menu

Content Creators Wanted

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

You Can Be a Content Creator with Quiet Speculation

Do you love Magic: the Gathering? Are you exploding with stories to tell and knowledge to share about your favorite game? Are you able to write and speak coherently? If this sounds like you, Quiet Speculation is actively looking for new content creators to join our team. Share your knowledge of Magic and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Open Roles

Quiet Speculation is actively recruiting content creators to cover these specific areas of focus:

News Desk

The News Desk person will be responsible for keeping up with weekly Magic news and publishing a weekly article/video as well as sending out the QS newsletter. The news desk is responsible for covering set releases, major event announcements, banning announcements, and other news relevant to the Magic community. Video production or streaming experience is a plus as we look to relaunch the QS YouTube channel.

Limited Specialist

Do you love draft? Are you the one people go to on prerelease weekend for help building their sealed deck? The Limited Specialist covers all aspects of Limited from Magic Online, to Magic Arena, and paper Magic as well. Writing prerelease primers, draft primers, and other nuts & bolts topics are just some of the things you'll cover. As long as it's Limited-focused, you'll be mostly free from week to week to cover whatever topic interests you within that scope.

Vorthos (Art, Story, etc.)

This role is a bit more nebulous, and we are open to being pitched on a variety of possible approaches. At the end of the day, this role involves covering the flavor and creative elements of Magic, whether it's from a more story-driven perspective, or from an art and visual perspective. Pitch us unique ideas, and why you're the person most suited to cover them.

Rules Wizard

This role is for a Judge Academy-certified Judge interested in making content explaining Magic rules concepts. These can range from introductory (steps and phases of a turn) to advanced topics (layers), targeted to players who already have an understanding of the basic rules of the game. While Q&A from readers will certainly be a part of this role, the focus will be producing evergreen content with topics appealing to a wide audience of players.

Other Opportunities

We are looking for diverse content creators who bring something new to the table. If none of the above roles are a good fit for you, don't hesitate to apply and pitch us on what you want to cover. We've launched the careers of numerous Magic content creators over the years. Could you be next? Smash the button below and apply today.

Paul Comeau

Paul first started playing Magic in 1994 when he cracked open his first Revised packs. He got interested in Magic Finance in 2000 after being swindled on a trade. As a budget-minded competitive player, he's always looking to improve his knowledge of the metagame and the market to stay competitive and to share that knowledge with those around him so we can all make better decisions. An avid Limited player, his favorite Cube card is Shahrazad. A freelance content creator by day, he is currently writing a book on the ‘90s TCG boom. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

View More By Paul Comeau

Posted in Announcement, FreeTagged , , , Leave a Comment on Content Creators Wanted

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Five Magic Things I’m Thankful For

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

I've had plenty in my life to be thankful for this year. This is true for me in Magic as well. As we approach the end of 2021, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on all the Magic-related things I'm thankful for in 2021.

The Gathering

The return of in-store play has been amazing. It's wonderful seeing friends on a regular basis once more after not seeing many of them for nearly two years. My Local Game Store (LGS) has done everything it can to keep events safe and fun. I applaud the safety measure they've taken and continue to take so that we can all keep the Gathering in Magic: The Gathering.

Limited

2021 has been a great year for Limited. While I was not a huge fan of Kaldheim, I've enjoyed pretty much every format we've played this year, including Adventures In The Forgotten Realms. The pinnacle for Limited this year though was certainly Modern Horizons 2. The set called to mind for me memories of the first Modern Masters set. it is impressively deep, beyond the obvious archetypes. I've drafted it numerous times, and continue to find something new to explore every time I sit down at the draft table. I hope to experience the set at least one more time before the end of the year.

Completing Invasion Block Cube

I made it a pandemic project to finally finish my Invasion Block Cube this year. To do so, I reached out to my network of Magic friends and acquaintances. With their cooperation, I was able to trade for the bulk of what I was missing. A few purchases from my LGS and from online brought the project to completion. Now, the Cube is draftable, and our first Invasion draft night was a blast. I've said before that Invasion is my all-time favorite Limited format. It brought a lot of joy to me to share that format with friends, and allow them to experience it for the first time. Thank you to everyone who contributed to it.

Joining Quiet Speculation

Joining Quiet Speculation first as a content creator, and then as the Director of Content has been an absolute pleasure. We have a fantastic team of creative folks working together to put out quality content. I'm continually inspired by the sheer joy everyone brings to Magic, regardless of the topics they cover, and to their work. I have to give a shoutout to Tyler, Danny, Kelly, and everyone else on the team for believing in me as the Director of Content, and their enthusiasm for where things are heading. We have plenty of excitement coming in 2022. Want to join us? We still have a number of content creator roles we are looking to fill as we move forward.

All of Our Readers

None of this would be possible without the support of our readers, especially our Insiders. If you enjoy the content we offer and want access to powerful collection management and pricing tools, please consider becoming a QS Insider. It's the best way you can directly support the website. We have lots of Insider-exclusive content in the works for 2022, so get on board now so you don't miss out on a single thing. On behalf of everyone here at Quiet Speculation, thank you for your readership and your support. It means the world to all of us.

Passed Priority

What are you thankful for this year, in life and in Magic? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter.

Paul Comeau

Paul first started playing Magic in 1994 when he cracked open his first Revised packs. He got interested in Magic Finance in 2000 after being swindled on a trade. As a budget-minded competitive player, he's always looking to improve his knowledge of the metagame and the market to stay competitive and to share that knowledge with those around him so we can all make better decisions. An avid Limited player, his favorite Cube card is Shahrazad. A freelance content creator by day, he is currently writing a book on the ‘90s TCG boom. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

View More By Paul Comeau

Posted in Free, LimitedLeave a Comment on Five Magic Things I’m Thankful For

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Getting Back to the Heart of Commander

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Keeping a Competitive Game Social

What do you love about the Commander format? The engaging opportunities for card interaction? Drawing from a massive card pool spanning nearly 30 years? The chance to show off your hard-to-find original print or foil cards? The rewards for each individual and playgroup vary wildly.

A fairly universal payoff, however, is when you find a card that just seems perfect for an existing deck. This process of continual refinement is integral to Magic itself, however, there is a cost, especially socially, as your deck becomes more and more refined.

There are many good things to be said about cEDH and high-powered deck design, but, the original intent of the format has always been about emphasizing the social aspects of Magic; if it takes longer to shuffle than to play out the game it probably was not fun. (We've all been there!)

That's where the Heart of Commander comes in; a moderation of play aimed at achieving a meaningful, social experience for the vast majority of Magic players. This vision lines up with Magic creator Richard Garfield's own ideas about the game.

Quoted in "Leader of the Banned", an old but strong article about how the original design team wanted to handle powerful cards early in Magic's life, Garfield said: "I expected playgroups to moderate themselves. This is the way it always is in hobby games—no one played by all of a game's rules, and every playgroup tweaked it to meet their own group's tastes."

With that ideal in mind, here are five guidelines I use to build Commander decks that enhance the social experience while avoiding a win at all costs mentality. (Don't worry the cEDH follow-up articles will completely deny the existence of this one.)

Interaction

In my experience, a lot of Commander groups score extremely low on the Interaction Scale. Let's say you have two creatures: a 2/2 with Flying that gets +1/+1 counters and another that gets +1/+1 counters and has… Flying, Lifelink, Hexproof, Double-Strike, Haste, and Protection from your Opponents. For the time being assume they are roughly the same mana cost, dollar cost, and availability; why would a player ever choose the first creature over the second? The Heart of Commander that's why! Rather than pick cards based purely on power, you opt for lower-powered but nostalgic cards that are playable, have deck synergy, and will result in longer, more interactive games. Interaction is not solely about card power, however.

Take a journey with me to circa 1999 in a set called Mercadian Masques and let's talk about:

Flailing Soldier and Friends

Is Flailing Soldier, a 2/2 for one red mana, the most interactive one drop in Magic's history? If the table needs to gang up on a player that is winning, Flailing Soldier and Friends gives you a way to do that. A card like Serra Ascendant, while greater in raw power for the same one mana, just does not. Where one card is massive value for one mana, the other opens up table talk, diplomatic strategy, and a mana mini-game all on its own - it promotes Interaction and gets the table involved.

Of course, there will be times that fellow players don't pick up what Flailing Soldier puts down. Sometimes he just dies right away. Even in death, Flailing Soldier gets a name. His name is Interaction.

Theme

This is probably the most widely recognized idea behind many Commander decks, but, I want to impress upon you all that Theme is not to be taken lightly! In my very first Commander deck, I had a theme—everyone's favorite—Land Destruction! (Yes I can hear the e-Boos from here.)

I figured in a format with generally high mana cost spells and multi-colored commanders that destroying land would be the most efficient way to shut down my opponents and get the W. Resolving a Jokulhaups or Armageddon on turn three or four was oftentimes enough to maybe not win outright but to massively stall and frustrate everyone playing. Letting people play their cards is, generally, a lot more fun than just shutting everything down, who would have known?

So yes there I was with my "Theme" and I did a good job on that angle. What could my deck do? Well, it could destroy lands and destroy more lands. The takeaway here is my strict adherence to the theme—that was the part that worked—Letting everyone at the table have fun, not so much. So how do we take that idea, turn it up to 11, and remove the land destruction?

Finding An Interesting Theme

My current best example is my Atraxa, Praetors' Voice deck (save the groans I assure you!) - this deck is all about….Deathtouch! Virtually all non-land cards, and as many of the lands as possible—I'm pointing at you Hissing Quagmire—have the word "Deathtouch" printed on them. Many of them are creatures that simply have Deathtouch, but, I also have cards like Mwonvuli Beast Tracker as a Deathtouch Tutor—and for bonus points, this deck also contains three distinct "Subthemes"—"Lose the Game Touch", "All the Abilities" and to a much lesser extent "+1/+1 counters" (I mean I am running Atraxa).

