Mana-Charged Dragon - small

Commander 2014 Previews

By: Cliff Daigle

It’s here! It’s here! I’m terribly excited to say that a week from today, Commander 2014 is for sale.

These decks are going to retail for $35, and will likely sell out in the initial wave. These decks are mono-colored, and that makes three sets now in which Wizards hasn’t given us the four-color legends that Commander diehards have been waiting for.

Mono-color is a wrinkle, but there’s some bigger issues to talk about.

First of all, the Planeswalkers. Each deck has a Planeswalker commander. These cards explicitly say “This can be your Commander.” How long until that text is present on other cards? It’s design space that has been toyed with before casually. I’ve seen games played this way, and depending on the ‘walker used, it can be a big deal or not a big deal. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is not a big deal since it’s an 8-drop, Jace Beleren was pretty damn annoying over and over. I’ve also seen a Genju of the Realm deck, and that was actually pretty cool.

Lieutenant is a mechanic that I love love love love. I have decks that focus on the commander, and decks that sort of care, and decks which don’t need it at all.

Before I talk about specific cards, I want to reiterate some points about C14’s financial outlook:

  1. The upper limit is about $40, barring something truly amazing. True-Name Nemesis is the outlier, and even its price has gotten to a reasonable level. There might be some cards that are crazy-hot immediately, and you should sell into that immediate hype.
  2. The prices of all the C14 cards will drop over time. Wizards has no interest in having these boxes be hoarded and saved and chased. These are wide-release, casual-targeted printings and Wizards showed us last year that they will print more and more to meet need.
  3. These five decks are being released during the time that holiday gifts are given. This is also taking place right before Fate Reforged. How many dollars can you spare for Magic?
  4. I do not think that keeping sealed product is going to be a winning play. The 2011 Commander products had a much smaller print run and a smaller player base. It’s true that Heavenly Inferno sealed goes for four to five times its retail price, but the cards inside it are worth about half that…if you can find someone to give you full retail for Mana-Charged Dragon and its kin. If you’re looking for long-term (and in this case, several years!) investments, pick less-bulky singles over sealed boxes.
  5. Here’s a dirty little secret: For a lot of people, buying the decks will not make sense. If you’re into building and rebuilding decks, then go ahead and buy the decks. But just as I did last year, I’m going to be selectively getting singles, either through purchase or trade. Keep in mind that only fifteen cards per deck are going to be new–everything else has been printed before.
  6. Speaking of reprints: Expect that there will be some sort of foil promo of some of these cards within a year or two. Commander’s Arsenal was a one-time thing, they say, but FTV: Legends 2 is probably not far off, plus judge foils, plus special promos (Force of Will, judge lands, PTQ Liliana), etc. When those foils land, it will depress the price of the nonfoils.

With all these things in mind, let’s look at some of the spoiled cards. I’m going to make some predictions. Remember, nearly everything is going to go down in price, except for one or two that tick upward.

freyalisellanowarsfury

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury – I love everything about this card. I love that it makes mana dorks. I love repeated Naturalize. I love an ultimate that just grants gas, especially now that you’ve made some green creatures that tap for mana! I also appreciate the subtlety of her starting at an odd loyalty and all of her abilities being even. She will always have a leftover point, or you can’t do her thing.

Initial: $20
February 1st: $15

 

obnixilisoftheblackoath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath – Well, I thought this would be Leshrac, but here we are. The plus ability is great for reminding people that you need to die, and the minus helps you return such favors. The ultimate is interesting, but the card draw is far more relevant than the gained life. Remember that you’re unlikely to sacrifice the biggest creatures, you’re just attacking with them!

This is another odd-starting, abilities-are-all-even loyalty planeswalker.

Initial: $15
February 1st: $12

 

teferitemporalarchmage

 

Teferi, Temporal Adept – The first card spoiled, people have had a long time to think about him in their decks. I doubt he’ll actually see much Legacy play, but most people with a ‘superfriends’ deck will want this. The issue for me is that with Teferi being the early spoiled card, it made us think we were getting lots of iconic characters from the past…and then we didn’t.

Initial: $10
February 1st: $10

 

darettiscrapsavant

Daretti, Scrap Savant – We get a goblin planeswalker, perfect for red’s subtheme of “I love to build and I love to break!” Sure, it’s Goblin Welder for free, but it’s really unexciting as a card. Nothing on this card gets you ahead, it’s all even exchanges.

