I stared at the green bus seat as my mind started to drift. The back of the bus was surging with the typical roar of adolescent energy; a fat kid was getting teased, a couple was making out in the seat behind me, and two girls were gossiping in the seat to my left. Despite all the potential distractions my mind was fixated on one thing, the mailbox (specifically what was in the mailbox). It was report card day and I wasn’t expecting good news.
As I neared my bus stop, anxiety gripped my insides tighter. In my house, there were only two outcomes, success or death (failure). Things like, “Next time…”, “Improving…” or “Trying…” were abominations to my father’s doctrine of life. These phrases were translated as failure and there was no refuge for me in them. It sounds harsh, but really it was my father’s belief in me that drove him to judge in this way. He knew that all I needed to succeed was to be willing, and any failure was due to apathy rather than lack of ability.
Apathy became my middle name, and every quarter I found myself dreading my bus stop on report card day. Today is a lot like report card day. We’re going to grade my performance in the battle with the D6s and see if I‘m worthy to be your magic finance confidant.
I don’t fear the dice, I know without a doubt that I’ll crush them. What I do fear, is that my review won’t stack up with the view that I have of myself and my standard of excellence. I’m going to channel my father and judge myself harshly as we review the results. Let’s start with the data.
|Card Name||Rarity||ebay (Then)||SCG (Then)||Me||Dice||ebay (Now)||SCG (Now)||Change|
|Beguiler of Wills||M||1.23||2.49||Down||Down||1.04||1.99||-0.19|
|Call to the Kindred||R||0.75||0.49||Stay||Down||0.39||0.49||-0.36|
|Curse of Echoes||R||0.56||0.49||Stay||Up||0.27||0.49||-0.29|
|Curse of Exhaustion (Foil)||U||1.9||0.99||Down||Up||0.83||1.49||-1.07|
|Curse of Misfortunes||R||0.46||0.49||Stay||Stay||0.31||0.49||-0.15|
|Curse of Bloodletting||R||0.54||0.99||Stay||Stay||0.47||0.99||-0.07|
|Elbrus, the Binding Blade||M||4.21||4.99||Down||Down||1.99||3.99||-2.22|
|Faithless Looting (Foil)||C||6.38||7.99||Down||Up||4.52||7.99||-1.86|
|Feed the Pack||R||0.36||0.49||Stay||Down||0.25||0.49||-0.11|
|Fiend of the Shadows||R||0.55||0.49||Stay||Stay||0.27||0.49||-0.28|
|Flayer of the Hatebound||R||0.48||0.49||Stay||Down||0.35||0.49||-0.13|
|Huntmaster of the Fells||M||12.14||17.49||Down||Down||18.6||29.99||6.46|
|Jar of Eyeballs||R||0.34||0.75||Stay||Up||0.25||0.49||-0.09|
|Mikaeus, the Unhallowed||M||4.73||7.99||Stay||Down||4.16||5.99||-0.57|
|Ray of Revelation (Foil)||C||3.3||2.99||Up||Stay||1.5||2.99||-1.8|
|Sorin, Lord of Innistrad||M||45.7||54.99||Down||Stay||22.75||29.99||-22.95|
|Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||R||4||5.99||Up||Up||2.82||3.99||-1.18|
|Tragic Slip (Foil)||C||3.09||3.99||Up||Up||3.53||3.99||0.44|
|Vault of the Archangel||R||2.67||3.99||Down||Down||2.06||3.99||-0.61|
This data can be interpreted many different ways. My goal is not to try to interpret it in my favor but instead to look at the data holistically and try to learn something. I also want to talk about some of my misses and the trajectory of these cards going forward. Before we do that let’s look at the basic information that we can glean from this spreadsheet.
Dark Ascension Set Trajectory (Down)
The set has gone down by $37.92 since I wrote the first article at its release. This is common for new sets and because of this some people question the validity of set reviews like mine. If you treat every card as if it will go down in price from the set release then typically you’ll save money. In this case if you had a full set and sold it at the release, then you would have prevented yourself from losing $37.92.
On the other hand, a lot of people are looking for guidance on specific cards, “Should I buy Gravecrawlers now or wait?” This information can’t be found in the blanket statement of “All cards will go down”. There is also more potential for profit in reviews like this. If I correctly assess every card (I know, I know, but let’s go to Magical Christmas Land with Conley for a minute) then we have the ability to profit more than if we just assume that all cards go down. If I correctly assessed the trajectory of every card we could have made/saved $67.34.
