We’re in a period of flux as the new set starts to work its way into the different formats. This is the most exciting time for me. Not only do I get to
watch sick innovation unfold, but I get to track pricing of cards and ride the waves into profit. Even though I usually have a pretty good idea of
which cards are going to see play, there is always some surprises. One of those surprises happened a couple of weeks ago in Indianapolis.
The StarCityGames.com Open in Indianapolis was the first major tournament where the new Mirrodin Besieged cards were legal. Gerry T set the
tournament scene ablaze with his ballsy ” Choose MY Adventure!” article. In the article,
he listed three decks and asked his readers to choose which one he should run at StarCityGames.com Open: Indianapolis. The interesting thing about this
article was that the list contained two new strategies based on Mirrodin Besieged cards.
The first was a U/B Shape Anew deck, which is really exciting for the Polymorph lover in me â€” but the deck has yet to take root in the new Standard.
The other deck was an improved version of the Kuldotha Red deck that was kicking around pre-Besieged. The new version adds eight battle cry guys, four
of the battle cry land (Contested War Zone), and it also runs the Devastating Summons / Goblin Bushwhacker combo. This deck made such a splash in
Indianapolis that Star City Games sold out of Contested War Zone, Chimeric Mass, and Jinxed Idol within the first hour of opening their table.
The dealer table was mobbed; I remember trying to score two Contested War Zones for a friend of mine. I asked the dealer if they had any more, and he
said they had only foils. A typical player would probably pass on the foils unless this was their only option. Seeing that they were sold out, I was
happy to buy the foils, because I knew after the weekend that they would be money in my pocket. As suspected, the deck has grown in popularity, and
cards like Contested War Zone and Mox Opal have jumped in price.
How to Think
When I talk about the value of cards like Contested War Zone, I usually get static from people. The typical response is something like this, “That card
isn’t worth $5, because the deck loses to Pyroclasm.” I’ve even had people on the trade floor ask me for the card, then tell me how the deck sucks and
that the card isn’t worth what I am asking for it. This just baffles my mind. Are people really that bad at trading!?
Let’s take a detour, and I’ll use an example from Indianapolis to demonstrate.
In the short time that I had between rounds (I was playing U/R control, so I used most of each round to kill my opponent), I was trading for Contested
War Zone and other hot cards from the weekend. After the tournament, I was kicking it at the trade tables doing business when a guy comes up and
lingers with that I-have-a-question kind of energy. I looked up and said, “What’s up bro? Are you looking to trade?”
He stumbled on his words for a second and then asked, “Actually, I’m looking for Contested War Zone. Do you have any?”
“Yeah, I have a couple. How many do you need?”
He seemed a little uneasy as he asked, “What do you value them at?” I didn’t feel like playing hot potatoes with the price, and I knew what I wanted to
get out of them, “Six, each.”
He made a face and asked, “Why?”
“Star City Games sold out within an hour of opening this morning. I expect the card to go up… And keep in mind that the card was selling for 2.5 before
The kid argued with me. “I don’t really think that they’ll go up. The deck didn’t do that well.”
Let’s pause for a second. If you approached me about a card, talking it down is not going to change my price. I already know that you need it.
If you need a card, don’t play this game, just get the card. You’ll save time and it will help you to become a trade master. The Number One rule for
profiting in trades is this: “Need nothing.” A good example of this type of thinking is a trade that I did on Friday.
Inkmoth Nexus $11.99
Ten-dollar bill $10.00
Total Profit: -$2.00
Why would I take a $2 loss here? The primary reason is that I want to “need nothing.” I play with foil decks â€” so in some sense of the word, I’m going
to need two foil Inkmoth Nexuses, especially if I want to play Chapin’s deck from the Pro Tour. I knew that there was a second foil Inkmoth Nexus in
the room, and I had a pretty good feeling that I could leave with it.
I also wanted to hedge against the possibilities that Inkmoth Nexus might go up. There’s little data to support this â€” but it’s a possibility, albeit a
slim one at the moment. Now I have two foil Inkmoth Nexuses, so I don’t have to spend time, money, effort or cards tracking them down.
Some people frown on pimping, but it serves a couple of purposes for me. Because I pick up a non-foil play set of the cards that I need first, whenever
I get a foil this frees up a non-foil to put in the trade binder.