Initial: $9
February 1st: $5

 

nahirithelithomancer

Nahiri, the Lithomancer – For me, this is the biggest miss of the set. This should be Serra. This should be an angel-oriented planeswalker like Nissa Revane is for the elves. I’m hoping they were just saving her for the next time they do this…in a few years. Alas. I honestly see Nahiri as an excellent tool in a Kemba, Kha Regent deck. As a commander, getting just one token a turn is kind of sad. An ultimate this this is awesome for the unique flavor, but I’m too hung up on what could have been.

Initial: $15
February 1st: $10

 

jazalgoldmane1

Jazal Goldmane – 4/4 first striker for 2WW is some outstanding base stats. The ‘attack with a bunch of creatures and pump them all up’ is awesome too, but it’s very much a ‘win more’ card.

Initial: $8
February 1st: $4

Gravesifter – While it’s fun to get a lot of creatures back, in most games, this isn’t going to do as much as you want.

Initial: $3
February 1st: $1

 

dualcastermage

Dualcaster Mage – So far, this is my pick to be the riser, the Legacy breakout card. Key to this card is that it answers counterspells, as well as copying anything worth copying and leaving behind a 2/2 body. I can see this getting play in Delver decks as well as burn decks. Can you imagine this in Delver decks running Treasure Cruise? 1RRU: Draw six cards. Put a 2/2 into play. Another fun interaction is how you can copy their spell, let the copy resolve, and then counter the original. There’s a lot to do here, and I think the price will reflect it.

Inital: $20
February 1: $30

Myriad Landscape – A neat mana accelerator, built into your lands. Certainly an upgrade over Terminal Moraine.

Initial: $2
February 1: $1

 

reefworm

Reef Worm – I don’t know how many of you played with Mitotic Slime way back in Magic 2011. It was fun to be so resistant to sweepers, and especially so with something like Parallel Lives or Doubling Season. This is just a fun design, and one that players will want.

Initial: $7
February 1: $5

 

angelicfieldmarshal

Angelic Field Marshal – Love it lots, as a 5/5 vigilance flying when your commander is out. It’s a fun addition but it’s not going to break the format.

Initial: $5
February 1: $3

 

feldonofthethirdpath

Feldon of the Third PathThe Brothers’ War is one of the best magic novels. You might also enjoy The Thran. It is a true delight to old people like me to see Feldon get his own card, and it is a very strong card. Reread the card–the creature you targeted does not get exiled. All that happens is that you can re-target it again. You can do this as an instant. Add some method of untapping if you want real shenanigans (Add Prophet of Kruphix in a Temur shell, perhaps) or whatever crazy combo you want. This is going to have some long-term growth potential.

Initial: $10
February 1: $7

 

stitchergeralf2

Stitcher Geralf – Speaking of shenanigans, I love what this offers. Specifically, you can mill out Eldrazi or Blightsteel Colossus with this. Their abilities are triggered when they hit the graveyard, but Geralf’s ability has to finish before those triggers go on the stack. You will indeed be exiling their mega-threat and putting one into play of your own. Sneaky-good.

Initial: $8
February 1: $4

 

ghoulcallergisa

Ghoulcaller Gisa – I’m trying to decide if she’s good enough to go into my tribal Zombie deck. She’s flavorful, and powerful, and the ‘dark bride’ art is fantastic. I’ll likely add her to most Black decks.

Initial: $10
February 1: $8

More previews and more cards are being revealed daily. I’m going to stop here, and next week I’ll have some thoughts on the rest. See you then!


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Legacy Hero #1

My name is Jason Swistoski. I’m not a professional magic financer and I am in no way a professional Magic player. I’m just a regular guy that’s been playing Magic since 1994 and loves value. When I sit down at my LGS, the locals always want to paw through my binders. Why? The usual response is “I just want to see all of these cool, expensive cards.” When I tell them that I will be happy to trade them whatever they want I get a look of horror.

“I can’t afford those cards,” or, “I can’t get into Legacy. It’s WAY too expensive.”

How many times have you heard that phrase at your local game store? If your store is anything like mine, the answer is a lot! This got me thinking… why can’t the normal player let their cards and time work for them? Let the cards get them what they want.

I remember my first dual land (Unlimited Taiga) and my first Mox (Beta Mox Jet). Back then, they didn’t mean as much as they do now. You used to trade those cards for Shivan Dragons. Now, I see the look on the kids faces when one of the youngins at my local game store opens the small binder of mine and see the duals, goyfs, bobs… It’s something to be proud of. But that moment when they realize that I will trade anything in my binder for anything they have as long as everything matches up value-wise. Knowing that I get to make some value in the trade AND they get to get a crazy card they’ve only dreamed about… Whatever it might be that gleams in their starry eyes. That’s something special to me. It shows them and anyone else they play with that you can, in fact, get those cards.

