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Insider: Finding the Buyers’ Markets

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Before I jump into this week’s topic, I first want to provide live up-to-the-minute data on the U.S. dollar. Since writing the article two weeks ago, something momentous happened in the country: the Fed decided to increase interest rates for the second time in a decade. Not only that, but they also increased their forecast for the number of interest rates we can expect to see in 2017 and 2018.

The move caused another spike in the U.S. dollar, sending it to multi-year highs!

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Thus, if there was arbitrage to be made buying from abroad and importing cards to the U.S., the opportunities are even greater now. I strongly encourage you to investigate it further as I’m sure this will continue.

Just be careful—more cards will be funneling to the United States as a result of this dollar strength, and it will eventually increase supply of cards stateside, which could reduce values over the long term. For now, just enjoy the ride!

Regularly Scheduled Program

The strength of the U.S. dollar is one factor in what makes this a buyers’ market. But while I’ve been eager to sell out of certain positions to rebalance my portfolio, a compelling case can be built which suggests this is a prime time to add to MTG positions. I’m not at all saying that I'm suddenly changing my tune—I merely think it’s fair to present data from the “other” side so people can develop their own strategy knowing all factors.

For example, the recent sell-off in some key Modern staples may present a great buying opportunity as players seek to unload copies on the cheap. You often hear people throw around the phrase, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” In reality, this could very well be the greatest opportunity to acquire Modern staples since 2014.

If you believe you have a list of cards that are probable to dodge reprint in Modern Masters 2017, then you have compelling reason to buy. Cards like Inkmoth Nexus, Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil are highly likely to see a reprint. Therefore, I cannot advocate buying those despite their recent plummet in price.

But how about something like Golgari Grave-Troll?


This critical Dredge piece is a bit trickier to reprint given the presence of the dredge mechanic. Would you put just one dredge card in Modern Masters 2017? I don’t think a dredge theme is merited for Limited play, especially given the need for so many other more significant reprints.

The very recent weakness in Golgari Grave-Troll could be a prime opportunity to buy. For similar reasons, I also think Bridge from Below is unlikely to be reprinted again.


Casual and Commander: The Real Profit Centers

If you asked me one year ago what the hottest format for speculation was I would have said Old School. Now that the most nostalgic cards have already exploded in price, prices have really stagnated while the new levels are digested by the market.

So if you ask me this same question today, my answer would be different: casual and Commander. The recently released Commander 2016 decks appear to be huge hits, spawning interest in the format anew. This surely explains the recent explosion in Shards of Alara artifact Scourglass, thanks to the popularity of Breya, Etherium Shaper.


Unless Wizards feels the need to include this card in Modern Masters 2017 (highly unlikely), I’d wager that Scourglass is bound to surge higher in price. This is one card you definitely want to acquire as soon as possible while it’s still a sub-$5 card—that won’t last much longer.

Time Sieve is another card showing significant price traction lately. Checking MTG Stocks, I see other hot cards this past week include Bastion Protector, Avatar of Slaughter, Bloom Tender, and Thieves' Auction.

These cards all have something big in common: they don’t show up in any winning Modern, Legacy or Vintage decks. They all likely see most of their play in 100-card formats or during casual kitchen table battles. This is exactly where money is being made right now, and I don’t see this trend slowing down.

This brings us back to identifying buying opportunities where people least expect them. How about poor old Lotus Cobra, which has sold off from $16 to $12 since early spring 2016? This creature seems primed to be clutch given the rampant popularity of four-colored Commander decks. We know the card has upside potential at $12 given where it came from price-wise, and a quick turnaround seems very possible.


Better yet, why not consider picking up some copies of the original four-colored cards, the nephilim? They’re all still very inexpensive, but they slot into the new Commander decks so naturally that casual players everywhere won’t be able to resist playing these creatures. Just avoid Glint-Eye Nephilim, which was sadly the only one that failed to dodge reprint in the new Commander 2016 decks. Still, that leaves four worthwhile pick-ups out of the five.

Lastly, don’t forget all the “rainbow lands”—those lands that can produce all five colors of mana. They will surely rise in popularity given the widespread adoption of four-colored Commander decks.

City of Brass and Mana Confluence certainly come to mind readily. But Gemstone Mine isn’t awful, and while Thawing Glaciers may be a bit slow it can certainly help you obtain all your colors reliably. Both of these lands are definitely worth consideration.


Whatever you do, don't speculate on Thawing Glaciers in the hopes it will be unbanned in Ice Age block. That is not very likely to happen.

Frontier: A Miscellaneous Thought

The last bucket of cards I want to mention briefly are tools likely to be useful in the hyped-up (but yet unproven) Frontier format. Before I identify the obvious, first I need to provide a disclaimer: I have zero interest in this format. It’s not for me. Given that I’ve burnt out on Modern, playing a format that’s even younger than Modern sounds horrendous to me. Therefore I will not advocate a ton of Frontier speculation.

That said, we can’t deny the recent movement in Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound.


