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Buying Time Before Buying Cards

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Finance, Magic Culture


We’ve got a fancy new set, and a Pro Tour on tap. That’s what I call a good weekend!

Pro Tours are one of the craziest times in Magic finance. We’ve seen some crazy stuff happen, and occasionally I’ve even been at the forefront of it (receiving fast, on-site information on Huntmaster of the Fells and Wolfir Silverheart).

We’ve seen big movers, and there’s nothing like the Pro Tour to spike cards suddenly. But, on the other hand, we’ve also seen stuff like Nivmagus Elemental, where there’s a bunch of hype and then the card doesn’t perform, leading a lot of people with a stack of Elementals that no one wants.

So how do we tell the difference?

Timing is everything

This old adage pretty much always hold true, but it’s particularly relevant in regards to buying in on spec targets. Minutes can make the difference between big profits and huge losses. With the haphazard way coverage goes, you can’t tell if the deck winning on camera is well-represented across the room or just being played by a handful of players.

And the commentators do speculators no favors. Not that this is their fault, of course, but talking up how good a particular card or combo is isn’t the same as taking a financial standpoint, something many viewers can miss. If Voice of Resurgence has a really good weekend, the commentators are likely to go on and on about how good it is and how many decks are playing it. But at $30-plus, does that mean it’s actually a good target to spec on? You have to be able to differentiate between the two.

That makes it hard to tell exactly when you should go in on something, and finding that right price point is even more difficult. After all, you want to be the person in on the bulk Exquisite Bloods, not the $2 copies. If something truly surprising were to break out you can make a ton of money by getting in cheap. But every minute you wait means someone can come along and beat you to the best prices.

So the dangers of being too late are easily clear, but what about the dangers of being too early?

This is what happened with Nivmagus Elemental. The deck performed well early and received a lot of press and hype. That led to a run on the card in the morning and sent prices soaring. But the deck came back to Earth later in the day as people realized it wasn’t actually that insane, and people who were buying Elementals in the morning were unable to find anywhere to sell them by that night.

That’s the danger of being too early, and sitting on a bunch of copies of a card that no one wants isn’t a fun feeling (my Splinterfrights say hi).

The trick, then, is finding that balance, and there’s no easy answer for how to do that. A good rule to start is to not make any moves until the first stanza of Constructed is completed and the players move into Draft. At that point, you have enough rounds of play to make some educated choices about whether you think a spec is worth moving in on, but you’re also getting in early enough (most likely) to make some money.

Formats Matter

This is a Block Pro Tour, but that doesn’t mean all the rounds will be Block. Many will be Draft, which means there is plenty of room for someone to make the Top 8 without actually playing a dominant Constructed deck. This is very important to keep in mind when looking over Top 8 decklists. Just because someone is in the Top 8 doesn’t mean their Constructed deck is one of the best in the room.

In the past, Block Pro Tours have been windows into the future of Standard more often than not. Last year is a terrible example because of the bannings that warped the format, distorting the long-term picture. Of course neither Intangible Virtue or Miracles.dec went on to rule the metagame, but because of the bannings you have to throw that out as an example.

So let’s go back a year further. The big winner from the Scars of Mirrodin Block Pro Tour was Hero of Bladehold. The card went from being $3-$4 at the time of the Pro Tour to $10-plus a year later after it made the transition into Standard. Even after the hype over a particular deck or card has died down, there’s still a lot of room to make some good investments. Poring over the decklists from the event after it’s completed can help you spot some trends that may be applicable to the next year’s Standard.

Make Your Own Decisions

This is the best advice I can possibly give you when it comes to speculating. I remember vividly a few years ago when I went out and bought a bunch of Contested War Zones because the card was being so hyped on SCGLive. Of course, Kuldotha Red never went on to dominate Standard the way the commentators were predicting, and I wasn’t ever able to do anything with those War Zones.

What this drives home for me is how important it is to make an informed decision. At the time I was trusting the “pros” on air and made my decision based on that, and it obviously failed miserably. Instead of blindly putting your faith anywhere (including myself or any other financial writer), you should make your own opinions and act on that. Take the advice of whoever you want into consideration, but don’t let it be the only factor involved in your decision.

After all, it’s your money at stake.

Thanks for reading,
Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

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