I try to explain to anyone that asks about legacy that they can play it if they want. All anyone has to do is try. I point out how much they are spending on their standard or modern decks. I try to point out decks they can build using cards they already have in their binder. It doesn’t usually click. I get the same old response. “Legacy is too expensive.” This response was starting to frustrate me.

I remember being in their shoes. I remember having to sell my collection after a particularly nasty divorce. The person I sold my collection to told me point blank, “Are you sure you want to do this? You know you will be back. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.” Of course I told him that I was done but I still kept my EDH deck and a handful of cards to build that new EDH deck I’ve been working on. Now, looking back, well… he was right. To put a little perspective on this, he was the person who got me interested in the finance side of Magic. The first time we met, I dropped from an IQ to hangout with him while he went through my cards I brought with me that day. I had to have that altered Library of Alexandria! After that I dumped a ton of my stuff on him for dual lands, a German Foil Zur, Imperial Seal, etc, etc, etc. He was always there to take whatever I had for him. I never had any trouble finding stuff I wanted. He never had trouble finding stuff he wanted. It was perfect. It moved into taking orders from my locals for stuff I didn’t have instock and calling him to get it sent over for the next FNM. I would always ask him questions about the finance side of things. I would take his advice and snag those cards we talked and then trade them out when they went up in price as expected. I would try and buy collections. I would use his buylist in my local area to try and grind out some profits. When his podcast started, I would listen religiously, looking for the next tip. He always made sure to tell me that my ideas about a given card were right, because I wouldn’t dare suggest something to him without doing my research first. He was the expert. He was the professional. He was an idol and a mentor. One of the things that stuck out to me was his reputation in the community, and how many foil Thorn Elementals he had in his binder.

When I got back into the game, as we all knew I would, I thought about all of those conversations we had and I thought about all of the conversations I would have in my local shop. Those conversations led me to this project.

“How can I teach people that they can play legacy.”

I want to show everyone that they can afford the cards; however, it will take time and effort to get to the end result. Jonathan Medina, a legend in the finance community, had FNM Hero, “The journey of a new player.” Legacy Hero takes it to the next step. I’m chronicling the journey of an established FNM Hero getting into Legacy and becoming a Legacy Hero.

In the beginning we need to assume that the player is at least of novice level. In the interest of fairness, we are going to assume that I have been grinding FNM like a champ, have a Tier 1 Standard deck, a reasonable trade binder, and a little store credit.

What tools do I have to use? How am I going to make this a reality? I plan on taking advantage of buying and selling on Ebay, TCGplayer, buylisting, value trading, mtgprice.com’s ProTrader (arbitrige), specing, and of course the profits of winning local tournaments. For example, If I had bought/traded for 20 Jeskai Ascendancy at release (.99) and buylisted them to Channel Fireball at $4 each on the Monday following the Pro Tour, that’ would have been a quick $60 in cash (less expenses) or $104 in store credit. Now what if I took that credit and bought a few things that I expected to increase in value? Then that is a quick and easy example of success.

Over the course of this series I will document the trades, specs, and everything else I do to become the Legacy Hero. This project is community driven. I will ask for a lot of feedback and look to you guys for the major decisions. Everything I will talk about here is something that anyone can do. The goal is to show, in detail, that mtgfinance isn’t something to be afraid of and it is something anyone can do if they put their mind to it. I will include pictures of transactions and a monthly state of affairs assessing the value of the Legacy Hero’s portfolio and a recap of how close we are to the goal.

Let’s recap what tools our Legacy Hero will start with:

  • 1 Tier one standard deck (Jeski Tempo)
  • Trade binder equaling $300-$400 in value
  • “Store credit” in the amount of $50

Let’s get started! What Legacy deck am I going to build? Click on the strawpoll and cast your vote for your favorite deck!

http://strawpoll.me/2888931

Next week we will go over the results and go over the plan of attack.

I want to give a shout out to the Godfather, Jonathan Medina here. He said his ego was dying so I need to offer some more CPR. I miss you man. We all miss you.

