Star City Games is the world's largest Magic: The Gathering store located in Roanoke, Virginia. The company holds competitive tournaments across the east coast of the United States. I attended one of the SCG Open weekends held in Richmond, Virginia from February 1-2, 2020. The event took place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, a large venue in downtown Richmond. Inside the exhibition hall, there were about 400 players participating in the main event. This tournament featured cash prizes totaling over $20,000 for top performing teams. In addition to the main event, SCG offers side events throughout the weekend including competitive Classic tournaments on Sunday.
I arrived at the exhibition hall around 9 a.m. and met up with Sean, a friend of mine from northern Virginia. Players were scurrying around the hall to purchase last minute cards for their decks. The main event began at 10 a.m. and players had to record decklists beforehand. Once the main event started, the hall felt somewhat empty as hundreds of players were sitting at tables. The side event space was desolate outside of a handful of people participating in morning Challenges. In total there were around 50 players participating in the first set of side events. However, I heard on-demand drafts did not start until about noon.
The Challenge events consist of four rounds with prize payout based on your overall record. These side events cost $20.00 per player. Various formats are offered as Challenges such as Modern, Pioneer, and Two-Headed Giant. If you play all four rounds of a Challenge, then you can likely participate in two per day. Prizes are awarded in the form of tickets. These tickets can be redeemed for gaming supplies, sealed product, store credit, and other items.
My friend and I entered the Modern and Pioneer Challenge events respectively. I was able to achieve an overall record of two wins, one loss, and one draw. My deck of choice was Blue/White Spirits. I lost in a close match to Ensoul Artifacts and drew against Blue/Red Phoenix. Sean played Bogles in Modern and finished with a record of two wins and two losses. He was soundly defeated one round by the turn two kill of Colossus Hammer, Kor Duelist, and Sigarda's Aid. There was a wide variety of casual and competitive decks played in the two Challenge events. Many players that participated in the morning Challenge events had bought the Infinite Challenge package. This package includes entry into any four constructed Challenge events and a promotional playmat for $80.00. Another package was available for Sealed format events at $125.00. Essentially, you got a free playmat for pre-paying four Challenge events. The upside is if you do not perform well in one event, you can drop and enter another Challenge. However, you will likely need to join a different MTG format when dropping early.
The plan for the afternoon was to participate in the Two-Headed Giant Challenge at 3 p.m. We received eight packs of Theros Beyond Death for the event. Unfortunately, our card pool consisted of terrible commons, two rare scry lands, and lackluster late-game threats. We built two mediocre decks and hoped for the best. Our first match did not goal well. On the second turn of the game, our opponents flickered a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. This spell caused each of us to discard two cards. We ultimately lost to a resolved Dream Trawler with its controller holding multiple cards. When the second-round pairings were posted, we randomly earned a bye. This gave us the chance to earn prizes if we could win one of our last two matches. We lost our third-round match against a father and son team. We tried playing our stronger cards, but we could not keep up with the evasion and removal from our opponents. In the final round, we were paired against a team with the same overall record. The game played out as a stalemate until we put out a few flying threats. Our opponents were able to draw answers before we could end the game. They also deployed multiple gods that we were unable to remove. The match went to turns and as we were unable to secure a victory with the current board state. One of the opposing teammates hinted twice to their partner that the match was headed to a draw. I believe this person was trying to suggest that they could concede to us since we had the advantage. Sean and I understood that neither team would win any prize tickets if a draw occurred. In the end, the game resulted in a draw. Even though the outcome was disappointing, we decided to try again the next morning.
Sean and I arrived early at the venue for the 9:30 a.m. Two-Headed Giant Challenge. We were worried that some of the Challenge events would not have enough participants. Thankfully, the event started on time with 10 teams. Our pool of cards was considerably stronger than what we opened Saturday. We also had strong mythic cards including Ashiok, Nightmare Muse and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger. One of our decks was Black/Red Aggro with removal. The second deck was Blue/White Auras splashing Ashiok. Our basic strategy was to attach auras to creatures in the Black/Red deck and protect them. For the first-round, we were paired against opponents with similar decks. The game was going well for us until our opponents played a few powerful removal spells. Sean and I were able to recover enough to hit time in the round. We managed to salvage a draw at two life when the match ended. In the second-round, we were able to close out our first win. We did the same combo with Kroxa and a flickering spell that was used against us on Saturday. For the third round, we were paired against a couple playing Green/Red Aggro and Black/White Midrange. Our opponents stumbled early in the match but were able to come back after drawing removal and threats. We had them low on life with a board stall when time was called. During the final turns of the game, the Black/White player made a risky play by attacking us with all their flying creatures. Sean saw a line to victory during the opponent's attack and guided us to setup a potential win. I had to draw Kroxa to ensure victory for everything to work. Miraculously, I drew Kroxa and was able to produce enough lethal damage for the win. Sean received full credit for the narrow victory. Our final round opponents had three wins and zero losses. One of their decks was Mono Black Control featuring four Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The game was going surprisingly well for us until our opponent drew multiple Gray Merchants. We were swiftly defeated by arguably the best card in the format. After the match, we collected prize tickets for our overall record and proceeded to the prize wall.
