Thanksgiving Leftovers - A Magic Finance Roundup
Hi there! It's DJ Johnson, to bring you another week of interesting finance stuff. With so many products being released in a short span, it's hard to decide on what to talk about. At the same time, we've already covered a lot of it and the year is winding down; we've gone over Iconic Masters already, and we brought up Unstablea little bit at the end of that piece as well. From the Vault: Transform came out recently, but there's not an article's worth of information in that product. The same holds true for Explorers of Ixalan; Great product, some cool reprints, but there's not a whole lot to talk about. There's a whole lot of topics that make me think "hrm, this would make a great mini-article, but there's not enough meat for a whole sandwich…" With a loose Thanksgiving metaphor about leftovers, I'm going to try and bring you tidbits of financial relevance from each of the several products that I've already linked in this opening paragraph.
With Unstable coming out in a few days, I want to give a brief financial overview of the previous two Un-sets. If you're a longtime player and have some silver-bordered bulk in your closet, it might be time to dust off those cards even if you have no intention of jamming them in 99-card lists for the next several weeks. Unhinged and Unglued havehistorically been two of the worst sets to dig through when it came to bulk commons and uncommons; even worse than Khans of Tarkir or Theros.
Normally, a set has multiple types of picks that you're looking for, and you can make some strong educated guesses based on the type of player you are when looking. If you're a more casual player, you'll have a better eye for the Mindcranks and Wall of Denials when looking through bulk commons and uncommons. If you're closer to the Spike psychographic, then you're going to gravitate towards pulling the Rift Bolts, Mulldrifters and Servant of the Conduits without having to read my articles. The tricky part about Un-bulk for the competitive players is that *all* of the cards are goofy and casual cards, and it can be hard to tell the valuable picks from the worthless true bulk.
What makes Kill! Destroy! Worth $1+, while Name Dropping is only $.21? Both are “Gotcha cards” (an unfun mechanic in its' own right), but one is worth pulling from bulk. Mise is currently number two on the best-selling commons and commons from Unstable, but the Market Price still sits at $.21. Cheatyface is probably the most iconic and infamous uncommon from the set for creating stories like the one linked in that Reddit post, so you'll be hard-pressed to pull these $5 bills from bulk nowadays.
To answer my original question, even I don't know what drives the individual prices of some Unhinged and Unglued cards. Well, that doesn't give you an answer to my original question, but you didn't ask me that question while you had Frankie Peanuts in play, so I'm gonna get away with it by using a flawless segue. Sometimes instead of understanding the "why," it's best to just memorize your picks from a set and know the few cards you're looking for if you fan through a 1k of silver-bordered bulk.
There's no shame in looking up a complete price list that includes foils for all your Unhinged prices; even I would have to take a look at a chart to know that When Fluffy Bunnies Attack is a $4 foil. If you'd prefer to just look here and have me tell you what you should be picking out of Unhinged bulk, that's fine too. Maybe we can go over Unglued bulk next week, but I have a sneaking feeling most of you don't have Unglued bulk just lying around your place.
Booster Tutor is one of the most fun cards to play in Cube, and it earns itself a solid $1 retail price. Sometimes you have a "real" pack or two lying around to spice things up, but this is one of the well-known picks. Rod of Spanking is close to $1 retail, which is weird because it's not that objectively powerful, even if you choose to remain silent and let them untap the Rod. If someone assembled infinite mana with this as their win condition, I think I'd just let them kill me.
Rocket-Powered Turbo Slug is cool because it was the precursor to the Pact cycle in Future Sight. I hope that we end up seeing some of the design space that gets played with in Unstable used in future sets down the road. However, that doesn't explain why the Slug can sometimes buylist for $.10. I don't think I've ever seen it in a cube, and I didn't know it was even a pick until I had to write this article. Can someone out there enlighten me?
Elvish House Party is… really situational, I guess, but it's a pick. There's at least one buylist right now that will take it at $.11, so I guess you put it in a cube and try to have your event fire at around 10pm? Spell Counter is a pick, and you might actually be able to move this in trade to someone who plans on taking advantage of the Unmander situation for the next several weeks. They might get tired of the Gotcha mechanic after a game or two, but that's far from your problem if you manage to get rid of it for value.
I mentioned last week that I don't think there was any action to be taken on Un- cards, but that was before the announcement that the Rules Committee made that they would be legal for a temporary amount of time. I maintain that if you're purely looking for a financial move, you're better saving your money for collection buys or other more relevant information in the coming months.
While pretty much every FTV set is a slam dunk at the MSRP of $35, Transform appears to be a huge step up from last year's flop of "Lore," which was a Dark Depths and 14 other less-than-mediocre additions. We all expected to see Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Delver of Secrets, but I don't think anyone predicted to see a total of seven planeswalkers in addition to getting Huntmaster, and Bloodline Keeper.
Even though this FTV product managed to beat some minor expectations, I don't see it skyrocketing in price for the long term. Foil double-faced planeswalkers such as these are certainly some of the harder products to reprint (this is probably the only foil Jace, Vryn's Prodigy we'll see for the next several years), I don't think that makes this a reason to buy into the product at higher than MSRP as a long-term hold. As we've seen with the past several products, the price of the contents has stagnated over the past several years unless a single card in the product pushes demand upwards. Unless Jace starts seeing four-of play in Modern in multiple decks, this FTV is going to hang at its current price of $60 for a while.
Much like the Archenemy: Nicol Bolas, this doesn't seem to be a product that's going to fly off the shelves. It's not the ideal holiday gift for the average Magic player, and the requirement of four players for an out-of-the-box experience makes the intended audience seem pretty narrow. The product has some solid reprints that make the expected value and return reasonable, but from a financial standpoint I'm giving it an overall "meh." That said, I wouldn't be surprised if this product ends up being marked down or clearanced at your LGS. If you manage to pick one of these up in the next several weeks for less than $40 (and you shouldn't be paying less than $45, because that's what they're available for on TCGplayer), it's not outside the realm of possibility to make your money back plus a little extra by selling the contents inside.
The most notable reprints are Time Warp, Shared Animosity and Quicksilver Amulet. Well, those are the most notable reprints for most people. I'm personally groaning internally about having to deal with Vampire Nighthawk having yet another set symbol, but I digress. Assuming you get around 10-15% less than TCG low for each of those reprints after the sale, you're looking at recouping over half of your original cost just off three cards. Even after that, you've still got Path to Exile, Beacon of Immortality, Aggravated Assault, Adaptive Automaton and several other solid Commander staples.
I've even had a bit of personal success selling the Catan-esque game pieces on social media; I've found a couple local players who were interested in buying the board game tiles but didn't want to drop the cash on the decks themselves, so I managed to Recoup even more of my cost by selling the sealed board game tiles for $5 per package. It's not much, but this column is about extracting value out of your cards! I'd recommend making a Facebook post in a Magic group if you do buy the product and have no interest in the pieces.
To be honest, it's kind of a snooze fest in the Magic finance world right now. There's a few normal price changes going on right now (Cyclonic Rift making its usual climb back to $7, for example), but overall we're mostly waiting on the next Announcement Day from Wizards of the Coast for there to be financially actionable advice. Saving money is never a bad thing, even if it feels like cash is burning a hole in your pocket. You can start stockpiling so you can pick up a bunch of Iconic Masters or Masters 25 bulk a few months down the road! In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy the Unstable release, and open many a foil basic land! Thanks for reading!
- DJ Johnson