Arid Mesa

“I want to go to there.

– You and Liz Lemon, about this card

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Full-art foil Wednesday, O hedron-happy ~*~*MTG Financiers*~*~! Once again, we find ourselves obliged to Interrupt your regularly scheduled protipping (wait, this is an accurate description of what I do) for an emergency Special Report on one of the craziest weeks in Magic news…ever.

Yes, ever. Here I went, regrettably missing a column last week, and by the time I was ready to get back to the Table, the entire landscape (ayooo) had shifted. Coming up next week, you can still expect the article I alliteratively alluded to last time — a blazing blitzkrieg of brilliance, bravely bursting with bundles of buzz on bulk and buylisting — but this week, I know there are other things on my readers’ Hive Mind.

(And if you enjoy this week’s foray into the untamed wilds, I have a small ask for you at the end.)

So without French delay, because I am more excited than the 13-year-old girl I’m proud to write like, let us dive right into that most scalding question…

 

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON

Steam Vents

 

As a swashbuckling, plugged-in ~*~*Financier*~*~ such as yourself doubtless knows by now, something pretty unexpected is happening. Sure, sure, Mark Rosewater troll’d told us there were no fetchlands in Battle for Zendikar — but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the packs.

That’s right, some Battle for Zendikar packs will contain Zendikar Expeditions: full-art foil fetchlands, shocklands, and uh, “tango lands,” at a unique rarity slightly more common than a foil mythic. Think Time Spiral Timeshifted cards, but with a more obvious lust to destroy the Force of Will TCG before it can fully take off here (by totally stealing its model).

That secondary(?) purpose aside, why is WotC doing this? Sure, the original Zendikar had Treasures, and this is an exciting payoff for players who remember that. It’s also great marketing. But does a return to a setting as popular as Zendikar really need such a serious amount of extra push?

Thinking as a player (and a dabbler in game design), it made too much sense to me to assume that the Zendikar fetchlands would be returning in BFZ. In retrospect, I wasn’t thinking as a marketer and a businessperson. In reality, putting something as direly thirsted for as a full-on fetchland reprint into BFZ would have been, essentially, a goddamn waste.

Why?

Because, to be perfectly Lisa Frank, Battle for Zendikar is going to sell its own damn self.

There is literally almost nothing WotC could have done — short of not setting it in Zendikar — to make BFZ fail. Fans have been eager for a return to this world since long before it was even realistic to do one, and so this set has been destined since Day One to be the next in a line of fall releases that automatically outsell every past Magic set ever. If the cards in this set were mostly just water-damaged Polaroids from your parents’ attic, it would still make Hasbro sixty-nine billion American dollars.

So what did Wizards do? Something smart: they saved the high-volume, actually demand-satisfying reprint for some future set that actually needs the help. (I’m thinking Lorwyn Returns to Dominaria via Kamigawa, or, you know, a whole new world.) And in the meantime, they threw us thirsty-ass randos a bone, making a gigantic PR spectacle of it in the process.

But don’t get all misty-eyed on me, dear ~*~*Financier*~*~. I know just what you’re thinking…

 

WHAT THE HELL DOES IT DO TO THE MARKET

 

Nothing.

I mean, not nothing. But not that much. Unless it destroys the entire Magic economy, but we’ll come back to that.

Don’t get me wrong, it leaves me wondering a little. But I’ve been polling some smart people I know — speculators, dealers, store owners, honest-to-Yawgmoth market manipulators — and the consensus so far (with one notable exception) has been that so far, from everything we know, these will be so hard to acquire that they won’t drive down prices on existing versions.

A friend of mine teasingly suggested that I include in this article a photoset of my forty (40) foil RTR-block shocks and twenty (20) foil KTK fetches. I think that might be a little excessive, and the sentence before this one is boast enough. The point is that I, of all people, have as much as anyone to worry about…right? Surely, if they hurt any version of the cards at all, they hurt the existing Pimp Options.

To put things into perspective, here’s the question I have: how many Modern players do you know who swagged out their decks with original Ravnica-block foil shocklands? Foil Onslaught fetches? Judge fetches?

For the overwhelming majority of you, the answer to that question is going to be “none” or “oh I get it” or “this one guy I don’t really like tbh.” However many Modern decks you’ve seen foiled out that way, compare that with the number of times you’ve seen a Modern board state full of foil RTR shocks and, well, a graveyard full of foil KTK fetches. Unless you’re playing Modern with Vintage players, which you should probably stop doing anyway, the frequency isn’t even close.

And that’s exactly the point: at the price that these bad girls will probably…fetch…(I honestly didn’t plan this sentence [or my life] this way)…they’re going to appeal to a different audience completely. We may start seeing these show up in Vintage decks, Legacy decks, and the EDH decks and Cubes built by people who own pimped-out Vintage decks and Legacy decks — but Lisa Frankly, they won’t be within reach of most Modern, Standard, or casual players.

