There’s a difference between being perpetually hungry and perpetually unhappy. In the MTG finance community, we all have specific goals we strive to achieve day-in and day-out. We buy, sell, and trade cards on a weekly or daily basis in our efforts to fund hobbies, pay tuition, pay rent, or simply make this game a little cheaper. Thus we always have a bit of “hunger” within us because we’re always looking for that next hit.
There’s nothing wrong with being hungry—the lack of complacency drives us to strive for better. However there is a fine line between being hungry and being unhappy. On a recent finance podcast, Jeremy (@MissouriMTG) made a cheeky remark regarding the unhappiness of most MTG financiers. While he was probably half kidding to get a rise out of his co-hosts, there is definitely truth to that statement.
This week I want to step back, acknowledge some elephants in the community, and try to set a more optimistic view on this hobby’s bright future. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of finance content intertwined so this should be worth the read!
A Personal Anecdote
The Reserved List buyouts have been lucrative. While I did not catalyze any buyout individually, I did make sure to grab a copy or two of any card that had low stock and looked interesting to me. As a result, I made large-percentage gains on cards I never even heard of up until last month. Lifeblood, Knowledge Vault, Cleansing, and Damping Field all make that list. Check out how high some of those buylists got, by the way!
After one particularly active night of selling, I thought I would share a few examples with a fellow MTG financier in the community. Many people have been denouncing the Reserved List buyouts stating that the high prices are artificial and will attract no buyers. I looked to provide some evidence to the contrary in a productive and professional way. The response I received was a bit perplexing.
I was promptly told that my results were solid but inferior. As it turns out, in this same timeframe, there may have been other avenues to invest money within Magic that could have offered superior returns. Thus this person suggested my approach was not the optimal strategy.
The exchange left a sour taste in my mouth and a confused look on my face. I certainly felt like I had hit a home run with my recent transactions. I don’t think I could have done what I did any better. The timing was right, the price points were attractive (no one ever sells at the absolute top every time) and the returns got me one step closer to that goal: funding a college education for my son. So why was I unhappy?
Defining Your Happiness
I ruminated on this exchange far longer than I should have. It just kept eating at me inside—I expected a pat on the back and an acknowledgement that these Reserved List cards were indeed worthwhile investments. Instead I was put down condescendingly and offered advice on how to better approach MTG finance. Where was the disconnect?
At last I found what I was missing: I had lost sight of what mattered most to me in Magic. Most of us are involved in the Quiet Speculation community either because we want to make Magic cheaper or because we want to grind money out of the game. But there are secondary and tertiary factors that also motivate us to make certain investing decisions. After all, if we all prioritized making every penny we could out of Magic we would all ultimately end at the exact same strategy. Yet we each seem to find different approaches that work best for ourselves.
For me, I realized that while funding a college education was the primary objective, I had other goals as well. For example, I have always appreciated the Legends multi-colored creatures. They are all so unique and interesting in their artwork, abilities, and overall flavor. So when these started to jump, I put profit margins aside to ensure I had a copy of some of these cards. Now, even with a higher price tag, I’m not tempted to sell my Bartel Runeaxe or Gosta Dirk.
These aren’t getting printed ever again, so even if they retract in value in the short term I know that I will appreciate them in my collection for years, and ultimately I will sell them for more than they are now. I’m okay with that even though it’s not the “optimal” strategy.
I also found a niche within Magic that has truly gripped my interest. I spent a few years making all my decisions in the hobby based solely around making a buck. But Old School MTG has changed my perspective—at last there’s a way I can appreciate Magic that doesn’t revolve around money. I actually enjoy playing the format and collecting the cards.
So now picture this: all of a sudden all of these classic Magic cards start to spike. Each day I’m discovering interesting cards I may one day want to try playing in ‘93/’94. It was only natural for me to follow my instincts and buy a couple copies of key Reserved List cards. Then I sold some for profits to help fund the ones I kept. It was truly the perfect balance for me. If there was a card I couldn’t sell for profit, I had no issues with keeping it because I genuinely enjoyed owning the card! Try saying that about a stack of Standard rares!
Turning Attention Externally
With my priorities clearly in focus, I turned my attention externally once again. First off, I completely wrote off the Twitter discussion I had with that MTG finance community member. Their recommendations were 100% spot on if my goals and priorities were identical to theirs. But in truth they are not. That’s okay. We can all attack this nebulous thing we call “MTG finance” in a variety of ways, custom-fit for our own personal interests. In other words, there can be more than one right way of doing this.
Secondly, I started to view other Twitter and social media debates in a different light. I started to see everyone’s perspective a little more clearly and also grew more confident in my own beliefs.
This was particularly useful during the Reserved List debates that took place during the back half of last week. Some MTG finance people couldn’t handle all the dribble posted to Twitter. But at this point I realize that engaging in such debate is completely fruitless. I have my beliefs and you have yours. We both developed these based off what we believe makes us happy with the hobby, and we use that paradigm to communicate what we think is “right” about the Reserved List. From this lens, there really is no debate to have.
