Hey there! I hope everyone had a great release weekend. I'm finally getting a chance to sit down after cracking and sorting a whole lot of Ixalan product, so let's get down to business. Pro Tour Ixalan is rapidly approaching (one month away!), and I want to talk a little bit about your approach to buying and selling cards in the next few weeks – including the World Championship this weekend. The weekend of Pro Tour level events is one of the most volatile when it comes to shifting card prices, and we can expect the metagame afterward to warp around whatever the pros reveal to be their preferred archetypes.
We've already seen price shifts over the past week when it comes to Glorybringer and The Scarab God as players find their feet in a brand new metagame, but the PT is what makes Liliana, the Last Hope go from $24 to $40 and stay there for months. It's what makes Walking Ballista jump from a $3 price tag to $13. Even the graph of a card like New Perspectives can go crazy for a few minutes based on momentary camera hype, without any results on Saturday or Sunday. Calling these shots correctly in advance can help you save a ton of money on cards you were planning on using, or give you some extra cash to spend on other formats entirely.
Not too long ago, it was really easy to buy cards during the Pro Tour while watching coverage on Saturday or Sunday. Card prices moved a lot slower than they do nowadays, and one could purchase reactively to the information they obtained during the event to inform their buys. I remember watching Jon Finkel and friends take Pro Tour Theros by storm with Mono-Blue Devotion, then buying a bunch of Master of Waves and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx on TCGplayer Saturday morning. I got all my copies in the mail a couple days later, and I managed to trade them all post-spike for a bunch of sweet Commander foils that I had my eye on.
Humblebragging aside, stories like this come up less and less often. The increase in social media sharing and player base has made it much easier for stores to keep a finger on the pulse of the coverage, and anyone with access to a hashtag can see which decks are overperforming expectations. It's harder to buy cards pre-spike later in the weekend. We saw this most recently with Hazoret the Fervent during Pro Tour Hour of Devastation; According to mtgstocks.com, Hazoret had increased in price by 20% by Saturday of the Pro Tour. By Sunday, she was selling for $20 with ease.
You might be wondering what the difference between these is. After all, it's not as though it took Master of Waves any longer to spike than Hazoret did; Master had crested the spike to $20 while the Top 8 was being broadcast, just like Hazoret. But there are a couple of factors that changed in the four years between the two price jumps, though. The first is the proliferation of individual sellers who aren't actually brick and mortar stores; Some players who bought their Hazorets from less reputable storefronts had their orders cancelled due to the price spike, when buying from non-Direct sellers or sellers on other platforms. [Editor's Note: The TCGplayer Buyer Safeguard protects every purchase in situations like this. The customer service team is always just an email to firstname.lastname@example.org away. And, yes, TCGplayer takes abuse of the TCGplayer Marketplace by unscrupulous sellers seriously.]
Sometimes, this was because a seller appeared to say they were out of stock on the card, then relist it later on for higher as the Reddit thread suggested. Often, the situation is out of the seller's' control.
Some larger stores use third-party ecommerce platforms to help diversity their storefront visibility. Basically, it's a service that allows you to list the same inventory in multiple locations, such as TCGplayer and their own website, and the software is supposed to update across all platforms when the inventory sells from any of them. Unfortunately, this update can take anywhere from a few extra seconds to a couple of minutes to actually take place, especially if there's a ton of traffic across Magic stores and purchases happening all at once. Sound familiar? Those delays in updating inventory across platforms can make all the difference at 5 p.m. on the Saturday of a Pro Tour.
Let's say you're watching coverage of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation on Saturday afternoon, and you see that the Ramunap Red deck is absolutely crushing it. You've got most of the pieces to the list, but you need the Hazorets to make it perfect. You rush to buy four copies of Hazoret from a marketplace seller on TCGplayer, and it says they have a total of five available. Within a minute, someone across the country mirrors your decisions and buys the same number of Hazorets from the same store, on a different platform. If an ecommerce provider doesn't manage to update the inventory instantaneously across all of those locations, the seller risks selling a total of eight Hazorets when they only had five to begin with. Uh-oh. While this is the fault of connecting technology and not the seller, it's still the responsibility of the seller to communicate and rectify the situation. It ends up in a really frustrating experience for both the buyer and seller. We call this an "oversell," and they're not fun for anyone.