Supposedly, this recent movement is driven by Frontier play. After all, the card isn’t showing up a ton in competitive Modern events. Here’s what I’ll say: investing in Jace isn’t the worst idea, because he’s difficult to reprint and he could break out in Modern some day.

But if you don’t want to buy into Frontier hype, you could always pick up Origins booster boxes instead. Even though new sets are overprinted when it comes to booster box investing, Origins sold less than other contemporary sets and thus is in lower supply. With Origins, you also gain exposure to all the other flip planeswalkers.

This way, if Frontier does take off but becomes a format about Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer instead, then you are still covered. You won’t get explosive growth, but at this stage I think it’s premature to buy into Frontier in the hopes of explosive growth anyway. There’s just too much risk while the unofficial format is in its infancy.

Wrapping It Up

The strengthening U.S. dollar isn’t the only reason this is a buyers’ market in the United States. The recent release of Commander 2016 has truly catalyzed growth in a number of staples, and there are many others that will rally in the future. Fortunately it’s fairly straightforward to predict these all-stars—anything that supports four-colored decks will surely gain in strength.

Beyond Commander, there is still a great deal of weakness. But perhaps even this weakness is a signal that it's time to buy. I wish I could advocate purchasing something like Snapcaster Mage, but the threat of reprint is far too real.

Still, there are plenty of Modern staples worth taking a stab at despite the risk of reprint, simply because some cards are trickier to reprint than others or have already been reprinted recently. Picking up something like Golgari Grave-Troll or Living End may not be a terrible move.

Personally, I’m not going to get too aggressive with my Modern buying yet. I’ve seen the devastating impact reprints can have on a card’s value, and this is a risk I’m simply not willing to take. I’d much rather sit on the sidelines in Modern, wait for Modern Masters 2017 spoilers to begin, and then start picking up cards that were left out. I may not be buying at the absolute bottom, but with enough agility I think there will be opportunity for plenty of upside once Modern interest is rekindled by the supplemental set.

In the meantime, I have my Origins booster boxes—great for indirect exposure to Frontier—and I have my Vintage and Old School cards. These blue chips of MTG are much more my speed. While I did admittedly pick up a couple Scourglass, I don’t think you’ll see a ton of intense buying from me over the next few months. My acquisitions will be much more deliberate and targeted.

This will ensure I keep risk to a minimum and reduce the amount of time I’ll need to sink into MTG finance while managing a new addition to our family. In the meantime, I look forward to some excellent selling opportunities at Grand Prix Louisville! Hope to see you all there!

Sigbits

  • Star City Games is down to exactly one English, non-foil copy of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound with a price tag of $27.99. This is right around TCG mid, and it is almost guaranteed that SCG will up their price to $30 or $35 in the next couple weeks. If you want copies to play with, I’d encourage you to buy in sooner rather than later.
  • I’m somewhat impressed by the recent jump in Reanimate. The original copy from Tempest just recently notched an all-time high. Star City Games has just two copies in stock: an Archenemy copy for $13.99 and an FNM foil copy for $19.99. I can’t honestly say I know what is driving this card higher, though I hear it’s being combined with Chancellor of the Annex in Legacy Reanimator. Still, reanimation decks have been a mainstay of Legacy for many years, so I’m not sure this quite explains the recent movement.
  • Beta Gloom just hit an all-time high over the weekend. Star City Games is sold out at $29.99. Did I call that or what? It may be worth picking up their Alpha copies at this point, since the prices are just a couple bucks over Beta. This can’t be right, can it?

4 thoughts on “Insider: Finding the Buyers’ Markets

  1. “Just be careful—more cards will be funneling to the United States as a result of this dollar strength, and it will eventually increase supply of cards stateside, which could reduce values over the long term.”

    I don’t think this has consistent internal logic. It sounds like a stronger US dollar will attract cards from abroad as people capitalize on a fluctuating exchange rate. That’s fine.

    Next though, why would a higher supply in the a local market (the US in this case) reduce the value over the long term?

    It strikes me that the start of your argument depends on connected markets with different currencies, but the end of the argument depends on considering the US market in a vacuum. This is where the logic is not consistent I believe. What do you think?

    1. Matthew,

      Thanks for the question. I did think about this twice when I wrote it, but here’s my rationale – let me know what you think.

      So let’s say I buy a bunch of High End cards from Europe and Japan (Beta rares, Old School, Power, etc.). If I am seeking those cards out to play with, then the buck stops there. But if I’m looking for arbitrage, it means I acquire these cards from abroad in order to buy list them. Thus, vendors start to have more buy list orders coming in containing these arbitraged cards. Eventually they drop their buy list prices as a result, leading to a decline in market demand and a drop in price.

      In other words, I think the arbitrage opportunity is temporary. Eventually the gap closes – if the US Dollar truly strengthens significantly, MTG prices in US Dollar terms will ultimately drop.

      What do you think? That’s for the challenge and keeping me honest, I definitely want to make sure what I’m putting out in writing holds water!

      Sig

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