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454_clone2

My Financial Evil Twin

By: Travis Allen

There are many ways Magic decks appeal to players. The archetypal GR list that is a pile of nasty monsters, each capable of winning a game when left unchecked, appeals to players who just want to beat the snot out of their opponent with heavy-hitters. Slow UW decks that seek to slowly gain complete control of the game with counterspells, removal, and card advantage appeal to those who want to leverage their play skill over their opponent in a long, drawn out process. Combo decks tickle the fancy of players that want to do cool things very quickly, ending with a critical turn in which the actually or virtually win the game on the spot. Burn decks appeal to sociopaths.

Everyone is drawn more strongly to one type of deck, and some are drawn more strongly than others. A severe spike may find one archetype more interesting than another, but will never play anything other than the deck that gives him or her the best chance of winning. Other players will stick to discard decks exclusively, despite the fact that they’re bad in every format, because they derive perverse pleasure from seeing their opponent empty-handed. Regardless, while everyone has their preferred method of winning, there still exists sexy decks that at the very least will momentarily capture the attention of nearly any player.

Sexy decks are ones that can claim to do something wild and unique. What does sexy in the world of Magic look like? It’s drawing your entire deck in a single turn. It’s a screenshot of your opponent at -20,000 life. It’s killing them on turn zero. It’s hitting the token limit on MTGO. (Which is only 200, by the way. That is a heinously low token limit, and further evidence of how garbage the software really is. What if your opponent is playing some stupid Rhox Faithmender deck and gets to 370 life before you go off and make infinite 1/1 hasty tokens on the last turn of time? “Sorry, even though you win in paper Magic, you lose online.” I’d be pissed.) Sexy is not things like casting Mana Leak or activating Deathrite Shaman to dome someone for two life at the end of their turn.

We’re all momentarily enthralled by sexy decks and sexy plays. It’s human nature. Even if we know that it isn’t good or reliable, it’s still fun to see the extremes of the game. It’s a great reminder of how flexible the world of Magic really is, which is a welcome reminder when staring down the seventh Siege Rhino of the day in round two.

Sexy decks are usually defined by sexy cards. One or two hot cards pull the whole package together and make it look desirable. Birthing Pod is a sexy card. Goryo’s Vengeance is a sexy card. Villainous Wealth is a smoldering, tight black dress in an upscale hotel bar, my-girlfriend-would-be-upset-if-she-knew-what-I’m-thinking-about sexy card. Sexy cards are perfect for letting us entertain our darkest, filthiest, magical christmasy-land fantasies. As such, they’re also prone to exciting our wallets as well.

Work horse cards can be expensive, but it usually takes time to get there. They’re boring and dependable. People buy them because they have to, not because they’re excited to. Sylvan Caryatid, a AAA Standard staple, has taken nearly two months to go from $6.50 to $16.50. Caryatid is powerful and format-defining, but it’s not exactly sexy. Sexy is Glittering wish, which went from $2.50 to $20 in twenty-four hours.

Everyone can appreciate a sexy deck, and sexy decks contain sexy cards. Sexy cards see drastic movements in price.

You go to Pat Chapin for Grixis decks. You go to Craig Wescoe for white weenie decks. Who do you go to for sexy decks? Travis Woo.

It must be the name, because he and I share a love for brews that do very sexy things. I’m playing Jeskai Ascendancy in Modern right now, and I’ve cast more Goryo’s Vengeances in my lifetime than most men. I was trying to get Tooth and Nail to work as soon as Modern was announced, and even when I play real decks like Scapeshift I shoehorn a Gifts Ungiven/Elesh Norn package into them. We both like sexy decks. We both like claiming crazy things. We both like playing on the edge of the format.

Travis Woo enjoys his creations and he wants you to enjoy them as well. When I consider his proselytizing I am reminding of Mike Flores. They both share unbridled enthusiasm for their creations, convinced that they will turn the world of Magic on its ear. Each new deck they unveil is, in their eyes, a game-changer that will Make Them Take Notice, and Set the Format On Fire. Their unadulterated exaltation of their creations is a key component of their public identity. Neither of them writes about a deck and says “This seems decent in testing and I’m looking for ways to make it better.” They say things like “cash in your 401k to buy Primal Commands because this deck is unreal.”

The excitement Woo exudes when discussing and showing off his creations, along with the fact that they often utilize cards that have been sitting in dusty boxes for years, has a tendency to generate powerful hype when a new model rolls into the showroom floor. Stream a few games of sacrificing Summoner’s Egg at the end of T3 and then killing your opponent with the Emrakul that was underneath and people get into a tizzy. Cries about Woo breaking it circulate amongst the echo chamber, and before you know it there are no copies of the eponymous card left on TCGP. This has become known as the Woo Effect.