There’s also a psychological aspect that comes with having an all foil deck. It says, visually, “I don’t need your cards.” This gives me an edge when
trading, because it validates my position as the lead. (Except when I’m trading with Donovan or Saito â€” these guys have me beat.) So the extra two
dollars on the trade above is well worth it when you consider that it puts me in the position of control at the trade tables.
Okay, we got a little derailed there â€” I won’t go into the psychological depths of pimping right now. So let’s get back on topic.
So here I am, talking to a kid who was expecting to get Contested War Zones for $2.5. He tried to talk down the validity of the deck, which was
pointless for two reasons: one, he wants the card. So if the deck sucks, then what does that make him â€” an idiot? Two, it doesn’t matter if a deck
sucks. The truth is that most Magic players can’t tell if a deck sucks or not. The value of cards is based on the demand for the card. When a
deck like Kuldotha Red hits the scene, you can expect the cards in it to be in high demand. The reason is twofold:
First, there are players who love to beat down. They wouldn’t be caught dead casting a Jace, the Mind Sculptor â€” they love punishing control players
who stumble on mana or fail to draw answers. Kuldotha Red does that.
Second, some players can’t afford a set of Jace, the Mind Sculptors, so they’re looking for any reasonable option to play at Friday Night Magic. This
deck offers that as well.
So instead of ignoring this deck because it’s Tier Two, we need to look at it as an option for our customers because people will be building
It’s obvious that the cards are in demand at the moment; the real question is longevity. Will these cards continue to be in demand?
This is how some people get confused: they miss that there is a difference between the initial demand and the longevity of the cards. That’s why they
say things like, “Contested War Zone is not worth $5 because the deck sucks.” The truer statement is, “Contested War Zone can’t maintain its price of
$5 because the deck doesn’t have what it takes to survive the metagame.”
Even though this is properly worded, it’s still irrelevant. The only truth is what’s happening right at this moment. That’s the relevant data.
To be fair, the deck might have what it takes to survive in the metagame. If you look at a similar deck, like Boros Bushwhacker, you’ll see that the
deck has evolved over time. There are even a couple copies in the top eight of the Pro Tour. Gerry T has made another step toward innovating this deck
list by adding black for Dark Tutelage â€”
see his latest article for the deck list.
Back to longevity…
People want to treat Magic cards like an investment. The problem is that they look to invest in Standard cards, which are terrible for long-term
investments. It doesn’t take a brainiac to figure out that once these Standard cards rotate out, they’ll be worth less money.
If you want a long-term investment, then invest in cards that are only legal in Legacy and Vintage. These cards are narrow in application but still
maintain their value. It comes back to the concept of “complex value,” which I talked about here.
When investing in Standard cards, you should be looking to buy them (or trade cheaply for them) and then move them for a small profit as soon as you
can. A good example of this is what happened to Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas over weekend. The price spiked, which left a window for some people to get
them at the pre-Pro Tour price of $30 to $35. Some people were wondering if they should buy in at that price. For me, it was a no-brainer, because I
knew that after the Pro Tour results started to circulate that the new Tezzeret would be at $50 to $60. By the time you read this, Tezzeret, Agent of
Bolas will be a solid $60.
How High Can He Go?!
This weekend, I was asked at least two dozen times what I thought the ceiling on Tezzeret is. There are two reasons why people ask this: first, they
want to know if they should buy now or wait. Second, they want to know when to sell their Tezzerets.
These are both reasonable things to want to know â€” but when you think about it, you don’t need to know the ceiling of a card’s value to act.
If you want to play with a card that’s going up, and you don’t have them yet, then your mode of operation should be “Find the cheapest place that you
can buy them for, then buy them.”
This seems like bad advice, since you can probably trade for them for less â€” but the key is timing. If you wait a day to trade for them, then the
information may have already propagated, and you’ll be stuck trading for it at the higher price anyway. If you buy them, then you get the benefit of
them appreciating in value â€” so if you don’t want to play them, then you can move sell for a profit.
If you have a card and it’s rising, then my policy is to ship it. I’ve had Tezzerets listed for sale at $27, $35, $45, and $56 throughout the weekend.
I’m not a greedy guy. I picked them up at $25, so it was reasonable for me to make a couple bucks on them. Once the Pro Tour results showed Tezzeret,
Agent of Bolas as a four-of then, I decided to take them off the sales list until some of the big stores bumped their prices. Once the prices were
updated on the big stores, then I listed them for $5 less.
