Quiet Speculation – A Magic Online Portfolio

I’m going to do something a little different this week. Those of you who read my column on ManaNation have seen my virtual portfolio in the paper world, which we’ll be tracking through the upcoming PTQ season. I’m going to set up a similar portfolio for an MTGO account’s contents, list them here, and discuss why certain cards are there in certain quantities, and we’ll walk through a few case studies of investment concepts. This may not be a 100 percent accurate portfolio (numbers have been adjusted to reflect the proper magnitudes), but I assure you the data is plausible. We’re not going to track this for each week, but I may refer to it in the future. The spreadsheet is “live,” so if I do any updating to it, then you can expect to see it reflected in the sheet.

We have a simple dump of the portfolio from the MTGO interface, which exports data nicely into CSV format. That means spreadsheet software can grid the data into rows and columns, and thus, it can be operated upon in batch. The result: we get the most important information — where we have the most money invested — right away. The output is nicely sorted by rarity and quantity for us, and color coded to boot!

The first item on the list to discuss: Admonition Angel. Though she did not make any waves at the StarCityGames Invitational or at Worlds, she is still somehow at 2.75 on multiple bots. I have been snatching them up at 1.50 or thereabouts, and on paper as well, and expect them to do nicely here. This card is too powerful to have been so cheap. If they start to approach USD 4.00, I’m going sell at least seven between 3.00 and 4.00 to recoup my costs and get some more money to reinvest. There are a lot of good plays right now, and doubling up while still letting a few ride is just the way I like to play potentially big sleepers.

The Sun Titans and Warren Instigators are there as insurance, as they were both very, very cheap, and I’d like to prevent missing out on their big jump. It only takes one event. That event may very well be the Extended portion of Worlds, or Grand Prix Atlanta. No matter what, I want to be there. I had five Demon of Deaths Gate because I have been all about this card for 2 months, and in Vamps nonetheless. The red-black version lately is far better than my tier 2 brews, but I’m glad I got these at 2.50 (since they are now 4.00+). I already sold a few, taking a fine margin, to free up working capital for more high-value investments.

The 98 Gigantomancers seems hilariously awful, but they were .08 each. That’s a total out-of-pocket under USD 8.00, which is not a lot of money. If the card ever does anything, it will be worth at least a quarter. That’s the amazing part about these micro transactions. The potential for astronomical gains is very large while the risk is very low. I thought this’d be something with Necrotic Ooze, but so far, no luck. Bala Ged Thief was also dirt cheap, and I really want to pair it with Mimic Vat to lock someone out in their draw step. I hear that Changelings make great Allies, by the way.

Renegade Doppelganger is my favorite card in Magic. No fewer than three times I have bought this card at 0.15, waited a month, and flipped it for 0.75 or above. Why? I have no idea. I just know that when the robots on the internet say 0.75, it’s because some wacky new deck uses these guys. My response is always to say “sold.” I have thirty-something, and always use them to “pad” an order as opposed to leaving store credit on the line. Might as well invest in something instead of hanging credit (that I will probably forget about), and I buy in weird quantities, so the credit adds up fast. It’s just great to be in Renegade Doppelgangers at 0.15. Overwhelming Stampede will have its day- just you wait. Until then, I like to snag extra cheap copies when they appear, as I view them as another Renegade Doppelganger kind of card (same with Training Grounds).

An aside on not leaving credit hanging: my MTGO trading strategy revolves around micro transactions and efficiency by using high quantities and small prices. When you leave .25 credit at a bot, you are losing a ton of efficiency. That is to say, your money is doing “less work.” Your margin will decrease, and you will need to spend more money to maintain earnings. This is bad. We want to be constantly increasing both stock and working capital. In an ideal world, you are consistently cashing out investments to make new ones without outside funding, and representing a growth of the composite value of cash on hand (tix) and inventory (cards not yet cashed out). By leaving credit in the aether, you are just leaving money on the table. Thus, I like to maintain a list of low-end rares that have higher-than-average potential, and I use the credit there. I am either leaving the money on the table for an indeterminate period of time, or I am making a high-risk, high-upside play. In the case of cards like Renegade Doppelganger, when they flip for .50 or 1.00, it’s like finding money on the street. You’d think it wouldn’t add up in the long run, but it really, really does.

Hive Mind? Don’t ask, but know that all portfolios have their punts. Mortician Beetle, on the other hand, was playing really well in a lot of decks I had been testing a few months ago, but it seems that similar synergy to a more successful degree was found in the red-black Vamps package. Thus, Morty remains on the shelf for now.

Emeria Angel… remember how last year, at Worlds, this card rocketed up from obscurity to command 2.00 or more on MTGO? Yeah, I won’t getting caught with my pants down this year. They were recently selling around .25-.35, which is peanuts compared to the potential return of 1.50 or more.

Steel Overseer proves that I’m a greedy idiot. I bought these on hype too high, didn’t sell them for a miniscule profit when I realized I was wrong, and now I’m stuck with them. I just have to hope that someone (or some forthcoming set) breaks the card, which is feasible, but I overpaid and I’m now hoping to just lose the least amount of money possible. We can always hope for a miracle, but this was money very loosely spent- shame on me.

Elvish Archdruid frustrates the hell out of me. When it was $8+ on paper, it was 0.80 on MTGO. Then Elves got big, and now the paper copy is $3, and the MTGO copy is barely worth .25. I can’t see these being bad for Extended if Elves are any good, and they always seem to put up a showing. Devoted Druid and Heritage Druid are pretty bonkers, and I heard that Bloodbraid Elf is half-decent. At .25, I’m aboard.

