All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a father, teacher, cuber and EDH fanatic. My joy is in Casual and Limited formats, though I dip a toe into Constructed when I find something fun to play. I play less than I want to and more than my schedule should really allow. I can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

Try out my Busted Uncommons cube at http://www.cubetutor.com/viewcube/76330

PROTRADER: Adjusting to the Times

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I have been buying and selling cards for a while, but I have to admit that I’m not so sure about what rules apply and what rules don’t anymore.

This year especially, I’ve been waaaaaaay off a couple of times recently and I want to try and fix that. I also want to see where some cards are coming in, to teach me some new ideas to guide me for this ‘three Masters sets in 18 months’ sort of world we are living in.

I also want to try and apply what this year and previous years have taught me, to see if there’s stuff I want to start picking up, now that we are in the end-of-the-year doldrums.

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Cliff is an avid cuber and has been making mostly-sound MTG decisions since using Magic cards to buy a new transmission in 2001. Follow him on Twitter @wordofcommander or check out his articles weekly here on MTGPrice.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Iconic Masters Movement

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the prices I was hoping that Iconic Masters cards were going to drop to, and we have reached a point on some of these that I’m comfortable moving in.

I don’t think I’ll need to tell you much about these cards, but this is a calendar point where I’m ready to pick up some copies. Unstable drops today, and with this being the Christmas-New Year’s lull for tournaments, sales, and other Magic activities, I don’t think much more Iconic Masters will be opened.

Rivals of Ixalan has already had a couple of spoilers/previews land, and that will start in full force after New Year’s Day, so there likely won’t be a ton of product opened. Even if prices fell another 5-10%, I’m content to get in on some of these now, and perhaps even more if the price does indeed slip another step or two.

On the flip side, there’s some cards from Iconic Masters that have fallen in price, but aren’t done falling. Be wary of these.

Let’s get to the cards!

Horizon Canopy ($33): It’s not done. $20? I can only find fringe versions of decks running more than two, though there’s a Five-Color Humans build in Modern that’s playing four of the 19 lands as this cantrip. The Future Sight version has lost nearly half its value, and I don’t think that’s done falling either.

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Ebay’s completed sales show just a few over $30 in the past two weeks, and a whole lot more in the $25 range. Not all that many people need this land, so I’m staying away.

Thoughtseize ($15): This is the card I’m having the hardest time not buying. It’s one of the most popular cards in constructed Magic, being a top 5 card in Modern and a top 20 card in Legacy. Let me show you the graph for Lorwyn Thoughtseize:

 

The red arrow is the release of Theros, 2013! Those halcyon days.

Every time it’s had a printing, the value has taken a hit and then climbed back up. I didn’t get in on this when Theros came around, and I don’t think there is any doubt that it’ll climb back up again. It’s not going to hit $80 again. It’s not going to crack $50 for some time. I’m staying patient until I can get them for $10 each on eBay, and that time hasn’t come yet.

If you want to pull the trigger on a playset or two in the $12 range, I can’t fault you. When it looks like it’s flattened off, or when Rivals of Ixalan comes out, I’ll be ready to dive in.

Cryptic Command ($20): I’m staying patient till $15.We’ve got several version of Very Cryptic Command to fool around with and distract casual players, and while a playset of Cryptic is a starting point in Modern control decks, control isn’t too popular an archetype. I’m watching these on eBay closely too, and I have managed to get a couple at my target of $15. I’d much prefer that some retailer sell me a few in a batch, though.

Grove of the Burnwillows ($13): Get out. Now. If you open one of these I would buylist it immediately and not look back. Sure, it’s a Punishing Fire combo in one Legacy deck, and maybe you have a deck that abuses the lifegain somehow, but these are few and far between. The demand is not there, and I think this has a lot farther to fall before I’d want copies.

Consecrated Sphinx ($12): This is a super interesting card, and therefore a place I’m hesitant to put in much money. Sure, it’s one of the best things a blue deck can do in Commander or Cube, but those are the only formats where it sees play. The original mythic had made it up to $30, even with the Invocation draining demand somewhat, but now the slide is on. I am watching eBay for $10 copies, and foils under $20.

This had started to recover nicely from the Invocation in early 2017.

Even as I watch the card get cheaper, I’m hesitant. This is an excellent candidate for a ban in Commander, and it’s in 14,000 decks! It would be a bloodbath.That risk is going to keep me from going too deep, and your taste for risk should determine the number of copies you want to get.

Archangel of Thune ($11): I don’t think this will fall too much farther. It’s been a mythic twice, never a rare, and that’s big for the number of copies out there. I strongly suspect casual players are soaking up copies as well, because it’s good in Commander but not overpowered. If it’s unanswered, sure, the game’s over, but that’s the case in that format.

What I really like about Archangel is that looking into lifelink cards clued me into foil Crested Sunmare at $8. There’s only 40 copies on TCG, and it’s a top card for lifelink decks. There’s not much demand for Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, as there’s competition for who your lifelink Commander should be, but Sunmare is way up there on the list of things to do if you’ve got a lot of gain life effects around. Only 40 copies for a recent foil mythic, that’s a top target for me going forward.