Deathtouch Subthemes

If a card does not have or say "Deathtouch" - it had better have tremendous thematic synergy with one or all of the subthemes or it does NOT go in the deck.

My First Time Playing Atraxa

Me: Play a guy with Deathtouch, go.
Them: Oh what card is that?
Me: It's just a 1/2 with Deathtouch.
Them: Huh okay. Play a mana rock.
Me: Play a guy with Deathtouch, go.
Them: Oh what is that? Oh, Deathtouch. Okay, play a guy, pass.
Me: (tap mana cast creature) Pass.
Them: What does…
Me: Deathtouch.
Them: Ha ha ha!
Me next turn: Cast this guy.
Them: Deathtouch?
Me: Deathtouch.
Everyone: Proceed to have fun laughing while explaining every ability, every play sequence, everything as "Deathtouch".

After this game not only were the other players enthusiastic about exploring some themes they may not have considered but one of them took out their binder and started pulling every card they could see with Menace (I don't know how that deck build went but I did tell him if he named the deck anything other than "Dennis" he was doing it wrong).

I've used this same idea for a few different Themes like unblockable creatures with Ophidian/Curiosity subtheme, Mono-Red Enchantments, "Giants", Wall of Text, X/X, and others. These decks vary vastly in power level (generally from Low to Lower) but they never fail to spark the imagination of my fellow Magic players and, again, that is the Heart of Deathto…Commander.

History

Magic is nearly 30 years old. Originally, Magic's designers thought that people would buy a sealed deck or two and a few packs of cards and that's it. The original intention was that you would likely see completely new cards every time you played someone new. The idea that someone plays cards you have never seen is also part of the Heart of Commander. Many players lean heavily on a few sets, perhaps, the few sets in print when they first started playing. There is a rich and vast History of cards (some of which are very inexpensive!) just waiting to be explored and brought into your Commander games. Many players only need a little push; consider this your push! Go, Gather the Magics and play a few cards you have never seen before - maybe you will find some new favorites!

Variety

A long time ago I found that I was running many of the same cards in every deck because, well, they were the best cards. The problem is that playing the same cards made every game feel the same. according to Alex Barker in the article "How Does Commander Color Identity Work?" there are 32 distinct color identities. If you have questions about the color identities of Commander, I strongly suggest reading his article. With color identity in mind, I felt that I should only have one deck to represent each combination. Based on my other build philosophies *virtually none* of my Commander decks run the same cards. This way every game really feels completely and distinctly different. All of this can only be achieved with an eye towards Variety which is not only the spice of life but also the Heart of Commander!

Memes

Ah yes, the wondrous meme deck. Mine was The Boat Deck. After dismantling my hated Land Destruction deck, I wanted to make a deck with a ridiculous build restriction that was very simple: every single card had to have a picture of a boat on it. Every card, no exceptions! The first and most celebrated Commander for this deck was Skeleton Ship. How can a Commander deck with Skeleton Ship win even a single game? Well, not being considered a threat can sometimes be the best strategy of all! Plus, this allowed me to use boat puns regularly. The Heart of The Boat Deck is the Heart of Commander, find a silly theme and build it - memes create memories!

Joe Mauri

Joe has been an avid MTG player and collector since the summer of 1994 when he started his collection with a booster box of Revised. Millions of cards later he still enjoys tapping lands and slinging spells at the kitchen table, LGS, or digital Arena. Commander followed by Draft are his favorite formats, but, he absolutely loves tournaments with unique build restrictions and alternate rules. A lover of all things feline, he currently resides with no less than five majestic creatures who are never allowed anywhere near his cards. When not Gathering the Magic, Joe loves streaming a variety of games on Twitch(https://www.twitch.tv/beardymagics) both card and other.

View More By Joe Mauri

Posted in Commander, Deck Building, FreeTagged , , , , , , , Leave a Comment on Getting Back to the Heart of Commander

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Direct or Not to Direct

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

This past week I got an invite from TCGplayer to turn my store into a Direct store. I had only once received a similar email, during the early stages of the Pandemic when the major retailers closed and my online sales spiked hard. Previously, there were pretty stringent requirements to be invited into the Direct program. The site currently shows the following requirements:

 

Interestingly, my store does not meet the requirements. I am not close to 100 sales per month nor do I have an inventory of 3000 cards listed. This implies that they may be changing or updating those requirements.

Still, I got the email and it's something I wanted to dig into.  As a small-time seller, I don't have to devote a lot of time each day to packaging and selling cards. I have a limited inventory of around 2000 cards and throughout my store's existence, I have probably averaged somewhere between 1-5 sales per day. Thus, this is not something that eats into my free time enough to make me want to immediately jump on board.

Fee Comparison

As a business, my goal is to maximize my profit, so logically the first step in our decision-making process is to compare the fee structures. The chart below is their fee breakdown.

Obviously, the last bit of information we need is the Direct Replacement Shipping Cost breakdown.

Real-Life Examples

I realize that's a lot to take in so we will do some quick examples to help make sense of it all. Here are 4 of my more recent sales fully broken down (keep in mind, I am NOT currently a direct seller).

Card Name Qty Sale Price ($) TCGPlayer Shipping Cost ($) TCGPlayer Fee Amount ($) TCGPlayer Net Total ($) Actual Shipping ($) Final Take Home ($)
Dowsing Dagger 1 $3.25 $1.15 $0.87 $3.53 $0.50 $3.03
Kruin Outlaw 1 $4.00 $1.15 $0.97 $4.18 $0.50 $3.68
Torpor Orb 3 $59.97 $1.15 $8.22 $52.90 $3.75 $49.15
Sudden Spoiling 1 $2.99 $1.15 $0.84 $3.30 $0.50 $2.80

 

The last column is arguably the most important, as it is my final "take-home" from each sale. Now let's look at those sales as if they were made using Direct, using the above tables for our calculations.

Card Name Qty Sale Price ($) Estimated Direct Fee Amount ($) TCGplayer Replacement Shipping ($) Final Take Home ($)
Dowsing Dagger 1 $3.25 $0.67 $0.98 $1.60
Kruin Outlaw 1 $4.00 $0.76 $0.98 $2.26
Torpor Orb 3 $59.97 $7.17 $3.14 $49.66
Sudden Spoiling 1 $2.99 $0.64 $0.98 $1.37

Comparing the two options, the only time I come out better with Direct is on the larger more expensive orders. One of the biggest factors in this "Final Take Home" difference is the fact that non-Direct sellers get to have their shipping cost added to the order, whereas, Direct sellers never see a dime of the shipping cost.

However, if this were all that was involved you would likely see very few Direct sellers.

Why Bother then?

You are likely asking yourself why bother with Direct at all if you're far more likely to make less money per sale. There are two additional factors to take into account. One may be somewhat obvious for those who often buy from Direct sellers on TCGplayer. Direct sellers tend to price their cards higher than TCGLow, where many of us have to price our cards to sell them. Below is a random sampling of a list of cards I came up with, in which I compared the lowest-priced TCGplayer Non-Direct option versus the lowest priced Direct TCGplayer option. I eliminated options that were not at least LP in condition, and I added in the shipping cost for the non-direct option.

Card Name Lowest Cost Option Lowest Cost Direct Option Direct “Surcharge” Percent
Goldspan Dragon $27.29 $35.84 23.86%
Karn, Scion of Urza $7.25 $8.39 13.59%
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria $22.99 $24.61 6.58%
Torpor Orb $16.97 $25.50 33.45%
Inspiring Statuary $4.63 $5.46 15.20%
Snapcaster Mage $40.99 $45.33 9.57%
Urza's Saga $22.99 $27.03 14.95%
Esper Sentinel $16.99 $18.99 10.53%
Flooded Strand $32.99 $39.89 17.30%
Alrund's Epiphany $9.49 $9.99 5.01%
Wrenn and Seven $15.25 $19.59 22.15%
Memory Deluge $5.49 $6.94 20.89%
Craterhoof Behemoth $39.99 $42.28 5.42%
Rhystic Study $27.99 $33.85 17.31%
Breeding Pool $18.59 $21.83 14.84%
Hallowed Fountain $7.70 $9.00 14.44%

 

While this is obviously a small sample size, I think it's fair to assume that the true "Direct Surcharge" likely falls in the 15-20% range, with this sample average 15.32%. This implies you can likely sell your cards for around 15-20% more per card by using the TCGplayer Direct platform.

The second factor is sales volume. I talked to several Direct store owners and the overall consensus is that you are likely to see somewhere between 2x and 4x your current sales volume switching to Direct. So you may make less per sale, but if you get a lot more sales your overall income may go up.

Dead Zones

I would like to thank one of our QS members who were invaluable to the writing of this article, biospark88, who runs a Direct store, and who provided a good bit of insight on the matter. One key point he mentioned was the "dead zones," which can be especially bad for Direct sellers. To begin though, it is critical to keep in mind that for non-direct, TCGplayer recommends tracking on all orders above $20; but does not require it. Tracking is only required on orders above $50. For this reason, you often see a lot of $51 cards going for $49.99 or some other amount below $50, as it costs around $3.75 to ship a tracked bubble mailer, whereas it costs only around $0.6 to send a plain white envelope. Thus, there are certain price ranges that cause you as a seller to come out worse by charging more. This is especially true with TCGplayer Direct, as they triple the "shipping replacement" fee between $19.99 and $20. Thus, you will rarely see TCGplayer Direct cards priced anywhere between $20-$24.

On a similar note, you'll see that on everything under $2.99, you only get 50% in the end. This can still be great for bulk cards that you are unlikely to ever sell regularly, as getting even $0.05 on a true bulk common or uncommon is great.

Final Comparison Chart

After all this research, I still need to decide whether I want to go Direct or not. This next chart is a direct comparison chart that includes a 20% "Direct Surcharge" to help make my decisions easier.

