Insider: Picking Timeframes in the New MTG Finance

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Given the holiday season, my article this week will be somewhat abbreviated. That said, I firmly believe the message should be considered no less important to MTG finance success. But first, let me make an announcement.

MTG Finance Isn’t Dead

I know I have the “doom and gloom” reputation in the MTG finance community—I’m largely okay with that. There are permabears in the stock market as well, and some are very highly regarded among their peers. It’s important to acknowledge the bear case and weigh it against the bull case in any investment decision. I just happen to be more in-touch with the downside.

All that said, Quiet Speculation’s very own Chaz gave me two very immediate, actionable suggestions lately that both led to definitive profits. First, he suggested I purchase Regal Forces from Star City Games during their $1 weekly sale in order to sell to Magic.Cards for $1.60 each. Second, he recommended that I pick up Ajani Steadfasts due to Commander hype.

Both purchases were profitable immediately upon receipt, and they were all sold within 24 hours of their delivery to my home. Clearly with enough agility and a purposeful strategy, there are still plenty of opportunities to make profits from Magic.

The game as a whole may be in a stagnating correction, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there. Chaz pointed me to this concept firsthand. When combined with arbitrage opportunities from abroad, there are clearly some things worth buying, no matter the health of the game as a whole.

Here Comes the “But”…

There is a caveat to all this. I can’t simply stand here and pound the table demanding everyone start buying Commander staples after spending months highlighting why it’s dangerous to be heavily invested in newer cards now. There has to be some caution involved, and I believe I have pinpointed the best way for me to navigate recent pitfalls of MTG finance.

I believe there are now only two time horizons that work reliably: the extremely short term or the long term.

When dealing in short-term opportunities, it’s critical to remember why you are making your purchases and what your exit strategy is. When I bought Ajani Steadfast it was only because I noticed the card had extremely low stock and I knew it was growing in popularity thanks to Commander. These two factors pointed to an imminent price increase, so I pulled the trigger on a couple copies. My intent was to flip those copies right away, and this is exactly what I did.

A similar story can be told for the Regal Forces I picked up.

I bought 40 copies during the Star City Games sale with one purpose: to buylist them for more. When the copies arrived, I almost hesitated, thinking it would be better to sit on the copies for long-term potential. The card has a loyal casual following, I’m sure, so wouldn’t there be upside in the long run? Luckily I overcame this urge, packaged the cards up, and shipped them for modest profits. I’m reminded here of the adage, “Never turn a trade into an investment.”

For long-term opportunities, I’m referring more towards the drum I have been beating nonstop for many months now. This is the general Reserved List/Old School strategy: picking up rare, collectible gems for long-term gains.

If this is still your main strategy, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to it. Just make sure you have a fully thought-out emergency plan should the market suddenly take another leg lower. Certain cards, such as dual lands, are experiencing additional weakness due to the recent cut in Legacy support, and I don’t know how much more downside remains.

Additionally, there’s plenty of merit to holding penny stocks for the long haul. I myself have a modest pile of Nephilim and Beck // Calls squirreled away. Penny stocks like these are low on Wizards’ reprint radar and can gradually rise in price to sneak up on Magic players and speculators. Other examples I like are Rainbow Vale, Márton Stromgald, and Koskun Falls—all three of which happen to be on the Reserved List!

The Dangerous Chasm In Between

I’m fully convinced there’s plenty of money to be made on the short-term. In addition, buying certain Reserved List cards can offer steady, long-term growth potential. But what about buying cards for the in-between?

This is the part of MTG finance that now worries me most. Those mid-term pickups for formats like Modern (or Frontier?) concern me because of the dangerous reprint potential along with a stagnant tournament scene.

For example, fetches and shocklands should have been tremendous investments in the old world of MTG finance. Now these cards are some of the worst money sinks in recent history. Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay are two other examples—these cards are ubiquitous across multiple formats and their utility cannot be questioned. Yet for some reason they just can’t seem to gain traction.

For the same reason I am nervous about newcomers such as Collected Company, Thought-Knot Seer and Siege Rhino. You would think that these cards have a ton of potential as they gradually age, become scarcer in trade binders, and establish dominance in Modern. But alas, this just hasn’t been the case.

These staples just can’t seem to gain any traction, and to me this is a worrying sign. If Polluted Delta can’t gain in price despite being heavily utilized in Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, and possibly Frontier, then what catalyst will move this card? I’m not so sure, and it’s a major reason why I’m steering clear of any such “mid-term” buys.

Wrapping It Up

Despite all my recent negativity, I need to acknowledge that MTG finance is far from dead. A well-timed Pro Tour purchase, currency arbitrage, or Commander hype can all help you generate real profits from the endeavor. I even made a couple bucks on an Urza's Miter recently, which I never would have expected. Clearly there are plenty of cards out there still worth buying.

But while I do believe buying is back, I also think it comes with a giant asterisk. We should not be buying for the mid-term anymore. The current lack of traction combined with a massive run of reprints has made buying into such mid-term cards too dangerous for my liking. There are plenty of better opportunities out there in the short-term or long-term spaces that I don’t see a need to commit resources to anything in between.

Commander 2016 has given us many new areas to speculate on for a zero- to three-month flip. Ajani Steadfast already exploded, but there are likely many other targets out there worth considering.

Sticking on the planeswalker theme, Garruk, Apex Predator seems like it could be gaining a lot of traction recently. Tezzeret the Seeker, while a Duel Deck reprint, has also shown traction. I just picked up a playset of each, and I’m excited to see that the price I paid was very close to top buylist prices, limiting my downside. I can get behind either of these—or an array of similarly in-demand planeswalkers—for a short-term play.

For longer term, stick to high-end Alpha, Beta and Unlimited staples. These should continue to remain strong heading into 2017, especially if Old School continues to be supported at large Grand Prix. Obscure Reserved List cards are never bad to pick up here or there as well, because you never know what the next Urza's Miter will be.

It’s great to see that 2017 can be another profitable year for MTG finance as long as a few minor adjustments are made. And I look forward to ringing in the new year with a refreshed strategy, rebalanced portfolio, and a new set of priorities as my family dynamic changes. Despite all this change, one thing remains clear: I will be sticking with MTG finance for many more months to come!

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