Tag Archives: Magic the Gathering

Temporal Trespass

Temporal Tresspass_Clint Cearley

It is April 28 and we are in the thick of Dragons of Tarkir as the dominant set. By dominant, I mean that when you go to buy a pack, or collect your winnings from an event, this is the set you’re most likely to choose. I’ve enjoyed DTK so far. It’s an excellent set. It has made for an exciting draft setting, and an equally spicy standard environment. My concern, however, is time.

Dragons of Tarkir was released on March 27th, a short two months after the release of the previous set, Fate Reforged. DTK will continue to be the dominant set until Magic Origins on July 17. The reason for Dragons’ early release is twofold; primarily, the Tarkir block sets were released as large-small-large, and an earlier release allows for more time with a large set before the release of the following set. The second reason is the more problematic of the two and that is the release of Modern Masters 2015 filling the May release slot normally filled by a block’s third set.

Despite the high likelihood that MM2015 will be an excellent set, its release will very likely distract from the current dominant set. Who is going to want to draft DTK when you could be drafting MM2015 instead? Players’ attention will be split, especially those who play both standard and modern. So, while on paper it feels like we get extra time with DTK, in practice, we will likely be getting a less-than-satisfactory amount of time with it.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, as the third set of a block is normally small, and players are eager to move on to the next set. However, because of the restructuring of the release paradigm, DTK will continue to be an important part of standard even after Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged rotate out. My guess is that by the time Origins comes out, if players haven’t completed the playsets they meant to while they were distracted by Modern Masters, they’ll be looking to acquire them after the fact. I can’t say for sure whether that makes investing in DTK a good idea or not, but from my experience with the set thus far, it has a wide range of cards that will offer a variety of exciting builds when combined with the upcoming sets.

While I keep opening prize packs and draft packs, hoping for more of the chase mythics like Deathmist Raptors or Dragonlord Atarkas, or even solid rares like Thunderbreak Regent, I can’t help but think of the level of demand for these cards when the packs are no longer being opened as widely. This notion might also be reinforced by several of my LGS’s decisions to stop breaking down boxes, limiting the immediately available supply immensely. Because of this, I imagine people will be looking to online sellers or PucaTrade. So, keep this in mind when considering trading your DTK rares.

Game Day Full of Wealth

Villainous Wealth

Two weeks ago I was able to participate in my local game shop’s (LGS) game day on Saturday.  I was able to sneak away for a few hours to test out my current standard deck I had thrown together about 20 minutes before the event.  It was a deconstruction of my primarily Theros block deck, and rotating in my Khans of Tarkir block cards.  For the record I do not play standard often, but when I do I make stuff happen.

My deck originally was G/W/B/U, and a freaking grind.  The previous game day I had a round that only lasted one match! Half my deck was planeswalkers.  I had missed the top eight on a misplay of mana tapping (Noob move).  An unfortunate learning pain, which I have since learned to slow down on my turn.  One of the cards that I really enjoy playing that most people don’t know what to do with is Villainous Wealth, so I obviously kept this card in for last weekend.  Like I said, I make stuff happen.

Going into my first round last weekend, I was extremely nervous.  Like I said I don’t play a lot of standard, but still want to have a unique competitive home brew. The first round was rather interesting, and as it turned out seemed to be a theme for the night.  The rounds were rather slow, I was like where the eff are the burn decks?  I thought I wouldn’t be able to play anything on the ground without it getting roasted!

After getting a few land drops out I realized this first round was rather slow, and I knew my deck would be able to keep up.  The first round player was Ojutai Control splashing Black for Crux of Fate and Dragonlord Silumgar.  Well, the deck I had put together was a U/B/G control/mirror deck.  I must say I love Clever Impersonator.  This card made my day several times.  My plan was to be general enough to play around all decks and still have fun.  I surprisingly ended up crushing him 2-0.  My favorite part of the game was that I played Villainous Wealth for eight!!! It was hilarious and they were like seriously.  Playing my opponent’s own Dig Through Times, Dragonlord Ojutais, and planeswalkers against him pretty much made him cry.  It was quite a round of fun counter magic, and one I will remember for the lasting impact it made on me.

Now, the other three rounds that day did not go so hot.  Pretty much all the rest of the rounds I went 1-2.  I played against a Temur Combo, which I should have beat except I made several misplays (More Noob Moves).  I played a U/R burn control deck, and one other.  Overall it was a great experience, and I was glad I was able to participate.  I really wish I could have got one of those Thunderbreak Regent cards.