The Value of Dark Ascension
The whole value of the set is approximately $126.42 based on ebay values ($201 based on SCG). This is good information to have if you get the opportunity to buy or trade for a complete set. Typically, I have no idea what to offer on these. It’s especially relevant when you’re at a convention like Origins or Gen Con because a lot of the side events offer full sets as prizes and the winners of those are often looking to cash out. This number should help you come up with a buy number for a complete set of Dark Ascension.
Bye, Bye, Die
I beat the die. Come on, was there any doubt? Based on my rules from the previous article I had 38 correct calls verses the dice’s 19 correct calls. The most notable rule to remember is that “Stay” on bulk rares meant that the card would not break $1. A lot of these technically didn’t “Stay” (they dropped instead) but as long as a bulk rare stays bulk then it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. That being said, if the dice said that a bulk rare would go down and it did, then it was considered a correct call since it did technically go down.
Here’s the math for following my advice verses the dice. If you followed my advice on one of each card in the set then you made/saved $27.34. If you listened to the dice, then not only are you an idiot but you’re also in the hole for -$48.06. The problem that I have with my number is that it’s less than the “common knowledge” number. If you shipped every card at the release in anticipation for the set to go down then you would have approximately $10 more than you would by listening to my advice. I beat the dice, but I didn’t beat common knowledge and this is not ok. In my father’s house, this is a failure. Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong.
An “A” and $3.50 will get you a Starbucks Coffee
My dad’s approach to parenting was much like my current approach to car maintenance. I only focus on the things that need to be fixed. If the transmission is running fine, then I don’t care about the transmission. An “A” on my report card was the expected result. I didn’t get brownie points for doing what I was expected to do. The same is true of this analysis. I’m expected to make the correct analysis so I’m not going to celebrate the correct calls. Instead we will talk about the future of each of these cards.
Geralf’s Messenger (ebay $7.28 /SCG $9.99 /Change +$2.69)
Gravecrawler(ebay $7.75 /SCG $9.99 /Change +$1.89)
I combined these two because their success is tied to the same two things; casual appeal and the Zombie decks that have been doing well in Standard. At the moment the trajectory on these cards is still “up”. Based on ebay prices these are still sitting at a touch above $7, but I expect them to hit $10 before they start slowing down. Keep in mind that at the big retailers these have already hit $10 and I expect them to hit $12 on sites like SCG and CFB before slowing down.
Grafdigger’s Cage (ebay $3.14 /SCG $5.99 /Change -$4.33)
Anyone who knows anything about Magic finance saw this coming a mile away. Here’s what I said:
Sideboard cards don’t typically carry a high premium. Their foil versions always seem to be exponentially higher than the non-foil version (the same is true of hate bears). I expect the card to settle at $4-5.
Grafdigger’s Cage is about $3 on ebay and $6 on Star City. I said it would settle at between $4-5 because I thought it would see some sideboard play, but that hasn’t happened and I’m not sure if it’s going to. I haven’t seen any copies in the on the recent SCG Circuit and the only one that I’ve seen give it the nod is Craig Wescoe who has three in the sideboard of Humans here. If it does start seeing play, then you can expect a small uptick in price. If not, then I don’t see it going below $2.
You should also note that although the non-foil version is low, the foil version is much higher. It averages about $10 on ebay which is over three times the value of a non-foil. The discrepancy isn’t as much on SCG with the non-foil at $6 and the foil at $12, but $6 is pretty high for the non-foil when there’re going on ebay for half that price.
Dungeon Geists (ebay $3.34 /SCG $5.99 /Change +$2.27)
I can’t really take credit for this one. I glazed over this card when I was looking at the spoiler. It wasn’t until I saw Evan Erwin and Chas Andres talking about it on Twitter that I took a deeper look. After reading the card, I saw the potential that it had with Drogskol Captain and made the “Up” call. It worked out even though the meta wasn’t /isn’t optimal for this card. The card has peeked after PT Dark Ascension and with the decline of Spirits; its price is on the decline. I expect this to continue until it finds a new home.
