Insider: Encountering Counterfeits and Other Grand Prix Stories

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Last weekend, I attended Grand Prix Indianapolis, and losing in the final round of day one to miss day two left me plenty of time to explore other aspects of the GP experience on Sunday, including watching the Pauper side event and working the trade tables, where I encountered some counterfeit cards. Today, I’ll recount what I did, and more importantly, what I learned.


Channel Fireball announced that they would host Pauper side events at their Grand Prix in January, and by all accounts the format’s first run at GP Santa Clara was a big success, bringing in 120 players for the three-round tournament. All eyes were on Indianapolis to see the results of the followup, and the attendance of 215 players surely got the attention of CFB, who has gone on record that they are viewing these events as test-runs for a potential Pauper Grand Prix in the future.

Hearsay from Indianapolis is that CFB have said that if one of their Pauper side events gets 500 players, they will schedule a Pauper Grand Prix. Nearly doubling the attendance from the first event to the second was significant, and although it’s going to be a much bigger hurdle to double again, it’s clear there is huge demand for the format, and it’s only going to grow in popularity, so at this point, the format hitting the mainstream seems inevitable.

With so much momentum behind it, it seems foolish to ignore the format from a financial perspective, because prices have been moving nowhere but up over the past month. A few cards in particular have seen significant gains this week, so I’d have them on your radar.

The most significant price gainer this week was Tortured Existence, which is used to abuse madness and the graveyard in Rock-style decks, and has the ability to lock out the opponent by recurring Spore Frog or Crypt Rats. It’s relatively old and in short supply compared to the rest of the Pauper cardpool, which explains its rise from $0.50 to over $2, and it shows no signs of stopping.

Liliana's Standard Bearer was bought out on TCGplayer over the weekend, which I noticed while checking prices at the trade tables on Sunday, so I immediately turned to eBay to pick up a couple sets at $2 a copy. The TCGplayer price moved up to $10 after the buyout, but after being restocked, it's now available for around $3 a copy. It’s one of the very best sideboard cards in the format, and will only continue to appreciate.

Another key sideboard card to pay attention to is Prismatic Strands, which is a staple of white creature decks and often makes its way into maindecks. Its price has grown from $0.50 to over $2.50 this month, with over half of that gain coming in the past week.

Another Aven Fogbringer-style card to pay attention to is Moment's Peace, which has doubled from $1 to $2 this month, with over a quarter of the growth coming this week.

The Trade Tables

I used to be an avid trader, but it has been a few years since I’ve spent time doing it at the local shop, and even longer since I traded at large events like Grand Prix, but recently I put together a trade binder to try to turn some of my cards into some Reserved List and Old-School cards, or anything else that I felt would be a better store of value than what I currently held. CFB’s recent ban on floor trading for profit meant I may have picked a poor time to start, but if anything, I figured it would be a good way to test the trading climate for myself.

Word from veteran floor traders was that the trade floor was mostly dead, and CFB was indeed actively targeting known traders-for-profit, or “backpackers,” and some had turned to working behind the booth of retailers in order to make a living. From my perspective as a casual trader that spent a few hours trading on Sunday, there was plenty of trading to be done, and perhaps the waters having fewer sharks swimming made things easier for me.

That said, there wasn’t exactly a wealth of great cards floating around, and there were no real notable high-end or old-school cards to be found during my short foray, but there was ample opportunity to trade into Standard staples had I wanted them, and I did pick up a few Horizon Canopys that I needed to round out my Modern playsets. I also actively targeted Pauper staples, and picked up the entirety of a Mono-Black Devotion deck, including Oubliette and Chainer's Edict, in anticipation of price increases.


The biggest story from the trade tables, however, and perhaps a symptom of the lack of experienced floor traders keeping people honest, was the discovery of a binder full of counterfeit Modern staples.

While trading at a table with a handful of traders, my trade partner, who had a low-value binder and was admittedly a new player, announced that another guy at the table had a ton of Modern staples. I planned on trading with him next, but someone else got to him first, and I got into another trade with someone across the table.

The had-a-ton-of-Modern-staples guy was working out a trade for one of his Snapcaster Mages, but when his trade partner pulled out the card, he announced that he thought the card was fake. By this time, a recognizable floor trader had joined the table, and he quickly confirmed that the card was a fake, and in fact was poorly done, and didn’t hold a candle to high-quality Chinese fakes. He said that he could immediately tell because of its glossiness, and after feeling it myself, it was too thick and heavy, and the colors, especially on the back, seemed muddy.

Attention was then turned to the rest of his binder, and it soon became evident that every single one of his Modern staples – including Tarmogoyfs, Dark Confidants and Ignoble Hierarchs – were fakes. It was almost as if the entirety of a box of fake Modern staples had been placed in the binder. He acted upset, and when asked where he got the cards, he said from eBay, but in retrospect it seems very unlikely that so many fakes were acquired, and that it was more likely malicious.

The trader said that he wanted to go find his past trade partners that day to tell them about the fakes, but it’s more likely that he wanted to extricate himself from the situation so he could run from the event and escape any sort of punishment. I should have told Channel Fireball about what was going on, but at the time in my post- tournament sleep-deprived state, I wasn’t sure if he was being malicious or was himself the victim of fraud, and I didn’t think it was my place.

Looking back, though, I dropped the ball. I could have helped catch a scumbag and hopefully stopped him from doing it in the future, although after being found out once, I am sure he will give a second thought to trying his ploy again. The incident occurred right before I was set to leave with my friends, so I didn’t investigate further, but I hope that one of the other people at the table did report him.

The moral of this story is to stay vigilant, because people really are out there trading fakes – and next time, they might not be so easy to spot.

Do you have a story of encountering counterfeit cards, trading at Grand Prix, or Pauper? I'd love to hear about it below.


3 thoughts on “Insider: Encountering Counterfeits and Other Grand Prix Stories

  1. As a community, knowledge and awareness of fakes being out there (sale or trade) is incredibly important (especially for newer players). It would be very disheartening for a new player to get scammed by a malicious trader with a binder full of fakes; which could deter the newer player (i.e. Victim) from continuing their foray into the game.

    I hope that someone followed up on reporting the incident to CFB staff (at the very least). Determining whether or not the counterfeit trader’s intent was malicious or not may be challenging, but at least identifying this individual AND the nature of the incident would help shed light and awareness, which I feel would benefit the Community as a whole. Even if there are no direct repercussions, this vigilance and awareness could potentially deter future incidents because it lets the would-be scum-runners know that we (as a Community) are not complacent. We are aware and watching!

    Even though it may be the last thing you wish to pursue (time and energy-wise), I would argue that documenting and reporting these incidents to the proper authorities (TO’s, Wizards, law enforcement, etc.) is just as important as recognizing and calling out the problem. This creates a documented trail of evidence, which is helpful in the long run should someone be an actual victim of a crime* (Criminal Simulation or Scheme to Defraud, possibly).

    *Just some recommendations and personal experience from working in law enforcement.

    Great article, and I am very happy that you were able to incorporate this experience into it! Thanks for sharing!

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