Without fail, these brews end up being far too unstable to reliably perform in large events. A few diehards will actually sleeve them up and take them to local Modern events where they’ll realize that UR Delver is just too real a deck and too miserable to play against for the concoction to succeed. The deck is desleeved, the marquee cards put into the trade binder, and the player returns to Channel TWoo eagerly awaiting the next revolution.

Do you know what isn’t sexy? Slowing your combo down to play around removal. Boarding out the turn-one kill and instead beating down with a few 2/1s. Getting disrupted by a turn one Thoughtseize and spending the rest of the game durdling around while your opponent does you in with a Tarmogoyf. Consistency isn’t sexy. Losing to sideboard cards isn’t sexy. Low prices aren’t sexy.

Waves of Aggression is the most recent recipient of the TWoo fervor machine, and the impetus for me to write this article. It was $.50 to a dollar on CFB for the longest time, yet now I can barely find a copy under $6.

waves

This is hardly the first time this is happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Let’s look back at the last few times a card has seen such a drastic rise in response to inclusion in a TWoo article.

The next most recent occurrence that I can recall was Summoner’s Egg. In typical TWoo fashion, this image was included in the article in which he writes about Summoner’s Egg.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-13-at-4.46.21-PM-e1389660462602

This stands in contrast to the price graph.

egg

Like Waves of Aggression, it hovered in the $.50 to $1 range before he wrote about it. The spike here was slightly less, only hitting roughly $4, but the fall more severe: back to $1.50 CFB; up a whopping $.50 from where it started.

Following Egg is a pair of green cards that seemingly held great potential. I seem to recall TWoo advising you take out loans to buy into Primal Command.

primal

genesis

Primal Command faired a bit better. I was on the train on this one as I’m a sucker for a good green card. I remember picking them up between $2.75 and $3.25. The best buylist is as high now as it’s ever been at $5. It’s worth noting that while the spike on Primal Command first occurred in January, it wasn’t until May that the buylist actually got to $5. I spent weeks watching Command, hoping it would rise enough in price that it would be worth cashing out. It took months before there was actual realized profit to be had. I guess at this point, eight months later, I’ve made a profit of $2 a copy. Hooray?

Genesis Wave saw roughly comparable success. Copies were $2 on CFB right up until January 1st, when they jumped all the way to $7. The buylist didn’t follow immediately though. It ended up hitting $4 a copy, but not until February, and it only lasted two or three weeks. It dropped to $3 shortly after, and remains there today. I can recall shipping a few sets for $20 on eBay, but I think all said and done I made maybe $10 a playset. You’re certainly pleased with that, although the window of opportunity to do so was short; maybe a two or three days at most. There was no way you could have moved more than a handful of sets in that time period.

Finally we come to what would have been the most lucrative of TWoo’s recommendations: Disrupting Shoal.

shoal

Disrupting Shoal was $2 before Ninja Bear Delver Whatever, and managed a respectable $12 afterwards. A 500% increase is for sure a healthy profit margin. The buylist didn’t do a great job of keeping up, spending only days north of $5, but the private market would have been good to you. The heydey didn’t last forever, but NM copies are about $5-$6 on TCG right now which is still more than the $2 you would have paid for them.

Living End is perhaps the card most connected with Woo, although I don’t think he can claim responsibility for its price today. According to his CFB bio he T8’d with it in 2010, but the price spike isn’t until mid-2013, shortly after Modern Masters was released. While he certainly put the card on the map, buying in when he “broke” it would have meant a three year wait on getting paid.

What’s the takeaway from all of this? First I want to remind you of the costs of flipping cards.The short version of the story is that a card has to see a substantial rise in price in order for you to make any profit whatsoever, and even then it can be difficult to make more than minimum wage.

Next I want to point out that really, with the exception of Disrupting Shoal, you really wouldn’t have made much money buying cards Woo recommends. If you bought the night the article was published, before any movement had occurred whatsoever, you stood a chance to make a profit. It would have required not only being the first in line at TCGP, but also not having your order cancelled, receiving the cards before the hype died down, and actually getting them sold somewhere. If you were a day late to buy your copies or dragged your feet listing them after they arrived, any margin of profit would have been entirely erased.

Keep in mind too that the buylists almost never move quickly with these sorts of spikes. Vendors know that these are flashes in the pan, and therefore demand will die off rapidly. They aren’t in a rush to buy your Waves of Aggression if they expect that nobody is going to want to buy the card a week later. This means that in order to out your copies you’ll need to go to somewhere like eBay or TCG. While you often sell the cards for more money in those venues, there are also greater transaction costs, greater risk, and they require a larger time investment.