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad (ebay $22.75 /SCG $29.99 /Change -$22.95)
Obviously, the overpriced planeswalker is going to go down in price! This is part of the reason why I don’t like my review score. If you remove this obvious call then instead of making/saving you $27.34, my number drops to $4.39. Yeah, it’s still value, but come on! We can do better than that.
I know that Sorin will continue to drop in price. “I know” is not a phrase that you’re used to seeing when reading about Magic Finance and it’s not just me being cocky. I know that Sorin will drop, because his price is inconsistent with other cards in his class. I’ll explain further.
Lifecycles and Classifications
Whenever I evaluate a card, I try to look at the current price in the context of the card’s lifecycle.
“Is this card sure to go down?”
“How long will this card hold value?”
One mistake that I see traders make is that they focus too heavily on the current price of a card. For example if you’re working on a deal that included your Sorin Lord of Innistrad, you shouldn’t be afraid to trade it away at $18 even though it’s currently at $22 on ebay. The reason why is because Sorin’s price is on a declining lifecycle. This means that Sorin’s overall price trajectory is down. Shifts in the meta and new sets might cause Sorin’s price to temporarily spike, but as those strategies fade Sorin will snap back to its downward trajectory.
The natural question is, “How do you know Sorin is on a declining lifecycle?” This is a fair question and the answer is simple. I classify the card and then plot the price points of other cards in the same class. After that, I look at the line and try to explain anomalies, but I think that we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at where Sorin fits in the context of the other planeswalkers.
Sorin is hard to classify. He’s not quite a build-around-me planeswalker like Tezzeret, but he is far from a powerhouse like Jace, The Mind Sculptor or Elspeth, Knight-Errant. I feel like if I do classify him then people will get hung up on the classification and miss the point of this exercise. For the sake of this example, I’ve plotted Sorin’s price in both classes; “Build-Around-Me Planeswalkers” and “Powerhouse Planeswalkers”.
In the first graph I’ve included the highest priced planeswalker (Jace, The Mind Sculptor) and the lowest priced one (Ajani Vengeant). This will give you an idea of what Sorin’s theoretical limits are. The other points on the graph are what I would consider “Build-Around-Me Planeswalkers”.
If you consider the data of this graph without the high and low point (remove Jace and Ajani), then you’ll notice a nature progression downward as the cards get further away from Standard. It evens out at about $5 with Nissa and Tezzeret the Seeker. This tells me that low point for a “Build-Around-Me” planeswalker is about $5. Keep in mind that both Nissa and Tezzeret TS have been reprinted in a “promotional” capacity and this may affect their price. That being said, I think that reprints in this manner are something that we should come to expect over the lifetime of a planeswalker.
I expect Sorin to perform a little bit above the other planeswalkers on this graph because it’s still reasonable (albeit less powerful) as a stand-alone threat. If there was a class directly above “Build-Around-Me” that’s where Sorin would be. Based on price, Sorin is currently classed with the “Powerhouse Planeswalkers” but Sorin’s level of play and demand doesn’t justify this position. For it to remain at its current price point it would have to perform at the same levels of: Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Liliana of the Veil and Elspeth, Knight-Errant.
Sorin seems to be in better company on the Elspeth Tirel side of this graph, which incidentally is just a few bucks above Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. I expect Sorin’s price to drop off to about $15 while it’s still standard legal, then $10 and below once it cycles out.
“C” is for Close
My dad would be disappointed with a “C” but there wouldn’t be any belt action. Instead, I’d get a warning, “You better get these up!” He never had to add an, “Or else…” to his threats because I knew what was in-store- I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with pass kicking. If the cards above are A’s then I’d consider this next batch of cards to be Cs. I missed on them, but instead of getting them fundamentally wrong, I just misjudged the timing. I expect these cards to “improve” over the next six months.
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (ebay $2.82 /SCG $3.99 /Change -$1.18)
This card is under $3 on ebay and that just seems wrong to me. Let’s look at this card the same way that we looked at Sorin. If we classify Thalia as a hate bear then we see a huge discrepancy in the pricing structure (See Below). It’s almost the lowest among the most popular cards in its class and yet it’s seeing a lot more play (even in the main deck) then all of the other cards in the chart. Thalia’s price should be performing at least as well as Grand Abolisher since it’s played at least as much as Abolisher in Human builds and it’s seeing play in Zoo in Modern and Maverick in Legacy.