What I learned to look out for from a card perspective to add to any collection or pick up for the U/B control decks are definitely Dragonlord Silumgar’s, Clever Impersonators, and for the offbeat fun wins Villainous Wealth cards.  I believe as the control player’s shift they will lean towards the U/B control for current standard play.

Conjured Currency Arbitrage

feat217a_conjured_currency

Recently, I have read several articles by people and their ability to pick up magic cards at steep discount in their travels.  Today my plan is to show you how you can deliver big returns by using the power of the dollar in your favor no matter where you are.  You can even take out the flight cost.

One thing Magic Financiers tend to overlook is how opaque the magic market actually is.  Everything is about information, and when it comes to speculation you sure as hell better be informed.  I think being informed is the easy part,

the difficult part is getting that information immediately when trying to execute a trade or a decision regarding your cards.  There are certain standards everyone tends to use.  I’m pretty sure I’ve only traded with one person at my local game shop (lgs) who did not use tcgplayer mid.  Personally I prefer this because it’s more fun to trade.

When it comes to trading what really matters is economies of scale.  According to Wikipedia: In microeconomics, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to size, output, or scale of operation, with cost per unit of output generally decreasing with increasing scale as fixed costs are spread out over more units of output.  As an individual we each have our own markets that we participate in.  Some examples would include your LGS, Ebay, PucaTrade.  How do you move your cards and at what cost?  Different markets have a different cost.

So, how does one take advantage of information?  I’m going to show you how to take full advantage of your hard earned US Dollar.  Just like a magic card your dollar is a commodity, and it holds a relative value.  The differences of these items, and in which market can cause for a large spread in pricing.  Think of a magic card as a derivative, its price is floating due to supply and demand.  The same thing happens with your dollar relative to other currencies like the Yen.  This creates arbitrage opportunities.

At the time of writing your one USD is worth 119.63 Yen. The next step is to find Japanese stores who ship overseas and sell online.  The one I use for this example is Hareruyamtg.  Next, you need to compare apples to apples.  In my calculations I take the relative cost in local yen of the same MTG cards in English.  Yes, we could do this for Japanese cards if we wanted. Knowing each of the legs of the calculation what we will come out with is a USD price on an English card.  In my example I use MTGprice.com as my pricing data (I like an index for pricing).

After all my calculations I was able to identify five out of 12 cards that were great opportunities to build in paper value if purchased today.  If executed correctly a real return with a bang for your buck. Those cards were End Hostilities, Clever Impersonator, Hardened Scales, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, and everyone’s favorite Siege Rhino.  Of the five I would probably purchase Clever Impersonator, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, and Siege Rhino if I was to execute the trade today because they had the best margin.

Card Name MTG Price USD Hareruyamtg (JPY) Hare (USD Conversion) Difference
End Hostilities (Eng) 1.7 200 1.671821449 0.028178551
Ashcloud Phoenix (Eng) 3.93 700 5.851375073 -1.92137507
Clever Impersonator (Eng) 3.27 300 2.507732174 0.762267826
Hardened Scales (Eng) 0.91 60 0.501546435 0.408453565
Sarkhan, the Dragon Speaker (Eng) 11.73 1300 10.86683942 0.863160578
Siege Rhino (Eng) 8.39 800 6.687285798 1.702714202
Sorin, Solemn Visitor (Eng) 13.6 1700 14.21048232 -0.61048232
Bloodstained Mire (Eng) 9.61 1300 10.86683942 -1.25683942
Flooded Strand (Eng) 15.01 1800 15.04639305 -0.03639305
Polluted Delta (Eng) 14.16 1800 15.04639305 -0.88639305
Windswept Heath (Eng) 11.01 1400 11.70275015 -0.69275015
Wooded Foothills (Eng) 10.67 1500 12.53866087 -1.86866087

What about shipping costs you ask?  I even calculated all of those as well.  Surprisingly at a per card basis it’s really not that expensive.  Again doing all the calculations and conversions I came out at an added cost of $.15 USD at the high end and obviously going back to the economy of scale $.05 per card.

There is definitely arbitrage opportunity here for a trader to create a lot of value for themselves.  Yes, arbitrage is a guaranteed return, it would all come down to your execution.  Do you have the economies of scale to do the transaction, and do you have enough outlets to move your product?  Only you can answer that question for yourself.

