Casual Gains #1: Evaluate

By: Houston Whitehead

One evening, after work, I received a text saying, "They’re here.  Want to come over?" It was from my future roommate letting me know his dad’s Magic cards from California had arrived.  All he told me about was, "They’re f*%&ing old."  That’s more than enough to get me excited to go digging for buried treasure.  After picking through the collection I found a few competitive gems, like both Sword of Light and Shadow and Sword of Fire and Ice, but most of the value settles in multiple playsets of Glimpse the Unthinkable and Doubling Season. Keep in mind this was 2013 so Doubling Season was $30+ and Glimpse the Unthinkable was $25 (lower than it is currently).

glimpse the unthinkableStacks of other "casual" cards were quickly turning this collection from hundreds to thousands in less than a half an hour.  After we finished he said, "I bet you need a lot of this stuff, don’t you." I replied, "To be honest, just the two swords."  After a confused expression was thrown my way I tried to explain the best I could.  "Card value doesn’t always reflect the tournament playability of a card.  Sometimes less competitive formats can have just as much demand."  I talked more about the limited amount of MTG financial knowledge I had and explained the effects of reprints (or lack of), bannings, unbannings, and the varying stability of different formats.  It sounds impressive when I list it like that but I promise it wasn’t.  I still had a lot to learn as well.

tramutize

I didn’t give casual card value anymore thought until I started working at my LGS.  Valuable Commander cards and casual cards many times overlap, but the growth of Commander was starting to apply more pressure on our inventory. I made or filled up all the $1, $2, and $3 binders with these styles of cards and had a hard time keeping a few cards in stock.  I went even deeper by placing cards like Dream Twist in the case for .50 next to Traumatize and Mind Funeral.  This experiment also brought some success.

Themes

quicksilver amuletLast week I thought about what qualifies a casual card.  The closest place to find kitchen table decklists is TappedOut but we don’t have a place to see how those players deckbuild. It’s doubtful they have trends and meta changes cause every kitchen table is different.  Most of the time you play with what you opened in packs and buy a few more to make it a little sweeter.  I wanted to find a way to find those extra cards.  Single sales is probably the best way to determine but I don’t have access to online retailer’s sales statistics. Closest thing I thought of was buylists.  When I was at GP Nashville I saw "Quicksilver Amulet" for $3 on a buylist.  I had a bunch in a box at home but never thought adding them to my backpack for the day would make me money.

Any financier understands the value of a buylist but I doubt that will unlock all the casual desirable since each inventory varies by retailer. So, I attempted to breakdown each theme that qualifies a potential gainer inside the casual market.

*Keep in mind these strategies can overlap but are predominantly satisfy one type of theme*

Committed Themes – Cards that are good at one thing and help achieve a basic/simple goal. These decks are built with cards that revolve around this commitment.

  1. Art credit to Breaktheframe.com
    Art credit to Breaktheframe.com

    Lifegain – Gain life until to you make a 10 min. game into a 5 hour game.

  2. Mill – Forcing your library into your graveyard until you can’t draw a card.
  3. Burn – Cheap spells that deal damage
  4. Douchbaggary – Strategies that deny your opponent the ability to play Magic.
    • Land Destruction – You can figure this one out.
    • All Counters – Counter everything you play without having a game plan to actually win the game.
    • Over Taxing – Effects, permanents, or creatures that make casting spells cost an additional amount of mana or require paying mana to allow your creatures to attack.

Synergistic Themes – Cards that require assistance from other cards to achieve a more complex goal.

  1. Art credit to Skyline.org
    Art credit to Skyline.org

    Tribal – Any card that cares about a creature type. Goblins, merfolk, and elves, Lorwyn Block, slivers, wizards, rebels, etc.  Usually involve "lords" that grant abilities or extra power and toughness while they are on the battlefield.

  2. Combo – Usually three card infinite combos or combos that do creative but not game-winning things. Ex: Soul’s Attendant + Leonin Relic-Warder + Phyrexian Metamorph = Infinite Life
  3. Tokens – Creating a wide token army combined with equipment or enchantments with "lord" effects.
  4. Alternative Win Con – Winning without reducing your opponents life total or milling until they cannot raw cards. Ex: Helix Pinnacle
  5. Counters (the non-blue kind) – Placing a large amount of +1/+1 counters on your creatures or -1/-1 counters on your opponents creatures. Also includes effects to increase the amount of counters or give abilities to creatures with counters on them. Ex: Doubling Season

 Identifying the most popular archetypes was my first step in identifying the casual cards with the most gain potential.  Desired commons and uncommons can hold foil value like the Foil Invasion Heroes’ Reunion ($2.50) or Foil Hedron Crab ($8).  These are prices an everyday player or store might not be aware of. Sadly, gaining value on casual cards takes patience but at least they’re the easiest to pick up.  Adding potential casual cards to your mental list of cards to pick from collections, might surprise your wallet later.  I actually have a thousand count box to place these investments in.  My Non-Standard binder isn’t shy of casuals like Isochron Scepter and Browbeat either.  I practice what I preach.

In Casual Gains #2: Identify, I’ll talk more about specific cards and prices inside each theme.

