I had a multitude of topics in mind for this week’s article before today; however, given a certain price hike in the Zombie lords as of the past few days, I settled on the discussion of how to take advantage of an ever-changing market.
Even with the Modern trade market turning to the Web for up-to-date pricing, there are still ways to acquire cards before the prices become well known. Staying on top of prices is one of the biggest priorities for a floor trader. This allows us to approach an event with information over the other players and traders. If you haven’t already realized this, look at the prices of Death Baron and other Zombie lords all over the Internet. These once $2 to $5 rares have now spiked up to over $10, so how do we as traders take advantage of this? Given that this article won’t release until Friday, it is unlikely that most won’t be privy to this information. However, you may be able to find some shops and private people who don’t regularly keep up on their prices. This article is going to walk step by step through the process of how to take advantage of situations such as this one when they arise.
The first step in the process is, of course, price-checking. Though you can comb websites daily like I do, the easier way is to keep an eye on social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Traders like me will regularly post about price hikes and trends in order to gather a reason for the spike. Take advantage of our information and use it to quickly stay on top of the market in your local area.
Beyond just taking our word for it, the next step is to investigate the cards for yourself. Decide if you feel it is a call you can take advantage of in a timely manner or whether to let it pass by. Not every call or spike is going to be profitable; cards can fall just as quickly as they rise. Don’t put yourself in a situation in which you are stuck with a hundred copies of a card just to watch it plummet a few days later, losing you both time and money.
If you decide you want to pursue a card for possible gains, you then have to decide how deep into it you want to go. If you feel the card will be but a short-term spike, don’t devote yourself to acquiring it for too long. Though you may gather a hundred copies of a card at a great value, it means nothing if you can’t unload them before they fall. On the flip side, if you feel a card has long-term potential, don’t be so hasty to unload it. Instead, take advantage of everyone else’s desire for short-term gains and pick them up slowly over time. In the case of the Zombie lords, I feel this will be a short-term gain, and I expect the prices to return to normal within a few weeks. Given the new love the tribe is receiving, I could see a long-term overall gain, but I still expect them to settle far lower than the current $10-plus tag.
Next, it’s time to approach the acquiring process. There are a multitude of places to acquire cards in today’s market; everything from online retailers to local players can be used. Where you go to pick up your desired number of copies can greatly vary depending on what you expect the card to do. For example, in the case of the Zombies, the online market has already jumped its prices, so picking up any copies on the cheap could prove to be nearly impossible. In this case, it is best to comb your local stores and player base for copies before they become aware of the rise online. A lot of stores only update their prices once or twice a week, so if you are quick, you can usually score a solid deal. Though the process can be slightly more difficult with the average player now using the Internet, scoring low-key cards that most consider bulk can usually be done by trading off in-demand Standard cards without too many questions.
Using local markets is great if you’re only looking for a handful of a card, but what about those calls where you’re looking to score tens or hundreds of copies? For these instances, we have to turn our attention to the Internet. Unlike in the previous examples, the Internet is best used before a card actually spikes. This can be in the form of a card you believe is on the rise or, for those of you who travel to events, the next tech card you see at the top tables. One of the major reasons to attend any major events you can in your area is to obtain this information. Sometimes, scrubbing out can prove to be far more profitable in the long run than making a Day 2 within the tournament itself. Being at an event in person presents you with a small window within which you can gather information on the ever-changing metagame before anyone else. Take advantage of this time to gather what cards you can at the event itself, but more important, to use this information to take stock in the market before anyone else can. I will regularly be placing orders online long before anyone sees a Top 8 back home; this means I can be one of the first to stock up on the next big card before it becomes a mainstay.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t still get in on the action from home. This is another example of why Twitter and Facebook are so great for staying ahead of the curve. Pros and traders alike will regularly post about what is hot that weekend, and these are exactly the tidbits of information you should be piecing together for profit. Though you may not catch too many of the online stores before the traders on the floor clean them out, this does not mean you cannot use this information to your benefit within your local market. If I cannot make an event on any particular weekend, I will usually try to make sure my Sunday is free for “shopping.” This may sound tedious, but if you’re willing to put the work in and travel to all the local shops, you can find yourself well rewarded by the end of the day.
That’s all I have this week on the topic of investments, but if you guys would like more specific examples of any part of the process, feel free to ask. As I stated, following key players and traders on Twitter can be a great way to get into the trading game and is something I suggest for everyone who reads these articles. Next week, I will discuss in depth the importance of social networking in the trade game. In addition, I will tell you who you should be following and why!