Ancient Amphitheater was explained in detail in previous articles, but let’s just say that this enables Sun Titan and Fulminator Mage, triggers off Changelings, and is only a quarter right now. Knight of the White Orchid might see play in a Reveillark deck, a control deck, or in a deck that abuses Sun Titan and Fulminator Mage! They’re well under a ticket, and could command 3 or more if they hit big. Though a touch risky, I think I will at least make a few cents on the dollar, with the potential for a home run.

Brittle Effigy should have been sold weeks ago, when they were over 1.00. Until a deck finds a use for multiple copies (and one will), I have to sit on them. Whoops. Blade of the Bloodchief may be on the rise, but I’m not sure how high it’ll go. Open the Vaults is a longshot 10 cent card that could be crucial to some loopy Time Sieve deck- I’ve seen crazier things happen. Remember, at .10, you just need to sell it for .25 to make a killing… if you just buy lots!

The “crappy” hideaway lands Shelldock Isle and Spinerock Knoll are also cheap as they come right now. Shelldock Isle sees play in Legacy, if/when they rectify the paper and MTGO formats, it may shoot up to the heavens and potentially reach a magical 25 cents — a fine profit margin for me. Spinerock Knoll isn’t too hard to activate in Extended. Vengevine sees to this, as does a plethora of cheap, efficient burn. This has seen play before, in the Swans deck, so it’s not a total dog. Howltooth Hallow, however, is, and should be avoided. Woof.

Sunblast Angel is on the list because I saw three people show up to an 8-man FNM with this card in their deck. That’s enough to set off warning bells in my head. Either these three people together believed that this card was playable – a sign of decent group faith in a card – or that they each independently came to this conclusion, perhaps because of an Internet article. It was the latter, which means that the idea has some traction already. It was alongside Admonition Angel, so I was doubly excited. Whether it has traction or not long-term, I have no idea. I’m just hoping for a quick exit when the opportunity arises.

Merfolk Sovereign finds its way into the portfolio because Merfolk are a tier 1 deck in Extended. One of their Lords is only a dime-store bargain? That seems wrong to me. The risk is laughably low. Five play sets costs you less than a cup of Starbucks Overpriced Sludge. Which is more appealing, a potential free $15 or the caffeine jitters?

There are many more interesting speculations on this list, including hold-overs from when the changes to Extended are announced, but I do believe I’ve run long already this time around. If you have questions about specific items on the list, or questions about items absent, please let me know. Sometimes, a perfectly good speculation might feel too risky or just not worth the return, and it’s the job of the individual investor to understand his own risk tolerance. Please do ask plenty of questions and the comments, and I’ll work them into my next article here.

  1. What do you think of buying the cheaper mythic cards when they are particularly cheap? It seems that all mythic cards eventually hit the 1 dollar mark at some point due to collectors and redeemers so whenever they are at, say .40 or .50, it seems worth it to buy a few. I did this with Liege of the tangle and platinum emperion and it worked out quite well.

  2. Also I notice that, unsurprisingly, most cards in precons have a really hard time climbing. Both Carnifex Demon and the hoarder dragon are in tons of SOM constructed decks but are at .08 at most bots. This makes me suspect that Sunblast angel will not go up as much as it should.

  3. I think he means standard constructed playables. Sunblast Angel basically trumps both those in any givin match by a large margin. In block, Its a toss-up but UW is being played A LOT so SB-Angel. I also think they made a mockery on SB and BS Angel. Dam them.

  4. You never mentioned how much you paid for each individual card on your list. If those Gigantomancer ever go up to at least 0.25 you’ll be making a ton of tickets off them.

  5. I did some speculating this past week on Ezuri, Renegade Leader and Necrotic Ooze. I was hoping for some Worlds action from both, and it looks like I got my wish. Haven’t seen a huge jump in price on either yet, but I’m pretty hopeful.

  6. Ezuri’s Brigade cost currently 0.12 $, it’s a great card in an artifact deck.
    What do you think about this card ?

  7. Also, that Ranger of Eos tip from a few weeks back is paying off quite nicely right now :P thanks!

  8. Agreed, it was a sweet deal (Ranger of Eos), I bought 18 at 0.8 and now am selling for 3.5 each.
    :) I did well on Master Transmuter as well, based on reading your articles, Tezzeret keeps going up and I made a bunch on Master of Etherium (I don’t think you directly made this pick, but it was from reading your stuff that I decided to pick some up).

    The only thing I missed out on was the massive jump of Fulminator mage lately. Went from selling at 3 a day and a half ago to selling at 7 today. I had a feeling about that card. Speaks to us all, that we should trust ourselves more often.

    You do us all a service. Thanks.

  9. I really like your articles and tips, although I don’t usually get to take full advantage of them, as I am usually not able to log into MTGO until the evening after work and by then, many others have already beaten me to the deals.

    I did make a nice little return on Steel Overseers right before SOM was released. Two days before the prereleases started, I bought up an extra 30 of them beyond my playset at 1, and by Tuesday the following week, I’d sold all of them at 1.25. Little profit on a small lot, but sometimes you just have to grind it out for that incremental revenue.

  10. How do you export the data to .csv file? I think it’s a great idea but I’m not sure how. Sorry if this has already been discussed.

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