Star City Games Prize Ticket Redemption
All of the side events, including the Sunday Classics, reward prize tickets based on overall record. The side event prize payout is listed for each Star City Games Open. After paying $60 for three challenge events, I had earned 290 tickets. Players have a few different redemption options at SCG Open events. You can exchange 10 tickets for $1 in SCG store credit. This is likely the worst exchange value, but it allows players to pickup individual MTG cards. Another common option is exchanging 20 tickets for a Standard set booster pack. Essentially, this doubles the value of the tickets compared to store credit. SCG offers a variety of foreign language and Masters set booster packs for more than 20 tickets each. Other sealed product is available at similar rates to booster packs. I saw Brawl decks between 200 and 240 tickets, Standard set Bundles at 400 tickets, and Standard booster boxes for 720 tickets. A third option for ticket redemption is gaming supplies. You can get various Ultimate Guard products such as deck boxes and playmat holders. I personally like Ultimate Guard products and would have exchanged tickets for an Ultimate Guard Flip in Tray if I did not already own one. There are a few other items available in the prize area such as tokens, dice, pins, and SCG playmats. However, none of these items are essential gaming supplies or contribute to a MTG card collection. I decided to redeem my tickets for 14 booster packs and an SCG deck box. The $29 in store credit was appealing, but I wanted the opportunity to open more value and playable Standard cards. In the end, I opened around $25 in value from the booster packs.
Sean and I had a great time playing in side events at SCG Richmond. We enjoyed the laid-back competitive environment, meeting players from other places, and celebrating our success by opening booster packs. Most importantly, we had fun playing Two-headed Giant together and catching up on life occurrences.
In the Magic: The Gathering card game, trading cards originate from sealed product such as booster boxes and preconstructed decks for Commander. Once trading cards are obtained from various sealed product, they can be traded and sold among players (and businesses). A secondary market exists in the Magic: The Gathering card game where players buy and sell individual trading cards. The value for an individual card is determined by demand, supply, rarity, tournament results, and other factors. The market prices for single cards can fluctuate daily. Online vendors and selling platforms such as TCGPlayer, Card Kingdom, Star City Games, and Ebay can have a predominate impact on a card's supply availability. In addition, a number of popular MTG related websites use pricing from TCGPlayer to determine a card's market value. A potential result of this relationship is when the market price rises for a single card on TCGPlayer, the price may also increase on other websites. Vendors may react to a price increase across multiple websites by raising their selling prices as well. The interconnectivity of MTG card prices, along with supply availability, enables the possibility of large price swings.
What is a Buyout?
A buyout is when all available (on the Internet) copies of an individual card are bought by one or multiple individuals in a short period of time. Typically, this action is taken to increase the price of a particular card by limiting the supply availability. There are multiple reasons and scenarios a buyout could occur. One example of a potential buyout is when a speculator notices the price of an individual card is undervalued relative to its demand. The speculator could buyout all copies of a specific card and then re-sell them after the price increases.
Example of a Previous Buyout: Hexdrinker
The Modern Horizons MTG set was released on June 14th, 2019. This set contains a mythic card named Hexdrinker. Upon release of MH, Hexdrinker's price was around $10.00 in paper form. According to MTGGoldfish, Hexdrinker increased in price to $25.00 on July 11th, 2019. The result of this rapid price movement was due to individuals buying all available copies of the card. The Hexdrinker price graph on MTGGoldfish shows when the buyout occurred. One week later, the price of Hexdrinker dropped to around $21.00. By August 2019, the price had fallen further to $16.00. The constant decline in price following the buyout was likely due to the lack of demand for Hexdrinker at a higher price point. However, Hexdrinker did not return to its pre-buyout price until October 2019. There was a period where individuals who purchased or obtain copies prior to the buyout could sell them for a profit.