TCGLow Value TCGplayer Fees (ignoring sales tax) Total Profit TCGplayer Direct Price TCGplayer Direct Fees Direct Total Profit
$1.00 $0.43 $1.72 $1.20 $0.60 $0.60
$1.50 $0.49 $2.16 $1.80 $0.90 $0.90
$2.00 $0.56 $2.60 $2.40 $1.20 $1.20
$2.50 $0.62 $3.03 $3.00 $1.62 $1.38
$3.00 $0.68 $3.47 $3.60 $2.54 $1.06
$3.50 $0.75 $3.90 $4.20 $1.66 $2.54
$4.00 $0.81 $4.34 $4.80 $1.53 $3.27
$4.50 $0.87 $4.78 $5.40 $1.60 $3.80
$5.00 $0.94 $5.21 $6.00 $2.65 $3.35
$5.50 $1.00 $5.65 $6.60 $4.88 $1.72
$6.00 $1.07 $6.09 $7.20 $1.80 $5.40
$6.50 $1.13 $6.52 $7.80 $2.37 $5.43
$7.00 $1.19 $6.96 $8.40 $1.94 $6.46
$7.50 $1.26 $7.39 $9.00 $2.10 $6.90
$8.00 $1.32 $7.83 $9.60 $2.08 $7.52
$8.50 $1.38 $8.27 $10.20 $2.15 $8.05
$9.00 $1.45 $8.70 $10.80 $2.22 $8.58
$9.50 $1.51 $9.14 $11.40 $2.29 $9.11
$10.00 $1.58 $9.58 $12.00 $2.35 $9.65

 

The key here is that the Direct option is likely better for those whose sales are often above $10 TCGLow. Once a sale gets past $10 TCGLow, you come out ahead using Direct.

So lastly, I need to determine what the value of my average sales is. Luckily, I track my sales in a spreadsheet so I can easily find that my averages over the last 3 years are; 2021-$10.63, 2020- $7.62, 2019- $11.63. So 2 of the last 3 years are above $10 per average sale. However, digging a bit deeper than the overall average, if I eliminate just the top 10 high dollar sales from each year, my overall average falls well below $10 in all 3 years. Thus, for the time being, I will not be moving to Direct. The reason I did this was to eliminate a couple of potential outliers from skewing the data too highly, which the results indicate they did.

Conclusion

While my final verdict was to stick to maintaining my regular non-Direct TCGplayer storefront, the circumstances for each individual will vary and I suggest you follow my logical path with your own data to make your final decision.

David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in FreeLeave a Comment on Direct or Not to Direct

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Retracing Commander: Back to the Basics of Deckbuilding

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Netdecking is a common practice in both competitive and casual Magic alike. When there’s a deck that consistently performs well in a format, it’s natural that others try it.  

Commander is no different. EDHREC is a fantastic website for discovering the most popular cards used for specific commanders. But with a tool like that at one’s disposal, I know that many Magic: the Gathering players ask the question, “What use is deckbuilding when the best cards are already determined?”

Allow me to tell you that even the most competitive lists have room to adjust. To salt and pepper to your own taste. That could mean adjusting the sideboard to match your local metagame. Or adjusting the ratios between copies of individual cards. But always feel free to take it further!

You could include surprises in the mainboard designed to tip the odds of your worst matchups. Or hate-cards against certain decks that you expect to see most often. The sky’s the limit! Once you get into it, deckbuilding is among the greatest delights Magic offers. The sheer number of possibilities is overwhelming.

Commander is a paradise for brewers.

Welcome to Retracing Commander

Hello, Planeswalkers! Throughout my time on this site, I will share my love for deck building with you. This series will focus on fundamental and advanced principles of deck building applied to the Commander format. We’ll start small to get the snowball rolling and pick up speed as we approach more complex topics. My hope is that by the end you will see how much impact a foundation in deckbuilding can have on your enjoyment of the game.

In the following posts, we’ll begin to discuss winning decks of Magic’s history. From 1993 to present-day, and from Type 1 to Block Constructed. We will dissect each deck and adapt their strategies to our Commander brews.

But first, let’s talk about Commander decks.

“But Isaac,” you say, “I know what a Commander deck is.”

This is true! You know a Commander deck contains 100 cards, some of which begin the game in the Command Zone. You are well aware that it contains a mix of lands and spells.

But for many players, this is as far as they go. Especially when taking a decklist off the internet. From theme decks to “good stuff” decks and even some tribal decks, Commander is a format dominated by piles of cards connected by a common theme. The deck might have a strategy, but if the player doesn’t know it they won’t be able to secure their victory.

We can do better. But if we want to win a marathon, we need to learn to run.

Understanding Archetypes

In my experience with the format every Commander deck falls into one (or a combination) of the following five archetypes:

  • Aggro
  • Midrange
  • Control
  • Combo
  • Value

To quickly summarise...

Aggro

Aggro decks win by sustained aggression. They are fast, persistent, and seek to end the game quickly. While they are often considered to be poor choices for commander games, they can be adapted with enough card draw and interaction to ensure their opponents cannot achieve their goals. In an aggro deck, you want repeating card draw, synergistic threats, cards to protect your board, and ways to secure the last few points of damage.

Midrange

Midrange decks focus on protecting themselves in the early game as they accelerate their mana production. Often they focus on powerful creatures and efficient interaction. Midrange decks want lots of mana production, a good amount of card draw to ensure a steady stream of options and dangerous threats that will threaten to generate a lead. For example, a swarm of 4/4 Dragon tokens with flying could push you ahead of your opponents if left unchecked. In this sense, a threat is any card that you need to answer quickly or risk falling too far behind. Perhaps even losing the game!

Control

Control decks focus on accruing small advantages over time, seeking to generate a lead above all their opponents. They protect themselves in the early game by reducing the options of their opponents. Board wipes, removal spells, counterspells, and card draw are all important, especially if you can use them more than once. A control deck wins when they have outlasted their opponents, exhausted them of resources, and can finish them off at their leisure. Because winning a war of attrition in multiplayer is hard, control decks often include elements of Combo strategies. This provides alternate ways to win the game as a backup plan. 

Combo

Combo decks focus on assembling a specific engine or infinite combo that generates enough value to end the game on the spot. Combos that can go off at any moment. Piloting a combo deck takes as much skill as any of the other archetypes due to the necessity of surviving until you can cast it, and the difficulty of assembling two, three, or even more combo pieces from a deck of 99 cards. That’s without considering intervention by your opponents! To function well, a combo deck needs cards that search their library, ways to dig through their deck for tools they need, and brutal efficiency or a backup plan.

Value

Value decks, also known as “Good Stuff,” sit in the middle of all four. Value focuses on having a pool of cards with individual synergies. Filled with an eclectic mix of aggro threats, midrange ramp, control board wipes, and combo win conditions, they have great flexibility. While they can work well in most pods, they can fold if the right pieces don’t come together. Don’t get me wrong, a Value-focused deck can be fantastic! But it’s important to keep more in mind than just your cards. You want to consider how you will use them, too.

Although each archetype is different, a deck can easily share traits of many. The archetypes a deck falls into can be determined by looking at the four pieces of its overall game plan:

  1. The win conditions
  2. The early game goal
  3. The mid game goal
  4. The late game goal

Each of these components is unique to a given deck. When combined, the four components explain your strategy.

Sample Strategy

Here is an example from my own collection of budget decklists:

I designed my aggro-control Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck for playing at low-power tables.

Its strategy is to reduce my opponents’ life totals to zero through sustained aggression. A death from thousands of cuts backed up by a suite of counterspells to protect my board from removal.

Primary Win Conditions

My primary win condition is to secure a victory by lowering my opponents’ life totals enough that I can cast a fatal Overwhelm or Triumph of the Hordes Edric’s draw triggers help me dig for them. Should things go south, I also have Talrand, Sky Summoner, and can fall back on my core strategy of controlling the board and attacking with flyers in case I can tell I’m in for a long game.

Gameplay

The Early Game for this deck starts on turn one and ends when one of my opponents casts a board wipe. The goal during these turns is to flood the board with small evasive creatures and attack with them. By the end of turn three, I want five creatures in play. On turn four, I want to play Edric and swing with my creatures for damage, drawing cards for each as his effect triggers. This fills my hand with more spells, allowing me to recover from any board wipes.

During the Mid Game, which lasts up until one of my opponents loses, my goal is to rebuild my board state and protect it with counterspells and interaction. I often hold back on resources, aiming to keep a full hand of seven cards at all times. If another board wipe does resolve, I need those cards to rebuild. Each turn I swing with my creatures the life totals of my opponents dip closer to zero. With Edric’s ability to incentivize attacks against my opponents this happens at a faster rate than you might expect.

During the Late Game, my goal is to wait for an opportunity to finish off my opponents. I do so with repeat pressure or by drawing one of my win conditions.

End Step

Thanks for sticking through to the end! It may be dull for some of you, but it’s the foundation of advanced deckbuilding. Soon enough we’ll get into interesting concepts such as “advantage to lead to win,” the four ways of thinking, building for your metagame, and designing under constraints.

To close this off, I would like to thank Quiet Speculation for the opportunity to share words of wisdom with you. Tune in next week when we flashback to 1996 where we talk about two things: Card Advantage and Keeper. A strategy famous as, “The Deck.”

Assessing The Success of MTG Las Vegas

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

By the time this article goes live, MTG Las Vegas 2021 will have come to a close. Reviewing my Twitter feed over the weekend, I can’t remember the last time I felt this much FOMO as the community converged in one city for a weekend of spell-slinging, gambling, eating world-class cuisine, and partaking in general festivities.

Next time, I am going to lobby my spouse for why I need to attend. It has been at least two years since my last large Magic event and it looks like I’ll have to wait a few more months. Luckily the game isn’t going anywhere, so with some more patience, I should one day reappear on the MTG scene.

