By Josh Kaufman

Alright then. I had you sit through safeguard trading and speculative trading. Now for the fun stuff: value trading! And for three easy installments of $29.95, this piece will have even slightly more text, and slightly more numbers, and wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube men!

When thinking about anything market-related, I like to equate it to something I actually enjoy. The easiest thing, for me at least, is equating it to the NFL Draft. Huh!? Well, the NFL Draft has four aspects to it, and so does value trading.

First Round Prospects (FRPs)

A First Round prospect is someone who everyone knows will do well. They are also prospects that can range from sturdy offensive linemen to outstanding wide receivers. In Magic, these are your cards that will be good, and everyone knows that they will be good, like Andrew Luck.

Now there have been FRPs that were busts (Google JaMarcus Russell, Mark Sanchez), and in Magic, even a FRP can be a bust. Temporal Mastery was considered a game-changer when it first came out (people were expecting a Legacy ban before its release), but never exactly worked out. But when Restoration Angel came out, it dominated just like a FRP should.

Just remember, when looking at a FRP, remember, you are paying first-round prices, i.e. Sphinx’s Revelation.

FRPs in Magic are a little easier when talking about eternal formats. In Legacy, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a No. 1 overall pick, along the likes of Eli Manning. In Modern, Celestial Colonnade is a FRP like John Elway circa 1983. And in Standard, Thragtusk is the FRP, just like Andrew Luck of Stanford.

Mid-Round Prospects (MRPs)

These are guys who are taken in the second to fourth round and have the potential to be No. 1 overall picks, but are missing just one little thing to put them over the top.

In Magic, I would consider cards like Domri Rade, Scavenging Ooze, Abrupt Decay, Pillar of Flame, and Deathrite Shaman as MRPs.

These cards are in no way bad, and could be considered the best in the game, but each card I consider a mid-rounder needs the right deck to make it work at its best, or a change in the metagame.

Domri Rade—He needs a creature-based deck. He isn’t played in Jund because Jund doesn’t play enough creatures.

Scavenging Ooze—This immediately became a standard Staple because of the dominance Junk Rites had in the format. In Modern, he is good, but hasn’t quite found his niche yet.

Abrupt Decay—This card is purely a metagame card. During an interview with Mark Rosewater, the head designer for Wizards said that he made Abrupt Decay for two reasons: 1) During the testing of Standard, they thought Liliana of the Veil was so good that it needed an answer just for it since they believed it would be the No. 1 card in Standard; and 2) It was an answer for Counterbalance, the first one ever made directly for that deck in the Legacy metagame.

Pillar of Flame—When it first came out, it was a fairly weak removal spell used in the sideboard purely for decks that had Moorland Haunt or creatures with undying. But it really found its purpose when Voice of Resurgence saw huge metagame play, and went from a sideboard card used against Stangleroot Geist to a maindeck card in every deck playing red.

Deathrite Shaman—I don’t think anyone made the call on this one. In Standard, it was a nice answer to Unburial Rites, but it made its way into Modern and Legacy and became one of the best cards in the entire game of Magic.

Late-Round Picks (LRPs)

There have been many players taken in the sixth or seventh round of the NFL Draft and went on to have very successful seasons. Look at Tom Brady, who was taken in the SEVENTH ROUND! He will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game, and nobody knew who he was when he was drafted.

My best example of this is a little old, but look at Lion’s Eye Diamond. When it came out, nobody knew why this card was made. I remember opening this in a draft and not even picking it because it was essentially a “discard your hand, give Shivan Dragon +3/+0 until end of turn.” Ew. Now it’s around $100.

A more recent card is Delver of Secrets, which was a completely innocuous card when Innistrad came out. Everyone was way too excited by Snapcaster Mage and Geist of Saint Traft to see that this card would come out of nowhere to take over every format it has ever been in. It was dominant in the last Standard, it was dominant in Legacy, and I am pretty sure one day it will dominate Modern. This is the Tom Brady of Magic: The Gathering.

Undrafted Free Agents (UFAs)

There are a ton of players who went undrafted in the NFL Draft over the years who went on to be great players. They just didn’t get the exposure of playing for a big school or being a top 500 prospect recruited out of high school.

