Hi there! Welcome back to another week of finance content through TCGplayer. I'm your host, DJ "the guy who buys bulk rares" Johnson, and I'm here to talk to you about a phenomenon called rotation. We haven't seen a Standard rotation for what feels like forever (Magic Origins was the last set to rotate out….), so this is going to be a huge change for the metagame and card prices alike. Several of my fellow writers on the site have talked about the implications of some of the cards leaving Standard; Corbin Hosler wrote about cards we'll continue to see in Modern, and Steve Rubin recently did a piece on the changes Blue-White Monument will experience.
It's common knowledge that most of the Standard staples that don't see play in other competitive formats will take a dive on their price graphs. While Traverse the Ulvenwald and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar have seen moderate play in other formats, there's no real reason for Relentless Dead or Sorin, Grim Nemesis to maintain their past highs. Like I said, this is pretty common knowledge. Instead of those rares and mythics, I want to dig deeper into the non-rare role players that have held up in Standard over the past couple of years, and discuss some of the commons and uncommons in the Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks.
One of my favorite purchases to make as a Magic vendor aren't high-value cards like Verdant Catacombs or Tarmogoyf, but bulk commons and uncommons. What I mean by that is that I'm willing to buy any number of the unsorted commons and uncommons from my friends, local players, and even other stores, at a flat rate per thousand cards. I'll then turn on Netflix, sit on the couch, and dig through these thousands of cards to find and pull out specific ones that I know are worth more than the rest, or that are frequently asked about enough to sell out of the store I work with. The Transgress the Mind and Llanowar Elves you buy at your LGS and on TCGplayer have got to come from somewhere!
Buying at a flat rate per card yields a lot of opportunities to find hidden gems. Even if you don't end up needing some of the cards, you can just as easily pull out the ones you do want, then sell the remaining bulk to someone else! I'm mentioning bulk commons and uncommons this week because of the rotation schedule. There will be a higher number of Standard players looking to unload their now "useless" bulk from Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks. Let's take a look at just how useless some of those cards are...
We can use the filters on TCGplayer to find exactly which commons and uncommons from the set are in highest demand; particularly the "Best Selling" filter. If you add the filters "Cards," "Shadows Over Innistrad," and "Uncommon," you can organize those remaining items to see exactly which ones are flying off the virtual shelves. Let's take a look at Shadows over Innistrad.
Gone are the days of Bant Company when Duskwatch Recruiter ruled the roost. Past are the times of U/R or B/R Madness being a strong budget Standard deck led by Lightning Axe and Fiery Temper. Right now, Indulgent Aristocrat is the top-selling uncommon from Shadows Over Innistrad, and you should be keeping it in mind when digging through bulk.
That's a fair question. It's not even the most expensive uncommon in the set. It never saw a glimmer of Standard play, so what's the big deal now? Well, we just happened to receive some pretty awesome tribal Commander decks, and Indulgent Aristocrat wasn't quite humble enough to get invited to the 100-card preconstructed party. He synergizes really well with Grandpa Edgar Markov though, producing many a 1/1 Vampire Knight as fodder while pumping the remaining team permanently. He's a really strong budget addition to the deck that players are flocking towards, in addition to our second place finisher Stensia Masquerade, for all the same reasons as Aristocrat.
We can see a similar trend with Battle for Zendikar, sorted with the same filters. We see Drana's Emissary take the lead, with Zulaport Cutthroat (another powerful Commander card). Sylvan Scrying and Hedron Archive also make the top 10; the former from Modern play in Tron lists, and the latter being another solid Commander card that scales well into late game when you have an overflow of mana. I can say from personal experience that these are cards that get found in bulk commons and uncommons all the time. You might even have them lying around in your unused cards yourself! If you were planning on paying $.75 for a Hedron Archive in the near future, you might want to do a little digging through some bulk, and see if you have any archived away…
So what exactly are we doing with these cheaper cards? I mentioned in my earlier mini-series about selling on TCGplayer that it's usually worth it to sell cards on the site if they're around $3 or more on their own. Even if you wanted to get 10 to 50 cents for some of the rotating uncommons on this list, it doesn't make a lot of sense to list them on the site if they won't be able to sell. The minimum order to place on the TCGplayer marketplace is $2.00 if you're not ordering with Direct. There are three efficient ways to get value out of these theoretically "pickable" commons and uncommons.
1. The easiest way to get value out of them is to play with them! If you learn the ins and outs of which cards to pick out of your bulk, you can save money on your personal Standard, Modern, and Commander decks. Save $1 on your set of Sylvan Scryings by digging through a pile of Battle for Zendikar bulk, or shave $1 off that Commander deck cost by having a Hedron Archive ready to go that you effectively found for "free" by getting it in a bulk box.
2. The second way is to buylist these cards. Buylisting is a topic that we'll be able to delve deeper into eventually, as it deserves its own article series entirely. The short of it is that we can sell these commons and uncommons to other stores, like the TCGplayer Trade-In program or your own local game store. You won't get the market price in value, but you're turning unused and rotated Standard cards to help achieve a larger goal. Even if you're only getting a few dollars in Stasis Snares, Cliffhaven Vampires, and Longtusk Cubs, that's money that could go towards shipping costs of other cards, or trading in towards more expensive Modern staples.
3. Lastly, you could leave high-demand commons and uncommons in your trade binder, and make some use out of them during a trade at your local game store. One of the ways I started out in the financial world of Magic was bringing cards to the LGS that no one else thought to bring. I was digging through bulk boxes for standard-legal Gut Shots, Oblivion Rings, and Hedron Crabs, then trading them out to players who only brought their rares and didn't want to have to shell out money for the cheaper commons they needed for their deck. Every little quarter and dollar added up, until I was able to afford my own competitive budget Standard decks. If you can trade out Drana's Emissary and Indulgent Aristocrats to your local players with a fresh Commander 2017 deck, you can help each other out. They save on having to order those cards and pay for shipping, and you can add some bulk rares or current cheaper Standard cards to your arsenal.
So where's this magical land where we can acquire bulk cards on the cheap? I've honestly found that word of mouth is the most effective way. Digging through bulk commons and uncommons isn't exactly the most popular activity in the Magic world, and there are plenty of significant others who aren't gamers who don't want cards clogging up their living space. If you let your friends and fellow gamers know that you're interested in picking up some of their bulk, they might be happy to let you buy their unsearched treasure. In my experience, I've had success buying at $2.50 per thousand cards; as long as they're all near mint and English language. That's about what other stores will offer, but your milage may vary. Craigslist (or your regional equivalent) can be great sources for bulk collections as well.
Bulk commons and uncommons might seem boring and tedious, but they provided me a foundation to build a lot of what I know about the financial aspect of Magic. Going forward, we'll be talking a lot more about specific cards that you may not have known were worth picking out of bulk, the best ways to categorize and sort bulk to maximize your value, and how to minimize the time spent picking while getting the most out of your bulk. Stay tuned, and thanks as always for reading!