Before I sign off for the week, I wanted to cover a trade I made this past week. Unfortunately, this has been a slow Magic week for me given how busy I have been catching up on sorting, so I only have one trade this week, but it’s a good one. As I stated last week, I wanted to see what I could turn that Badlands into, so here is the trade based on SCG prices, since that’s what we went with:
−1 Badlands SP 54.99
+1 Doubling Season 24.99 (sold out)
+1 Heartless Summoning 4.99
+4 Gifts Ungiven 9.99
This is fairly typical anytime you are trading down from something like a dual land. Though I did get a great deal of value in this trade, I inevitably ended up with only one card I truly feel comfortable with, and that is Doubling Season. I like Heartless Summoning a lot, and I feel that the card certainly has potential (I mean, honestly, who isn’t trying to break this card?), but the card has probably seen its ceiling for now. As for the Gifts Ungivens, I feel far less confident in this card given the Modern ban announcement as of late. With the longevity of the format in everyone’s mind, I feel picking up Modern cards at this point at the still-inflated prices is probably not the wisest move. Even with this in mind, I feel Gifts Ungiven is a solid long-term card that has playability in a multitude of formats, and something I believe at some point may even make an impact on Legacy.
So now that we know what the dual land started from and what it turned into, let’s evaluate the trade without the dual involved at all. Even though we were using different pricing methods for each trade, I will use SCG for this example because we already have those prices down on the previous trade.
−1 Koth of the Hammer 24.99
−1 Dismember 4.99 (sold out)
−1 Yawgmoth's Will 17.99 (sold out)
−1 Ancestral Vision 9.99
−1 Tempered Steel 5.99
−1 Ajani Goldmane 5.99
+1 Doubling Season 24.99 (sold out)
+1 Heartless Summoning 4.99
+4 Gifts Ungiven 9.99
Based on SCG numbers, we have a perfectly even trade; however, as we delve deeper into the trade itself, we see a different tale. Let’s run through the cards one by one:
Koth of the Hammer: Given the recent playability in the mono-Red shells in Standard, he has seen a slight increase since we traded him off. However, in the long run, mono-Red will die down and he will settle back to the $15 to $20 range and then fall completely off the radar once rotation and his reprint come around. Dumping him now is probably ideal, as I don’t see a better market in the future.
Dismember: When we dumped this a few weeks back, it was at four; however, given this card’s popularity and longevity, I don’t see this increase as a surprise. In a few years, this will command the same price tag as Top and Vial, so holding these is a fine choice. Of all the cards I traded away, this one was the hardest due solely to these facts.
Yawgmoth's Will: Given how few formats this card is legal in, I don’t see a widespread increase anytime soon. Though SCG puts it at $18, you will be hard-pressed to find a person willing to trade it for that value, so I was perfectly happy trading it at the “in” price of $12 (comparable to an actual price of $15 to $16).
Ancestral Visions: This card has likely seen its peak a few months ago, and though it still hold a $10 price tag, it should have dropped by now—eBay has them going as low at $4.25 for BIN and are regularly not selling at $7 to $8 each. Compare this to Gifts Ungiven with the same SCG price tag, and you will see a substantial difference.
Tempered Steel: There isn’t much to say on this card, I gave the “in” price of $6, which is what SCG has them at and what they are worth. Of all the cards in the trade, this was the easiest to evaluate.
Ajani Goldmane: With his recent rotation out of Standard and lack of playability everywhere but the kitchen table, I don’t expect any price climbs on this guy anytime soon. The casual appeal and mythic status is what keeps this guy above $5, and I have no issue dumping these when I can.
Doubling Season: One of the hottest casual cards there is, and kitchen-table players will pay whatever it takes to get their hands on this Green token staple. Accordingly, most vendors are always low on stock, which gives Doubling Season a great buy price. If you can ever get these below $20, I suggest doing so; the card may not rise quickly, it gains a few dollars but every year.
Heartless Summoning: As I stated earlier, everyone and his Grandmother Sengir are trying to break this card. With the appeal stretching across every format imaginable, I don’t see the buzz letting off any time soon. All it takes is one Mental Misstep for Wizards, and Heartless Summoning will go through the roof.
Gifts Ungiven: Based on the eBay prices I spoke of earlier, we can see that Gifts Ungiven is still a highly sought-after Modern staple that isn’t going anywhere for now. Until we know the fate of the format, I wouldn’t invest too heavily into Gifts. That being said, I also wouldn’t hesitate to pick up any copies I could get my hands on for under $8.
Well, that’s all I have for this week. Keep the comments rolling in. I was very happy and surprised to see the increase again last week. As I stated in the last article, it was a good week to comment, and this one is as well. I want some ideas for future topics you guys would like to see involving the project. I have nearly $200 in cash the project has made now, and I want your opinion on how to spend it. Should I buy another box? Make a call shot? Let me know what you guys think. I will be announcing the best idea based on my personal opinion and the community input next week. The winner will receive a free entry into the drawing, and I will announce a winner from the comments I received last week as well. Hope you guys have some great ideas, because I can’t wait to use them!