Hey there! I have returned from Grand Prix Toronto intact, after one snowstorm filled drive and a little bit of "severe engine failure" on the return trip. As a result, I'm writing this article on Monday instead of my usual Sunday night. That means we have something much more interesting to talk about than what I was going to address… We get to talk about the two Elephants in the room. Modern just got turned upside down, and two titans of Magic history will be exchanging spell and fist for the first time in the format's inception.
That might be a bit of a teaser, actually. Because this article series is more financially focused, I'm not going to talk about whether Jace (JTMS) should have gotten unbanned. I'm not going to talk about decks that play either Jace or Bloodbraid (BBE), whether they'll be too good, or whether I think either card's tenure will be short lived. My column isn't on TCGplayer to talk about how many Jaces you'll see at your next Modern event, but how you can extract the most value out of the information that they're roaming free. Both Jace and BBE's prices spiked to $150 and $12 respectively within minutes of the unbanning, so I'm not going to tell you to get better hindsight either. While I've discussed previously why buying banned cards can work out well for you, this article doesn't really target an individual card I think you should be expecting to rise in price soon.
What we're going to talk about today is instead a tactic you can use, to buy cards during or after a period of a lot of buying behavior (like an unbanning). It's going to involve Jace and Bloodbraid because that's what reminded me that this article should be written, but it's also about Pauper. This tactic can be applied to pretty much any card during or after a price increase, but I'll stop teasing here.
When Jace got unbanned, I sold out within minutes. I watched multiple emails pop up on my screen saying "Your TCGplayer items of Jace, the Mind Sculptor have sold!", and I knew that I would need to restock some copies for my Modern players at the shop next week. While most players were going to sites like TCGplayer.com to buy their Jaces, my first thought went to the sealed product that JTMS was included in four and a half years ago. From the Vault: 20 had a market price of around $100 as of yesterday, and it was what I started using to Restock my Jaces. While I knew I would be paying for the rest of the products in the box, there's certainly value to be had throughout the other nineteen cards. Chainer's Edict, Gilded Lotus, Fyndhorn Elves, and Thran Dynamo are all fine cards to own that sell for a myriad of different reasons.
I managed to pick up a few of those sealed products even while copies of Jace were selling for more than the FTV itself. Within an hour, the FTV had caught up to Jace and surpassed him, and now the market price hovers at around $160 for an unopened one. While I'm not saying that it makes sense for everyone to drop the extra $40 or so on the other nineteen cards if you were solely looking for a good deal on Jace, the concept I'm describing has merit in other situations. When there's a sudden increase in buying behavior, look for the sealed product that the important card was included in. If you're a collector looking to increase your collection size, there's likely a deal to be had based on the fact that the sealed product will always move slower than the single card itself.
In another example, Bloodbraid Elf was in a couple of sealed products. We saw it printed in the Chaos Reigns Temur colored deck in Planechase 2012, and you get two whole Bloodbraid Elves (Market value around $10 each right now)! Not only that, you also get a Maelstrom Wanderer (Market value $6), two Shardless Agents ($2.50 each), a Cultivate ($1), Beast Within ($1.50), and a stack of ten planes (around $1 each). As I'm typing this, you can find copies of the Chaos Reigns deck, unopened, for around $32 after shipping. You could drop $40 on a playset of Bloodbraid Elves, sure. I'm just mentioning the possibility that you have another option, which involves paying around $25 more for at least $45 additional value in product that can be slid into your trade binder, or sold later on a Marketplace platform.
The other sealed product that Bloodbraid found its way into was Commander 2016, in the Entropic Uprising list. While that's a Commander list and only included a single BBE, the value of the sealed product as a whole went up by at least $5-6 in the course of an hour. That's probably not dealbreaking to most people, but it could tip the balance of the scales if you were already on the fence about picking up the Yidris deck as a preconstructed list to build off of. Did I mention that every Commander 2016 deck still includes a now $8 Ash Barrens, one of the hottest additions to the Pauper format as of late? If your local store happens to have any extra Stalwart Unity, maybe you can justify the price tag now that Ash Barrens has bumped the value of each C16 deck by a reasonable margin.