I also notice that the two cards that sustained the largest percentage increases, Disrupting Shoal and Living End, are both free spells. Perhaps the lesson here isn’t to watch what Woo is playing, but rather just to assume any free spell will eventually be broken. (I personally have a pile of Soul Spikes that’s just waiting for the day.)

It’s easy to look at cards like Waves of Aggression spike so hard and wish that you had gotten in on the train, but the stark reality is that it’s nearly impossible to turn a profit from these types of spikes unless you were already holding a pile of copies when it happened. Without copies in-hand on day zero, your best approach to Woo spikes is to observe bemusedly while putting your MTG funbux somewhere more reliably lucrative.


On a separate topic, I’ll be a bit quiet for the next two months. Expect only two articles or so out of me between now and the first of the year. Don’t fret though; I fully intend to return full time in January, hopefully with tales about buying and selling across the sea in Tokyo. I’ll also still be active on Twitter – @wizardbumpin – to the chagrin of all of my followers.


 

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Move aside. Big dude coming through. Through the Breach by Hugh Jamieson.

The Increasing Savagery Theory

By: Guo Heng Chin

Have you heard of the new turn 2 kill in Modern? Well, the Narset Combo deck is probably not news to most of you anymore. But for those who haven’t heard of it, it is a deck that exploits Goryo’s Vengeance to cheat in the hexproof Narset, Enlightened Master and chain a series of attack phases which results in Enter the Infinite and Omniscience being ‘casted’ with Narset’s ability. It is a Johnny masterpiece designed by Gabriel Jones who handed the list to Travis Woo for maximum exposure. You can read more about it and see it in action here.

The Narset deck may be a bit too wombo combo to be tier one, but it reminded me of a theory proposed by a friend and fellow Magic finance enthusiast about Goryo’s Vengeance while we were discussing if it was worth investing in our own playset of Goryo’s Vengeance:

Goryo’s Vengeance gets better as more legendary creatures are printed. 

Back then in 2012,  when we bought our playsets of Goryo’s Vengeance, it was a $4 card.

Today I am going to discuss how the theory could apply to other cards in similar veins to Goryo’s Vengeance, cards that allows you to cheat-in creatures. This is the Increasing Savagery theory and credit goes to Reza Baharin (@rezaaba on Twitter) for coming up with it. The theory is named after Dark Ascension’s Increasing cycle of cards that get more powerful as the game progresses; likewise the cards the theory attempts to explain increase in potential as more Magic sets are released.

A Lannister Always Pays His Casting Cost. That Doesn’t Means You Must.

Magic is an ever-growing, ever-changing game. When I first started Magic back in the late 90s, a four casting cost 5/5 creature came with a drawback, your opponent’s lands were legit targets and spells were king. In 2014, we have a four mana 5/5 creature with added gatling gun and the majority of Standard archetypes are creature-centric. Meddling with your opponent’s mana base is a no-no, because allegedly land-sadists are in the minority.

Through the years, Wizard’s design paradigm shifted towards encouraging interactivity and board-based game states and creatures are bestowed with a higher power level than those of Magic of yore. Regardless of the changes in Magic’s design priorities, one aspect remained the same throughout Magic’s design history: there are always splashy creatures.

Splashy creatures are monsters that shout ‘Wow!’, be it because they are a big flying spaghetti monster, or they possess some insanely cool ability (double cascade anybody). Splashy creatures usually come with a prohibitive mana cost, for great power is a reward deserved only by those who goes through the pain of assembling the required mana.

Or to those who prefer sneakier methods.

Sneak Attack
Sneak Attack by Jerry Tiritilli

From Lord of the Pit of the days of yore to Eldrazis of today, splashy creatures remain the mainstay of Magic. Their sheer size makes Timmies shudder with excitement, their unique abilities rev up the brew engine of Johnnies and occasionally, reaches through the breach from kitchen table play to the competitive tables of Spikes.

Legendary creatures add to the lot as well. While Wizards does not specifically design legendary creatures in normal sets to appeal to Commander players, legendary creatures are designed to be cool. Plus, the legend rule allows Wizards to push the power level of legendary creature. Characters in Magic’s storyline manifest themselves in cardboard form as legendary creatures or Planeswalkers, and as every Magic set comes with a story, it is a pretty safe assumption that most sets will contain legendary creatures.