Side Note: This graph also suggests that Gaddock Teeg might also be underpriced.
The availably of Thalia right now is doing a good job of satisfying the demand, but once the supply starts to dry up I expect Thalia to Jump up to the $5 range.
Havengul Lich (ebay $8.90 /SCG $12.99 /Change -$2.09)
I don’t have any fancy graphs for you on this one, but my instincts tell me that this card is the real deal. It’s hard to classify this card, because there hasn’t been anything like it in the past. The fact that there’s no comparison is a red flag for me in terms of pricing. This card has a lot going for it and it isn’t getting any love right now.
- It’s part of a Standard legal combo.
- It’s a Zombie, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite in the casual market.
- It’s a mythic rare.
This is the kind of card that will steadily decline then catch the meta by surprise and shoot up in price overnight. I’m not as sure about this card as I am about Thalia, but it’s definitely a card that you should be keeping your eye on.
This Might Sting a Little (Probably A lot)
Every now and then, I’d bring home an “F” or two on my report cards. These were the times that I dreaded my bus ride home. I knew that when I got home, I had a butt whooping waiting for me. The next few cards are ones that I consider failed calls. I should have known better on these but for one reason or another I missed on pretty hard on these.
Huntmaster of the Fells (ebay $18.6 /SCG $29.99 /Change +$6.46)
There’s really no excuse for missing this card. I knew that the card was good but I fell into a typical card evaluation trap, I got in my own way. A lot people correctly assessed Huntmaster as being really good, I wanted to offer the dissenting opinion (Read: I wanted to be smarter than everyone else). Instead of accepting the cards strengths I focused on the weaknesses of the card. My go to line was, “It dies to Whipflare!” but as it turns out, nobody plays Whipflare. Note to self, Good Card is Good.
Huntmaster made its debut as a four-of in the Wolf-Run Ramp decks and if that was the end of the story then I’d expect Huntmaster’s price to stabilize. It’s not the end of the story. Huntmaster is now a mainstay in GR Aggro (which is quickly becoming tier one) and it’s also being heavily played in the new Naya Pod lists that are doing well on Magic Online (See Below).
NayaPod By: shir kahn (2nd MTGO Premiere)
I expect Huntmaster to continue to rise. It’s $30 on the retail sites, but they can still be found for between $15 and $18 on ebay. Over the next month the ebay price should creep up over $20.
Vorapede (ebay $4.47 /SCG $6.99 /Change -$2.13)
“If this makes it into a Top 8 deck at a publicized tournament, it will easily hit $10.”
This didn’t happen, but even if did it wouldn’t have made this a $10 card. I’m really not sure what the hell I was thinking here. For this card to hit $10 it would have to be more than a one or two-of in a deck tier one deck. The chances of this happening in this meta are slim to none. If you look at the mythics from last set, there were only three that broke the $10 mark; Liliana of the Veil, Geist of Saint Traft, and Garruk Relentless. Vorapede is not even in the same class as these guys. It’s true that this set will technically be drafted less than Innistrad, but that’s not enough to put this in the $10 range.
Falkenrath Aristocrat (ebay $3.90 /SCG $6.99 /Change -$1.95)
I underestimated Lingering Souls which led me to overestimate this card’s place in the format. I knew that Lingering Souls was good, I just didn’t realize how good! Lingering Souls is everywhere (even at the top of Legacy GPs) and in a world of 1/1 flyers a four-mana X/1 flyer is going to sit on the bench. If you pair Aristocrat with Curse of Death’s Hold or Ratchet Bomb, then it might be passible but that could be said about almost any card.
Now that I see which way the meta is shifting, I don’t expect this card to do much. If you were holding these in hopes that they might jump in price, now’s probably a good time to ship them.
Until Next Time
I’m not happy with the outcome of my set review. I can still see my father holding up my report card saying, “If this is the best you could do then I’ll accept it. Is this the best that you can do?” It was always a tough question for me to answer. Part of me just wanted to say, “Yeah, it’s the best I can do.” The other part of me could never call anything less than excellence my best. No matter how tempted I was to let myself off the hook with, “I did my best.” I never did. I always owned my mistakes and my shortcomings. I’ll do the same here and shoot for better next time. Thanks for reading.
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