Insider: Betting on the Losers

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There are plenty of reasons to bet on losers. Pity. A great spread. Um, so perhaps there aren't that many reasons to bet on a proven loser...

For instance, I would never bet on the San Jose Sharks to win a Stanley Cup. Even if they have the best record in hockey you know they will find a way to fail.

Picking losers to invest in, on the other hand, can pay off handsomely when done correctly. In Magic finance everybody always wants to be on whatever the new hotness is. Everybody wants to pick up the card that is currently spiking when they know it's high but others haven't gotten the memo yet. It is a great place to be on a card, because you are guaranteed to make money.

For instance, if I know Declaration in Stone has skyrocketed from the $5 range up to $10 and I'm still able to pick them up for $5 from a store that hasn't changed the price tag yet---well, that is good news for the buyer. However, these opportunities don't come along every single day. For those of us who want a more solid investment plan than "hear it first," well, here is a plan...

I've written about this a lot. My plan has always been to look for cards that are currently approaching their bottom low point, and then buy in, with the logic that I will hold them for some period until they rebound.

Standard cards are the most fertile ground for this strategy because rotation basically ensures that every single time a new set comes out several "bad" cards will suddenly become "good." More rotations are great news for anybody looking to use this type of strategy because it will cause more dramatic shake-ups to Standard more often.

The other key is to look for "good cards" that are currently cheap because they don't have a home. We are hoping these cards find a competitive home with the release of new cards, or when old cards that were keeping them down rotate.

Today I'm going to take a look at a handful of cards that are currently approaching or have approached the bottom price tag. First and foremost, I'm more interested in picking up cards from Shadows over Innistrad and Battle for Zendikar block since they have a significantly longer shelf life in Standard. More time equals more opportunities. Seems obvious.

You have to be willing to hold onto cards for a while and use a little imagination to predict the future, but the formula is a proven winner: buy low, sell high.

Battle for Zendikar

While it did contribute a few noteworthy members to the Eldrazi horde, Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) was kind of a rancid Magic set. Most of the cards feel boring and uninspired. My low opinion of the expansion aside, there are a few cards I think have hit rock bottom.

Dragonmaster Outcast

There is basically a 100% chance that this card will eventually rebound and go up from here. It's simply too powerful and too good to float around the $2 mark. Casual players love this card and it is powerful enough to have niche applications in both Standard and Modern.

I am basically happy to trade for any copy of this card somebody is willing to part with. It is one of the Standard cards I'm most interested in trading for at the moment---as a money-making investment this is basically a foregone conclusion.

Drowner of Hope

The banning of Eye of Ugin has really "displaced" this card. Get it, because of Eldrazi Displacer combo?

Anywaaaaays.... There are a lot of people that have this card and don't want it anymore. It's a buyer's market. However, it's still a pretty good Magic card and may well find a home in Standard at some point alongside Eldrazi Displacer. The combo is quite powerful and both cards are already great.

I suspect if Adarkar Wastes gets reprinted at some point while these two cards are in Standard this will be a very potent combo. The card is hovering around bulk rare price so you can't really miss.

Painful Truths

Painful Truths is a Modern-playable staple for control and midrange decks. I will trade for every single copy of the card I can find at sub-$2 prices. The card is simply too good to be this cheap. Once again it is a buyer's marketplace because people who want the card have it and people who don't want it have nobody to sell it to.

That will change. It always does, especially with Modern cards. Hold onto these and pick them up while they are low.

Oath of the Gatewatch

Oath of the Gatewatch is a fantastic set full of awesome cards. It is basically the opposite of BFZ.

Inverter of Truth

$1 mythic demon with competitive potential? Yeah, I'm buying in on this card. I could see this card actually being pretty good in a UBx Standard control deck after the next rotation. It has some pretty nice synergy with cards like Epiphany at the Drownyard. It doesn't need to live very long in order to win the game.

It's also a card I could see somebody wanting for some zany combo deck in Commander. It's just too cheap right now.

Kozilek's Return

We are rapidly approaching the bottom-of-the-barrel price tag for this card (if we haven't hit it already). The card is Modern-playable as an instant-speed sweeper that kills Etched Champion and protection-from-red creatures.

The card may also turn out to be a staple in Standard in the very near future. With Humans winning the Open it stands to reason that Pyroclasm at mythic rare is a card that could go up in value, especially considering that it has dropped so much already. The reason for this is the perception that "ramp is dead" and Return is a "ramp" card. Well, ramp could come back and decks other than ramp might be interested in playing K Return now.