But enough about me. I may not have been able to attend this event, but thousands of others did! With such a large group of players coming together, naturally my first question to answer was regarding the financial side of the event. This being the first major event in some time, with many vendors seeking to restock their depleted inventories, I have to imagine such an event will make waves in the secondary market.

So… How Did It Go?

I can’t help but think of Iago asking Jafar this exact question in Disney’s Aladdin. Gilbert Gottfried’s voice enters my head far more often than a normal human being’s, but I digress.

Since I wasn’t at the event, I leveraged social media (namely, Twitter and Discord) to investigate how the buying and selling was in Las Vegas last weekend. I started with this simple question:

The tweet had a relatively far reach: 2,446 impressions and 158 total engagements. I also received five replies, some of which were from some bigger names in the MTG vendor community.

Both of these Twitter handles belong to well-known members of the MTG vendor scene, with Michael running Tales of Adventure and Bash also having years of experience running vendor booths at large events. The impression from both these names was that business overall was very strong throughout the event. It’s no surprise that, with thousands of participants in the event hall at any given time, more vendors would have been merited.

Michael’s take on Power strikes close to home for me, since I have been focusing my attention mostly on the high-end market of late. I’m glad that they’ve been able to move some copies (perhaps to folks trading in some other cards), but it’s also noteworthy that they weren’t exactly looking to stock up on more. My guess is that vendors with Power in inventory are happy to sell, but not too eager to re-stock a significant quantity of the high-dollar items.

A couple other well-known members of the MTG community chimed in on my tweet:

Jim and Jeremy have both been around the MTG finance scene for many years, writing for various websites and recording the Cartel Aristocrats podcast. They summed up the event quite succinctly: there were more cards to buy than there was cash in vendors’ pockets.

Chris Martin, another popular MTG finance enthusiast (and operator of Chicago Style Gaming), went so far as to say that this was the best event ever, though this statement is up for debate. It’s insightful that Chris points out how Modern, Pioneer, and Standard cards were moving best, with higher-end stuff moving a bit more slowly. That’s to be expected—the demand for high dollar cards like Gaea's Cradle is naturally going to be lower since the price is so high.


All in all, I believe Magic is exiting MTG Las Vegas with a very strong secondary market. My confidence in holding Magic cards has never wavered and remains steadfast after hearing about the success of this event. The Quiet Speculation Discord channel was largely in agreement (names blocked for privacy).

What’s Next?

Now that MTG Las Vegas is in the books, it’s time to look ahead to what’s to come. In general, I feel optimistic about the secondary market’s health for Magic. In the Discord picture above, the third message down about sums up my sentiment. This is a very good sign for the hobby and everyone’s confidence in the game.

Does that mean cards are poised to rise in the near term? I wouldn’t go this far. In fact, after this event, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some pricing pressure on the overall MTG market heading into the holiday season.

For one, the overall supply available on the market is going to see an increase. I don’t care if only a dozen vendors were at the event—if as much buying took place as it sounds like, these copies are going to hit the market and are going to be felt by everybody. This will result in some modest price competition so that vendors can liquidate some of their newly acquired inventory.


Secondly, we have the holiday season approaching. While in a vacuum that may seem irrelevant, in reality the holidays are a distraction from day-to-day life, including Magic deck building and playing. While I’m sure plenty of players are still going to get together with friends for some casual Commander games over the holiday break, I have to imagine general spending on Magic slows down a bit while folks spend their money on gifts, food, and travel for the holiday season.

Thirdly, we have the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales coming up. In some cases, this will directly mean lower prices. In many cases, such as with TCGplayer, eBay, and Card Kingdom, there will be a “cash back” incentive. While receiving store credit back when making purchases doesn’t have the same direct impact on prices, it’ll “pull forward” demand in the short term and then leave a bit of a lull in demand afterwards.

For example, if TCGplayer offers a 10% or 15% cash back deal for Black Friday, it’ll catalyze a wave of buying. This spike in demand will drive prices modestly higher in the short term. But after the promotion ends, and players spend their store credit, their demand will be temporarily satiated. It could be a little time afterwards before they decide to make additional Magic purchases. This resulting dip in demand could linger for a couple months, inevitably leading to some pricing weakness throughout the winter months.


In anticipation of this, I’d recommend being very deliberate about Magic purchases and sales going forward. During the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials, it’ll be an opportune time to make purchases you were planning on making—plan ahead, and take full advantage of the specials. On the sell side, this will also be your last great opportunity to get a good price on your wares before the New Year.

After the end of the specials, however, we will probably see a softening of demand. This would not be the ideal time to sell cards. However, if you’re hoping to make some purchases (perhaps using some of your holiday gift money) I’d recommend waiting a bit to see if you can get a deal. As we head into December, the incentive to make aggressive MTG purchases will be lower, so you’ll have the luxury of time to shop around.

When we finally make it through the winter and get into the spring, all bets are off. It seems like March and April are often the months where buyouts and speculation ensue. Given how much that happened in 2020 and 2021, I’m not sure if we’ll see yet another wave of this activity in 2022. I’m inclined to think not, in fact. But there are too many unknowns with the economy at this point to make a reasonable prediction. Let’s just monitor the market closely and cross that bridge when we get to it.

One thing is certain: if large constructed tournaments do return, we may see increased demand for tournament staples, which is also generally good for the market.

Wrapping It Up

MTG Las Vegas 2021 is officially over, and it sounds like it was a tremendously successful event—both for players and vendors alike. I wasn’t able to attend the event myself, but I checked with the Twitter community, consisting of MTG vendors and financiers, and the overall consensus is consistent: there were a lot of vendors buying! This means market inventory will tick up a bit after nearly two years of pressure due to a lack of in-person events.

Following this event, there will be a round of discounts and incentives as the shopping season approaches. This will be a prime time to buy and sell cards. But following these promotions, I expect there will be a bit of market fatigue, and demand will soften. This could lead to a couple of months of price softening throughout the winter.

Will there be another round of buyouts as Spring approaches? I would guess not, but it’s too soon to accurately predict. I’m also going to be watching for other in-person events after the New Year. People may not be eager to travel again for a large Magic event until a month or two into 2022, but the success of this event tells me there will be more of these going forward. Perhaps we will even see some semblance of normalcy in the Magic world after this two-year period?

After the toll this pandemic took on our health and minds, we can only hope.

Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

View More By Sigmund Ausfresser

Posted in Analysis, Business, Buying, Cash Flow, Event Coverage, Finance, MagicFestLeave a Comment on Assessing The Success of MTG Las Vegas

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Magic?

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Double Feature, Double Disappointment?

The recent reveal of Innistrad: Double Feature's contents took my excitement for the set from 100% to 0%. The teaser hype when the set was announced led me to believe it was a curated draft experience combining the best of Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow into a single set. Instead, Double Feature smashes the two products together without any form of curation and prints them in awkward grayscale. A recent tweet by @ghirapurigears really drives home the point:

Double Feature doesn't selectively combine the two sets as I'd hoped. Instead, it reprints all the cards from both sets, including the duplicate cards. Double the Evolving Wilds; double the Bramble Armor; double the Snarling Wolfs. Even in grayscale, who exactly is clamoring for twice as many Bramble Armors?

Neverending Previews

My disappointment with the set two months before it's even slated to hit WPN Stores got me thinking. Who is the audience for Double Feature? Why does the set exist? Is it just a cash grab? The fact that the details of the set were revealed before I've even had a chance to play with Crimson Vow at FNM called to mind something The Professor of Tolarian Community College said in the video "Magic: The Gathering Overload" earlier this fall: "In Magic: The Gathering, preview season never ends." He was right, but that wasn't what irked me. Instead, it was the feeling that this product was so superfluous. It drove home some of the sentiments expressed by Spice8Rack in their video "There Is Too Much Magic: The Gathering Product."

I thought Spice8Rack and The Professor's videos were interesting when they came out, but it felt to me like they were exaggerating the problem. Magic is good, right, so more Magic must be better? I thought. Now, the more I think about my disappointment with Double Feature and how extraneous it feels, the more I start to wonder if they were right. Is there such a thing as too much Magic?

A History of Products and Product Fatigue

At one point in their history, Wizards themselves answered that question with a firm yes. The relentless assault of new products that's now the norm represents a radical departure from the stance they adopted fourteen years ago. Beginning with Shards of Alara in 2008, a pivotal set for Magic in many regards, Wizards actually dialed back the amount of product they released each year. Mark Rosewater explained the rationale for reducing the amount of product in a 2008 article, "The Year of Living Changerously," including this graph:

Pictured here is the total number of cards released every Magic year, starting with the fall set and going back to Ice Age in 1995. Wizards apparently decided to slow down upon realizing they were doing a disservice to new players by creating an unreasonably high number of cards for them to grasp. Feedback from existing players had similar sentiments. "We were printing too many cards for the new and established players," Rosewater said at the time.

Magic in 2021

Flash forward to 2021. Adding together all the releases up to and including Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Wizards has printed over 4,000 cards so far in 2021. This includes premiere releases, ancillary Commander products, specialty products like Time Spiral Remastered, Modern Horizons 2, and the 2021 version of Mystery Booster: Convention Edition. It does not take into account the various Secret Lair products released throughout the year or any upcoming Secret Lairs between now and the end of December.

Taking the 1,791 cards of Mystery Booster: Convention Edition 2021 out of the equation still leaves over 2,000 Magic cards printed in 2021. This is double the number of cards released in the year of the original Time Spiral block, whose size triggered the dramatic pull-back in products and set sizes initiated with Shards of Alara.

More Is Not Always Good

When folks take issue with the volume of Magic product released, it is common for Wizards to respond with a statement along the lines of "well, not every product is for everyone," the implication being that, say, non-Commander players need not care when a Commander-geared product is released. But this sentiment is disingenuous at best. Many if not most Magic players play multiple formats and enjoy the game in a variety of ways. Who's to say who a product is for? Commander players do not exist in a vacuum separate from Legacy players, or Modern players, or Limited players. Modern Horizons 2 had something for all of these players, and the set remains popular months after release.

