This week’s article comes to you from Worlds, the last chance we will have to watch Magic’s titans from around the world compete for the coveted title before Worlds becomes a GenCon side event. On the topic of Worlds, I want to cover something unique that came up this past weekend at GP: San Diego—the value of commons and uncommons. Most people take for granted the value of the other thirteen cards in the pack, but a lot of value can be gained from those draft rejects.
Everyone understands the value of the chase commons and uncommons, such as Dismember and Path to Exile. What many people miss is the value of the low-end staples. Cards such as Gut Shot and Phantasmal Bear are great examples, given the preparation for this coming weekend. Last weekend, I had a significant number of players frantically asking if anyone had the commons and uncommons for Illusions. I was lucky enough to have had a few copies in my Box to Extended, but that supply was quickly depleted. Given this knowledge, I decided that it would be wise to make sure I had some number of these highly sought-after cards for Worlds. I stopped at a few shops along the way, hoping to find some incredible deals and to score these staples for this weekend’s competitors. After pillaging a couple of stores, I was able to obtain the following number of cards for these prices:
37 Phantasmal Bear 0.10−0.15
9 Vapor Snag 0.10−0.15
17 Gut Shot 0.10−0.50
10 Phantasmal Dragon 0.25
43 Stitched Drake 0.10−0.15
16 Lord of the Unreal 2.00
Though this may look like an odd assortment of cards that seem to have been bought at full price, a deeper look shows otherwise. In a trade, it is very easy to value sought-after commons at $1 to $2 each. The fact that many vendors will not yet have these in stock because of the limited time between the GP and Worlds means that you may be among the few in the room with any copies. With this knowledge, we can look to turn a maximum investment of $56.35 into a potential trade gain of hundreds of dollars. This system is something so few traders take advantage of because of the low numbers on each of these cards. Given that few players use commons and uncommons in trades, the prices you can ask for seem reasonable compared to having to pay the inflated prices from the vendors.
−3 Phantasmal Bear 0.25
−2 Ponder 0.99
−1 Lord of the Unreal 1.99
+1 Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon 9.99
+1 Mayor of Avabruck 3.99
+1 Beast Within 2.99
This is among the more lopsided trades we have made in this quest, but when you break down the numbers we used in the trade, you realize how valuable commons and uncommons become.
Phantasmal Bear: 1.5 × 3 = 4.5
Ponder: 2 × 2 = 4
Lord of the Unreal: 4 × 1 = 4
Beast Within: 1.5
When you look at these numbers, none of them seem unreasonable considering how few people at the event actually had the cards he was seeking. Though the values are so far from what I had to pay, it is easy to ask prices like that when you come prepared and no one else does.
Now that you understand the value of cheap staples at major events, it’s time to cover a different aspect of the game. Off the top of your head, do you know the value of a Goblin Warchief? How about Reliquary Tower? Imperious Perfect? Learning to obtain cards like these can net you a huge profit. You can regularly find people willing to get rid of all of the above cards for under a dollar in a trade. You can then turn each of these cards into at least double your investment in cash. Keeping an eye out for common and uncommon format staples in trades can greatly pay off in the end. Most people don’t place much value on a card that doesn’t have the gold or copper rarity symbol, and this is something you should take advantage of. It is a great idea to study a buy list at any major event and to remember to pick up the listed commons and uncommons when you can get them cheap. Unlike other cash cards with low buy-to-sell ratios, such as Angelic Overseer, cards like Imperious Perfect can many times be obtained at half of their cash value, and that will drive your profit margins through the roof. Memorize the high buys on any list, and continue to pick them up; cards like Imperious Perfect are not something that will suddenly plummet from a buy list overnight. The casual demand for such cards is infinite, and the price reflects that.
+6 Dragon Arch (two Japanese and two Chinese)
As you can see, obtaining cheap commons and uncommons is not just something to look for in trades. When I comb stores between events and back home, I look for Commander staples and other high-dollar commons and uncommons that I can then take to a major venue to trade or sell for a solid profit. Memorizing a list of valuable nonrare cards can seem daunting, but after a while, you begin to remember a general price range and buy price.
The last thing I want to cover this week is the perceived value of particular commons and uncommons. These cards are usually staples in formats from Commander to Legacy, and people place a fictional price tag on them because of the cards’ playability. I covered an example of this last week when I traded away a few copies of Simian Spirit Guide. Most people value this card anywhere from $1 to $2 in trade, which is at least twice its actual retail value. I regularly keep at least a play set of such cards in my binder for this reason. Even if you have to buy these cards at full retail price, the trade value makes it well worth your time and effort to keep them in stock. Some other examples of these cards are:
This list can go on and on, but you get the idea. Learning what cards to keep in an extra box for the last-minute trades before an event can make you a lot of money. As with anything in this business, preparation can be the key to a successful weekend—being the only one in the room with a card leaves you with a lot of power.
Memorizing even a short list of staples can be extremely beneficial for a floor trader, especially one who is up-and-coming and needs a solid way to boost his collection. For a seasoned veteran, it is a good way to pull someone into a trade—he may find additional cards, thus allowing you to use the commons and uncommons as a draw. In additional to the extra trades you can get, being prepared with the low-end filler presents options for shoring up trades that are a few dollars off. Sometimes, it can be hard to convince someone to take a bulk rare to finish a trade, but presenting something like a Punishing Fire or Simian Spirit Guide can look far more appealing from his perspective, and in the end, it will cost you less.
Well, that’s all for this week’s edition of Box to Extended. Join me next week as I delve into the world of foreign and foil cards. This seems to be a big topic right now in the financial world of MTG, and since it seems that a few other traders are on the topic, I feel that it would be a good time to throw my hat into the ring. I will be covering the advantages of dealing with these cards as well as how to start a collection of rare and unique cards without breaking the bank. Let me know if you have any particular questions about the subject of foils, and I will be sure to include them in the article. One of the scariest yet most lucrative markets right now in MTG is the place to be if you are looking to get ahead of the smartphones and price guides. Thanks for reading, and I hope that the next time you look at a binder, there will be a few extra cards that catch your eye that you didn’t even know were valuable.
Until next week, keep your collection uncommon!