I’ve heard the phrase “FOMO” before, most recently in QS's Insider Discord. It’s a concept that follows us throughout life, and it has affected everyone differently. For those of you that don’t know, FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out.
Let’s take my own experiences as an example. When I was much younger (between about 5 and 8) I had such a hard time falling asleep night after night after night. I would go to bed and shut my door, but I could hear my parents in the living room laughing to something on TV or occasionally the sounds of Mario looking for Peach from my old NES. It would honestly take me until the early morning hours sometimes to fall asleep, and that would take its toll on me the next day. I was sad and scared that I was missing out on something that my parents were experiencing, so much so that it would affect my health from lack of sleep. This is just one experience in an entire world of people, but we can learn and grow from it.
I’m sure many of you are asking how this applies to MTG finance. There are many people I’ve seen, even Insiders (and including myself sometimes), who have FOMO with Magic. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can put a wrench in our cogs if we're not careful. Let’s look at some examples of cards that have spiked to get a better idea.
Torrential Gearhulk is a card that started out pretty low and ran under the radar until it was seen on camera and in many decks at Pro Tour Kaladesh. Watching someone hold up six mana to cast it while having a Disallow in their graveyard was pretty cool, and for some reason, that concept hadn’t quite hit the majority of the community until that moment.
It was around the $5 mark, then started to rumble towards $8. No one thought it would see a penny over $10 or $11. On Friday, October 14, folks started hearing rumors that pros were playing it as a four-of in any deck with blue. The very next day, it was seeing prices of $15 minimum. It peaked just under $40 before the weekend was over, and slowly started to settle around $18 before two more spikes over the following months.
Arclight Phoenix is the talk of the meta right now in almost every format. Believe it or not, this card could be obtained at one point in time for $2 or less. I even know a few folks who picked them up in bulk for a brief time.
Rumors started and whispers were heard, and slowly this card moved its way from $2 to about the $5-to-$8 range. There was a lot of talk about how this card wouldn’t hit $10, and if it did, it would only be temporary (another article on this later). There were pros and YouTubers who were trying to break this card with awkward combos involving Pact of the Titan and strange storm brews. It hit $10 and plateaued a bit around $12. The time to buy for maximum profit had passed, but there was still time to buy. It spiked hard again and has floated between $22 to $30 since.
Alright, so I've pointed out a few examples of cards that could cause FOMO with certain audiences. How do we avoid that and how do we get ahead of the game? How do you know what the next Phantasmal Image is going to be? Let's take a look at some trends to follow and what to look at when deciding if you want to buy-in on a card.
First on my list is YouTube. It's a site I visit every day with a number of channels that I like to check. And yes, I watch some of them because I enjoy MTG content quite a bit, but there are some that can have a greater effect on the financial aspect of the game as well.
I won't point out directly who some of them are (a magician never gives away all of their secrets), but I will say that there are a couple of channels that have a very high subscriber count and are vastly popular. Alright, I'll give you a good one: The Command Zone. It's a fantastic channel where some folks get together to play none other than the namesake of the channel, Commander. They have great deck techs, fantastically edited videos, and are a fun group of folks to both watch and listen to. Because of their popularity, cards have been known to spike thanks to their deck techs and crazy Commander games.
Recently, Kozilek, the Great Distortion has seen an uptick in popularity. March 1, 2019, saw the posting of this particular video, in which Ashlen pilots a deck headed by Kozilek, the Great Distortion. If you follow the trends on MTGStocks, you can see that as of March 2, Kozzy started to see a rise. This same trend follows when, on March 19, the deck tech is posted, and now the lowest listed non-foil, near mint, English Kozzy on TCGplayer (as of the writing of this article) is roughly $10.
Not only is it popular, but the card has other variables that make it appealing as well – it's an Eldrazi, it has a cast trigger, it has a unique ability and mana cost, it's legendary, and it's no longer in Standard. Following along?
Twitter is a great place to find conversations about new decks that people are testing, what's going on in each format, why folks get so hyped about Pauper, sudden news within the Magic community, and a variety of other things. Twitter is an awesome resource! It's also a site where folks buy and sell cards – so you can follow trends or find some cheap pickups too.
I won't go too deep into why Twitch is amazing, because it holds a lot of the same value that YouTube does. The biggest difference is that Twitch is live. You can get instant information about who is playing what on camera at an SCG Open, MagicFest, FNMs, and tons of folks playing Arena or MTGO live.
There are a lot of content creators who have a Twitch schedule, and it's a great way to find the up-and-coming cards. You can watch SaffronOlive try to break ridiculous things like Worship just to find out that it's actually fairly good, can be competitive to a certain level, and thus if the price is right, could be a great investment.
So, what’s my point here? To level up our MTG finance decision making, we need to stop buying into cards that suddenly spiked to $20 just because we could find one or two copies at $16 or $17. Let's return to my examples of Torrential Gearhulk and Arclight Phoenix.
First of all, these two cards are very good at what they do. Gearhulk was a great finisher for control decks. Phoenix is a build-around card that happens to have been introduced in a time of fast decks for each format.
Secondly, there were a lot of people trying to buy into each of them just under a spike price point and sell for almost no profit, just to see it spike again. Part of speculation is risk. Yes, many folks will say “the greater the risk, the greater the reward” but the part they fail to mention is sometimes it’s a great fail too. One of the rules of thumb I use for speculating on Magic cards is that you need to have confidence in what you are buying in on and you need to have multiple justifications for why you feel the need to buy it.
Thirdly, do your due diligence on cards. You also have to remember that part of your profit isn’t actually profit, you also have to factor in fees and shipping. Selling a $5 card you bought at $3 won’t net you any profit, but selling a $5 card you got for $0.50 will (another article on this in the future).
Crucially, if you find yourself getting anxious and having FOMO with buying and selling cards, maybe taking a step back and a deep breath to gain some focus will help. You don’t have to buy in or try and profit from every single Death's Shadow or Nether Traitor.
- There’s a massive gap between UMA cards and their other printings. This is a good time to start picking up some Modern staples that are underpriced, especially foils. Fulminator Mage foils are a good example of this.
- Pauper is starting to pick up, especially after the on-camera coverage from MagicFest LA. The meta is fairly diverse and there are a lot of cards that have room to grow, especially cards with only one or two printings or foils. Tortured Existence is under $2 right now and has the potential to hit $4 or $5 – the deck is literally named after this card. If you can find some hiding in boxes, bulk bins, or for around $1, then I would pick them up and hold on to them.
- Kefnet, the Mindful is the last of the five Gods from Amonkhet that can be found for under $1 on most major retail websites (including TCGPlayer). In terms of price, it's not that far from Oketra the True, but they are all great pick-ups for Commander. This is a long-term hold, but even if you don't want to worry about selling a pile you acquire, they can always be buy-listed. Grab them for under $1 and send them to Card Kingdom in a year or two for $2 or more in store credit.