Speaking of which, flatly…

 

WHAT THE HELL WILL THEY COST

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

 

A lot.

Like, a lot.

Well…

Maybe.

After polling all my smarty-pants ~*Finance*~ friends about this too, I’ve been somewhat surprised to find a much wider range of answers compared to the previous question. Some have argued for a range as high as “$100+ minimum, up to $300+ for good ones;” others have guessed the initial pricing as no more than $50 at the low end to $150 at the high end.

(Everyone is in agreement, however, that it’s gonna suck to be the jerk who opens the tango land.)

To make an endless tentacle finite, my strong, educated suspicion is that what we will see here is honestly not too complicated. I would expect early prices to be ridiculous, especially during prerelease week if any of these actually show up that way, so I would absolutely not buy in early for any reason. Then, we can expect to see the prices drop down to a slightly more reasonable plateau and stick there for most of their duration in print.

The real question, to me, is what happens a little further down the road. Presuming these continue slowly entering circulation — or not so slowly, considering how much BFZ people will be ripping open, thirsting for their Golden Ticket — they’ll probably hold strong with a relatively even supply-and-demand balance. Then, around the time that the set goes out of print, they’ll naturally begin slowly but steadily rising until they eventually reach heights at least comparable to OnslaughtZendikar, and Judge-promo foil fetches, if not higher.

Unless…

Unless, after a certain span, WotC reveals that Expeditions, much like Zendikar‘s Treasures, will not be in subsequent print orders beyond the first run. I see no reason to assume that yet, but I also see no reason to assume anything. If this does turn out to be the case, then I hope your fingers that day aren’t faster than mine at buying the entire Internet out and quadrupling the price on re-list. Praise Yawgmoth.

Now, as for what grows green on your verdant mind…

 

HOW THE HELL DO I MAKE MONEY ON IT

Canopy Vista

 

Easy. The same way you do on any other card.

Buy them for less than you can sell them for.

Which is, of course, my cheeky way of saying that you may want to skip trying to “speculate” on these. My usual skepticism aside, they’re going to be a somewhat volatile market, precisely because we can’t really be sure how many Wizards intends to print.

This may seem like a weird leap to some of you, but recent events have repeatedly taught me not to assume anything is set in stone. (Not even foil full-art dual stone.) Maybe Wizards prints these consisntently throughout BFZ’s printing; maybe they cut them off after the first run of orders; maybe they pull a True-Name Nemesis and double the number in the second run of orders.

This is not to say that there isn’t money to be made — simply that, in classically controversial Stefano Black style — I think that most of the money to be made is in clear, obvious things you already know how to do.

With the amount of hype this set has, moving singles will be very easy. Yes, the value of the Expeditions and a few high-profile mythics like Nülamog might suppress the prices of other rares and mythics in the set, but it will still be totally feasible to turn a nice profit opening sealed product on day one, then selling off and/or binder-grinding your hot singles as quickly as possible within the first month. The fancy promo lands just mean that one or two boxes in your case might magically pay for themselves with a single lucky pull, or that you can make roughly the same profit as usual on this set and keep something cool as hell for yourself.

That’s really my advice here: do the same shit you know you should be doing anyway, and let the cards that were literally designed to feel like a cherry on top be a gosh darn cherry on top. Nothing more.

Don’t forget to ship your See the Unwrittens and coordinate a buyout on Animist’s Awakening and The Great Aurora. Buy up fat packs and hoard the full-art basic lands like flat little diamonds. If you’re the risk-taker type, go crazy checking presale prices on all the rares and mythics with an evil eye for what’s undervalued. Once the spoiler’s complete, just find the next Tasigur, the Golden Fang or Hangarback Walker or Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy hiding in the preorder numbers! Speaking of those, hey…maybe you finally want to buy out Ghostfire Blades and trade for more Hangarback Walkers because of Nümetalog’s Lisa Frankenstein Friends:

Mist IntruderBarrage Tyrant

Forerunner of SlaughterSkitterskin

Boy does the 13-year-old girl inside me sure love her some neon pastels.

Don’t think so hard (as I know you will anyway) about the promo lands. Like all things in this Universe, including the both of us: one day they all will be dust.

Unless you have the capital to corner the entire fucking market on these things, only to find out there are seven in each pack of Battle for Zendikar, Round 2: WorldQuake (The Squeakquel) — all right, all right, Oath of the Gatewatch — then let them be what they are: the rainbow-sunbeam cherry on top of your Lisa Frank ice cream sundae in a diamond-studded cheetah-convertible in space.

Lisa Frank Ice Cream

If you half know what you’re doing, a set with this much hype should make you a respectable profit anyway.