Analyzing a Recent Buyout Attempt: Zo-Zu, The Punisher
Zo-Zu, The Punisher is a MTG card that saw its first printing in the Champions of Kamigawa set. A reprint of the card is included in the Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might product from Spring 2017. While not a popular card, Zo-Zu sees fringe play in Commander and various constructed formats. On December 22nd, 2019, I noticed supply levels were low for Zo-Zu across both printings. The TCGPlayer market price was $3.27 for the Duel Decks version with 14 copies available. The lowest price for a near mint copy on TCGPlayer was $3.46 plus shipping. The pricing graph on MTGGoldfish showed that the Duel Decks version had started to increase in price after the release of Throne of Eldraine. In addition, the card had a negative spread on buylists. When a card on MTGGoldfish has a negative spread, it is usually a good indicator for an arbitrage opportunity. I suspected this card was targeted for a buyout due to the low supply availability and erratic price movement. While checking for other Duel Decks copies on the Internet, I found 18 for sale on Amazon at $1.35 each ($1.40 after shipping). I immediately purchased all available copies and received 17 out of 18.
The day after I purchased multiple Duel Decks copies of Zo-Zu on Amazon.com, the price on MTGGoldfish rose $0.07 to $3.28. I tried to sell some of my copies on Ebay as a set of four. The price I listed was $11.49 including free shipping. I was unable to sell them as a set, even after lowering my listed price to $11.00. Ultimately, I buylisted the copies for cash at $1.75 each. My net profit from the transaction was $5.95 for a 25% gain. The price for Zo-Zu on MTGGoldfish had risen to $4.00 by the time I sold out. While my purchase of the card may have driven the price higher, it is doubtful I was the only person buying copies. The supply availability still remained low at the end of January 2020.
I believe one of the reasons why I was unable to sell sets of Zo-Zu on Ebay is because players predominately use one copy in decks. Buylisting the 17 copies was likely my best exit strategy from the beginning. I could have sold individual copies for around $2.75, but shipping and selling fees made this decision less appealing.
When individual cards are bought out, there is not always enough demand to maintain an elevated price. When this happens, the price will continue falling over a period of time until it stabilizes. In addition, players may list their personal copies for sale to take advantage of the increased market price. These additional copies add new supply to the market. As an example, I sold a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy from Magic Origins for $36.00 after the Pioneer format was announced in October, 2019. Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy is currently priced at $28.49 on MTGGoldfish as of January 30th, 2020. The window of opportunity between a price spike and a subsequent decline can vary by the individual card buyout. There is risk in missing the window of opportunity to rake in a profit. In closing, here are a few examples of individual card buyouts and their price curves over time from MTGGoldfish.
*The information in this article is of my own knowledge and opinion. It is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.*
Angeline's is an Italian-inspired restaurant located in Charlotte's Uptown. The restaurant is also connected to the Kimpton Hotel. You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner served daily. Brunch is offered on Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are available via Open Table.
Ashley and I went to Angeline's for a New Year's Eve dinner. We dined with another couple in Uptown to celebrate the holiday. This marked our second visit to the restaurant in about a year. Angeline's offered a special multi-course dinner for $75 a person. The special menu offered many options for the appetizer, pasta, entree, and dessert courses. A wine paring with each course was available for $35 a person. The normal dinner menu was also available. Our friends opted for the multi-course dinner while Ashley and I selected items from the regular menu.
The food at Angeline's is one of the main reasons we went to visit again. We ordered the Charred Octopus for the table as an appetizer. It was a sizable and delicious portion to share. Our next course of food included multiple pasta dishes. Our friends had the stuffed ravioli on the special menu. Ashley ordered the Spaghetti Chitarra, while I ordered the Vongole. I had asked for the Vongole to be prepared without butter. I was appreciative that Angeline's was able to accommodate this request. All three pasta dishes were outstanding. I would recommend any option for a future visit.
For the entree course, Ashley and I shared the Ribeye. It is a 21 day dry-aged cut. Angeline's was able to cook the steak without butter per my request. The steak came out perfectly at a medium-rare temperature. The Confit Red Bliss potatoes served with it were delectable as well.
We decided to share two bottles of wine in lieu of the wine pairing. The restaurant's sommelier assisted us with selecting our first bottle of Nebbiolo. The wine was a nice balance of dryness and fruity aromas. He did a good job listening to each person's interests and recommended something that pleased the table. Our second bottle was one of Angeline's more affordable Barolo bottles. This wine choice was a better pairing with our steak entree. Both of our wine bottles were very good. While I believe Angeline's bottle prices are higher than average for a restaurant, I was not disappointed with what was ordered.
Our waiter did a fabulous job answering questions and catering requests. The food was brought out in the correct course order. Everything we ate and drank exceeded expectations. The only downside to our evening was how long it took for the food to come out. We were seated at 9 p.m. and did not leave the restaurant until 12:10 a.m. A multi-course meal does take time to enjoy, but I did not expect a three-hour dinner.
Angeline's food, wine, and service impressed me for a second time. My wife and I enjoy the upscale atmosphere, service, and Italian-inspired cuisine. I would recommend Angeline's fine dining experience for any special occasion or gathering with friends.