If you’re reading this article, or any others on Quiet Speculation, you’re interested in the financial side of Magic in some way. An article will hopefully provide some wisdom or nugget of useful knowledge for the reader to take in and use, but it’s only one small perspective on an enormous market.
At this point there are over 20,000 unique Magic cards, the prices of which are determined by countless forces acting on their supply and demand, so making sense of it all while keeping up with the market’s constant movement is a herculean task. The key to success is determining what really matters to the market among the endless noise, and therein lies the opportunity for profit.
In many of my articles, I try to use my knowledge and experience to identify and explain trends, and to point to cards I see growing. I arrive at these conclusions after considering many different factors. Today I want to dig into my process of looking for information relevant to the Magic market, specifically the sources I turn to and how I use them.
The basic barometer of the Magic market are price aggregators that track historic price movements, with MTGGoldfish and MTG Stocks being two I use regularly. These sites can be seen like the stock ticker of Magic cards, the go-to place for current prices and where cards have been in the short-to-long-term history.
This information is technically all looking in the past, but much like the stock-ticker, it can be used to help inform predictions about the future. It’s useful to help identify trends, and points where trends inflect and change course. Information like the historical high and low price, and price points during different key times in its history, can be used to help forecast what the future might bring.
Price information is best used not in a vacuum but in the context of the market. Large, sudden movements usually have an explanation—whether obvious or one that requires a little sleuthing—and figuring out the reason is key in planning for future movements. Moving beyond the price charts is where things start to get really interesting.
Prices on the stock market change with the news, as the new information it provides changes the value of things, or at least its perceived value. The same applies to Magic cards, and there is all sorts of new that can come out to change the demand of cards.
A prime example is tournament decklists (which I’ve given their own section below), but there are many other types of Magic news that impact the market. An obvious example is banning and unbanning announcements, which can bring a card from almost no demand to incredible demand in an instant, and has historically led to massive price spikes in Modern. On the other side of the coin, a card being banned will cut its demand almost entirely.
Another type of news, and a very pertinent one right now, are card spoilers. There are new Magic cards printed regularly, and they all have an impact on the market. A simple example is reprints, and the announcement of a high-dollar card being reprinted will typically lower its price, at least temporarily. Sometimes the opposite is true, as could be seen when the checklands were announced in Dominaria, and the old versions, which were at bargain-basement prices, increased in price.
Most spoiler news isn’t so obvious and takes a bit more analyzing, but it can be just as significant. A good example is when a card is printed that happens to combo with another card, like when Felidar Guardian was spoiled and Saheeli Rai saw a massive surge in demand and price.
Oftentimes these interactions are found and identified in corners of the internet but not necessarily widely publicized and acted upon by the public immediately. So quick identification and action when this does happen could be very profitable—though keep in mind it is a rare occurrence.
Recently, the printing of Assassin’s Trophy has gotten people hyped about BGx decks like Jund and Abzan in Modern. In the days following the spoiling, the price of all sorts of black-green staples like Liliana of the Veil, Tarmogoyf, and even Leovold, Emissary of Trest due to the Legacy implications, have increased online. These could soon follow in paper.
Another good example of news impacting the market is the regularly-occurring article that provides updates about the state of Magic Online. It includes information about changes to the frequency at which cards appear in Treasure Chests.
When specific cards see changes, it can dramatically change the value of these cards or even the chests themselves. Recently there was an emergency announcement that Nexus of Fate would have a dramatically higher drop rate, which brought the price of Treasure Chests up by around 10% instantly.
The key factor behind many price movements is tournament results. If a deck or card breaks out in a tournament, it’s likely to see a spike in demand. It’s this demand from the competitive metagame that determines the prices of many cards, so these results are a key place to look for anyone dealing in those cards.
There’s a reason that Quiet Speculation sends a reporter to the floor of Standard Pro Tours to glean information about what is going on—the earlier one can get this information, the more valuable it is. I remember when I first saw the Colorless Eldrazi deck the night it won a Modern Classic, and by the next day prices for its staples like Gemstone Caverns had exploded.
Looking forward, the first SCG Open after Standard rotation will be heavily scrutinized for information about the new metagame, so cards that break out there could spike. Similarly, I’ll be looking closely at decklists from Magic Online, which show what new cards are succeeding in the early days after rotation, and in many ways is like peeking into the future.
One of the major vehicles of news is social media, which is a sort of secondary source, but one just as important. It’s the place where news is digested, distilled, and disseminated. It decides what news matters, meaning what actually is “news” at all, and can be a great place for a quick look at the hot topics of the moment. On the day Assassin’s Trophy was spoiled, for example, Twitter was ablaze with discussion about the card, and the enormous hype about the card from all corners could have informed the decisions to go deep on BGx staples online that day.
Soon after Status // Statue was spoiled, I learned about its combo with Goblin Chainwhirler on Twitter. That combo might not be quite as monumental as the spoiling of Vampire Hexmage turning Dark Depths from bulk rare to chase rare, but it goes to show you how fast the collective consciousness figures out what is going on in the Magic world—social media is the place to tap into it.
For Magic, Twitter is really one of the best places to learn about news in real-time. Reddit is also useful, and will even regularly have the biggest topics from Twitter trending.
Social media is a powerful influence and sort of news in its own way, and someone influential endorsing a card or deck can impact the market. A great example of this is the “Saffron Olive effect,” named for the popular streamer and personality who regularly causes price spikes, at least online, of all sorts of cards he uses in his brews.
Another example are articles. At this point, they almost might seem like an extension of social media, since that’s where the most important ones are shared, but the opinion of pros and influential people can be a factor in influencing the price of card. Strategy articles can also be used to help your own evaluation of a card’s future prospects and potential value.
The sources I’ve written about today are truly just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an almost endless amount of information out there that can help make your Magic finance decisions.
Some examples of things I might look at include buylist prices, as well as the spread, which tells its own story. There’s also TCGplayer market price, and if you have a TCGplayer storefront you can even look and see the price of the last copy of the card sold. There’s also the matter of stock on TCGplayer, as well as price, stock, and past sold on eBay. Buy and sell prices for cards at dealer booths is also a wealth of information.
What sources of information are essential for you?