Corrupted Crossroads

Alongside the bulk rare Eldrazis I think these colorless-matters cards are worth picking up. I won't spend too much time on it because I wrote a whole article about it---but it is worth mentioning.

With the painlands and Foundry of the Consuls all rotating the next time around, color-producing mana fixing could be at a big premium for anybody looking to play with Eldrazi cards. Feels worth the risk to have a small collection of Crossroads saved up. Also, the card could easily get better if they ever make more devoid cards.

Sea Gate Wreckage

Wreckage is a great Magic card. I want it in casual. I play it in Modern. It may be a player in Standard at some point. It is dirt cheap right now.

They don't typically make lands that tap to draw cards. Unique cards are always great money makers. Just because they don't have a place this second doesn't mean that they will not be useful in the future. Once again, if a card is rare and playable in Modern it can't stay $1 for very long.

Eldrazi Displacer

This pick is a little bit riskier but the $2-$4 range for this card feels too low to me. It is powerful and already proven on the tournament scene. It is also quite unique. It is also an Eldrazi. There are a lot of things to like about the card.

It has obvious synergy with cards in Standard. Knight of the White Orchid, Thraben Inspector and Archangel Avacyn. I could see the card becoming a bigger player as the format continues to develop.

Also, it is worth noting that this card sees play as a four-of in Modern Eldrazi Death and Taxes. Anything that is good in Modern is good in my binder as an investment. I'm willing to bet on this little loser all day long.

Shadows Over Innistrad

Epiphany at the Drownyard

Epiphany is a good card. Now is not the right time because Standard is too fast, but its time will come. I can feel it. Instant-speed draw spells with X in their cost have traditionally been quite good...

It also fuels up the graveyard for delirium or flashback. We haven't gotten flashback per se, but it's not out the question in Eldritch Moon. In any case we're in the midst of an Innistrad block, so we can expect more graveyard shenanigans in some capacity.

Remember what happened with Dig Through Time when Khans came out? Dig was a $2 junk card and then the Pro Tour happened and guess what? The pros figured out it was great and the card surged to $10. If Epiphany is a PT breakout expect the same trajectory.

I never bet against blue cards. When people tell me blue is bad I bet on it anyway because it never is.

Zombies (Braaaaains)

These cards currently have no home in any format. We thought there would be a zombie deck in Standard but it didn't happen. These cards have already started their descent into the junk category. However, they are still very good Magic cards---they just don't have a home.

I suspect that the rest of the zombie deck will be in the next set and that it will be playable in Standard. If that's the case prices on these two cards will shoot back up.

Amalgam is already approaching bulk rare territory and I'm picking them up. Relentless Dead is still too high to buy in on, but it will be in the $4-6 range soon enough. I'm looking to buy in when it hits that range, which it's all but guaranteed to do unless Zombies somehow take off at the PT.

Thing in the Ice

There was an error retrieving a chart for Thing in the Ice

Thing in the Ice has lost a lot of value already and may continue to slide down. However, it is a unique, powerful Magic card. It does a lot for very little mana.

This card will be very good in Modern and Legacy. Heck, it might even be Vintage-playable! I'm currently playing this card in my Modern Infect sideboard and it is fantastic.

I'm not willing to buy in yet---but if it goes much lower I'll start trading for this card.

Sigarda, Heron's Grace

$5 mythic rare angel with a bunch of silly abilities. Obviously, I want to trade for and hold onto this kind of card. It always pays off. Especially in green-white.

I also think this card will make an impact in Standard at some point. Humans are the best tribe and the card has human written all over it (literally).


I'm an optimist. I see a card down on its luck and think, "I believe this card will get its life together and bounce back." I bet on these cards to succeed and so should you. Just because a card appears to be unplayable doesn't mean it will stay unplayable forever. In fact, most cards that look "too good to fail" ultimately turn out to prove us right.

3 thoughts on “Insider: Betting on the Losers

  1. I enjoyed the article and agree with most of your picks. One side note (it’s a bit nit picky, but could be important). Inverter of Truth is not a demon he’s an Eldrazi. I bring it up because Demons have a much longer history in Magic and likely more collectors than Eldrazi.

  2. Hey, great article! I joined not too long ago and happy that I went through the archives.

    A little off the topic, I wanted to know if the WotC started changing their laminating process or card stock for the newest expansion SOI. I’ve been opening packs and it seems that the sheen of the commons are a bit different and rougher looking then their uncommon and rare counterparts.

    Can anyone confirm my observations? My more recent purchases also have had uncommon and rares with this less-than-average looking sheen.

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