The Dark Spikes and Beating the Rudy Effect

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Two weeks ago I had authored an article paying tribute to a flavorful, macabre set out of genuine appreciation. That set, of course, was The Dark.

While the column was generally well received, I noticed some discussion afterwards, on various social media platforms, about a video created by Rudy of Alpha Investments. The title of the video, which was posted on January 17th, is “2022 – The Dark – Leads the Market Higher.” Throughout the video, Rudy touts the investible qualities of the set.

Given his 338K subscribers, it’s no surprise that his video created significant waves in the market, spiking Reserved List The Dark cards left and right. When I wrote my article, I didn’t realize Rudy had posted this influential video—my timing, therefore, was poor. How could I encourage folks to explore this under-appreciated set if it had just received the buyout treatment?

Therefore, I would like to double back and clarify a few things.

Be Wary of Rudy-Fueled Buyouts

When Rudy highlights a given set or product, the price moves. You could call it the “Rudy effect.” If you’re already holding cards he’s touting, then you’ve just been given a gift! You can expect to be able to sell those cards for north of their recent market prices. Whether your preferred platform for selling is eBay, TCGplayer, Facebook, or buylists, you will have an opportunity to cash out at a premium. Congrats!

If you don’t have the cards he’s talking about most recently, then the Rudy effect puts you into a bit of a pickle. Do you embrace the FOMO and purchase the trending cards in question despite the price spike? Or, do you have to wait a long time before you can acquire these cards at reasonable prices?

My advice is to stick with the latter. It can be frustrating to wait weeks or even months to obtain cards you want for a deck, but let’s face it—Rudy tends to push cards on the Reserved List, printed before 2000. At this point, you’ve had years to acquire these cards. If you hadn’t prioritized them thus far, then waiting another couple months won’t hurt too badly.

How am I so confident prices will retrace back toward a more normal level? Simple: history repeats itself!

A Couple Previous Examples

We’ve seen this film multiple times before. I vaguely recall (though admittedly can’t track down the video) when Rudy not-so-subtly alluded to City in a Bottle, Golgothian Sylex, and to a lesser extent, Apocalypse Chime for their common ability of destroying all cards from a given set. It wasn’t long afterward when we saw Sylex and Chime both spike on MTG Stocks. This would have been in summer 2020, and you can see from their charts that both cards spiked at the same time.

Let’s focus on Golgothian Sylex as our case study. Observe how the card spiked over $150 for a minute, and then declined almost as sharply as it rose. I remember cashing out my copy at this time, selling to Card Kingdom’s ever-dynamic (and aggressive) buylist. I felt a little seller’s remorse at the time, as I really do appreciate the card. However, after the price tumbled back down, I was able to pick up a replacement copy for less than my sale price!

Interestingly, I was able to find another Rudy video where someone wrote him and revealed their attempt to buy out the market of Golgothian Sylex. While they didn’t succeed in clearing out the market, I do have to wonder if their action permanently increased the baseline price for the card. Prior to its spike, the card was worth $15-$20. Nowadays it’s worth nearly $50. Then again, that may have been the natural price appreciation that would have occurred had the buyout not happened.

One thing is for sure, though: buying cards during these spikes can lead to financial losses. Patience prevails.

The shape of the curve for Apocalypse Chime is similar, but the numbers are much smaller. Still, this is a Homelands cards we’re talking about, so the buyout is almost laughable in nature. After spiking from $0.75 to over $10, the card rapidly declined toward $3 or so. It looks like it made another run a few months later, failed to hit new highs, and is once again on the decline.

Shifting Back to The Dark

The examples above were the quickest to come to mind, but I’m sure there are others throughout the years of Alpha Investments content. While the long-term prospects for Magic’s oldest sets remain strong, I remain doubtful that one can artificially short-cut the gradual growth these cards are expected to get (at least, not without a major bankroll).

Shifting focus to The Dark, a couple noteworthy cards are worth discussion.

First, there’s City of Shadows, which I mentioned in my article a couple weeks ago. Somehow, this has become the most valuable card from the set. I don’t know if it sees a whole lot of play, but here we are looking at a “$200” land that doesn’t even tap for mana until you sacrifice a creature to it.

Right off the bat, I question that $200 valuation. That seems to me like some deliberate price manipulation of MTG Stocks’ algorithm. I see a couple lightly played copies sold for around $120 last week, and then the most recently sold was a near mint copy for $224.97.

Call me a skeptic, but this has buyout written all over it, and I wouldn’t pay anything north of $100 for a lightly played to near mint copy. At the very least, you can pick up VG copies from Card Kingdom for $111.99, but even that price point sounds too high. Moderately played copies are in the mid-$70’s on TCGplayer, and if you’re feeling like gambling on the damaged lottery you could always grab that $55 copy.

But your best bet is to hold off on this one. These spikes never stick. This isn’t a tier one Old School playable card from Arabian Nights here. City in a Bottle is the real deal. City of Shadows… less so.

The other noteworthy The Dark card on the move is Frankenstein's Monster. I mentioned this one as well in my article from a couple weeks back. I love the real-world literature reference of this card. While it gets a 10/10 for flavor and 10/10 for grotesque art, it gets a much lower rating for playability. That didn’t stop the card from spiking north of $60 recently, however.

Frankenstein's Monster appears to be ahead of City of Shadows in its pricing trend, because this card has already begun its decline on MTG Stocks. I expect a significant reversal on this card’s price. Before the recent spike, this was trending in the mid-$20’s. I don’t think it’ll see numbers that low again simply due to price memory (and people not willing to sell for a loss), but I would not be surprised to see this settle about $10 higher, in the $35 range.

Wrapping It Up

If other cards from The Dark follow suit, make sure you keep your emotions in check and avoid the FOMO. We’ve seen this movie before—Rudy has the power to move markets, but not always permanently. In the case of The Dark, I believe these price increases will be temporary. You’ll just have to wait a couple months before you can enjoy the aesthetic of the set that I shared two weeks ago.

In the meantime, I can highlight a couple trends that are sticky. I’ve noticed the price on many Alpha and Beta rares have climbed—this is reflected in Card Kingdom’s buy prices, which go up almost once per week on any cards of which they remain low our out of stock. Ones I pay particular attention to include Beta Copy Artifact, Braingeyser, and Zombie Master. I also recently picked up a Beta Gaea's Liege, and I had to scramble to catch a Card Kingdom restock because they had been selling out of this one.

A subset of Arabian Nights also remains resilient. Some cards like Aladdin and Aladdin's Lamp have pulled back significantly from their highs. But Mountain currently buylists to Card Kingdom for $295 (near mint)—I don’t remember seeing a number that high on the basic land before. Their buy price on Juzám Djinn, Singing Tree, and Island of Wak-Wak also seem strong. These are places I’d rather be parking my resources instead of over-hyped The Dark un-playables.

Of course it’s a matter of personal preference, but assuming you have a shred of patience, your best bet is to avoid spiking The Dark cards for the time being. Don’t chase the Rudy hype, and you’ll be one step closer to saving or making money from this fantastic collectible card game.

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