By Josh Kaufman

First off, I would love to thank my girlfriend Jenny Zhu for pre-ordering me From the Vault: 20, a.k.a. Legacy Masters. Now that may have been a hefty price—on Ebay it was going for between $240 and $260—but the cards inside are worth it. Well, at least the big three cards are worth it.

So that brings me to the second installment of the Wealth of Binders: “Safeguard Trading.”

What is “Safeguard Trading?” Well it’s a pretty simple concept used by every investor, from people with 401(k)s to multi-billion-dollar hedge funds. When the market is either stagnant or volatile, people move to something safe, something that won’t go down, and something that brings in incremental gains that can safeguard a portfolio for years to come.

In Magic, trading for “safe” cards consists of things that you can get now, regardless of price, and are very unlikely to go down in value. For most people, these consist of cards on the “Reserved List,” which contains cards that Wizards says will never be reprinted. Those cards include the Power Nine (Black Lotus, all five Mox’s, etc.), and apparently almost every card printed from Beta to Ice Age. There are three things this list teaches us, though.

  1. There are some cards that make a ton of sense on the “No Reprint” list. Cards that are only used for Ante, like Contract from Below; cards that would destroy gameplay, like Shahrazad (just imagine casting it, then flashing it back with Snapcaster Mage); or cards that were used to win pro-tours back in the day. A card like Chaos Orb will always be written into Magic lore because of stories of people ripping it up and trowing it on the table to hit as many permanents as possible, since at the time there was no rule against that. This, of course, was the inspiration for Chaos Confetti in Unglued.
  2. However, there are some cards on the list that just make no sense, like Roc of Kher Ridges, Elephant Graveyard, Singing Tree, Gaea’s Avenger, Angus Mackenzie, Field of Dreams (not the movie starring Kevin Costner), Gravity Sphere,  Lifeblood, Mold Demon, Pixie Queen, Tetso Umezawa (Which is where they got the name for Jitte from),  Ur-Drago (take that, Swampwalk!), Balm of Restoration…To be honest, I could go on, but it’s a list of close to 200+ cards, most of which are banned/restricted or mainly for EDH/Commander purposes. The good cards on the list are mainly from Beta and Urza’s Saga.
  3. There are many valuable cards not on this list. These are the cards that, should they ever see a reprint, will most likely appear in supplement products like Commander sets, From the Vault, etc.

The cards I prefer to use as a safeguard to my portfolio/binder are not the cards on the Reserved List, even though they are “safest” bet since they won’t be reprinted. This is because cards that aren’t on the Reserved List are the most fun to trade and are the easiest to move. I mean, it’s not like people are going to be looking through your binder six months from now and must have that Chains of Mephistopheles, not matter how good the card is.

Finally, here’s a look at my top safeguard picks.

1. Zendikar Fetches 

Just because this group of cards are “safe bets” in the world of trading, they are the one single thing that I can guarantee you will played in six months from now and beyond. They are Legacy-playable, Modern-playable, EDH-playable, Classic-playable, Vintage-playable…I’m trying to say they will always see play.

And if you think they are expensive now, they aren’t. Using a type of stock trading called “Chartology”, there is a high likelihood that this is just beginning of an upwards spike. Think of it this way: if you need four Marsh Flats and think dropping $150-ish is a lot, just wait. They will go up a hell of a lot more than that within the next six months.

Chartology suggests the price will only continue to go up, with no drop in price:


This is a chart of the movement of the fetch lands as a whole on Modo, almost like an index similar to the S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial Index. I am using Modo since it is much easier to track daily price movements of digital objects that it is to track the price of paper objects.

This is a 52-week chart and forms the baseline I am using. While each symbol represents the sets that were released, the letters are just as important. The letter E represents the creation of Modern as a format, while the letter L represents the official release of Modern Masters.

The reason this is important to me is because I see this and know whether or not a card, in this case the Zendikar Fetch Lands, are going to go up or down. In the market, I would look at this chart and see two important things.