Hopefully you have enjoyed my article, please feel free to contact me with questions and feel free to provide comments.

Value of Goals in Speculation

Setting Goals

A very important tool is the ability to set good goals.  Fundamentally, setting goals helps adhere to a certain strategy or theory.  For instance, there has been speculation that of all the tribes in the current Khans block Sultai will be have the highest ceiling when future blocks are taken into consideration.  This would be cause to buy up cards or develop a deck around those colors in preparation for future releases.  This is an example of a speculative play.

Now what does the above speculation have to do with goals? Well first and foremost goals help to establish a benchmark upon which progress can track success or failure.  In the case of the Sultai Speculation it is believed that Sultai cards are currently undervalued relative to the other tribes.  This would be tested by developing a price sheet for the different tribes to value their speculation as the future blocks are released, with the goal to yield the highest value of return.  Ultimately all goals represent a metric which in my opinion is the single most important part of a goal.  Once a goal is established it will also help provide focus, and feedback for speculation

Focus your mind’s eye

Something often overlooked when it comes to Magic in general is a focus.  Players have decks for everything! I mean most players have a Commander, Modern, and Standard deck.  That is three different areas a player needs to split their focus, and understand the different interactions and card mechanics.  This involves a lot of play time and research into the history of Magic.  This lends itself to a much unfocused player, and possibly weakening gameplay.  Would it best to be a generalist and win some or be specialized and win more?  I’m not saying that the above is bad, and many players have been around with the game for a long time.  It’s all about the play style, and the more that is taken could potential reduce and inhibit a player.

With the focus around the Sultai clan as a slice of Khans it is possible to develop a greater understanding and positioning relative to other players in the Khans block.  Rewards could be either financial or increased skill of in-depth card mechanics.  I highly recommend writing down your goal and what your focus is on.

Reflective Feedback

Writing a goal down also creates a channel for reflective feedback.  Feedback can be measured qualitatively or quantitatively.  The closer to real time the more it will help navigate the current atmosphere by adjustment or staying true to the course.

Reflecting on the Sultai example here are some outlined feedback questions:

  • Time Line: Does the current timeline allow for adjustments to be made to game play or financial strategy? Is this an achievable goal, and is there ample time to measure skill or realize financial value?
  • Focus:
    • Standard: Is Standard a narrow game type choice for Magic? Is even Standard too broad, and should it just be Standard Draft vs Constructed?
    • Sultai: Is Sultai enough of a narrower focus? How is Sultai performing relative to its peers in current block? How does Sultai perform financially and in game format?
  • Valuation: Is there a financial gain or loss that can be accounted for? Are game mechanics and knowledge improved? Was time well spent or used?

Each item above can be measured.  First and foremost is timeline.  Timeline helps holding/buying/game play style through the releases of Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir. A timeline also enhances goals by providing a life cycle and stages to mark their success.  It’s very possible that Sultai really sucks during this time frame, but with a timeline it helps improve future decision making. Sultai may also be a very profitable clan to play in this block.  Even though everything is hindsight there is something measurable, and analysis can be performed against the goal.

Focus will enable you to hone your skills and potentially become an expert at a local game shop or in the greater magic community.  Analysis can be performed on trades, and can be catered to varying play styles. Is now a good time to buy or trade Sultai cards like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant? Who knows, but at the very least, there is focus, and research that has been a part of the trade decision.  Even thoughtful hints, tips, or tricks.  Another thing impacted will be a further understanding of the Sultai card mechanics.  Does Sidisi, Brood Tyrant create a zombie token for each creature milled? Or is it per trigger no matter how many creatures? (Per trigger) These overlooked mechanics may help put a twist on value and on game play that has yet to be recognized creating an edge in a market.

Lastly, how can a goal be valued?  One of the easiest values will be financial.  Sidisi, Brood Tyrant purchased at today’s price of $3, and then pops back to eight dollars with Fate Reforged. How many copies were purchased and sold for a financial gain of $5?  An often overlooked value is the knowledge gained on Sultai and gaming mechanics.  Qualitative knowledge should increase about the game interactions and the Sultai clan. This could *possibly* provide an edge for the next year with Khans still in rotation.  Maybe, the Sultai clan deck is pummeling all the other decks at the tournaments and allowing for financial capitalization.

At the end of the day no matter the timeline, feedback, and valuation there are many lines of speculation that can be identified and turned into goals.  Ultimately it will improve game play and possibly lead to some financial gains.