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: Core Sets and Reprint Risk

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The unbannings were Monday and lots of people have churned through lots of cards as a result. Liliana of the Veil has shot up, but Dreadbore/Hero’s Downfall haven’t yet. I like Dreadbore a lot, and it’s in the process of climbing pretty hard.

You’re welcome.

There’s something else that I’ve been noticing, though, and that some people have been mentioning briefly. We keep getting distracted by new spoilers or art or unbannings, but here’s the reality:

Core Sets are back, releasing Magic 2019 in July of this year. It’s been quite a while, all the way back to Magic Origins in 2015. Three years doesn’t seem like that long a time, but think about all the changes and especially all the reprints we’ve been through with the growth of assorted Masters sets.

It’s entirely possible that the Core Set is one of the main relief valves in Standard, but what we can’t overlook is the possibility that lots of our favorite casual cards or Modern staples might get reprinted.

Let me show you some examples.

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Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His current project is a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

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PROTRADER: Ixalan Highs and Lows

I like to plan ahead.

Figuring out the cards to pick up in anticipation of a rise in price is a combination of luck and experience. On MTGPrice, we try hard to present our ideas and our rationales behind those ideas.

When you’ve been at this for a while, you get a sense for what the predictors are for future demand. It’s not always a question of rules, it’s got to be a combination of things that will catch your attention and say, “Get this while it’s cheap!”

Today I want to review some of the cards that I want to get now, or in one case, that I’d wanted to get, and the historical examples.

Search for Azcanta">
Search for Azcanta
($17 regular, $32 foil, $40 buy-a-box promo)

I’m very high on this card, I have to be honest. It’s not often that I like picking up all available version of a card but I absolutely do, for a host of reasons.

Nonfoils: I think that this card is the backbone of a control deck in Standard, and it’s proven useful in any shell with blue. The only problem is that it’s not a four-of, more often a two- or three-of in such decks, and that might stop it from hitting $35.

Foils/Promos: This is popping up in both Modern and Legacy, in control and Miracles lists, and it’s going to stay a useful card there. Jeskai, UW, Esper…all the decks are playing at least one now, and some as many as three. It doesn’t give you an immediate advantage, but if you can live long enough to flip it, it’s acceleration or it’s finding the next answer. Let’s not rule out that this is a very strong card in Commander or Cube formats, and those are soaking up a certain amount of available copies.

If there’s a chance that you’re going to build a control deck in the next 18 months, get your copies now. The set after Dominaria is about when I’d expect this to pop up to at least $25 nonfoil, and $30 is reasonable.

The foils (and especially the promos) are a great pickup now too. Promo versions under $40 should be snapped up and set aside with the proper amount of patience. That will pay off.

Vraska’s Contempt ($12/$15)

I studiously avoided mentioning this card until we were done opening it, and unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag. I’d really been hoping that this made it all the way down to $5, but it’s recently doubled from its low of $5.50. I’ve used this card as an example of the rise and fall of prerelease pricing, as it could have been had at $4. Hero’s Downfall or Abrupt Decay have graphs worth looking at.

Ah, those halcyon days of yore…

When it was in print, it was relatively cheap, but after it wasn’t being opened anymore, the popularity grew and the price doubled.

Vraska’s Contempt was going to be on this exact same track, with the price dropping and dropping until it wasn’t in print and then it would start climbing. The problem is, Contempt is a fantastic answer to two powerful and prevalent threats in Standard: Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God.

Let me contrast Contempt with another card that does 80% of the same work: Hour of Glory.

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Be honest. Did you remember about this card? Oblivion Strike at rare!

That price graph tops out at fifty cents. Hour of Glory hasn’t even been a sideboard card in its lifetime. A big part of that is some unfortunate timing: Hour of Glory was released in Hour of Devastation in July 2017, where Vraska’s Contempt came out three months later. There’s a chance that these cards were planned to be in different blocks, with 18-month rotation or rotation every set, but the threats have never been severe enough to warrant playing Hour of Glory.

Contempt has popped since it’s become the go-to spell for removal, as it can answer a Planeswalker effectively. I really wish there was time for it to fall back down, but I imagine that the price will stick at around $10 for about the next 12 months.

Hostage Taker ($5)

Remember when this was $12? It wasn’t that long ago.

All aboard!

The Taker is seeing a fair amount of play in Standard, and popped up as a singleton in the sideboard of Traverse Shadow decks at the Modern Pro Tour. It hasn’t stopped being good against the cards that need exiling, and I have to admit that being able to exile their Death’s Shadow and then replay it yourself is an amazing 2-for-1.