More cards for all formats is a good thing. At a certain point, though, it becomes a matter of diminishing returns. So many products are coming out now that it becomes difficult to keep track of, never mind spend money on, all of them. How are players expected to keep up mentally and financially? What happens when player apathy sets in? We may soon find out.

In a recent video on his channel Alpha Investments, the host, Rudy, made the claim that sales of Collectors Boosters are softening. "Brand-new sealed product in Magic is being rejected the heaviest I've seen since probably Ixalan, Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Iconic, and M25 era of about three years ago," he says. What does this mean for 2022?

Magic in the Future

We already know the approximate release schedule for 2022, and it is jam-packed. How many well-curated, painstakingly-tested sets like Time Spiral Remastered are we likely to get? How many are just two existing products smashed together with a gimmick art treatment like Double Feature? Do products like this contribute to the health and longevity of the game or are they just Wizards making the money machine go brrrrrrrr?

Nickels and Dimes

In many regards, it feels like Wizards is more concerned these days with the fast nickel over the slow dime. Pulling record profits is great. No one is saying Wizards shouldn't make money. They are a business that needs to keep their lights on and pay their people. But for some players, the absolute barrage of new products feels overwhelming. Wizards may have succeeded in their drive to double their 2018 revenue, but at what cost? Is all this short-term cash worth the expense of the long-term health of the game as a whole? And what else is at stake?

Player Apathy

I don't want to come across as some Magic boomer pining for the good 'ole days. I think Magic, in terms of gameplay, is close to the healthiest and most vibrant it's ever been. I'm excited for all the new Magic product available when it's things like Time Spiral Remastered, Modern Horizons 2, or Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. Those sets delivered the goods, both in terms of gameplay and value. However, if Rudy's claims of softening sealed product sales hold true, I worry that we're reaching a threshold where the sheer volume of Magic might lead to player apathy and even retirement.

Outside of Magic, the greater TCG market is entering a new boom phase. Flesh and Blood, MetaZoo, and a number of smaller games have appeared on the market in recent years. Competition from established games like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! hasn't gone away. In the face of all this competition, products like Double Feature do nothing to inspire confidence in Magic. I don't anticipate this necessarily leading to a mass exodus. But even a reduction in spending, and a subsequently flat sales year, could have negative consequences.

Old Man Yells at Cloud

Do you think I'm overreacting? Is there such a thing as too much Magic? What do you think about Double Feature? About the direction of Magic in general? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Paul Comeau

Paul first started playing Magic in 1994 when he cracked open his first Revised packs. He got interested in Magic Finance in 2000 after being swindled on a trade. As a budget-minded competitive player, he's always looking to improve his knowledge of the metagame and the market to stay competitive and to share that knowledge with those around him so we can all make better decisions. An avid Limited player, his favorite Cube card is Shahrazad. A freelance content creator by day, he is currently writing a book on the ‘90s TCG boom. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

View More By Paul Comeau

Posted in Business, Finance, Free, OpinionLeave a Comment on Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Magic?

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

My Deck Choice for Eternal Weekend 2021: UR Delver

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Eternal Weekend is this weekend, with Legacy events taking place Friday through Sunday. Like last year, the events will take place on Magic: Online. For those who aren't familiar with the tournament, Eternal Weekend takes place every fall and is the premier event for the Vintage and Legacy formats. The winner of each event walks away with a sweet painting of a classic Magic card. The paintings can be sold on the secondary market for large sums, making these events quite exciting to compete in. This year there are three Legacy events, with a unique painting going to each winner, and two Vintage events. Today I will discuss the UR Delver deck I plan to play for the Legacy events. Here's a breakdown of my list:

To Delver or Not to Delver?

The number of Delver of Secrets to play is currently a contested debate. Modern Horizons 2 introduced an interesting proposition: winning solely with Dragon Rage's Channeler or Murktide Regent. Rather than play Delver, you could just focus on these creatures carrying you across the finish line. 

It's a reasonable theory, and I subscribed to it for a while before changing my mind. I trimmed on Delvers because I wanted to make my Dragon Rage's Channeler better, but Delver is great with Channeler. Having both of them in your opening hand is super explosive. Delver is also a great way to pressure removal spells before sticking a Murktide Regent in the midgame. It also plays excellently with Daze, Lightning Bolt, Wasteland, and basically every other card in the deck.

My Mainboard Considerations

Most people play around six burn spells, generally complimenting Lightning Bolt with Gut Shot or Unholy Heat. I like Dead//Gone to beat a resolved Murktide Regent or Marit Lage, that are difficult to deal with otherwise. Dragon's Rage Channeler can help you dig for answers to these cards, but it is important to have cards to actually dig for. This is even more true when you take into account Murktide/Marit Lage are giant fliers that a delirious Channeler will be forced to attack into.

If you are lucky you will even be able to bounce a creature your opponent stole with a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer for some crazy value, or maybe remove a creature when there is a Chalice of the Void or Sanctum Prelate out.

I have a strong guttural aversion to basic lands. I've found myself in bad situations too many games, stumbling due to basics. Too many headaches trying to decipher if I should fetch a dual or a basic (this second point is somewhat nonsensical since adding options is a pure upside, however, magic is pretty hard to play, and severely reducing the difficulty is a nice side effect). Now, I wouldn’t say I have the expertise to know what manabase will yield a higher win rate but figured the shock lands will look odd to some people so I figure it's worth mentioning.

Sideboard Selections

Meltdown is a premier answer to Urza's Saga. There are plenty of other artifact-centric decks around, which this is also good against. I feel pretty good about having two currently.

I currently have this piece of graveyard interaction over something like Surgical Extraction, as it’s a reliable way to interact with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. With surgical, you will end up in situations your opponent will cast Uro and you won’t be able to use your graveyard interaction to stop it. Feel free to choose whichever graveyard interaction you feel is most suitable as any should be good.

The alternate threat. Versus those decks trying to remove all your threats, you should have plenty of time to find this. I love having one for that reason. Prismatic Ending made it so control decks can remove any threat you throw at them. Previous alt threats like Klothys, God of Destiny, and Sylvan Library ain’t as unbeatable as they once were. This however nicely gets around removal spells.

I wanted a couple of cards for Death and Taxes, so I could side out all my Ragavans for a couple of Meltdowns (many D&T players now run Urza’s Saga) and two other cards of choice. Ideally, it would work vs Elves too, as Dragon's Rage Channeler lets me dig for cards, but you need to have actual targets to find and many lists don’t have any bombs to find vs Elves. I also kind of wanted a card for Delver mirrors. I wanted to side out all my Force of Will and Wasteland in the mirror, as I don't feel either card is really that good in the matchup. That is a whopping eight cards to side out though, so I needed to find eight cards to side in.

Gut Shot is a reasonable card at filling this role. It's not an insane bomb to find vs Elves but you can’t go too wrong with it. It's not unbeatable vs D&T, but again a great spell nonetheless. It's also quite a nice way to not fall behind to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. I have it in my most recent list but feel free to change it around if you don’t like it. I am likely to register the list as I posted it above.

Final Thoughts

Cheers and good luck to those playing this weekend. I am excited to bring this ultra-powerful version of the classic archetype to the table. To me, it plays like RUG Delver did a decade ago, with Murktide Regent acting as the Tarmogoyf, Dragon's Rage Channeler as the Nimble Mongoose, and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer as the Stifle.

The Financial Depth of Revised

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

When people think of the valuable cards from Revised Edition, their minds most likely go directly toward either Dual Lands or Wheel of Fortune. This group of eleven cards makes up the upper echelon of valuable cards from the core set released in 1994. It has been this way for years now, and will likely continue this way for the foreseeable future.


Outside of these eleven cards, however, there are still a couple of tiers of noteworthy, valuable cards. These cards may be overlooked because they pale in comparison to Dual Lands, but are still worthy of attention. This week, I’m going to reference Card Kingdom’s and Star City Games’ buylist to highlight the second, third, and fourth tiers of notable cards from Revised Edition in the hopes of emphasizing just how deep this set has become.

I’ve written about Revised cards in the past but never structured in this way. Since my last Revised article, I’m sure many prices have adjusted (most higher) so it’s definitely worth touching on again.

The Second Tier

Besides Dual Lands and Wheel of Fortune, there are a couple of other Reserved List cards that show up in Revised. Unsurprisingly, a few of these show up in the second tier of Revised—cards worth more than $20 but less than Plateau.

The first one that comes to mind is Copy Artifact, with a $48 buy price at Card Kingdom. This Revised card has only become valuable recently, throughout the Reserved List craze of 2020 and 2021. Before then, you could find a ton of these, especially in played condition, for $20. Then the buyout ensued, the card received a bunch of attention, and now it’s difficult to find copies below $40.


Fork, Braingeyser, and Fastbond received the same buyout treatment. While their prices didn’t stick as highly as Copy Artifact (let’s face it, they aren’t quite as potent in Commander but still have utility), these Revised cards still maintained a higher price than they had prior to 2020 by a wide margin.

I remember when heavily played Revised Forks could be purchased by the handfuls for something like $7. Now non-damaged copies are hard to find under $20 and Card Kingdom’s buylist is $25. Braingeyser and Fastbond boast $18.50 and $16.50 buy prices, respectively.

Outside of Reserved List cards, there are a few heavily utilized cards with elevated power levels. These includes Commander staples Mana Vault and Demonic Tutor. The former has been reprinted a bunch but still carries a $46 buy price on Card Kingdom’s site! The latter has been reprinted some and isn’t even a rare! Despite being too powerful for Legacy and restricted in Vintage, this uncommon still maintains a buy price north of $20.


In summary, the second tier of cards consists of powerful Commander staples and a few playable Reserved List cards.