  1. The chart shows a massive upwards tick ever since Modern was introduced. The two almost parallel lines indicate that there is still a lot of room for these prices to grow. In technical terms, there have been multiple double drops, and a stock/magic card will tend to reveal it’s future performance based on how it performs right after a double dip, which you can see occurred from January to July, and then again right after the release of Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze. Instead of what a card/stock would usually do after a “double dip”, which is drop, these cards just decided to go up.
  2. Usually a card will drop in price when their PTQ seasons rotates, but fetch lands have maintained their highs, even while out of season. For example, Standard cards will drop when it’s Modern season or limited season because many people sell their rotating cards and then re-buy them when that season rolls back around. But fetch lands have something other Modern cards don’t usually have: extensive playability in both Modern and Legacy.

The last thing I want to mention are the various rumors about Zendikar fetch lands. These rumors consist of the potential reprinting of fetch lands in the near future to lower their price because they are likely going to hit the $100 mark soon in paper. But, knowing Wizards, they are unlikely to reprint the ENEMY colored fetch lands, because they are moving more towards a more simplistic game. That adds even more value to the cards.

2. Wasteland

This is a staple in Legacy and once again not on the Reserved List. While it has a high price at $56.27, it is not in the realm of un-tradable. $56 is about where it has and will stay, with a drop/gain of $5-6 over the next year. It isn’t hard to trade a $50 card. It will add up to a bunch of Standard or Modern staples if you need to get rid of it and move into another format.

3. Force of Will ($78.84)

So why do Wasteland and Force of Will have so much value at the moment? Why should you pick them up? It’s very simple. In November there will be a Grand Prix in Washington D.C.. The format for D.C. is Legacy, and that means the value of these cards will be double during that weekend. You will be able to go to GP DC with Legacy staples like Force of Will and Wasteland and make a killing trading.

Plus you have the inclusion of From The Vault: 20, which happens to have three Legacy staples, and if we learned anything from Modern Masters, more people play a format when they have access to the best cards in that format. So having cards that aren’t readily available, you can trade these while increasing your profit and taking no loss on the amount you traded for cards like Wasteland, Force of Will, Fetch Lands, etc.

4. Batterskull ($12.95)

When evaluating cards, you need to put that card in a bubble and compare it to other cards that are at least similar. In this case, I will compare Batterskull to Umezawa’s Jitte and the five Swords, all considered the best equipment in the game. The advantage of Batterskull compared to other equipment is that it enters the game with a 0/0 germ token, so you don’t need a creature to equip it to. So, while the other equipments are all very good, Batterskull is also a creature, which puts it over the top. If I didn’t know what to trade for, this would be one of the cards I would look for, and hold onto it forever because I doubt they will ever make an equipment this powerful like this ever again.

5. Lingering Souls

This is almost a speculative play, and this is definitely my oddest safeguard pick to have pages of in your binder. For $1.19, you can get Lingering Souls cheap, and these are just uncommons so stores have a ton of them. People don’t normally carry these around, but stores won’t kill you on a cheap price.

Now, I am going to go on a huge limb here and say that Lingering Souls is one of the top ten most powerful cards ever made. It does everything you want in a card: it can create between two to four creatures with evasion, it is nearly un-counterable, and is great at holding onto equipment. Since I like to value cards that kill other cards, I would go as far as to say that on a list of one through ten, Lingering Souls is higher on that list than Jace, the Mind Sculptor, since the 1/1 tokens can kill Jace, and immediately put your opponent on the defensive.

Adding a safeguard to your binder is a fairly simple strategy, especially for people who don’t trade much. But when I see people trading for Legacy duals, or the Power Nine, I laugh, because they don’t understand that moving these cards will be significantly harder to move than Standard or Modern staples, they will usually end up putting them up on Ebay, where they can lose money on the deal. So think before you trade.