Now in case that leaves you feeling…arid…

 

WHAT THE HELL DID YOU MEAN BEFORE

Drowner of Hope

 

Here’s the part where I finally dooms(d)ay a little.

Ever since the announcement of how prerelease promos would be handled for Khans of Tarkir block, I’ve been a little concerned about the amount of promo cards and alternate versions of things WotC has been dumping on us.

Personally, as a foil and promo collector (read: a sucker) with a rabid insistence on having the coolest-looking rectangular Pogs, I find them frustrating because 1) they meant that almost any foil I could open out of KTK block was worthless to me by comparison (except that sweet Ugin I opened so EAT IT) — and 2) these full-arts do, for me, now spiritually invalidate my existing collection of shocks and fetches.

And of course, now starting with BFZ, any rare or mythic in the set can be a prerelease promo, which means that there will be date-stamped planeswalkers and, given enough time, probably date-stamped Scalding Tarns at some point too (in Shadow Unmoored: Afternoontide).

All this fancy crap, as much as I kinda love it while fearing it (like Yawgmoth), gets me to thinking about investment economies in a broader way. As any of you who know me have already heard me say, to my limited understanding, “four alternate hologram covers for this random issue of Punisher” was a considerable part of what destroyed the comics speculation market in the 90s. I’m told there was a similar problem for the baseball-card market. Nobody feels safe investing deeply into a collectible commodity if they grow concerned that the monolithic entity behind it will start manufacturing into the hype, flooding the market with a bunch of bullshit like date-stamped Palisade Giants.

I realize this is an oversimplification, and I also recognize that Magic is quite different in that the value of most cards comes at least partly from a practical application that comics and sports cards have never had: Magic cards have a bazillion things you can do with them, including theoretically “win money.”

But this thought has lingered on my mind nonetheless, and I feel I would be remiss as a writer in this field to leave it unmentioned in my can(n)on. Keep it in your back pocket; hope I get to one day retcon it.

 

WHY THE HELL ARE YOU LEAVING ME

Image.ashx-2

 

Im sleepy.. n u never call nemore :'(

Jokes aside (never), to close this week’s Extra Special Giant-Size installment of Bargaining Table, I’d like to share a special personal note. The feedback I’ve been getting from this humble column for the past two months — here, on Facebook, on Reddit, and even in person when I’ve unexpectedly met regular Tablers(?) in the meat flesh world of sin — has been…well, humbling.

This weekend at the SCG Invi, as some of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed, I was opening bubble mailers full of [REDACTED]s I’d ordered and, on the back of one toploader, found a…well, a special personal note.

 

Special Personal Note

I don’t know who you are, Cosmic Comics in Washington state (reveal thyself!), but you just about made my weekend. And it was already a pretty great weekend!

Anyway, I bring this up because I would like to personally extend a big, warm, 10/10 indestructible *!*!*!*!*!THANK YOU!*!*!*!*!* with library-annihilator to all of you out there who have enjoyed and supported Bargaining Table — despite the haters and against your better Judgment.

As last week’s missed column may have unintentionally hinted, the more I take my Magic dealing seriously — which involves traveling almost every weekend; 10+ hours a week sorting bulk; running around to various local stores building relationships; plenty of late nights pricing, reading, and researching; and trying so hard to squeeze in a personal life that I dragged my partner Lisa, frankly, to the SCG Invitational — the harder it’s been to balance my time and competing responsibilities. These are good problems to have, but they mean a lot of lifestyle changes very suddenly.

I’ve had offers to write for some other outlets, and we’ll see where that goes or goesn’t. But I want to keep writing for Hipsters of the Coast, which is currently a labor of love. That’s why I’ve started an account on Patreon, and I am humbly turning to you for support.

That’s it! No more sales pitch from me. If you can help out, it will make it that much easier for me to keep bringing you quality content. But if you can’t, I understand — Yawgmoth knows it’s hard out here for a pimp (deck).

Either way, thank you for joining me every week at the Table and for all the amazing responses you’ve shared.

 


 

Next week on Bargaining Table, we return to your regularly scheduled Pentagramming (wait, this is an accurate description of what I do) with a spicy special on spinning sponges into spending sprees.

Until then, who lives in a pineapple under the sea…

Hallowed Fountain

 

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Stefano Black is an NYC-based writer, filmmaker, Icy Manipulator, and paper-drug dealer. He can be found on Twitter as @StefanoBlackest, sharing humor, criticism, and Garfield-related poetry, and is available for hire or collection buying. He also unabashedly wants your money.

If you want more trading advice with a twist, see CREATURE TYPES: On Trading Styles.

If you enjoyed this critical look at trading, try BLATANT THIEVERY: Community Ethics.

If you can’t get enough ~*sassy*~ Lisa Frank aesthetics and Hot Ass Takes, check out the Bargaining Table archive and give your Vintage group tango lands for catching up!

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