I’ve never encountered them. Unfortunately there doesn’t exist any useful tool or engine on the internet that allows you to search for the definitions of such things.

      1. Good points, guys. I’ll talk to Tyler (our content manager) about some sort of glossary to help solve this problem. We have the ‘curse of knowledge’, meaning that we don’t know what other people don’t know.

        Until we put together a proper glossary, hope this helps:

        MTG: Magic the Gathering,
        SCG: Star City Games
        GP: Grand Prix
        PT: Pro Tour (or PucaTrade, I guess)
        FBB: Foreign Black-Border (generally used in context of Dual Lands or Italian Legends stuff. FBB duals are worth more than white bordered ones, but less than Alpha/Beta, and Italian Legends are generally worth less than English Legends).
        OP: Over-Powered. Used in context of “Lotus Workshop Hangarback Walker as a 3/3 is an OP first-turn play.

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