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Insider: Getting Ahead of the Buyout Curve

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You know the feeling. It happens every time, and has become so ingrained in the MTG finance culture that it has almost become second nature. You check MTG Stocks first thing in the morning only to discover a few hot cards were bought out.

Druid

Thinking impulsively, you check every site you can think of to see if there are any copies left on the cheap. Nine times out of ten, there’s no use. They’re gone. All gone.


The “fear of missing out” kicks in and you chalk up the buyout as another spike missed. There will be plenty more, of that we can be 100% certain. But even still, there’s that tinge of regret flowing through the back of your mind, knowing you could have made ample profits had you been just a few hours faster. Where did things go awry?

Getting Proactive

MTG Stocks is based solely on TCG Player. When TCG Player’s inventory shifts, resulting in a price shift, MTG Stocks calculates the delta. When this delta exceeds a certain threshold, the card shows up on the Interests page. This gets the ball rolling, as often times when speculators see cards on the Interests page they take note and start buying up other underpriced copies across the web. It becomes a self-propagating cycle at that point.

Then as supply approaches double-digits and dwindles towards sub-50, the price starts to take a more exponential look. Suddenly, copies at the “old price” are gone from the market and what remains is a stock of overpriced copies. These skew TCG Mid pricing, thereby indicating a spike on MTG Stocks. Everyone takes notice and the buyout is complete.

The best way to get ahead of these trends is to be more proactive in how we engage with the Interests page. Rather than focusing on top movers, sometimes it’s actually more critical to look at the slow-and-steady gainers—those cards moving up a couple percent here and there. Cards like these aren’t on everyone’s radar yet, but they’re getting enough attention to gradually rise. Presumably this rise in price correlates with a small drop in supply.

One example that pops out to me is Rise of the Dark Realms.


I actually didn’t know what this Magic 2014 mythic rare did until I looked it up. Once I read the card, I knew exactly why I had never heard of it—it sees no tournament play. You’ll never see it on camera at a Grand Prix or SCG Open because it is strictly a casual and Commander card. But it is very popular in Commander! EDH REC shows over 4,000 decks using the card, most frequently in Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge decks.

From a finance standpoint, this card wasn’t on my radar because I never saw it on the top of the Interests page. It seems to rise a few percent here and a few percent there, never really leaping onto my radar as a heavy mover.

With only 54 sellers having lightly-played or near-mint copies in stock, it won’t take long for this card to “spike” on TCG Player. I can’t predict exactly when, but I have to imagine there's virtually no new supply entering the market at this point. Getting ahead on this spike (which admittedly would have been better a few months ago) is a great way to speculate in anticipation of buyouts before they actually occur.

Age Breeds Profit

An important factor to point out is a card’s age. The older (and rarer) the card in question is, the easier it is for its price to suddenly spike. This is why we see Old School staples and Reserved List cards jump so frequently.

There are so few lightly-played or near-mint copies in stock on some of these older cards that the investment to create a buyout is so small. It may cost you $500 - $1000 to buy out something like Rise of the Dark Realms. But to buy out something much older, where there is much thinner stock, is much cheaper.

For example, consider a card like Tithe.


This is a Reserved List rare from Visions. This is a pretty unique ability for white—an ability like Lay of the Land is much more common in green. Nevertheless, in 1997 Wizards wanted to give white a way of fetching lands. The best part is that Tithe specifically calls out Plains, meaning it can be used to color-fix via dual lands. Indeed over 1,400 decks leverage this card in EDH REC’s database.

If I check TCG Player for stock of LP and NM copies, I see 42 total sellers. Buying all the sub-$8 copies would cost just a couple hundred bucks and would increase the card’s price pretty quickly. I’m not necessarily advocating this, but pointing it out because Tithe has the making of a buyout target. It may be wise to get a couple copies now, ahead of the game. This way when the card shows up as a 100% gainer on MTG Stocks’ Interests page, you aren’t caught with your proverbial pants down.

If we go even older, there are plenty of cards that could spike on a dime if someone paid enough attention. Stock on Mana Vortex has been dwindling, and being from The Dark means the card is ancient and copies on the open market will be severely limited. Though this is more of an Old School bet and has less relevance in EDH. Therefore demand will be less powerful.

I feel like I just missed Mana Matrix, since the card just doubled in price. There were probably only a handful of copies of this one left, and then someone decided to clean up what was left. Had I paid closer attention to stock on this card, I probably could have picked up a few copies at the old price. Now it’s too late—another old card spike!


