When it comes to Magic speculation, most people are too cavalier with their cash. Cards are so risky—they can fall out of favor, they can be banned, they can be physically damaged, and they can be reprinted. Selling them can be a difficult and lengthy process where shipping and fees take enormous bites out of your profits. I know too many “speculators” who end up losing money because half their buys end up sitting in a drawer, slowly losing value.
It is for this reason that I try to be cautious in writing my calls to buy. At the end of the day, what I like to preach is responsible investment—don't spend more than you can afford to lose, make sure you have a fundamental understanding of why you're making the buys that you do, and don't take on more risk than you're comfortable with.
That being said, these next few weeks are a wonderful time to buy Magic cards. Whether you're a big-time speculator or just somebody looking to fill holes in their collection, now's the time to pull that trigger. Consider:
1) Many stores and websites like to clear their inventory before the end of the fiscal year. This tends to lead to some pretty serious sales leading up to New Years' Day.
2) If you're the sort of person who likes to try to snipe undervalued eBay auctions, the days surrounding Christmas are some of the best of the year. A lot of your competition will be spending time with their families, not refreshing an online auction site.
3) The large fall set (Kaladesh in this case) always bottoms out in late December. People have been drafting the set for months at this point, so the available supply is huge. And since most people are thinking about the holidays instead of about Standard, staple cards experience a race to the bottom. At this point last year, for example, Collected Company was under $8. It peaked over $25 in the spring.
4) I also don't think that people have fully adjusted to the fact that Smuggler's Copter and friends will be legal until September of 2018(!!!). Even with the existence of the Masterpieces, these cards are undervalued right now.
5) If you are a believer in Frontier or you think that another post-Modern format will catch on, now might be the last chance to get Khans block and Origins staples at pre-hype prices.
6) It is very likely that Modern will experience at least one boom period in 2017. The January ban/unban update is one opportunity. The hype surrounding Modern Masters 2017 is another. The entire Modern index is incredibly cheap right now, and this is a great time to buy low. The only way it doesn't pay off is if you think that Modern is somehow doomed—a viewpoint I emphatically disagree with.
But what cards should you focus on? Well, instead of providing a one-size-fits-all answer for everybody, I'm going to outline a few potential paths based on where you'd like to focus your attention. That way, you can play to your strengths and hopefully end up with some cards that you can use as well as make some money on. For instance, if you play a lot of Standard, you might want to load up on…
Undervalued Standard Staples
Smuggler's Copter - $12.99
What, you don't think this card will be in every good attacking deck for the next two years? I suppose there's a chance that Smuggler's Copter won't break $20 again, but every professional instinct I have tells me that this thing is going to end up in the $25 range again at some point. This is a no-brainer of a buy.
Aetherworks Marvel - $5.99
Here's another card—a mythic rare this time—that will spend the next two years threatening to define the format. Aetherworks Marvel is undervalued right now because some players hate playing decks like this, but that doesn't make it any less powerful. There's legitimate $20 upside here.
Emrakul, the Promised End - $22.99
Emrakul is the third pillar of the Standard format right now. You only have another ten months to play with this monster, but Eldritch Moon was so under-opened that that this has a shot of hitting $40 at some point this spring. It's not as great a spec buy as some of the others on this list, but it's a great time to pick this up if you're planning on playing control in 2017.
Scrapheap Scrounger - $2.49
Believe it or not, this unassuming creature is one of the five or ten most-played cards in Standard right now. It's good enough to fit in several different decks, and I can't imagine that the format evolves to a place where Scrapheap Scrounger stops being good. At some point, this role-player should hit $5-$7.
Harnessed Lightning - $1.49
You can probably snag these for a buck in trade, and it'll hit $3 at some point next year when we're all drafting something totally different but every red deck still needs a full playset of these. Get yours now.
Panharmonicon - $4.99
I don't love the fact that Panharmonicon spiked recently—I'm worried about its upside if it doesn't continue to make a major impact in Standard. That being said, this is already such a beloved casual card that I doubt it will go any lower than the $2-$3 range. On the other hand, continued Standard demand could see it spike above $10, at least briefly.
Eldrazi Displacer - $4.99
I'd think about holding off until next December for this one if you want to be incredibly risk-averse, but it does profile as a fantastic long-term hold. It's unique, it's hard to reprint, and it sees a lot of play in both Commander and Modern. If you're buying in now, it's because you think it'll do something in Standard this spring and you like the fact that the causal and Modern play gives it a high floor. I'm probably not going to grab a set myself, but I will trade for this at current retail.