Back in 2013, there was significantly less frenzied buying behavior, and less fear of missing out during the Pro Tour weekend. Less viewers, less buyers. Less buyers, less oversells. Situations like the above happened with much less frequency, and there wasn't as much awareness of what can happen when a ton of buyers have their finger on the "checkout" button all at once. Now that things are different in 2017, we should be adjusting our buying and selling behavior accordingly. There's no real reason to risk an oversell happening for this Pro Tour if you plan accordingly.
As a buyer, you have a couple different options. The first is to buy proactively instead of reactively. It's hard to know what the next Walking Ballista is before the Pro Tour even starts, but playing mock games with playtest cards against friends can help you get real data on which cards are going to be strong role players in multiple strategies. While many people only theorycraft Standard picks, putting in the work constructing decklists and trying them against existing strategies can give you information that other players aren't using at the moment. You're much less likely to have an order be cancelled or messed up if you order a week or two prior to the Pro Tour, when there's no frenzied buying behavior. Reactively buying from the least expensive listing on Saturday afternoon runs the risk of having the cards be sold in the precious minutes while you're checking out with your cart.
Alternatively (or additionally), you can make your purchases from a reputable seller who is guaranteed to get you the cards you need without risking a third-party inventory management system. TCGplayer Direct is one of those programs, and it's guaranteed to get you your order quickly and accurately. If you do make the decision to wait until Saturday during coverage to buy something, I would recommend using a program like Direct in place of a "regular" marketplace seller, because of the guarantee that comes with such a time-sensitive purchase. If you buy a Glorybringer from a TCGplayer Direct seller at $5 during the weekend and the card ends up increasing to $10, you can still rest easy knowing you'll get that card in your hand over the next couple of days.
So, what if you're someone with a seller account, and don't want to lose out by selling the next Hazoret the Fervent too early? I don't expect any of my readers to be at the level of using a third-party inventory synchronization program, but there are still steps you can take to protect yourself from selling a card you feel might jump in price during the event. First, you'll likely get a notification on the homepage of your Seller portal that reminds you during the week before the Pro Tour. If you have some cards listed that you nearly forgot about, this reminder can give you a nudge to either adjust the prices to a number you're comfortable selling at, or to hide your inventory entirely with the click of a mouse until the aftermath of the weekend's events. Just remember to update your prices before you unhide your inventory, or you could suddenly be selling a bunch of underpriced cards!
Personally, I'm happy to just leave my inventory as-is and enjoy the increase in sales that the Pro Tour brings. Even if I sell some Hazorets at $10 instead of $20, I'll also usually end up selling some New Perspectives-type cards into the hype at $2-3 apiece. If you find a card that you expect to spike during the event, you can list it at what you're hoping to sell it at preemptively, so that you don't have to be making last minute price adjustments during the actual spike. One of the cards that I expect to work really well with this strategy is Approach of the Second Sun. Originally a $.50 bulk rare that's subtly climbed to a few dollars in the past week or so, I wouldn't be surprised to see this hit it off at the Pro Tour. If the card is still only a dollar or two on Friday of the Pro Tour, I'll likely list my copies for $3-4 just to see what happens. If frenzied buying behavior starts, then I'll be ready and waiting to turn my copies over to whoever wants to buy them at $3 instead of racing to the bottom.
If you want to keep an ear to the ground for financial purposes, you've got several options. The most useful of course will be to follow the live video feed of the Pro Tour itself. You can take in the footage and make decisions based on what decks you see doing well. I'd also recommend keeping up with the Twitter hashtag at #PTXLN, where pros and fans will be helping to Congregate data based on what they see, either in person or from the video. Following Pro players themselves on either Facebook or Twitter can give you real-time updates on how well they're doing with their Standard deck of choice as well!
- DJ Johnson