Evaluating Magic Cards: the Prelude

I’ve always been a believer in “teaching by example”. I hope sharing my approach to speculating on MTG will provide valuable insights that help you make or save money playing the game you love!

One question I sometimes get asked by consumers of my MTG finance content is how I approach evaluating the power-level and synergy of cards previewed during spoiler season.

If you are reading my content for the first time, context on why I get this question is important. I’m not a professional player, and my credentials certainly aren’t based off community notoriety. Heck, I’m not even a competitive player when it comes to slinging cardboard. But I’ve developed a strong trust from various MTG financiers, players, and even vendors over the years.

In fact, I’ve had dozens of financiers tell me they are so confident in my spec calls being profitable that to save time, they don’t even read my explanation anymore. They just go buy the card and move on. Pretty cool, and certainly flattering, but how did I get to that point?

I grew up playing a lot of casual Magic (at the kitchen table, literally). I’ve been playing since the late-90s, and I’m also fortunate to have a great memory. This combo means I have a bit of a “Rolodex” in my head when it comes to remembering the 20K+ unique MTG cards. Worth noting I can’t actually remember every card, so it helps that I’m also proficient with search engines.

I like to think of it as having a “sixth sense” when it comes to identifying price trends before they happen, especially in response to new sets dropping. I keep a close pulse on EDH which helps me predict where money will flow weeks or in some cases months ahead of the trend being recognizable by the broader community.

The reality is, being a player-turned-vendor/speculator has afforded me a unique perspective towards how players spend money, and it has been instrumental to building my modest side-business known as Chicago Style Gaming.

One of the goals I set out to accomplish when I began writing MTG finance content in 2018 is to help others play Magic cheaper, and being good at evaluating cards is an important piece of that puzzle. Ironically, the first time someone asked me about how I “got good” at evaluating cards, I didn’t have an organized answer, and to be honest, I still don’t.

It’s why I wanted to sit down and write about it. My hope is that putting pen to paper will let me explain my approach clearly and translate to a useful guide for others wanting to develop this skill.

Defining “Card Evaluation

Organizing my thoughts around card evaluation is tricky because there are simply so many factors to consider. For the purpose of this article, I am creating a detailed guide that covers each step I use when evaluating cards.

Writer’s Note 4/28/22: Please keep in mind that this is a draft and I am working on building out the guide over time.

I plan to review this content against my card evaluation process in real-time to ensure I do not miss any steps. Additionally, as more card types and/or segments become available, I will make publish them to Conviction Gaming and add links here as well.

It might be worth bookmarking this article for your own future reference. My hope is for this to become an evergreen piece of MTG finance content that anyone can use to help improve their card evaluation skills.

Evaluating Magic Cards: a Guide to Success

Table of Contents

  1. Card Type
    • If “Legendary Creature”, see: “I am Legend: EDH Applications” (Coming in May)
    • If “Nonbasic Land”, see: “Real Estate Applications” (Coming in May)
    • If “Artifact” and “Colorless”, see: “Importance of Being Colorless” (Coming in Q3)
    • If “Enchantment”, see: “The Safest Card Type in Commander” (Coming in Q3)
    • If “Non-Legendary Creature”, see: “Combos, Tribal, and Utility: a Guide to Non-Legendary Creatures” (Coming in Q3/Q4)
    • If “Instant or Sorcery”, see: “Spellslinger’s Guide to Relevance” (Coming in Q3/Q4)
  2. Abilities & Keywords (Coming in June)
  3. Color Identity (Coming in June)
  4. Mana Value (Coming in June)
  5. Rarity (Coming in June)
  6. Commander vs. Constructed (Coming in Q3/Q4)

Chris Martin is the co-founder of Conviction Gaming and co-host of the Brewin’ With Conviction podcast. He has been playing MTG since 1998 and is an avid EDH player with a knack for MTG finance.

You can find him on Twitter @ChiStyleGaming.

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