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How I Speculate on New Sets

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

There are plenty of great stories out there. Buying a ton of Stoneforge Mystics before it spikes. Getting Jace, the Mind Sculptor at $30 the first time around (or $90 now, as I did a week ago). Grabbing a ton of Scapeshifts the moment Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is unbanned. Nabbing Boros Reckoners at $4. There are also the horror stories. Master of the Pearl Trident. Venser, Shaper Savant. Ninety-four Splinterfrights (that are sitting next to me as I type this).

I’ve been a part of all of these, and I’ve learned a few lessons that have shaped how I handle new releases. With Dragon’s Maze spoilers already happening, I wanted to share a few of these tidbits.

Old vs. New

59694_360697294040841_142080273_n This is probably the most interesting aspect, and it’s one I think many people don’t understand.

Beck//Call was just spoiled last week, and it has people excited about the prospects of playing combo Elves in Modern. With that in mind, Beck//Call started preorders at $3 or so. Cloudstone Curio, on the other hand, was widely available at $2.

So that raises the question: Where to speculate? Going in on Cloudstone Curio was obviously more profitable in this case, and that’s usually how I like to speculate. Using another example, all the Boros humans spoiled in Gatecrash made me get into Champion of the Parish instead of something like Frontline Medic.

Of course, this doesn’t always work out. Buying into Boros Reckoner was obviously more profitable than buying into the peripheral cards. But in my experience, you’re usually better off buying backward, as it were. Nearly every card in the new set will come down in price in two months, with only a few gaining value or staying steady over that time. Unless you’re just that far ahead of the game, math would dictate that you try and pick up the older cards.

Applying this to Dragon’s Maze, if you think a particular deck is going to improve or be pushed into creation, go for the other cards that are vital to the deck, not necessarily the card that’s going to make it happen. Sometimes stuff like Boros Reckoner will fly under the radar, but it’s more likely the new demand will be priced into the card’s preorder price.

Hype vs. Play

Let’s stay with Cloudstone Curio as our example. The hype from the Elves deck sparked a run on the card, and it spiked to more than $10 initially. It’s not down to something more along the lines of $7-$8.

Champion of the Parish, on the other hand, was already a known commodity, and I got into a bunch at $3 or so in trade. Because the market is much more saturated with these, it took more than hype to move the price; it took sustained play. When that came, I was able to capitalize on revitalized demand and sell mine locally for nearly double what I got them for.

Recognizing the difference between the two is important, especially if you’re doing as I do and moving on older cards affected by recently spoiled ones.

Cash vs. Trade

Here’s another common dilemma, and one with pros and cons. If you are able to trade into a spec rather than buy it for cash, you get in at roughly half the trade price, if you assume the buylist is about 50 percent of retail. I’m sure you can see how that’s an attractive option, because it limits the amount you have in the card, but there are some downsides.

Most importantly, it can be difficult to acquire the card you want to speculate on. Cloudstone Curio, for instance, isn’t exactly floating around everyone’s binders. Getting in on this card in trade is nearly impossible, so the cash buy option was the only real route.

What that means, though, is that you need the cash price to rise in order to profit. Getting in on Champion of the Parish in trade puts about $2 in cash per copy into the card, and selling it at $4 when it rises is a clean $2 profit per copy. Suppose that I actually spent that $2 per copy, though. I have shipping costs to contend with on the front-end, and the back-end as well if I sell to a buylist. There are also fees associated with selling on TCGPlayer and Ebay, and all of these can eat into your profits. That’s why I prefer getting in speculations through trading whenever possible.

Applying it

Let’s look again at that example from Dragon’s Maze. You think Beck//Call is going to make Modern Elves good, but you’re already too late to profit from Cloudstone Curio, and you don’t want to buy into Beck at $3-$4 cash. What’s the next step?

Look at the other cards that could benefit from the printing of Beck//Call. One of the best possible targets is Heritage Druid, which is already a Legacy staple, but has climbed only 50 cents or so since the spoiling, putting it at about $3.

Because Heritage Druid is an uncommon from an older set, it’s not necessarily easy to find in trade binders. (As I’ve said, I like that as the first option when you can.) But that leaves you in a position buying for cash; at this point, you have to decide if you believe in the deck and believe there is money to made on Heritage Druid.

That, my friends, is my thought process on new-set speculation, run dozens of times with other potential cards whenever a new one is spoiled. It allows me to identify the plan of attack on each speculation I decide to undertake, and it ensures the most profitability for me come spoiler season.

I hope getting my approach down on (virtual) paper will help you the next time you feverishly click at midnight for the newest cards from the next set.

Thanks for reading,
Corbin Hosler
@Chosler88 on Twitter

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