My strategy is not to wait until they peak and then list them. It’d be silly to do this, since I don’t know where (or when) they are going to
peak. Instead, I just try to sell them for more than I bought/traded for them at.
Now â€” I’ll attempt to answer the question, “Where is Tezzeret’s ceiling?” even though I don’t think like this when I’m doing business. What is more
interesting to me is, “How low can Tezzeret go?” knowing this information can help me manage risk, instead of just helping me imagine more profit.
To determine the top and bottom pricing for Tezzeret, we need to find data points in similar cards. We know that the gold standard of measure for any
card in Standard right now is Jace, the Mind Sculptor â€”which is currently $99.99. This means that the ceiling on Tezzeret is $99.99.
The key here is that Tezzeret’s supply and demand would have to match Jace’s to attain that price. At the moment, the supply is less than Jace, since
the set has only been out for three weeks and the demand is pretty high. What you are seeing in that $60 price tag is the lack of supply versus the
As the supply catches up to the demand, it’s safe to say that the price of Tezzeret will drop â€” unless his demand grows with his supply, which would
drive the price even higher.
This could happen if Tezzeret performs really well in a Legacy tournament, which is a possibility. I expect Tezzeret to see more play than
Koth of the Hammer. They both require you to build decks around them (unlike Jace) â€” but based on color alone, Tezzeret is more desirable. People would
also rather play with artifacts than mountains… And let’s not forget that the new Tezzeret is better than Koth.
This means that the bottom line for Tezzeret is no lower than Koth’s price, which is $24.99. Because I don’t see Tezzeret hitting Jace-level demand,
I’ll say his ceiling over the next three weeks is $75 due to short supply.
Cards to Pick Up
Before I get out of here I have a list of cards that you should be trading for in the coming weeks. My original plan for this article was to talk about
each of these cards in depth but instead I end up talking about a cornucopia of topics. Here’s the list along with some short thoughts on each.
Black Sun’s Zenith ($5.99)
This has become a mainstay in U/B control variants. It will be a player in Standard and Extended.
Contested War Zone ($4.99)
People will be looking for these, to play the Kuldotha Red Deck.
Go for the Throat ($1.99)
I’ve been trading these at $2 each without a problem. They are seeing a lot of play as a two-of in most decks with black.
Green Sun’s Zenith ($9.99)
This is quickly becoming a four-of in Valakut, and there is talk about this in Legacy and Extended Elves.
Kuldotha Forgemaster ($2.49 — Sold Out)
This card has smashed onto the scene hard over these last two weeks. It took second in StarCityGames.com Legacy Open: Indianapolis.
Apparently Tinker is pretty good in Legacy. It also did well in a U/B Tezzeret build at the Pro Tour.
Mirran Crusader ($5.99)
This is seeing a lot of play in Boros, and it’s a four of in a new weird U/W Control deck from the Pro Tour.
Mox Opal ($21.99)
This has proven itself to be an all-format staple over the past few month. With Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas gaining popularity I would try to get as many
of these as you can.
Myr Battlesphere ($2.49)
This guy seen Legacy play in Indianapolis, and he’s also seeing play in the U/B Tezzeret deck. He also sees play in Vintage, so foils are a profitable
Phyrexian Revoker ($4.99)
This was run as a four-of in the sideboard of the Kuldotha Forgemaster deck in Legacy, and it was in the sideboard of some of the Kuldotha Red decks in
This is quickly making its mark on Standard. Valakut decks are running it as a two- or three-of, and Chapin’s Tezzeret deck splashes for both it and
Stoneforge Mystic ($17.99)
Any good Magic finance guy saw this one coming. There are a lot of Stoneforge Mystics in the top 8 of the Pro Tour, since they’re now being adopted as
a four-of in Caw-Go to fetch Sword of Feast and Famine.
Sword of Feast and Famine ($14.99)
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas ($49.99 — Sold Out)
This is really $60, but it’s sold out at the moment. I don’t recommend that you buy in at $60, but it could be a good way to trade up into cash. I
expect these to sell very well over the next week. The strategy is to trade up for them, and then sell them or trade them down for value.
Wurmcoil Engine ($9.99 — Sold Out)
The interaction with Treasure Mage (and the fact that it doesn’t die to Go for the Throat) is driving the price of this up.
Thanks for reading! See you next week.