Tales From the Floor – Return to Ravnica Prerelease

Written by Corbin Hosler on . Posted in Finance, Magic Culture

Tales From the Floor – Return to Ravnica Prerelease

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in the hotbed of Magic that is Oklahoma. He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net.

First off, I want to thank everyone for the positive feedback (and the constructive criticism) on last week’s piece. It’s not exactly autobiographical, but I would say I put a lot of myself into that column, and I’m glad to see it resonated.

With that out of the way, let’s get to what everyone cares about – Return to Ravnica!

This is a series I do occasionally over at Quiet Speculation. I find that writing about my experiences directly off the floor of a big event (in this case, the prerelease) can be really helpful. It’s certainly useful for me to write about it, at least. In this light it makes sense, given the rules I set forth in this article.

Let’s dig in.

What I Traded For

I have a few strategies at prereleases. The fact that the casual crowd always turns out for these things is great for me, as I love trading with them. I get to take all the casual hits (like Nissa Revane) that I’ve picked up from the tournament players and flip it to the casual guys and get back tournament staples they don’t want in return. This is always profitable and allows you to, often times, see new cards in binders you haven’t in a while.

The other mathematical fact about prereleases is that the new cards are always overpriced. Herein lies the dilemma. On the one hand, you want to get rid of the overpriced stuff and clear it out from your binder. On the other hand, you want to have the new cards so people will come get them from you.

This creates a situation that is all about volume and timing. If you can move the new cards out fast enough you can save yourself from being stuck holding cards declining in price. Also, if you’re able to do enough trades with these cards (trading them for stable-priced cards), it can be worth it to take a loss on the ones you have left. I usually strive for a balance between picking up and moving new stuff, and this weekend was no exception. I was still selective with my targeting. I’m not trying to pick up every card in the set just to have it; I went after stuff I thought was under (or correctly) priced.

This weekend, that meant a few things. First of all, I had no problems picking up the Shocklands. While they’re likely going to decline in price some over the next few months, I don’t think they’re going too far, and these were the most-asked about cards on the weekend, so I was happy moving these in and out of my binder.

There are also a few cards I feel are truly underpriced at the moment. That ranges from the “penny stocks” of Collective Blessing and Martial Law to the one Mythic I feel is underpriced — Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. Seriously, that guy just takes over a game and I don’t think you can lose if you untap with it. There’s going to be a Control deck with this as the finisher that makes noise in the next few months, and I think there will be a spike.

Sadly, that’s about it for RtR. Everything else is simply too overpriced right now. I wouldn’t say no to picking up stuff like Abrupt Decay, but only because I could move it quickly. It’s not staying $20 forever.

What I was actually excited to pick up were Scars block cards. In particular, the Fastlands. And, even more in particular, just a few of them. I was picking up Blackcleave Cliffs, which is a 4-of in multiple decks. Most notably, it’s a 4-of in Jund, which is getting an upgrade in Abrupt Decay and mixes enough discard and pressure to handle the influx of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks. In addition to that, I was picking up Razorverge Thicket, another 4-of in a Tier 1 deck, this time in Birthing Pod. But wait, why am I picking up lands that you can’t even play this Friday?

Simply put, Modern is a thing. More of a thing than ever before, thanks to the reprinting of Shocklands in Ravnica. Look at the price of the Filter lands from Shadowmoor that see some Modern play. These are worth real money, certainly more than the $3 Cliffs, Seachromes and Thickets trade for. One of the largest barriers to entry into Modern was the cost of the manabase. Now with Shocks in much greater supply, that’s a lot less of an issue. It’s easier for someone to sleeve up a deck for Modern PTQ season if they already have all the lands and some of the cards they need.

So we have more people playing  Modern. That’s a biggie. The next step is to look at the former prices of the Fastlands. They all pushed past $10 during their time in Standard. That means the effect of price memory on these cards will allow them to rise back up without people batting an eye. I fully expect the three lands I mentioned above to head back up to $8-10 either this Modern season or the next.

What I Traded Away

The short answer, of course, is Return to Ravnica cards. For the reasons outlined above, I’m not dying to have overabundant amounts of these in stock at this second, at least the cards that are worth under $5. The ones more than $5 are a necessary evil, since you need to meet the demand of the players wanting new cards.

Outside of that, the things that moved incredibly well were the Zombie cards, especially the ones from Dark Ascension. As I predicted back when that set came out, Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger have climbed to $11 and even further in some places.

These Zombies have peaked, or are very close to it. Everyone wants to build Zombies at this point, and it’s hard for the deck to outperform the expectations that have been placed on it. That makes it difficult for this pair to go any farther. I still think they’re a solid $6-plus for months to come, but that’s a far cry from $11-plus. I was happy to trade these away into more stable cards, whether it be the Casual or Eternal kind.

Along those same lines, my Woodland Cemeteries went fast. There’s been a huge run on my Innistrad duals, which I (and anyone who took my advice) stocked up on. I made a big trade at the prerelease wherein I moved a ton of Innistrad duals to pick up a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and some Vendilion Cliques. That’s the kind of trade you can only make when the new cards in top demand. Additionally, “cashing out” these cards that you correctly predicted a spike in is best done for Eternal staples or cash, rather than other Standard cards. It allows you to effectively “lock in” your profits.

The next move at this point is to get the lands from the Gatecrash guilds. I think we’ll see a similar rise in Clifftop Retreat in a few months, since Boros is sure to be exciting and the colors already have some nice options. Along with Isolated Chapel and Hinterland Harbor, I held on to many of these rather than trade them away. If you have extras of the RtR guilds’ colors in Innistrad lands you shouldn’t be afraid to turn some of these into the lands that don’t yet have Guilds to go with.

That’s basically how I spent my prerelease when I wasn’t crushing with Golgari or Azorius. I had a blast at the prerelease, going 3-1 for packs in the first event and 4-1 in the 2HG the next day. The guild pack was fun, and I’m already looking forward to Gatecrash!

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

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