Insider: Biggest Losses of 2016, #mtgfinance Edition

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Late December is usually full of "best of," "year in review," and similar types of articles. I'm guilty of at least a couple of these over the past three years (holy crap, I've been writing Magic finance stuff for three years), because they're really easy to write.

It wouldn't be hard to wade through all the words I've produced across 2016 to generate an article with the message: "Here, shove this in your brain again while I basically take a vacation week." I was originally going to spend this Thursday writing about my best spec of 2016, but that feels just a little too humblebraggy coming off an article where I wrote about buying a Mox Sapphire and other UNL goodies.

Instead, I'm going to about-face and focus on a couple of my worst mistakes from January to December. Maybe you'll learn something, and maybe I'll learn something about how to not repeat the past. This list is in no particular order, so forgive me for not cataloging exactly how much money I lost on each of these purchases.

Forgetting I Don't Play Magic

I keep doing that. I really need to put some sticky notes on my debit card that say, "You don't play 60-card Magic anymore, idiot." During this past summer, my co-podcaster Travis Allen and I got really excited over Splendid Reclamation and its theoretical applications in Modern. We spent a significant amount of time in our group chat theorizing how it could be used to combo kill people with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and we went really deep. I'm talking Hedron Crab-Mystic Retrieval-Satyr Wayfinder deep.

My excitement got the best of me because of how much I enjoy playing land-based and dredge decks, and I ended up pre-ordering a playset of Reclamation for $8. Yuck.  Even worse, I actually went out and built the rest of the deck. I spent some PucaPoints on the stuff I didn't have (which, granted, aren't real money), and double-sleeved up an entire 75 for the first time in recent memory. I actually took stuff off my TCGplayer store to accomplish this endeavor.

Do you want to guess how many times I played that deck? One FNM. Once. That's it. I went 2-1 at a Modern FNM, then went home and didn't touch the deck again for two months until I actually took it apart.

That's not very #mtgfinance of me, is it? I soaked up some Golgari Grave-Trolls that could have been on TCGplayer, and basically let value stagnate because I forgot that I don't have time to play competitive Magic, nor does it give me the enjoyment that it used to five years ago. I had fun brewing and theorycrafting the deck, but the actual playing should be left to people that aren't me.

Hell, I haven't even been playing in FNM while I've been on winter break. I go to Modern night every Tuesday, but that's just to buy, sell, trade, and hang out with friends Even if I see a card or deck that looks like it might be fun to brew around, I should stick to theorycrafting and talking in chat instead of wadding up $500 worth of cards and throwing them in the corner for two months. I'll stick to Commander if I'm actually going to play, and keep myself restricted to the three actual decks I own.


In a similar vein, some of you who follow me on Twitter will remember that I bought a cube about two months ago. Do you want to know how many games I've played with it? How many sample packs I've drawn? How many events I've tried to organize? None. Nada. Zip. Zero. Don't get me wrong; I love cubing right up there with Commander, maybe even more so. It doesn't matter what kind of cube it is; powered, Pauper, etc. I love them all. I thought I would enjoy having my own cube, but I just don't have the time. I spent over $1,000 on that cube, and it's been sitting in my office doing literally nothing. My biggest mistake in 2016, by far, is the mistaken belief that I play more Magic than I actually do.

Buying Eternal Masters

I didn't get burned on this nearly as badly as some other store owners and backpack grinders, but there's a sealed booster box of EMA sitting on top of my office closet. I can feel its judgment radiating down on me, saying, "Why did you buy me, you idiot? You tell people all the time that sealed product is a bad investment..."

Yeah, I messed up here. Even without taking into account the "extra holiday print run" that ended up coming out this month, EMA boxes were a sinking ship that I should not have jumped on. I got caught up in the hype in the immediate weeks following the release of the set, and bought into a box at the MSRP of $250. Does anyone else remember that one Grand Prix where Hareruya was buying sealed boxes at basically MSRP? Yeah, that was pretty much my logic. If Hareruya is buying at that price, I should probably get in on it too. What could go wrong? Well, I could lose $100 and feel bad about myself. That's what could go wrong.

Bulking Up

While we're on the topic of "things I probably shouldn't have purchased in 2016," I have picked up a lot of bulk commons and uncommons. The jury is still out on whether or not that number has crossed the "too much" threshold, but I've currently got at least 500,000 bulk commons and uncommons sitting in the basement of my dad's house right now, and I don't get as many opportunities to pick and sort it as I would like. This is mostly just due to my personal living situation, and being a 45 minute drive away from my bulk prevents me from dedicating small amounts of time to just chip away at it.

Every time I buy bulk nowadays, I just leave it in my car until I stop by the house on the way to class, then drop it off and go on my way. Maybe I'll have a wider time frame to pick through it over the summer when my internship and classes are over, but right now it's being chalked up as a longer-term investment – not a category you usually associate with bulk. I could lower my cash number on bulk to $2.50 per thousand, but I don't really expect many people to sell at that rate. Three dollars seems to be the magic number, and I guess I'm not too terribly upset at holding onto bulk for another several months because I know the picks can be safely outed to Thomas at Card Advantage.

End Step

Overall, 2016 was a pretty good year for me and Magic. I started grad school and filed my first tax forms based on my MTG income. I picked up T-shirts and a banner for when I vend events locally, and have really enjoyed writing for Quiet Speculation so far. I started here as an Insider myself around four years ago, and used the information I picked up from articles to turn what I did into what feels like an actual job. Thanks to all of my readers, and I hope you all have a happy new year!

2 thoughts on “Insider: Biggest Losses of 2016, #mtgfinance Edition

  1. I have disagreed with the “anti sealed” mentality for some time when it comes to sets and products that do not intersect with the Standard environment.

    MM13? Fantastic, and will get better if MM17 snubs the chase cards from the set.

    C11? A gamble at the time, and while they likely will eventually reprint cards gradually from the set, they are several times above msrp.

    Duel decks? Generally solid appreciation.

    But I fell hard into the EMA trap. Have 60 boxes at a cost average around 240 per. I was also gambling on the sentiment that WotC would step in and do something to bolster Eternal formats.

    But right now, it does not look like the best of purchases, to say the least.

  2. Can you explain more about Thomas at Card Advantage? I downloaded the excel sheet and looked around, put the date was old. I wanted to know it was still a legit and working buylist.

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