That brings us to my favorite format of 2018, Pauper. In a world where everyone is restricted to commons based on MTGO legality, a bunch of weird things can happen with old card prices. I've discussed Pauper earlier this year with a few choice picks that I thought were solid buys a month and a half ago. Seeing as many of them have since ripened and crept upwards in price, I want to talk about a way for you to pick up the post-spike cards at less than current retail prices. Specifically, I want to address one of the Pauper poster children that makes the format appear daunting to some looking for a hyper-budget format. Let's talk about Chainer's Edict.
Edict has hung out at the $5 range for the past year and a half or so, because it's usually better than Diabolic Edict and it's only ever been printed in Torment, an FNM promo, and From the Vault: 20. It's got that Magic Online common legality though, so it's become increasingly harder and harder to find as people pick up paper playsets for pauper. Over the past week or so, as the Tolarian Community College Professor promoted Pauper at several Grand Prix side events, we've seen the card jump from $5 to upwards of $12-13 for near mint copies. While played copies of this old uncommon are still available for less than that, Edict represents a frustrating roadblock for some who want Pauper to be the format of sub $50 decks instead of $50 playsets.
So let's go back to my earlier examples of purchasing sealed product with the intent of getting extra value or a delayed price increase. Chainer's Edict was in Torment, sure, but there's no sealed product for decades-old FNM promos. I'm also not going to peddle the idea to you that you should buy FTV20 at $160 just to get a single Chainer's Edict, that would be ridiculous. But what if I told you there was another plastic wrapped product with a couple of Chainer's Edicts?
Let me introduce you to the Grave Danger theme deck from Torment, released 16 years ago. I'm not kidding; this "Expert Level" expansion product that was eventually replaced with what we know as Planeswalker Decks gives you two lovely Chainer's Edicts, and they'll definitely be mint condition. As an added bonus, you get two Careful Study and a Breakthrough, though neither of those cards are worth more than $1 on their own. Here's the entire decklist:
You might have noticed that TCGplayer is out of stock of this particular theme deck. That doesn't entirely surprise me, because it's a 16-year old product and not a massive number of sellers have these kicking around in their inventory. In fact, TCGplayer doesn't have enough recent sales data to calculate an accurate Market Price. I will tell you, however, that a little bit of digging can net you one of these sealed products for around $20 or so, which is definitely less than the price of two Edicts if you wanted to purchase two Near Mint copies on their own.
Chainer's Edict drastically increased in price over a week ago, but there are still Grave Danger decks buried throughout the internet, or maybe even at your local game store if they've been around long enough. While it's easy for the FTV20 product to jump in price less than an hour after Jace himself gets unbanned and crests $140, the pool of people who know and understand that Chainer's Edict was in a theme deck sixteen years ago is far smaller. Gaining knowledge about which obscure cards were in which obscure products can be a great way to find deals days or even weeks after the cards themselves go up in price.
We've got a little bit of historical precedent with this type of market tactic as well. Does everyone remember when Protean Hulk got unbanned in Commander? The traditional answer to "How many products was Protean Hulk in?" is one (Dissension), but only the cool cats know that Hulk was also included as a 1-of in the Simic Mutology theme deck that was released with Dissension. Here's a link to the product page on TCGplayer, where you can see that the market price based on recent sales data is $10… exactly the same price as a Protean Hulk.
#####CARDID=96345#####Everyone who bought the deck for $10 while Hulk was $14 (for months after the unban while he crawled back down to $10, according to MTGstocks) also got a free Experiment Kraj in that deck; a $3 card in its' own right. If you were a Commander player checking up on the TCGplayer marketplace two days after Hulk got unbanned, you had a couple choices; either buy hulk for $14, or wait several months for it to dwindle down to $10. There was also a third option; buy the Simic Mutology theme deck for $10 that contained a Protean Hulk, and get a free Kraj. Enough people managed to utilize that information to the point where the only copies of the theme deck left are over $20; not particularly exciting considering there's nothing else interesting in those other 58 cards.
I can't tell you with 100% accuracy what the next card to experience a massive price increase will be. I can provide you with some incredibly useful tools for the next time something goes up in price. Did you know that the Judgment theme deck Inundation has two copies of Battle Screech, one copy of Prismatic Strands, and even a Commander Eesha. Battle Screech is sitting at the $6 spot that Chainer's Edict occupied not two weeks ago…. Maybe we should be looking at theme decks from Judgment if we're interested in building a pauper list that needs four Battle Screech. Thanks for reading, good luck with your Pauper adventures, and I'll see you next week!