As always thanks for reading

@TNSGingerAle 


 

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Casual Hits in Magic Origins

By: Cliff Daigle

Magic Origins has some cards that will impact more formats than Constructed. We don’t have the full spoiler yet, (though it might even be released by the time this is posted) but I want to go over some of the cards that you’ll see a lot of in Cubes, Commander, and other kitchen table formats.

elementalbond

Elemental Bond

Let’s start with the doozy. This is a hammer of a card in any green deck, and this has some Standard potential. Imagine this in decks that loop Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor?

Commander has had assorted versions of this card for some time. Garruk’s Companion is the direct comparison, and that’s a card that enables all sorts of shenanigans. Trust me on this: There’s no card that I love seeing more than Garruk’s little buddy in any green deck, and this new enchantment is cheaper and harder to kill.

This will never be terribly expensive, but the foils will have a surprising premium, likely about $5.

Sphinx’s Tutelage

One of the things that makes Psychosis Crawler a surprising card at a dollar is that it takes something you love doing (drawing cards) and turning it into a weapon against other players. Tutelage will take longer than Crawler will, under most circumstances, but people love their mill decks.

I think that this will go a long, long way, in casual games and in finance. It’s a strategy and a win condition that only asks you to draw cards, something blue decks want to do and are very good at.

The foils will also have a higher premium, probably about $3.

Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen

Yet another legendary elf lord and this one is good but not overpowering. It’ll show up in elf Commander decks as a mass booster, but it’s more about value than power with this card. Gaining a bunch of life is good, but attacking with a lot of elves likely means you were going to win anyway.

Still, it’s a legendary elf. That will help its price some but not much, since it is the foil rare in the green intro pack. Don’t expect the card or the foil to break $2.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar

Chandra’s parents make for an interesting card. You get four power and toughness for your four mana, some of it flying and some of it able to be used for Shock value. This is both better and worse than the ability of Bosh, Iron Golem but there’s a lot to do in red artifact decks. I’m looking forward to the eventual cycle of four-color legends, as the one without green enables a great set of artifacts in a Commander deck.

This is another foil inclusion for the Intro packs, unfortunately for their price. I suspect that while there is more demand for this card than for Dwyen, there simply will be too many foils out there to keep the price high. This will max out at $3.

Blessed Spirits

I have a suspicion that this will be a card sought after in foil. The card is negligible in its power level, but the art and the story makes this card inhabit a unique space.

As a father of two, I confess I find this a bit creepy. I suppose I do prefer happy ghosts of children to graphically dead ones, but they are a bit unnerving in looking that way.

Much like Gift of Orzhova, I think this will have a surprisingly high premium on the foils. I’d expect it to be around $4, but not less than $2. There won’t be much long-term potential for growth, nor will there be huge demand.

  

Kothoped, Soul Hoarder, Alhammarret and the Hixus, Prison Warden

These are the other intro pack foils and they will be lucky to get to $2. None of them is particularly overpowering in casual formats in terms of what they do. They are unique, yes, but the casting costs and ubiquity will prevent them from being financially relevant.

Languish

This has potential. Black isn’t lacking for sweepers but it’s nice to be spoiled for choice. A lot of Cubes will seize on this as an alternative to Damnation, at least until it comes down in price.

Managorger Hydra

In case you haven’t ever played against it, Taurean Mauler is definitely a card but it is infinitely chump-blocked.

I love it when people say “it dies to removal” as a rebuttal for big creatures. If your deck is full of threats that must be answered, then eventually, there are no more answers.

Managorger Hydra will never have a big price but it will show up in all sorts of casual formats.

Tainted Remedy

False Cure is a supremely awesome “Gotcha!” card. Tainted Remedy loses the surprise factor but lifelink isn’t optional. I don’t think this will make it into Cubes but there are a lot of Commander groups that will play this in the 99.

I confess I’d be more likely to play something like Erebos, God of the Dead for the multi-function utility, but if you know people that like to go off with Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood, this might be the enchantment you need.

Flameshadow Conjuring

This is an incredible card for Commander. We have had versions of this effect before (Minion Reflector) but Commander is where we love to jam value creature cards. There are blessed few creatures worth playing that don’t enter the battlefield with a good effect.

I’ve written before about my almost-all-creature deck, and this card is fighting for a place in that deck. It’s cheap but only for decks with red, which limits it somewhat.

I would expect this to be slightly above bulk rare in price, but the foil will be around $4-$5 because of people like me.


 

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PROTRADER: Driving Piles, Driving Philosophies, Driving Prices

Life is funny sometimes. You can go weeks at a time feeling like (relatively) nothing is happening, and then suddenly a torrent of activity upends your malaise. The consensus regarding Magic Origins during the front half of spoiler season was that the set was largely unexciting, and many people (Jason E. Alt) were perfectly happy to settle for some strong, if uninspiring, reprints (Birds of Paradise).

Then Goblin Piledriver happened, and the whole world changed.

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expensive cards

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PROTRADER: Magic Origins: First Impressions and Expected Impact

Up until last week, I had mostly ignored the Magic Origins spoilers as they came in. Sure, a few of them looked cool, but as usual, I was waiting for the full spoiler to come out, because that’s when we can usually start to make some judgments about the set.

Then, this happened.

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