Potential Frontier Buys
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy - $27.99
This is one of the lowest-risk buys out there right now, which probably explains why Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has started to tick up despite the mid-December doldrums. Even if Frontier ends up being a bust, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy sees enough play in other Eternal formats to support a reasonably heft price tag. If you think you're ever going to want to play with these, buy in now.
Collected Company - $11.99
Much like Jace, Collected Company is another multi-deck staple that should define Frontier. It's also a good enough card in Modern that your buy-in risk is very low. I can't imagine this goes any lower, and price history should help propel Collected Company toward $20+ again at some point.
Rally the Ancestors - $0.69
Rally the Ancestors is the key combo piece in Frontier's current best deck. It's barely above bulk prices. Yeah, I'm buying.
Dig Through time - $1.49
Dig Through Time is another slam-dunk format staple, and you can buy a playset for the price of a Venti iced latte at Starbucks. And again, it's such a powerful card that you aren't risking much by buying in now. It's not like Dig Through Time is likely to be reprinted in a Masters set, which means that casual and Cube players are going to drive demand for this card in the future regardless.
Siege Rhino - $1.99
I'm a little lower on Siege Rhino since it was printed in the Origins Clash Pack as well, but there's no way it doesn't see extensive play in Frontier—or any other post-Modern format, for that matter. Make sure you have a set.
Goblin Rabblemaster - $2.99
Why not? Mono-Red Aggro and Atarka Red are both archetypes in Frontier, in this is one of the most important cards to both decks. Monastery Swiftspear is already expensive thanks to Modern, but this one could hit $10+ again if Frontier takes off.
Ensoul Artifact - $1.49
Casual players love Ensoul Artifact, and it's always on the cusp of inclusion in Modern Affinity. Ensoul Aggro is one of the most intriguing decks in Frontier, and I can imagine this being one of the first cards to spike if people begin to embrace the format.
Intriguing Modern Options
Spellskite - $19.99
Spellskite is one of the ten most-played cards in Modern—yes, really!—and it was just printed in Modern Masters 2015. That means it probably won't make the cut in the flurry of 2017 reprints. Considering the fact that this card peaked above $40 last spring, I'm a believer at current retail. Expect a spike once MM17 preview season is over.
Inquisition of Kozilek - $7.99
Inquisition of Kozilek sees an absurd amount of play in Modern, and its price has managed to stay pretty high even though it was just printed. To me, that speaks to significant real-world demand for this card. Again, we aren't seeing Inquisition of Kozilek in Modern Masters 2017—it was reprinted too recently. And are people really going to crack infinite Conspiracy packs to pull these? There's a real shot that this card approaches $20 again by June.
Thoughtseize - $9.99
Another no-brainer. We aren't getting Theros cards in Modern Masters 2017, and while this card could technically show up this spring since it was originally printed in Lorwyn, I just don't see it. This card's supply is slowly dwindling, and it's another top-ten spell in all of Modern. There's $20+ upside here.
The Khans of Tarkir Fetchlands - $9.99 - $13.99
I could have stuck these in the Frontier section, but they're just as important to Modern. Even if the Zendikar fetchlands are reprinted—and I think they will be—these allied-color fetchlands are still critical to the manabase of almost every deck in every format where they're legal. You are never going to regret having these, they're never going to sink much below $10, and they are completely reprint-resistant at current retail. The upside here is high, and the floor is low. Always, always, always trade for these at current retail, and it's probably time to buy any of the ones you're missing.
Nahiri, the Harbinger - $17.99
Nahiri, the Harbinger doesn't see as much play in Modern now as it did about a year ago, but the card is powerful enough that I would be shocked if it doesn't have another day in the sun. $18 is the likely floor for a top-tier Modern planeswalker, and this could easily end up at $50 the next time it starts to make an impact. Get your set now.
Prized Amalgam - $3.49
Here's another key Modern card that can't go much lower unless Dredge is nerfed or banned. Even so, Prized Amalgam is resilient enough to find another home or two.
Commander Pick-Ups and Interesting Gambles
Deepglow Skate - $8.99
Commander 2016 prices have leveled out a bit, and it's time to at least think about picking up some of the more intriguing cards in the set. $9 is a lot for an in-print casual card, but it's hard not to look at Doubling Season's $60+ price tag and dream on this one a little. They aren't the same card, of course, but any Doubling Season deck that can run Deepglow Skate likely will. This thing could hit $20 pretty easily once Commander 2016 sells through.
Inventors' Fair - $0.97
Unique and powerful lands are always a good pick-up, and Inventors' Fair could end up seeing play in Modern or even Legacy at some point—heck, Lantern Control runs it already. This is a fantastic Commander card, and it's going to be tough to reprint. Get yours now while it's under a buck.