The Third Tier

The second tier of valuable Revised cards probably didn’t surprise many people. But this next tier may reveal a hidden gem or two. These are the cards with buylist prices between $5 and $15, and there are many! First, I’ll present the list, and then I’ll offer some color commentary.

Birds of Paradise - $14
Sol Ring - $11
Zombie Master - $9.75
Shivan Dragon - $8.50
Winter Orb - $8.25
Wrath of God - $6.75
Howling Mine - $6.50
Mana Flare - $6.50
Armageddon - $6.50
Lord of Atlantis - $6.50

Some of these cards have utility in Commander, so their elevated buy price is less surprising. Sol Ring needs no explanation, and the fact that Revised copies are so valuable despite the existence of 1,000’s of $1 alternatives means players appreciate the nostalgia of the classic frame and art. Birds of Paradise is another popular card with play in more Modern formats. I’m surprised it’s become this valuable despite all its reprints, but the Revised printing of this card just relentlessly climbs higher.


Howling Mine shows up in over 15,000 lists on EDHREC. While the number of appearances on lists on EDHREC is not the most reliable number, the order of magnitude should still be indicative of popularity and when the number of lists reaches five figures, we’re talking about a popular card.

What’s amazing to me, though, is how Revised Howling Mine remains valuable despite all its reprints. And we’re talking a lot of reprints! When I search for Howling Mine on TCGplayer I see 21 hits. Granted, this includes Alpha, Beta, Summer, and Foreign Black Border copies. Ignoring those, there are still easily over a dozen accessible printings of the card.

Winter Orb follows a similar pattern, showing up in five figures of lists on EDHREC. In contrast to Howling Mine, however, Winter Orb only has one printing (Eternal Masters) in a modern frame style. All other printings came out before 2000. In fact, this makes Winter Orb an interesting card to sit on for a while. As long as it dodges reprint, it should have upside. And even if it is reprinted, the downside isn’t huge if Howling Mine is any indication.

Then there are the decent, somewhat playable Revised cards that are just plain iconic. This includes Armageddon, Wrath of God, and Shivan Dragon. Collectibility and Old School may be driving these cards higher in price.

The two lords: Lord of Atlantis and Zombie Master likely also see Commander play, and the former also has utility in Modern. I don’t expect these to get very many reprints, since Wizards seems to have printed alternate versions like Master of the Pearl Trident and Cemetery Reaper.

Tier Four

Believe it or not, there are still a bunch of cards from Revised that would be worth digging out of old boxes and collections to ship to Card Kingdom’s buylist. Below is the list of cards that buylist for more than $2 and less than $5.

Serendib Efreet - $4.80
Stasis - $4.60
Mind Twist - $4.50
Demonic Hordes - $4
Savannah Lions - $3.70
Granite Gargoyle - $3.70
Nevinyrral's Disk - $3.60
Meekstone - $3.60
Contract from Below - $3.50
Goblin King - $3.25
Ivory Tower - $3.25
Counterspell - $3
Swords to Plowshares - $2.80
Rock Hydra - $2.75
Sedge Troll - $2.50
Ankh of Mishra - $2.05
Demonic Attorney - $2
Smoke - $2
Balance - $2

Wow, this is a long list of non-bulk cards from Revised! This is one very deep core set. I don’t even know where to begin.

Well, for starters, there are some Commander cards that show up in this tier as well: cards like Nevinyrral's Disk and Meekstone, with synergistic utility. Then you have the collection of more-iconic cards like Stasis, Rock Hydra, and Demonic Hordes.


Also in this tier are Old School playable cards such as Granite Gargyole, Sedge Troll, and Savannah Lions. You’ve got another lord in the mix in Goblin King—another one that has since been obsoleted by more modern cards.

Then, surprisingly, you have a selection of cards that are banned in most formats: Mind Twist, Demonic Attorney, Balance, and Contract from Below. It’s interesting to see these cards carry decent value, and it just goes to show that even Revised cards are not as cheap and plentiful as they once were.

You even have a couple of uncommons showing up on this list in Swords to Plowshares and Counterspell.


Despite there being many, many copies of these two cards, as well as numerous reprints, they remain collectible enough to main decent value.

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, there were at least a couple of cards discussed above that surprised you. I know I am just impressed that, overall, so many Revised cards are now worth at least a couple of bucks. If someone had asked me to guess how many non-Dual Land cards in Revised had a buylist over $2 I may have guessed 20 to 25. In reality, the number is approaching 40!

I drew the line arbitrarily, too. I could have extended the fourth tier down to cards worth at least a buck. Or I could have included a fifth tier to be more inclusive of such cards. There are another 17 Revised cards with a Card Kingdom buylist of at least $1.

It’s also worth noting that there may have been valuable cards from Revised that I missed because Card Kingdom doesn’t currently buy the card at all. Vesuvan Doppelganger comes to mind—Card Kingdom doesn’t have this one posted on their buylist, but Star City Games does at $15. Animate Dead, Bad Moon, Crusade, and Royal Assassin buylist to Star City Games for more than a dollar, but don’t show up at all on Card Kingdom’s buylist.


The bottom line: the age and collectability of this set is finally showing itself. For the longest time, Revised cards were kept out of the MTG finance conversation because quantities were so plentiful. I think it’s time to acknowledge formally that Revised cards are worth setting aside from the rest of your collection as “non-bulk”. Any card from the set—especially rares—should be kept separately for their upside potential and buylist value. I’ve been keeping my Revised cards separately for a couple of years now, but now I feel more motivated than ever to browse for Revised rares the next time I shop at a store to see if there are any underpriced cards with upside potential. Chances are good that, until everyone catches on, there will be some opportunities here.

Happy hunting!

A Brief History of Magic Design: FIRE

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

The process of designing Magic has evolved considerably over the game's nearly three-decade existence. Each part in this ongoing series will focus on a specific design era. The goal of the series is to understand the history of Magic design, so that we might better understand the present and future of the game, as well as the fundamentals of Magic design, and how those fundamentals have changed over the years. To do that, we will explore four questions:

  • What was this era of design seeking to accomplish?
  • How did they go about it?
  • How successful were they?
  • What design lessons can we learn?

FIRE Design

Powering Down Standard

Starting in Battle for Zendikar, and up through Core Set 2019, Wizards of the Coast R&D, made a conscious decision to power down the Standard format. Bryan Hawley, the Play Design Team Lead, said in a 2019 article that "our primary goal with that direction was to open up design space, mostly in higher-cost cards and in effects typically not impactful enough for competitive play."

While it sounds like a good idea, in theory, the problem with powering down Standard, Hawley was quick to admit, was twofold. First, it reduced interest in premiere sets for players who didn't play Standard. Second, it made Standard more sensitive to cards and mechanics that missed on power level. Hawley cites Smuggler's Copter, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar as cards too strong for a powered-down format. He does not mention how the inclusion of a parasitic linear mechanic like Energy in a powered down Standard can go on to warp the format and lead to bans, as we saw in 2018.

Powering Standard Back Up

The lackluster Standard, and the response from the community, sparked a response from Wizards R&D. Vice President of Design Aaron Forsythe delivered a speech to the members of R&D on working to generate more excitement in the cards. What came out of that speech was the FIRE Philosophy. Not to be confused with the Philosophy of Fire, the FIRE Philosophy of design stands for Fun, Inviting, Replayable, Exciting. It's about having cards contribute to more exciting gameplay. Play Designer Andrew Brown elaborated on what FIRE means in the article Fire It Up noting that Vision Design, Play Design, and Creative all have their own versions of the FIRE Philosophy. So what does FIRE mean for Standard, and for Magic in general?

While Forsythe's speech occurred during the tail end of War of the Spark development, the real effects of the FIRE Philosophy were felt beginning with Guilds of Ravnica, through to Throne of Eldraine. One of the big pushes, Brown discusses in his article, is raising the quality and power level of commons. He cites Cloudkin Seer and Murder from Core Set 20 as examples of this improved power level.

Better Commons, Better Cards?

Improving the quality of commons overall is a great thing. It makes for better and more exciting games of limited, where commons and uncommons have the most opportunity to shine. It raises the floor of the power level of a set or of the Standard format in general, which is also good. If rares and mythics also increase in power level in relation to those common cards though, things can get problematic. We need to look no further for an example than with Throne of Eldraine.

Throne of Eldraine is the pinnacle of FIRE Philosophy. We can see it in the strength of all the commons, particularly in all the creatures with the adventure mechanic. Where Throne of Eldraine went wrong is in the pushed power level of its rares and mythics. This is true not just of actual mistakes like Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Once Upon a Time, but also in cards like Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp. Bonecrusher stifled format diversity in Standard to the extent that it is mindblowing it didn't wind up on the banned list with all the other Eldraine cards booted from Standard for their power level. If FIRE design doesn't make for good Standard sets, what is needed?

Design Lessons

Striking a Balance

FIRE design sought to make cards in premiere sets more exciting. Raising the power level of common cards certainly accomplished this for limited, making games much more interesting and dynamic. Overall though, the FIRE design era was just as problematic as the powered down era which proceeded it. In pushing up the power level of cards of all rarities, not just commons, we reached a point where a number of the rares and mythics were too powerful for Standard, and had to subsequently be banned as a result. Standard can really hum if Wizards can balance premiere sets so the floor of commons is high, but the power of rares and mythics isn't off the scale as to be format warping.

The Purpose of Premiere Sets

Premiere sets have been the flagship Magic products since the earliest eras of the game. Their primary purpose is introducing new cards and mechanics into Standard, and providing fresh limited experiences for players. A secondary aspect of premiere products is introducing new cards into Commander, Modern, and other constructed formats outside of Standard. When looking at FIRE design, and the powered down era preceding it, it's important to reexamine what a premiere set is, and what it should be doing. If a premiere set is full of higher-costed cards not meant for competitive play, is that a premiere set, or a Commander product? If a premiere set is full of under-costed threats and powerful effects, is that a premiere set, or a Horizons set in the making?

