Avoiding the Hype Cycle

Cliff Daigle • December 27, 2020

Wizards has gone and done it, gives us sneaky-peeky mini-previews long before actual preview season and six weeks before the actual set comes out.

Every time a card is previewed (or leaked) there’s an attendant rush to go after other cards that synergize with that card in some way. Kaldheim started us off with this Dwarven lord:

Spicy! I love cheap legends, and this makes for an excellent commander. The benefits are clear, and the card tells you what to do: Get dwarves, tap them, and then fetch up a sweet Dragon or artifact. There’s also the built-in tension of the deck: You want maximum dwarves, but you still have to put aside slots for the payoffs you’re tutoring up.

As a result of Magda, though, this happened:

Dwarven Bloodboiler is a good card in a tribe that hasn’t gotten a lot of love so far, but that seems like it’s about to change. It’s a rare from Judgment, a set released in mid-2002. That’s a pretty tiny supply, and frankly, the people who built dwarf-centric decks already had this. It’s a terribly efficient way to tap a whole bunch of dwarves at once, which is really the appeal.

I’m here to tell you if you have one, sell it now. You should always, always sell into hype like this. Interestingly, Cardsphere users have figured out that you want to be a seller, not a buyer, when cards spike in this manner. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the last 10 trades and the one meager offer on the Bloodboiler.

Let’s travel backwards in time and look at what’s happened to cards that spiked during preview season. There’s a lot of factors to consider, from last printing size to foils to premium alternatives.

Stepping back to this summer, Jumpstart gave us a lot of new cool legends to build around, but perhaps none so beloved as Tinybones, Trinket Thief, who called out to all people that love to make the table discard. A lot of cards spiked as a result, but my favorite is the synergy around Words of Waste. Observe the price graph, though:

I don’t have a name for this sort of graph, where there’s a huge spike (in this case from $4 to $15) and then a leveling off (the downward trend from $10 to the current $7) but it’s all over the place. Not every card that spiked from Jumpstart has settled down this quickly, but the hype graph of a big spike and then a trickle downwards is amazingly prevalent.

Further back: Walker of Secret Ways went haywire when Modern Horizons came out and added lots of new Ninjas to the tribe. Big spike at first, and then settled down, albeit at a much higher price than before the spike.

This is the pattern I expect whenever a card spikes, but especially when it’s a niche card that goes into a Commander deck, usually in relation to something that gets previewed. I expect Bloodboiler to settle in around $5 after it hit $9. There’s lots of ways to tap red creatures (Fire Whip comes to mind) but the multi-tap is interesting. Vehicles would be another fun way to do that, and Depala, Pilot Exemplar definitely has synergies as a Dwarf too. Adding white to the deck’s colors gives you Smothering Tithe, too, and that’s a fun aspect to add.

So when a card is spiking, what do you do?

First of all: Don’t try to send it here on Cardsphere, because we’ll likely have locked down trading as soon as the spike hits. I’ve written before about this, but users on this site are so plugged in with current valuations and monitoring the value of their cards, you’re never going to get people during a spike. (or a big drop, because we lock it down with reprints too!)

Next, check some buylists. Mid-spike, it’s rare that you can get a card sold for near the spike value, but I love flipping bulk rares into a few dollars of store credit. Lots of places offer 20-30% bonuses for choosing store credit over cash, and that can add up quickly.

Don’t forget to check TCG’s buylist as well. It’s a little less intuitive, but it’s an option.

Your best bet is going to be eBay or TCGPlayer, honestly. Your ability to price your card in relation to the other copies available is a very strong point in favor of listing it fast and getting out. Yes, there are going to be fees and shipping costs, usually about 15%, but you can price the card aggressively.

Say you had a Bloodboiler sitting in your bulk rares box as of this weekend. Hop onto TCG and you can see that there’s a copy at $5, with shipping for a dollar. So your goal is to move your card fast, you might list at $4.95 with free shipping. TCG’s structure really encourages a race to the bottom, because if you price it too low, it’s bought immediately but too high and it’ll sit forever.

Now you might be thinking that $5 is too low. That’s the wrong thinking for a card that was bulk a week ago. If you look at TCG’s buylist option, there’s a couple of vendors buying for $3.85. Depending on your seller status and your ease of shipping, that’s very tempting to just out the couple of copies that you might have, without worrying about setting the right price.

One last thing I want to make clear: there is almost never profit in chasing the flip. You have to be one of the first buyers, you have to buy from someone who actually follows through on the price you’re buying at, and you have to arrange to sell the card quick, before you even have it in hand. That’s not impossible, just a difficult series of hoops to jump through. Save yourself the trouble and the stress, just skip the attempt on that and keep your other things organized enough that you can sell into the next spike.