Cliff is an eager participant in unusual formats, and is hoping to cube four times a day at the next GP. Find him on Twitter @wordofcommander or here on MTGPrice every Friday.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Unstable Finance

I love silver-bordered sets. I am exactly the target market for Unstable, because if you’ve got some weird way to play this game, I’m all over it. I’ve enjoyed all of my experiences with Unglued and Unhinged and I’m fully expecting to enjoy Unstable.

What needs to be said is that from a financial standpoint, there’s some very specific ideas to keep in mind as you pre-order Unstable and decide if you want to speculate in this market. I have been there, and I’ve got some insights that you should heed.

Big Idea #1: Time and Printing

Unglued was printed in August 1998, about five years after Magic’s debut, in the time between Exodus and the beginning of Urza’s Saga block. Unhinged was printed in November 2004, during Kamigawa block, one of the dips in Magic’s popularity.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Unstable will be printed and sold at a much greater rate, I’d guess somewhere in the 10-20x range. There is going to be so much more of this set, and even though we have mythics now, we are really lacking in iconic callbacks and inside jokes.

Big Idea #2: Who’s this for?

Unstable is aimed at people who want Magic to be weird. Unusual. Unexpected, random plays. This is not everyone, and that’s also going to contribute to the supply being quite significant. Anyone who wants Unstable will be able to get it, because people with a competitive focus are going to ignore it. When a sizeable piece of the market ignores a product, pay attention.

Not a lot that’s worth it, in nonfoil.

At the same time, though, Unstable is really going to appeal to some people and some playgroups. People who don’t who to their LGS might pick up an extra box or two just to draft it with their friends. Maybe this is the perfect holiday gift!

I am trying to keep my own bias in check here. Unstable is not going to be available online. I want to say that means more gets bought, but there is a very good chance it ends up like Conspiracy 2 and its super-top-heavy in prices.

Big Idea #3: The ballast of lands

There’s one land per pack, in a box of 36 packs. One in every 121 lands will have a Steamflogger Boss, apparently. That’s pretty guaranteed value, and that is unusual for Magic. If the lands are selling at $2 each from your store, they are getting boxes for around the $72 worth of lands they will get, and that’s before you get to the foils or chase cards.

Now THESE are some chase-worthy prices!

If the land price is down at $1 retail, boxes won’t get cracked. If it’s at $2, then there will be stores cracking packs just for the land, and that will flood the market with every other card. I don’t know where these will end up long-term, but I know that for the next few months, lands won’t be over $2.

Let me illustrate this with Conspiracy 2’s prices, in nonfoil first:


And now the foils:

With this set, you can hit BIG. You can get a box on eBay for $90, and there’s two foil mythics that pay for the box and then some. Several others will cover half the value of the box, and there’s $2 Serum Visions at uncommon when you’re mining for value. Unfortunately, the average box is worth less than that $90, and it’s not worth the risk of opening a foil Berserk and nothing else in your 23 other packs.

Unstable offers 36 lands, 35 if you’re unlucky. If those get as high as $3 retail, you will be able to buy a box and get your money back just by selling those basics and the rest is extra value. That’s for us, but if you’re a big store who gets boxes cheaper, then the retail needs to be lower for it to be worth it to them.

I think the supply will be plentiful for 95% of the cards in the set. This is going to be printed a whole bunch, and there’s a built-in mechanism for keeping the prices of lands in check. There isn’t much that will hold a lot of value.

I want to say that some of the unique things will be valuable, especially in foil. They might be worth a few bucks, but the market is pretty soft for such things. Don’t rely on unique cubes to drive the price of Contraptions in foil or nonfoil. I have about twenty foil Cogwork Librarian that I picked up between $2 and $4…and it’s still about $2, three years later. The demand from cubers just hasn’t materialized yet…and likely never will.

Crow Storm foils will be valuable to some people as an inside joke. Most people won’t care. Some people will want a foil set of Unstable, and that’s a small part of the playerbase. The crazy-high foil prices for some Unhinged cards is entirely due to the relatively small amount that was printed. I surely have a pair of foil Little Girl because I have two daughters, and enough MTG dads feel the same way to push that to be a $20 foil common.

I’m looking at you, Summon the Pack. You’re not going to fool me.

 

Really, there’s only two cards that have the chance to be iconic, and I think that supply is going to impact these cards and keep the prices low: Urza, Academy Headmaster is exactly what an Un-card should be, and that’s before we even know the abilities.

The other is Spike, Tournament Grinder. I think that foils of this card have real potential, but as this is a rare, not a mythic, there’s going to be a lot out there. (Am I going to pick up two foil Spikes and find a way to frame my Little Girls growing up to be Spikes? Duh.)

If it had a different name, I would be all over Super-Duper Death Ray as a spec target, as this looks like it could be a real card. We’ve already given spells lifelink, why not trample? The name turns me off, though, so I think we will see this printed in a future set as Char-Broil or something generically red.