Premiere Sets Moving Forward

The advent of the Casual Play Design Team, focusing on Commander and other casual products, and the existence of Horizons sets as an outlet to introduce cards into constructed formats while bypassing Standard, are steps in the right direction. It is less necessary for premiere sets to include Commander, Modern, or even Pioneer-specific plants, when there are other outlets for printing those cards. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is balanced in a way that makes for a fun limited environment, and adds interesting cards into Standard without warping the format. If Crimson Vow does the same, the future of Standard and premiere set design will be moving in a positive direction.

Closing Thoughts

Thirty years of Magic design is a lot of history to explore. I chose to start with FIRE design, because it was relatively recent for us to look back on, with resources written by members of R&D to refer to. Would you like to see more articles like this? What other eras or themes in Magic's design history would you like to see explored? Do you agree with my analysis? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Paul Comeau

Paul first started playing Magic in 1994 when he cracked open his first Revised packs. He got interested in Magic Finance in 2000 after being swindled on a trade. As a budget-minded competitive player, he's always looking to improve his knowledge of the metagame and the market to stay competitive and to share that knowledge with those around him so we can all make better decisions. An avid Limited player, his favorite Cube card is Shahrazad. A freelance content creator by day, he is currently writing a book on the ‘90s TCG boom. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

View More By Paul Comeau

Posted in Design, FreeTagged , , , , Leave a Comment on A Brief History of Magic Design: FIRE

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Time Capsule: How to Start Growing Your Collection

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

One of our Quiet Speculation content leaders was cleaning through old drafts of articles in WordPress when he stumbled upon this unpublished article from January 2014. After re-reading the article, it looks like some of the content is timeless and could be helpful to readers even today. Other parts of the article make for a fun time capsule back nearly 8 years!

We hope you'll enjoy this preserved article from a very different Sig, with different goals, priorities, and quite frankly, far more time to play competitive Magic. Even his feature image depicts a much younger Sig (this was from his wedding back in 2009). -QS Staff

Entering The Arena

It’s Friday night, and once again you find yourself short a few valuable Standard cards for your deck. If only you could win a tournament or two, you could use the store credit to optimize your deck. But you consistently miss Top 8 in the final round because your deck is slightly less powerful without those critical mythic rares.

A classic catch-22.

A few years ago, I found myself in this exact situation. Although I knew the ins and outs of Magic through ten years of casual play, I was frequently intimidated by the FNM regulars at my local game store (LGS). I dabbled in drafts, but I struggled to justify paying $15 for a few bulk rares and a single-elimination tournament.

I tried to obtain cards I liked, but I just couldn’t get competitive in Standard. Trading was daunting, to say the least. Many players had pages and pages of hot rares across multiple formats. Rather than finding inspiration here, I was frequently overwhelmed and even baffled.

How did these spell-slingers obtain so many valuable cards? Were they guiltless sharks, taking advantage of every trade partner they could rope in? Perhaps their parents were rich, and they got any cards they asked for each week? Or maybe they were pros, and they had infinite store credit at the LGS?

As I was soon to learn, none of these were 100% true. Enter MTG finance.

Generating Value

bell curveWinning tournaments is one way to add value to your collection. But let’s face it: while most players believe they are better than average, statistics cannot lie. Half of us are poorer than average, destined to a lifetime of FNM and PTQ grinding.

Once I realized I fell within this category, I knew I needed to find alternate ways of obtaining valuable cards I wanted to play with.

Then one day I gathered the courage to ask a local regular, “How did you get all those valuable cards? Did you open tons of boxes?”

“Through trades,” came the reply.

Inspiration hit me. By making wise investments and trading away cards near their peak for cards with more potential upside, one could slowly grind their way into a more complete collection.

All along I had been afraid to trade because I wasn’t familiar with all the trends and card values (this was before everyone had a smartphone). Rather than avoid this area of discomfort, I needed to educate myself.

Research Research Research

Enter the learning phase. Once I unlocked the knowledge that value could be obtained through MTG finance, I needed to do some major research.

The human brain is programmed to identify patterns and trends. The more I read about Magic, the more readily I could begin to formulate theories. Turns out the same few Standard decks win each month. I also discovered PTQ seasonality and the resulting price trends driven by predictable increases (and decreases) in demand.

Most importantly, I learned about one of the most significant factors that drive the giant MTG finance engine: Standard rotation.

As it turns out, many of the most desirable Standard cards tank in value as they leave the most popular format in the game. Without playability in eternal formats or strong casual demand, these cards fade into the past (and the back of people's trade binders).

Bonfire

Still Unprepared…Mentally

With this new knowledge, I got to work. Armed with my newfound strategy I walked into FNM with a trade binder and a plan. I had done my research throughout the week and knew exactly which cards were hot and which ones weren’t. I would trade away the garbage that was fading in popularity and pick up the most popular cards in Standard.

That’s when I uncovered two problems I hadn’t anticipated.

First of all, everyone else was looking for the same exact cards! No one wanted my recently rotated staples, they wanted the same few $30-cards I did. How could I generate value by trading into hot staples if I had to fork over $30 in value for those same cards?

Second of all, no one seemed eager to trade with me when they found out my most desirable cards “weren’t for trade.” People would frustratingly ask why I even bothered to keep my precious few Legacy staples in my trade binder. I was creating artificial hope in my trade partners by showing them cards they needed, but couldn't obtain. This would turn them off, resulting in no transactions occurring.

Clearly, I needed to shift my paradigm. I was no longer a player first and trader second. If I truly wanted to grow value within my collection I needed to be an MTG investor (or trader, or speculator) first and foremost.

Take dual lands, for instance. They are extremely powerful, sometimes essential, in every format in which they're legal. They also can be an incredibly valuable asset to a collection.

Sea

If increasing collection value is your primary goal those duals need to be put to work in your trade binder. The less you keep sacred as “not for trade,” the more negotiating tools you’ll have at your disposal.

A Couple More Sacrifices and You’re Set

You need to take emotions out of the equation. Developing attachment to certain cards is a part of the game, and we are all susceptible to clinging to cards we treasure most in our collections. But these cards should be a significant minority, and they need to be left at home. Everything you bring to the LGS needs to be fair game. Everything.

This means even pieces of your Standard deck could be traded away if it means value creation for your collection. If someone desperately needs one more $25 mythic rare for their Standard deck and you’re the only one at the store willing to trade it away, you suddenly have significant leverage.

Unless you see that $25 card going significantly higher in value, you’re much better off trading it into cards with more upside potential--even if it means no Standard FNM for you that week.

In fact, once I decided that growing my collection’s value was priority number one, I largely gave up Standard. Standard is the most popular format in Magic. As such, it’s also rapidly fluctuating and evolving.

This means rapid card value swings, which in turn means opportunity. This is especially true as Standard rotation approaches--at these times you need to be especially astute and ahead of the curve.

Months before everyone starts thinking about dumping their rotating cards, you need to be doing just that. Many cards will near their peak and begin to decline during this window, and you do not want to be holding any cards that are leaving Standard.

The Rest Is Easier

Once you overcome the emotional challenges and break attachments to your cards, the rest is pretty straightforward. Of course, with speculation running rampant and buyouts occurring weekly, the Wild West that is MTG finance has become trickier. Stick to the basics and focus on winning strategies and you’ll be building your collection in no time.

So what are these winning strategies, you ask? Well, the obvious certainly applies here. As mentioned before you’ll want to sell or trade away rotating Standard cards well before everyone else. Focus instead on picking up powerful cards in the new block which should become relevant in a Standard format with a much smaller card pool.

A good recent example of this would be Jace, Architect of Thought. While Innistrad block was around, this card was just a tad bit too weak.

Jace

After Innistrad block rotated out of Standard and the card pool shrank drastically, this planeswalker suddenly became relatively powerful. The result--a twofold increase in price and significant profits for those who were keen on the investment.

Seasonal investments are also straightforward. Some Modern cards will go up as Modern PTQ season approaches, and back down once it ends. Spellskite did just that last year, and I fully expect a repeat performance this summer with an even higher peak.

Spellskite

Sticking to macro trends like this will ensure you remain focused on your end goal of growing your collection’s value.

Benefits of a Financial Community

While macro trends do generally work out, today’s landscape is drastically different than it was even a few years ago when I began my endeavors in MTG finance. It seems everyone believes they can be a speculator, and with data instantaneously at people’s fingertips, the challenge of remaining ahead of the curve is greater than ever. With so many events both online and in real life, it’s become nearly impossible to stay on top of every slight shift in metagame.

Therefore to maximize the chance of success - without the pain of getting burned from rampant speculation and sudden buyouts - one needs to leverage as many resources as they have the capacity for. Whether it be Twitter, Reddit, or elsewhere, the more opinions you have access to the faster you'll learn and the fewer mistakes you'll make. As long as you develop your own opinion as well, even if it may seem counter to the general consensus.

To develop your own theses, the key is to look at macro trends and identify what specific cards are worthwhile investments and over what time horizon. Other general economic concepts ranging from basic supply and demand all the way up through Game Theory and Opportunity Cost are also sources of insight that can help guide you to the right investment decisions.

Five years ago when I entered the realm of MTG finance I relied on fervid dedication to research combined with the application of general trends. This was sufficient at the time, and it enabled me to embark on a long journey towards financial freedom in MTG.

Nowadays the number of people pursuing this same goal has increased in magnitude many times. Every trader is a shark it seems, and no one will give up value. Having a community to work with to stay ahead of the game can also provide crucial help as you get off the ground.

Whether you join the ranks of other dedicated MTG Speculators or go it alone, rest assured that with some work and ingenuity, you can fund most of your Magic exploits through trading and speculation. With enough dedication, you may even start to turn a real profit.