Top 5 Gainers of the Week

  1. Horizon Canopy (Future Sight) $34.19. This card is once again up, thanks to Reid Duke, a whopping $7.42! Remember when this card was expensive at $18? This card has already hit a peak of $39.10 and had a low of $15.30. Based on chartology, this card will never again reach it’s high of $39+, and has already hit it’s low. So I think the place for this card is around the $22 mark, and should go up slightly when it reaches Modern season. This card is seeing play in now four Modern decks, and I think people have now grasped just how good this land is, making it almost a must in every deck playing Green and White. The damage you take compared to the late game card draw is very good trade.
  2. Domri Rade (Gatecrash) $23.84. Now up 18% and climbing, I have long been saying this is the best Planeswalker made since Elspeth, Knight-Errant. It loses some points because you need a deck based around it, but this is the card that will dominate standard for a long time to come, and has started to pop-up in Modern. His emblem is the best emblem you can have. If Domri is not dealt with quickly, you are virtually guaranteed to win the game, since every creature you play after your emblem hits the board becomes a Hexproof Baneslayer Angel.
  3. Burning Earth (M14) $6.31. This card is up 36% after being up 300% the past few weeks. This is the #1 sideboard card in Standard at the moment, and will possibly lead to less non-basic lands post rotation in decks, and could possibly work its way into Modern sideboards in Splinter Twin or RDW along side Blood Moon. I would start looking at your mana base a little more carefully.
  4. Chandra, Pyromancer (M14) $14.39. This card is up $1.50 this week, and I have seen it popping up in Standard RDW as card draw. I don’t know, I don’t like this card, but hey, who knows.
  5. Bonescythe Sliver (M14) $4.70. I talked about this card going up last week, and here it is up again. It is going to reach the $5 mark, and I have no idea why. I hate slivers. I don’t think they are very competitive, but if people like them, people will buy them.

Top 5 Losers of the Week

  1. Jace, The Mind Sculptor (Worldwake) $134.27. This is the only card in Magic currently seeing a drop in price due to the release of From the Vault: 20. He is down week over week once again is down 2%, or $2.98. If you really think a card this good will go below $130, you are kidding yourself, but it seems like people are holding their cards because there isn’t much of a drop of anything else at the moment.
  2. Geist of Saint Traft (Innistrad) 21.06. Down 3%.
  3. Summoner’s Pact (Modern Masters) $11.28. Dropped 6%. Hasn’t seen play in constructed, so no idea why the drop or rise. Seems like a marginal card that people might just be selling off to their local stores to get store credit.
  4. Restoration Angel (Avacyn Restored) $8.43. Down 6%. All I can say is BUY BUY BUY! If one of the ten best creatures ever made is this cheap and dropping, I will gladly pick them up.
  5. Falkenrath Aristocrat (Dark Ascension) $7.82. Down 6%. Ok, flying, haste, could be indestructible, sure, let it drop. If this doesn’t see Modern play down the road, I’ll be very surprised.

Top 5 WTF Cards of the Week

I don’t have any.

The only thing I can tell you is that this has been a very important week for fetch lands.

This is the week that will probably go down in Magic finance as the point where the fetch lands went from their current highs to prices I can’t really imagine. $35 for non-Blue fetch lands and $50 for the Blue ones. Well this, week they finally went over that threshold, where the non-blue fetch lands have reached $36+ and the blue ones have hit $51+. At their current pace, they will need to release fetch lands like gates just to make the price go down. Let me just give you a quick example: When Google (GOOG) hit the $500 price point, it was considered a high by experts in the market. That was the price point where it would either drop like a brick, or start hitting the $1k mark. The fetch lands chart is exactly the same as Google’s chart, so my predictions of $100 for Blue fetches, and $60 for non-Blue fetch lands might be low.

Opinion of the Week

Well you will have to wait for next week for that one. I have a feeling there is some manipulation in the market, and I am going to try to expose it.Why? Well, I have some charts from when the fetch lands went up, and when Modern Masters was announced. Then I was looking at the top 100 gainers and losers of the week. They were all cards from Modern Masters. I believe Star City Games is manipulating the market, and I am going to try to call them out on it. When you see all the information I have collected, you might start to wonder about the ethics of Star City Games, and their enabler, Wizards of the Coast.

I may have only passed the LSAT’s decided against to law school, but I’m fairly sure that price manipulation based on inside information is illegal. And if it isn’t, then it is clearly wrong. I have money, but what I care about is a fair playing field for all players. While businesses exist to make money, if they are making that money based on information regular people like me and you don’t have access to, I believe that people like me will get very angry, very quickly.

Allow me to reintroduce myself my name is HOV—err, I mean Josh Kaufman from Brooklyn, NYC. I have collected Magic: The Gathering since Alpha, and played from Mirage to Apocalypse. I then quit for a while and returned at Dark Ascension. I don’t want to say too much about myself, so I’ll keep it simple: I am the greatest there ever was and ever will be. I am also very modest and insanely attractive.

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