Thus the first premise of the Increasing Savagery Theory: the number of splashy and/or legendary creatures increases with the number of Magic sets.

The next premise the theory rests on is that Wizards’ design and development teams are continually inclined to push boundaries for creatures they design, so as to keep players excited for new cards. Sometimes this manifested itself as an undercosted creature. Other times this manifest itself as a creature with an awesome ability counteracted by a prohibitive casting cost, a la Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Griselbrand and Avacyn, Angel of Hope.

So we can also safely assume that we will continue to see powerful creatures with prohibitive mana costs and this forms the second premise of the Increasing Savagery Theory.

The third premise is pretty straightforward: cards like Goryo’s Vengeance and Through the Breach are only as good as the fatties you can cheat into play with them.

Put all three premises together and you get:

Cards that allow you to circumvent a creature’s casting cost gets better as more Magic sets are released.

Counter Arguments

The counter argument to this theory is that new big game-breaking creatures will displace the current targets for the cheat cards, making the demand for cheat-into-play cards remain relatively stable. Those decklists are tight, and there is no reason to play the old fatties if the new ones are strictly better.

While it is true that better win condition targets would replace the incumbents, the replacement itself could potentially bolster the existing archetype. Prior to Griselbrand, Legacy Sneak and Show decks were running Progenitus alongside Emrakul as Show and Tell fodder five to seven. While Emrakul is susceptible to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Progenitus to board wipe, Griselbrand provided a strict upgrade to the deck as the big bad demon technically possesses an ETB ability as he grants an extra seven to fourteen cards upon touching the board.

While Show and Tell was already an expensive card at $40 prior to the adoption of Griselbrand, it spiked to mid-$60s in July 2012 when four-of Griselbrands propelled Sneak and Show decks to the next level.

Let me show you my value.
Let me show you my value.

Modern Goryo decks could benefit if a more efficient fatty were to be printed in the future. Say a fatty that comes with a game-breaking enter-the-battlefield ability that does not require you to pay seven life. Modern players take a lot more damage from their manabase compared to Legacy players and sometimes cheating a Griselbrand into play is not enough to turn the board around. Perhaps the a new splashy creature were to be printed that conveniently stays in the graveyard for reanimation purposes.  Perhaps a new fatty negates the need for Fury of the Horde as a win condition, freeing up four slots in the deck for cards to improve the deck’s resilience.

The other counter argument is that the Achilles heel of Modern Goryo decks is the decks’ susceptibility to discard and countermagic rather than a lack of creatures to cheat into play.  That is an issue that the printing of new fatties would not shore, but the printing of new spells might. For example, the addition of Izzet Charm injected an extra dose of consistency into the Griselbrand Reanimator by giving it more dig spells, discard outlet and counter protection.

Furthermore, new fatties or legendaries could instigate new archetypes or twists on existing archetypes; both could potentially increase demand for the cheat-into-play cards that are key to making those decks work. A breakthrough or a bust, the Narset Combo deck supports the Increasing Savagery theory in that it creates another deck that relies on Goryo’s Vengeance. Who knows, perhaps sometime in the near future, a Todd Anderson might pilot a tuned Narset Combo into 11th place at a Grand Prix, or a Jan van der Vegt might add on a few copies of an old, forgotten card and make that deck the talk of the Grand Prix.

Now to the Financial Side

While there are a plethora of cards that allows you to circumvent pesky casting costs, the cards I am going to discuss in this article are cards that are themselves costed low enough to be considered cheating a creature into play (sorry Omniscience, Tooth and Nail) and is not too conditional (sorry Summoning Trap), and Modern-legal (the Legacy ship for cards in this category has long sailed, adios Show and Tell!).

That leaves us with pretty much the cards that are used in the various incarnations of Modern Griselbrand Reanimator: Goryo’s Vengeance, Through the Breach and Fist of Suns. And the oft-overlooked Quicksilver Amulet.

Goryo's Vengeance Chart

Pros: The card that inspired the Increasing Savagery theory and one of the most powerful cards in Modern, Goryo’s act of revenge is the reason why Modern Reanimator decks can execute turn two kills. It is key to the archetype and is likely to be the first card brewers turn to when a new splashy legendary creature is spoiled.

The card contains “Goryo” in its name, is an Arcane spell and Champions of Kamigawa’s popularity mean Goryo is probably not coming back for a vengeance anytime soon.