So don’t go crazy on the finances of this set. I don’t think it’ll be there in the long term, and if you want something from Unstable, definitely give it a week or two and see where the nonfoil basic lands end up in price.

Cliff has been an avid player of silver-bordered sets and any unusual way to play, most especially Momir Basic, perhaps the biggest bang for your buck and the best reason to keep MTGO the way it is. Follow him on Twitter @wordofcommander or catch his articles every Friday!

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Time to Move in or Move on?

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and has had the chance to do some awesome drafts with Iconic Masters, which has such a different play pattern than Ixalan draft. It’s a nice change of pace, but I have to admit, I really hated paying $35 for a draft when I knew I could get a box for $160 all over the place.

I don’t think Iconic Masters is done falling in price, but we are only two weeks away from Unstable drafts, and then it’s dead in December until after New Year’s, when we dive into Rivals of Ixalan previews and prerelease!

If it seems that time is flying by, I’m with you. I’m also keenly aware that lots of stuff has settled in price and that means I need to evaluate two things, as it comes to Amonket and Kaladesh blocks:

  1. How likely is the card to see another bump before it rotates?
  2. Is the card Modern/Legacy/casual playable, and what’s the demand going to be going forward?

Now if you’re thinking, “What the heck, did he say rotation? It’s December!” that’s not wrong but you need to be aware that there’s not a lot of chances for a deck to break out.

With that in mind, I want to look at some cards and see if I want to get in or move on.
 

Glorybringer ($6): Right now, creatures are dying all over the place. Four toughness is not enough, with this dragon and with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. The fifth toughness is a big part of the appeal with it comes to The Scarab God. Glorybringer is seeing some play in a range of decks, but it’s only a four-of in some of the new Mardu Vehicles lists.

Especially with a buy-in at this range, I don’t think this is worth a buy. It would have to spike past $10, into the $12-$15 range, and that means super-widespread adoption. Seems pretty unlikely to me, and since this doesn’t see much play. It’s in less than 700 Commander decks, so yeah, stay away.

Anointed Procession ($9): I have to be honest, I didn’t know that this had crept up to the threshold of $10. It’s now the #3 card in Amonkhet, and while I want to say that’s due to casual appeal, that’s not quite right. There’s a lot of these in EDH decks (4500!) and there’s a range of token strategies available in Standard. Bringing some Hidden Stockpile/Anointed Procession deck to FNM and making a huge stack of tokens does sound like a lot of fun!

Don’t count out the kitchen table players either. Something has been soaking up spare copies of this, to keep pushing it on the gradual upward curve. Legion’s Landing is the proximate cause, but at the root, the casual demand is super high on here, though the foil is still available under $20. I’m going to be looking for this to drop at rotation, but I don’t think it will fall far.

A caveat: This is very easy to reprint in a Commander product going forward. Be cautious if you’re stocking up.

Bontu’s Last Reckoning ($4): This is intriguing on a couple of levels. It’s hot garbage in casual formats, so that’s out, but it’s the cheapest Wrath of God variant available in Modern, where it’s popped up in a few sideboards. It’s not super-widely adopted yet, but there is room for that to grow. Lantern Control, a deck which is merciless to play with and against, has one or two in the board, as does 8-rack and some other fringe strategies. This price isn’t due to Standard, or to casual demand, so the amount of play it’s seeing has kept it from being a dollar rare.

I would like it better if it fell back into the $2 range, where it was a couple of months ago, but if it doesn’t dip at rotation, Picking up a few is something I can get behind.

Solemnity ($2): It’s got all sorts of fun combos, and frankly, it hoses a wide range of popular EDH strategies. Do note that it doesn’t care about planeswalkers, as happened in a game I was in. I’m hoping that rotation cuts this to a dollar rare or less, as it’s too unique an effect to stay this cheap forever. Also notable is that the foils are four times as much, but the card is only listed in 850 decks on EDHREC.

Panharmonicon ($3): If you don’t have a taste for reprint risk, this is a lock. It’s in more than 11,000 EDH decks. It’s the #81 artifact in that database, which is surprising to me until I looked at the list and saw all the mana rocks. Three bucks is too low for this card, it did make it to $10 when people were trying to get all the value possible early in the format. It’s highly reprintable, though…so the foils at sub-$10 are even more appealing to me. Foil Anointed Procession is already pushing $20, and this is the card that defines ‘win more’ which is what we all want to do deep in our filthy casual hearts. Go buy some of the foils right now and just sit on them for a little while, and thank me later.

Bonus Pick: The Chain Veil (Foil): There’s 23 copies on TCG right now, and none at several big sites. It’s only in 3500 EDH decks, but the supply is super tiny for a card that fits into the always-popular superfriends decks. I don’t think it’ll take long for this to get a hefty spike over $20, and while this is a strong contender to be put into a supplemental deck, I have a hard time seeing this in a Masters set or in a set that has foils.

Cliff is an avid Cuber and a player at a wide range of kitchen tables. He has yet to Top 8 a GP but eventually they will have a Cube event and he’ll have that locked right up! Find him on Twitter @WordOfCommander or here on MTGPrice every Friday.

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