So I am going to try very hard to be less confrontational with social media going forward. I don’t think I was particularly argumentative in the past, but with my newfound appreciation for what I believe is most important, I should engage in the negativity much less often. The MTG finance hashtag is filled with negativity, boasting, humblebrags, and personal insults. Like the Grinch’s heart on Christmas, I don’t know why everyone’s ego grew three sizes overnight but I’m going to try and keep my own in check. Nobody’s perfect, but I’ll do my best.
Where’s the Finance?
I had to get that off my chest. It feels like I’m making a declaration to the community that, “I will be happy!” Seems silly, but if we all take a step back to consider our happiness level at this moment in time, we may be surprised to see that we have replaced happiness with hunger. As long as we’re making money, it doesn’t matter if it’s the fastest way, the most efficient way, or the most effective way. It only matters that we’re enjoying the hobby along the way and we should be content.
So with this in mind, where am I putting money to work nowadays? Let’s start by revisiting the Amonkhet Invocations. I have already flipped a couple for modest profits and I have my eyes set on a few more.
Namely, I like anything with less than 50 sellers on TCGplayer that shows up in at least 3,000 EDH REC lists. Two that meet this criteria that I own are Capsize and Forbid. The former is in over 10,000 EDH REC lists and the latter is very popular with Wizard themes who reward you for playing spells. Make sure you keep these on your radar.
Turning my sights over to the Reserved List hype, it would appear that the craze is finally dying down. There are fewer and fewer Reserved List cards popping each day, and we are left with a small trickle at this point.
But don’t let that deter you from combing through the scraps left behind. This will happen again, after all. The buyouts significantly reduced stock in some The Dark cards including Scarwood Bandits and Exorcist. If you can find a few straggling copies of these in nice condition for under a buck, why not grab a few? I’m quite tempted to try them in Old School myself.
I’ll point out that these purchases are dual-motivated for me. I don’t have to make money on these older cards to be happy. Make sure you feel the same way before following.
Lastly, I want to make specific mention of the judge foil printing of Morphling. All the Reserved List foils were bought out, causing drastic price jumps. However being printed so recently, this card was left in the dust. It hasn’t been that great in Commander before, but with the printing of Mairsil, the Pretender the iconic creature may see some renewed interest.
Morphling shows up in 70% of Mairsil lists, so if interest in this general increases, the demand for Morphling will rise. It won’t have to rise that much to see the only foil printing of Morphling that will ever exist spike.
Wrapping It Up
I know this is a finance website and you all expect me to write about topics that will make you money every week. But I also view this hobby as a source of happiness, and if we focus solely on our pocketbooks we may lose sight of what truly gets us excited. Are we trying to make money? Of course. But there are dozens of ways to do this and there is no one superior method.
I emphasize this because I don’t know if everyone out there has internalized it. I experienced that firsthand with a one-on-one dialogue, but I also see this in the disgruntled debates on Twitter that have been occurring lately.
Why is everyone so miserable out there? There is plenty of meat on the bone for everyone, especially when we’re all dissecting different parts of the animal that is MTG finance. I like older cards, someone else may like foils, and a third person may prefer Standard metagame fluctuations. If we’re happy and enjoying the journey, then we’re all doing it “right.”
Let’s try to keep that in mind when interacting on social media going forward. I am going to make a very disciplined effort to do so, and I hope people call me out on this if they see me going off track. I am thrilled to be a part of this community, to enjoy a hobby that pays for itself, and to put some money aside for my son’s college tuition. As long as I’m on that path, it doesn’t matter what others are doing to achieve their goals. I’m making progress, and that’s all that matters.
- The Quiet Speculation Discord channel mentioned An-Zerrin Ruins over the weekend and I immediately bought a few copies. First of all, I love it when people speculate on Homelands because it’s one of my favorite sets in Magic. But second of all, the card seems very meta right now given the likely rise in popularity of tribal Commander decks. Lastly, it’s on the Reserved List… need I say more? Star City Games is sold out of course, but that $0.99 price tag won’t last.
- I picked up a second Unlimited Chaos Orb over the weekend. I had been wanting another for use in a second Old School MTG deck, and I noticed the supply over in Europe was nearly zero. Star City Games is sold out with a $299.99 price tag but I can see this one going even higher.
- One Reserved List card that may be under most people’s radar is Lich. I noticed it pop on MTG Stocks over the weekend and it is now at its all-time high. There are just seven sellers of the Unlimited printing on TCGplayer and this equates to around a dozen copies. Interestingly, Star City Games has 16 SP copies in stock at $29.99, well below TCGplayer pricing. I would suggest they up their price, but if they have so many copies at that price point perhaps they would just as soon sell them all. Either way, I am going to pick up a copy or two to see what happens.