Some great undrafted NFL free agents are James Harrison, who won defensive player of the year for the Pittsburg Steelers and won championships as their team captain. Tony Romo, considered one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL; center Jeff Saturday, one of the most important pieces of a Colts offensive line that allowed Peyton Manning to be the great quarterback he is today; linebacker London Fletcher; running back Priest Holmes, who broke Marshall Faulk’s single-season touchdown record with 27 TDs in 2003 with the Kansas City Chiefs; Adam Vinatieri, who won multiple Super Bowls with the Tom Brady–led Patriots; running back Arian Foster, who is going in the top 10 of most people’s fantasy drafts; wide receiver Wes Welker, who caught more balls from Tom Brady than anyone and is considered one of the best in the game at his position; tight end Antonio Gates, who will go down as one of the best ever at his position; Warren Moon (you should know who he is); and Kurt Warner, who went from bagging groceries at a supermarket to winning three Super Bowls with the St. Louis Rams.

In Magic, there are also a ton of cards I would consider UFAs, because they are usually undrafted cards. Cards you might find on the table left over after a draft, or rares that are taken last because they are considered horrible.

Wasteland was once one of these cards, since it was uncommon and Strip Mine was legal. Mending Touch, a common from the recent Ravnica block saw its way into top 8 decks when it was included in the sideboard of Bant Hexproof.

There are hundreds of these cards, and they are in boxes under your bed and in your closet. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have some of these “garbage rares” or “bulk commons” somewhere in your room, because a $0.05 card today could be a $1.00 card tomorrow, and that is a gain that is only costing you storage space.

Look, what I am trying to say here is that when you value trade, do not just grab a binder, look through it, and start picking cards willy-nilly. Before you go to a store, have a plan.

Write down cards you are interested in, and figure out a plan, whether it is my plan of breaking down cards into the NFL Draft, or your favorite characters from Family Guy. And just remember, Liliana of the Dark Realms is everyone’s Meg, because nobody likes Meg.

Also do not forget to prioritize your trades, know what cards you are willing to give up for certain cards, know what their prices currently are—and know that when value trading, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Now here are some cards I am currently watching/trading for based on value trading.

Greater Auramancy (Shadowmoor)—With the information we know from Theros, this card is basically a planeswalker, and it’s the modern version of Sterling Grove, which was a Legacy staple for many years.

Fracturing Gust (Shadowmoor)—Well, I was thinking, if enchantments are a legitimate thing, and what they are saying about Theros is true, then you need a way to destroy enchantments, and this is the Wrath of God for enchantments, artifacts, and YOU GAIN LIFE!

Shared Animosity (Morningtide)—I have no clue why this card is up 100% over the past month of so, but it is. It is an enchantment, so again I am thinking there is some sort of Theros trend here.

Desecration Demon (Return to Ravnica)—This card was a Limited all-star, but it has gone from $0.30 to $3.60 in a very short time due to “The Rock” deck. But this seems like it might end up being the creature of choice going forward, and his mana cost doesn’t seem too painful—what does, though, is his color. I’ll go into that at a later date TBD.

Mizzium Mortars (Return to Ravnica)—This is another card I have been picking up as much as I can. It seems like a premium removal spell in what I believe will be the premium color going into rotation.

Thoughtseize (Lorwyn)—In a previous article, I mentioned “buy the rumor, sell the news.” Well, the rumor is, in the Theros “semi-spoiler” WOTC mentioned, “A card that could have been in Modern Masters.” Now that could be many, many cards in Magic. It could be Primalclux, but the rumor is the reprint of Thoughtseize. So if people panic, and Thoughtseize has been dropping, I will gladly pick them up. That is because the day it is spoiled, the price of the original will go up, very similar to what happened to cards in Modern Masters.

Blood Baron of Vizcopa (Dragon’s Maze)—In any format, other than mass removal, how do you kill this card? I think this is one of the most overlooked cards in Magic. In Modern he is nearly unkillable. In Standard, he is nearly unkillable, and even in Legacy the removal in that format doesn’t kill this guy. He has PROTECTION FROM BLACK AND WHITE! Am I the only person who thinks this card is just the nutter-butters?

Kalonian Hydra (M14)—When this card was first released, I wasn’t the biggest fan. But after playing with it a few times, I think this will be the high end of curves when rotation occurs. What makes this card better is that people are willing to trade them for almost nothing. Now those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, and a year ago there was a five-drop that people didn’t like too much. Was it Thragtusk? Nope. It was Thundermaw Hellkite, a card that Patrick Chapin had to write three love notes about on SCG and TCGplayer calling it “the next Baneslayer Angel.” Everyone laughed at him—but they aren’t laughing now, when Jund is the best deck in Standard and Thundermaw Hellkite is one of the best cards in the format.

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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