A Deeper look at “The Numbers”

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Most readers might not know that for the past 10 months I've been working as a Value Engineer for a major company. In this role, my job is to look at the parts we currently use and find ways to reduce the cost without impacting the quality or functionality of the parts themselves. So far, I have found it to be an interesting crossover between my natural love of engineering and my acquired love of everything financial thanks to my past nine years in the Magic: The Gathering finance realm.

Calculating Profit

One of the big challenges I face at work every day is defining the true cost of a part. For us, the actual factors that go into that valuation can differ based on whether we purchase the part or make it ourselves. Lately, I have seen parallels between that work and my Magic finance life. It's made me wonder how we in the Magic Finance realm calculate our "true cost" of a card.

Profit = Final Sale Price - Total Cost to Sell a Card - Total Cost to Purchase a Card

Ironically, calculating the profit is easy if you have a good understanding of the two total costs listed above.

Total Costs To Selling a Card

Total Cost to Sell a Card might include factors like:

  • Final Sales Price
  • Selling fees
    • Marketplace fees
    • Transaction fees (like PayPal or credit card processing)
  • Shipping Costs
    • Envelope/Bubble Mailer
    • Stamp
    • Printer Ink
    • Paper
    • Tape
    • Shipping Fees
  • Taxes/Tariffs
    • Federal
    • State
    • Local
  • Labor Cost
    • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to sort and list your inventory.
    • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to collect the items in the order as well as pack said order.
    • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to manage your inventory.
    • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to deal with customer issues.

Total Cost to Purchase a Card

Total cost to Purchase a Card might include factors like:

  • Final Purchase Price
  • Transportation cost
    • Cost of getting the card to you.
      • Shipping costs
      • In person travel costs
  • Packaging costs (if these aren't baked into the final purchase agreement)
  • Labor Cost
    • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to review potential buys
      • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to grade cards before purchase
      • Either the cost of your time or that of an employee to price out each potential card
  • Taxes/Tariffs
    • Federal
    • State
    • Local
  • Warehousing/Storage cost associated with operating a business (this could fall under either category depending on your choices)

So Now What?

First, I want to make sure that everyone is aware that not all of the items listed in the section above may apply to you and your business. The main purpose is to highlight that they COULD be relevant.

The biggest issue I see a lot of small business owners making, especially those who operate a fully online business with no other employees, is that many of these factors get ignored. This causes many of these store owners to wonder where all their profit is, and many times, they operate in the belief that they will just need to raise their selling prices and lower their buying prices. While that may work in an environment with little competition, thanks to the world wide web, my little home-based TCGplayer store is directly competing with well-known stores with big names and lots of employees.

Death and Taxes, But Mainly Taxes

As I stated in my article back in April, while we at QS always advise everyone to operate above board, I know plenty of small-time sellers who do not report this additional income on their income taxes. At least here in the US, this is no longer an option as of 2022. The marketplaces you sell on are required by law to report any accounts in which the total sales exceed $600. This rule has been in effect for quite some time, though prior to the passage of the "American Rescue Plan Act of 2021" the limit was $20,000. I suggest you read over my previous article covering all this information as 2022 is almost upon us. For additional information regarding taxes on collectibles, I suggest at a bare minimum you read over this article from Investopedia. For many of the small-time sellers, this change is likely to mean that you will now have your profits reduced by 28%.

A True-Costed Example

As I like to teach by example let's look at Ydwen Efreet


Let's say you bought a copy back in early 2017 for around $28 from a friend. You looked it up the other day and saw it's now sitting at $151, so you listed it and sold it. You didn't get $151. You lost $23 to TCGPlayer fees + shipping it in a bubble mailer with a top loader. 

Profit = $151 (Final Sale Price) - $23 (Fees + Shipping costs) - Purchase Price ($28)

Going forward, in 2022 you will need to include the collectible income tax of 28% which gets taken out of the profit line. So what would have been your profit of $100 is actually $100-$28 0r $72. Arguably it was always $72, but there is a reason that the backpack traders are able to pay more than most store's buy lists and sell for near TCGPlayer low. In 2022 they will not be able to do that without a massive tax bill in 2023.

Knowing this information now, for those who plan on continuing operations next year, the 28% tax from your profits will need to be baked into your buy and/or sell prices.

Conclusion

While I didn't really want to harp too much on the change to the tax rule that I already covered back in April, the key takeaway from this article should be to encourage all sellers to review their costs and get a better understanding of all their business costs. Hopefully, some of you find new factors that you need to account for so that you can track your profits more accurately moving forward.

David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in FreeLeave a Comment on A Deeper look at “The Numbers”

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

I Sold My Duals and Learned Lessons in the Process

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

I was scheduled to do a piece about misprints this week, but something big happened to me. Stay tuned for that piece in the future. Instead, I want to talk about what happened and share my thoughts and feelings, not only as a small private collector but also as a human being.

I was investing heavily in graded cards when I lost my job. I was investing not just in Magic: The Gathering, but Pokémon as well as a way to diversify. I was fortunate to end up with a bunch of nice slabs as a result, including finding a VG slabbed copy of Library of Alexandria in Europe, and some deals with local Pokémon collectors who have lots of graded material.


If I could see the future, I'd have been far less aggressive in my diversification, knowing I'd be losing my job. Long story short, as a direct consequence of this I had to sell nine of my beloved dual lands. I needed liquidity fast and could not go through the hassle of selling more minor pieces of my collection. I had no time to think about it.

It was hard for me to let them go. When I bought those duals I thought I was going to hold them forever no matter what. Life proved, once more, that nothing lasts forever and the only constant is change. Here are some thoughts I learned from this experience, with the hopes that they will be valuable to others facing similar ordeals. This article is about acceptance, letting go, and doing the right thing.

You Should Never Feel Bad for Making Money

I bought my ten duals, one of each, for roughly $2000 in three monthly installments. I sold all but a Foreign Black Border (FBB) Plateau for $1300 cash, plus a trade of four beautiful Force of Wills signed by Terese Nielsen and a sealed Double Masters booster box. The trades were valued at roughly $900.


So, essentially for $700 I bought a Plateau in very nice condition, a signed playset of Forces, and the booster box. Sure, in the traditional sense, "I lost" $700 that I haven't seen a return on, but we all buy and sell cards and I honestly believe this is a fine purchase. Not to mention that the $1300 cash really helped around the house.

If You Are Going To Invest in Collectibles You Need To Leave Emotions Aside

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from reading articles and watching famous YouTubers talk about these issues is leaving your emotions aside. You need to dismiss feelings in order to do what needs doing. I could have tried to jump through a lot of hoops in order to keep my duals, but this was unnecessary. Incurring risk is far worse than losing precious items of your collection.

A friend of mine put it perfectly: "you need to put a roof over your head first." I need to continue to pay my bank loan on my property and pay all the bills. It is an obvious statement, but these are priorities. It is important to keep that in mind, and this situation was a wake-up call for me.

You Can Always Purchase What You Had To Sell at Another Time

The mindset that leads to comments like "it is too late for me to invest in..." needs to be broken. Many times I thought that this was my last chance to purchase duals. Get on the train or be left behind forever. But as Rudy from Alpha Investments put it bluntly, "It is not too late."

I used to have that mindset, but I do not any longer. Please don't get me wrong, I really think these items are special and I was sad when I had to part with them. But when looked at in perspective, it is not the end of the world. There are plenty of duals out there. With patience, another good opportunity will present itself.

I firmly believe I will be the owner of dual lands again in the future, and this time will not be Foreign White Border (FWB), but Revised. Sometimes you need to take one step back in order to take two steps forward. I really hope this is the case.

Letting Go Can Be Cathartic

While I was sad when the transaction occurred, part of me also felt accomplished. It was a weird sort of relief. I could isolate myself from the emotion and do what was needed to be done and that was surprisingly gratifying for me. I was truly not expecting it.

"Acceptance" was the word that was floating around my head the whole time. It is what it is. This is true for other aspects of life as well. Sometimes things aren't meant to be in the way they were expected or desired. I had to make terms with the idea that selling these cards was the best for my current situation. I did not hesitate to do it once I came to this conclusion.

In the end, we learn as we walk this path. "Investing in pandemic times," as it were, has certainly been rewarding for me. While I am patient, I am also excited to see what happens with the markets once the pandemic subsides and the world goes back to something semi-normal.

Your Collection Is Still a Beauty, My Friend, and the Grinding Must Not Stop!

We hold on to what we can, and that is fine. As Massive Attack sing, you have to be thankful for what you've got. Cards are like money: they come and they go. A less-attached approach to the hobby could be beneficial for you financially.

Again: the only permanent thing is change. I turn the four Force of Wills from selling my duals into a full Jon Finkel gold-bordered deck (hello Grim Monolith!) and some beautiful promotional cards that I believe will perform well in the future. Plus, I get to play a lot of Premodern, too. You have to keep going. There is no way back.


Conclusion

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to sell something precious to yourself? Do you think that attachment can be an issue when investing in collectibles? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!

Mauro Acerenza

Mauro started playing Magic in 1995; it all began with an Ice Age starter pack. After a long break from the game, he returned to the hobby in 2015, shortly after Khans of Tarkir was released, thanks to a friend in university that told him that Magic was still alive. His interest in Magic Finance started in 2019 when he found out about the concept of the Reserved List. A competitive Modern and Cube player, he nearly always plays aggro decks.

View More By Mauro Acerenza

Posted in Finance, Free, Free FinanceTagged , , 1 Comment on I Sold My Duals and Learned Lessons in the Process

Have you joined the Quiet Speculation Discord?

If you haven't, you're leaving value on the table! Join our community of experts, enthusiasts, entertainers, and educators and enjoy exclusive podcasts, questions asked and answered, trades, sales, and everything else Discord has to offer.

Want to create content with Quiet Speculation?

All you need to succeed is a passion for Magic: The Gathering, and the ability to write coherently. Share your knowledge of MTG and how you leverage it to win games, get value from your cards – or even turn a profit.

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.


Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.