Paradoxical Outcome - $0.49
I love “combulk” like this, and I'll always grab some in the fifty cent range. Paradoxical Outcome has already proven itself in Vintage, and this will inevitably find some crazy home in Modern or perhaps even in Standard, depending on what the next two years gives us. And when it does, I'll ship these for $5 each and feel like a badass.
Ulrich of the Krallenhorde - $0.97
Werewolf fans were disappointed by Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, but he's still the only legendary Werewolf out there. Once more Werewolves are printed—and it will happen—demand for Ulrich will rise. It's hard to lose at less than a dollar, and foils at $6 are a good buy too.
Saheeli's Artistry - $0.25
This is going to be an easy and powerful two-for-one almost every time in Commander. It's not going to pay off now, or even a year from now, but it'll eventually be a $3-$4 card. Get yours while they're still just a quarter each.
Deploy the Gatewatch - $0.97
I told you in my Eldritch Moon set review that I'd recommend scooping these up for a buck once the hype died down, and now the time has come. This isn't a tournament staple waiting to happen, but it will trade well in casual circles once it starts to disappear from binders.
Lupine Prototype - $0.30
Players are going to keep trying to get this Wolf Construct to work across all formats for the next half a decade at least. At $0.30, even a tiny sliver of hope will give you a nice window to sell these at a profit.
Seasons Past - $0.97
Another nice piece of combulk, this time at mythic rare. Cube and Commander demand should help this thing get to the $3-$4 mark, and any potential Modern playability is just gravy.
The Gitrog Monster - $0.97
One of the most beloved casual cards in years, there's just no way this doesn't end up at $5-$6 eventually. The Gitrog Monster is one of the safest buys on any of these lists, and I'm in for at least a set at current retail.
Kozilek, the Great Distortion - $2.62
Yeah, Kozilek is kind of a bust of an Eldrazi. But at less than $3, can you really lose? Casual players love these cards, and it should end up at $5-$6 again without any trouble at all.
Call the Gatewatch - $0.25
Much like with Deploy the Gatewatch, I just can't help but feel like these cards are going to be casual darlings at some point. And at $0.25, the buy-in is just so absurdly low. Grab a small stack of these for your long-term hold box.
This Week's Trends
Not a lot of major risers in Standard this week, but Emrakul, the Promised End; Panharmonicon; Ishkanah, Grafwidow; and Metallurgic Summonings are all up a little. Now that it's a top sideboard option in W/U Flash, Gisela, the Broken Blade is finally showing some signs of life as well.
On the other side of the coin, Aetherworks Marvel, Torrential Gearhulk, and Verdurous Gearhulk are all down a bit. I still like all three of these cards long-term, though, and like I said in the rest of this article, I'd be a lot more likely to buy in on these three cards (or anything, really) than to sell right now.
What's up in Modern? Not much, though Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is finally starting to climb. As we discussed a bit earlier in this article, this is probably your last chance to grab this Jace for under $30—especially if Frontier takes off. Through the Breach and Cavern of Souls saw modest gains this week as well.
There was more action in the world of casual Magic. Bloom Tender, Doubling Season, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Mycosynth Lattice, Master Transmuter, Spike Weaver, and Ajani Steadfast have all risen on the back of Commander demand; you can thank the Commander 2016 sets for creating renewed interest in the format. Previous gainers Contagion Engine and The Chain Veil have settled down a bit after previous speculation-based buyout action.
Over in Legacy, Reanimate saw some major gains this week, likely based on real-world demand caused by Michel Chevallier's Legacy Champs win back in October as well as some buyout-related action (it was mentioned on the Magic finance subreddit as a potential spec target). Lotus Petal could be the next one to go, and it's worth noting that the deck runs two copies of bulk rare Sire of Insanity.
The FNM Promos for the next few months have been revealed: Noose Constrictor, Fortune's Favor, and Incendiary Flow. Not much to see here, folks—maybe we'll get some better ones this spring in conjunction with MM17.
A new product appeared at Walmart this week: a Magic “mystery box.” For $25, you get a spindown die and six packs of cards: 1 BFZ, 1 OGW, 1 SOI, 1 EMN, 1 KLD, and one mystery pack. Based on what I've been able to read on Reddit, the mystery pack right now is usually Return to Ravnica. This isn't a horrible deal—the packs are about $4 each unless you are ascribing a really high value to that spindown—but it's far from the cheapest or most effective way to buy boosters. I'd rather just buy a box or a fat pack here on StarCityGames.com® and make sure I ended up with cards from the set of my choice.