Cons: Goryo’s Vengeance is the cheat-into-play candidate with the highest chance meeting the banhammer. It also has a pretty hefty price tag at $11. Goryo’s price didn’t really sink the way Fist of Suns’ did when the deck that ran them didn’t top 8 the Grand Prix they were causing so much furore at.

Through the Breach Chart

Pros: Through the Breach  has a flavor-tied name and is also an Arcane spell,  giving it a low chance of being reprinted. It is also ran as a two-of in Legacy Sneak and Show sideboards, which could be another factor pushing its price.

Cons: Like Goryo’s Vengeance, Through the Breach is not exactly cheap to buy in at $11. Well, at least its unlikely to face the hammer anytime soon, so its got that goin’ for it, which is nice.

Fist of Suns Chart

Pros: $5 is a pretty good buy in after its precipitous drop from $12. Fist of Suns is a card that is begging to be broken. It ‘casts’ your fatty as well, so brownie points for synergy with Emrakul.

Cons: Fist is more vulnerable compared with Goryo’s Vengeance and Through the Breach, mainly because you don’t often cast Fist of Suns and use its ability on the same turn, making it susceptible to artifact removal. Plus resolving a Fist does not guarantee the resolution of your beast. Unless it’s Emrakul.

And you’ll need all your colors to abuse this one.

Quicksilver Amulet Chart

Pros: Featured in the latest iteration of Griselbrand Reanimator by Tatsushi Tsukamoto who finished 23rd in the recent Grand Prix Kobe. It is the only truly colorless route to summon a creature without paying the creature’s mana cost. The amulet is currently at $7 and is slowly trending up.

Cons: Probably the weakest cheat card of all the cheat-into-play cards. The Amulet does not grants haste (though you could technically drop the creature at the end of your opponent’s turn) nor does it casts the card, thus missing out on Emrakul’s Time Walk trigger. Quicksilver Amulet also does not see much Commander play. Amulet it may be, but with two printings, this card may not have much room to grow. Nevertheless, I am still surprised to see this once bulkish rare trending at $7.

The Supreme Verdict

The cards that subscribe to the Increasing Savagery theory are long-term investment targets rather than fodder for quick speculation. We do not know when the next innovative tech will emerge to trigger another spike in the price of those cards, but we know that every new set adds to the chance of a breakthrough innovation happening. The Modern cheat-creatures-into-play archetype is one breakthrough away from being tier one.

Goryo’s Vengeance and Through the Breach at $11 are steep, however those cards are likely to increase in value over time as more fatties and legendary creatures enter the card pool. Securing your own playset of those cards now would seem prescient when their next spike comes with the next breakthrough tech. They are cards you could probably take your time to amass rather than going all out right on acquisition now. I would prefer to trade for them rather than buy them outright.

While I am comfortable holding Through the Breach for a long time, I would be inclined to sell Goryo’s Vengeance the next time it spikes. Goryo’s power level is sitting on the borderline of bannable and shall the next iteration of Goryo decks prove to be more resilient than the current lists, the next spike might just be Goryo’s last. Taking a leaf off Travis Allen’s recent article, being too greedy might just result in missing the Treasure Cruise.

If there are any cards on the veins of the Increasing Savagery theory that is worth buying now, it would be Fist of Suns at the paltry $5 it is valued at as of writing. It is a card that is begging to be broken, plus unlike the rest of the Increasing Savagery cards, Fist of Suns could cheat in any spell. Any spell.

While Quicksilver Amulet is just $7 and is gradually climbing in value, I am skeptical about picking it as a good target mainly because it sees little to no play in Modern and casual formats and has multiple printings.

Bonus

Wizards designs cards to synergise with upcoming sets. Mutavault in M14 supported mono-colored Devotion strategies in Theros, and Courser of Kruphix in Born of the Gods works in tandem with Khans of Tarkir fetchlands.

See the Unwritten
Writing on the bones?

Could you see what the future holds for See the Unwritten? Outside of Hornet Queen and Ashen Rider, there aren’t any good See the Unwritten targets in Standard right now. Even Hornet Queen and Ashen Rider are decent targets at best. Powerful, but not Tooth and Nail into Darksteel Colossus powerful.

Dragons of Tarkir is potentially the third set of the Khans block. Call me an optimistic Timmy, but that name sounds like a set that could bring us some sweet, maybe-even-legendary flying fatties. Going back to a time where dragons are aplenty in Tarkir fits right into the time travel story of Khans.

Currently valued at $4.50, See the Unwritten holds a lot of potential. Don’t wait until the dragons return before you see the unwritten value of the card.


 

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