Perhaps Debt of Loyalty will be the next one to spike? This is a Reserved List card from Weatherlight with only 28 sellers of LP or NM copies for sale on TCG Player. I will point out there are a bunch at other sites across the web, but this card’s age makes it really interesting. Not to mention the fact that this is another white card with a non-white ability…shouldn’t this be blue?!


Perhaps more EDH players would use this card if they knew it existed? It seems like a powerful spell, if you ask me. I may pick up a couple just to have lying around. Its price chart looks very compelling, that’s for sure. Talk about monotonically rising prices!

Wrapping It Up

Like death and taxes, buyouts are a certainty in life. At least, they will be as long as MTG finance exists and Magic has a thriving community. Since neither of these two conditions will likely be unmet for many years to come, we may as well get used to buyouts. And with a little advanced preparation, we may even be able to capitalize on them. After all, they’re not that difficult to understand.

We know MTG Stocks’ Interests page is where many speculators go for their daily price checks. I’m not 100% certain, but I suspect the MTG Stocks algorithm uses TCG Mid pricing to determine the price of every card each day. When a card’s price increases enough to overcome a minimum threshold, it shows up on the Interests page. That’s where things get interesting, because it means many more players will start to take notice of the card’s movement.

So in order to profit from buyouts more reliably, we need to get ahead of this movement. We need to take note of cards that are just now rising in price before they go mainstream. This can be tracked by looking at the 2-3% daily movers on the Interests page and cross-checking them with their inventory on MTG Stocks. If there’s lower inventory, we can expect that card’s price to continue to climb. If inventory—especially LP and NM inventory—drops below 50 copies, these cards are ripe for the picking by an aggressive speculator looking to make a buyout. These are the cards you want to grab in advance of that buyout.

Even better are the older cards. Not because I want to manipulate prices, but because they are so much more prone to pop. Add in the fact that many of these cards are on the Reserved List, and you have a recipe for a low-risk, high-reward investment. Those are exactly the type I like to jump into!

If the spike doesn’t happen as planned, it’s not like you’re going to lose money on a Reserved List card if you wait patiently. As long as you avoid hideously bad cards, they should all rise eventually. I gave some ideas in this article of exactly such cards—playable enough to merit acquiring even if we have to wait for gains.

As an added bonus, I even have a couple more ideas.

How about Dread Cacodemon out of the original Commander series?


I see just 42 sellers with LP or NM copies in stock, which will surely dry up over time. As long as this dodges reprint, the Commander demand will soak up what remains and eventually lead to a potential buyout.

Want one more? Check Static Orb—doesn’t matter which printing.


I see 28 sellers of the 7th Edition printing and 48 of the original Tempest printing. This one isn’t on the Reserved List, hence why we saw it as a Masterpiece in Kaladesh. This means there’s a small risk for reprint. But if we dodge that reprint, this card is sure to climb higher over time. With enough interest, this card will hit that inflection point and inevitably spike.

There are likely at least a couple dozen more cards like this. Playable in one format or another, low in stock, and prime to pop. The point of this article isn’t to encourage you to go out and buyout these cards yourself. You may end up sitting on dead inventory that will be difficult to move at a profit. Instead, I’d suggest picking up a few strategic copies so you have them in hand in case they do spike.

At this point it becomes a matter of likelihoods—the cost of holding these cards against the likelihood they spike. The older the card, the lower your downside and the higher the upside. But you don’t have to go back to 1997 to find worthwhile pickups. Even stuff as recent as 2014 can offer real opportunity to profit. With a little advanced planning and some research, it’s bound to pay out.

Sigbits

  • I don’t have regrets about flipping my Wheel of Fates for immediate profit. Do they have further upside? Sure. But these are so much less interesting to buy at $4 than they were at $1.50 when I initially bought in. Now to climb higher, they need to put up results, and I think this is unlikely even with As Foretold in Modern. SCG has about 100 copies in stock at under $4, and I think this will be the price ceiling for quite some time.
  • If you’ve been following my posts in the forums (I’ve recently increased my forum activity a bit), you may have seen me push hard for Mana Tithe. I made a small bet on this one, picking up 32 copies for around $22. This is the third card in this article that’s white with a non-white ability. Saffron loves this card, so if he keeps using it on stream in Modern I could see sets climbing to $8-$10. SCG is completely sold out of the regular printing, by the way, with a $1.25 price tag.
  • Winds of Change from Legends just hit an all-time high this past weekend. I’m not sure if it’s EDH players preferring this printing of the card or if it’s Old School demand driving the price. Either way, you can’t argue with results. SCG has exactly one copy in stock: a NM one listed at $7.99. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one hit $10 next.

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