What makes this extra appealing is the timeframe. It’s got a whole year, several big sets to work with. I can’t imagine that there’s a better enabler of this effect than Panharmonicon, but who knows? It’s a Pirate, a tribe that’s unlikely to be better with these other sets, but the color combination has always been excellent when it comes to control decks. I don’t think this is going to be a big player when it comes to casual play, but seeing the price it was at before, this seems like a very strong candidate for popping back up to $10 anytime in the next year. Snagging these at $5 or less right now is pretty amazing.

 

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His next project will be a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: PT Predictions

I’m posting this Thursday night, a few hours before the PT coverage starts. I can’t stand the idea that by the time this would normally go live, I’d already be proven wrong or right. I want to give our ProTraders a little bit of a head start on some of the cards that are due for some movement, and the Modern Pro Tour is absolutely going to cause some movement.

Let’s get to the cards!

Rest in Peace ($7) and Leyline of the Void ($22-$24)

I think this is about to be a PT that requires powerful answers to the graveyard. Dredge, the boogeyman, is out there just waiting for a metagame that has devoted sideboard slots to things besides graveyard hate. Leyline has had a couple of bumps in its lifetime and the last printing was in 2010 as part of Magic 2011. Rest in Peace has also had a decent bump in its lifetime, and is still trickling down from the high of $10.

Might as well go back to Ravnica, it’s been years…

Both of these cards are excellent answers to degenerate graveyard strategies, depending on the colors being played. Leyline is one-sided and can be deployed early enough to stop the decks that want to lead off with Faithless Looting or some such. Rest in Peace has both an immediate effect and an ongoing one, it’s cheap at two mana, but it nukes your graveyard as well.

There’s other graveyard effects that people use, like Faerie Macabre, Nihil Spellbomb, Bojuka Bog or even in a couple of fringe decks, Stonecloaker.

Dredge (and for the purposes of the article, I’m including the Hollow One decks) is a deck that is a metagame decision, based on what people are going to be preparing for. Modern is a diverse enough format that you can’t prepare for everything, so you have to make some decisions. Do you include graveyard interaction? Artifact hate? Great cards for beating Burn decks? The mirror match? You can’t include everything, so you have to make those judgement calls, and if you go light on the answers because you think everyone else will, then the herd immunity wears off and we get a top 8 packed with Dredge.

I think that this weekend will prove to be a format where you really benefit from having something to deal with graveyard decks, maybe even maindeck ways to do so. RIP and Leyline each offer some growth potential, but even if Leyline grows to $30 or $35, that’s hard to gain value out of.

Rest in Peace can be had for under $7 if you buy playsets on eBay, and that’s extra tempting. If this is a big weekend for the graveyard, this will break $15 or even $20. Foils are already over that mark, and a foil RIP you pick up tonight at $20 might well be $50 by Monday morning. It’s only had the one printing and it’s a card you really ought to be playing in Commander too.

There’s more budget options out there, like Nihil Spellbomb or Bojuka Bog, and I like the latter a lot more because it’s got potential to be in some maindecks. Bog is already a popular Commander land, and it’s held at $1 even though it’s been in two Commander releases. Both of these, though commons with reprints, have foils in the $20 range, with the capability to spike pretty hard due to the limited number of foils in circulation.

Speaking of hate cards, let’s talk about Affinity.

Some of the most commonly played cards to help with Affinity decks are Hurkyl’s Recall, Kataki, War’s Wage, Vandalblast, and Stony Silence.

Each of these has had its own spike, and trailed off afterwards to current levels (about $3 for each except for Stony Silence at about $5) and are all prime targets. Which you play depends on your colors, and Recall especially is likely to buy you one, maybe two turns. Affinity decks, despite playing no cards with the actual Affinity mechanic, are more than capable of dumping their hands back onto the table after a reset.

It’s so nice that Revised cards can see the light of day.

 

Kataki has has a couple of reprintings, including the one-time-only Modern Event deck. It’s a nice answer as it can attack and block, but it can be killed. Most Affinity builds have Galvanic Blast, and a few can add Shrapnel Blast too. There is not a perfect answer, and that’s what gives the deck such power. Sideboarded effects can lead to sacrificing a board to Arcbound Ravager, then stack those counters onto Etched Champion, and dying in two hits.

I like Vandalblast especially, as it’s got some legs in Commander. If you’re a red deck in the 100-card format, you should be starting with one of these. Shattering Spree is good too, but that’s already over $14 and not a strong growth target because you need lots of red mana to make it work. Vandalblast will solve all problems for 4R, and it’ll be a lot easier for that card to double or triple up if there’s a strong showing on camera.

Leyline of Sanctity is the last card I want to bring up tonight, and it’s a doozy. It sees play in a wide variety of decks, from Ad Nauseam to Bogles, and even in the sideboards of decks that couldn’t cast it, like Titanshift. It’s only has two printings, and while it’s odd to say that Modern Masters 2015 isn’t recent…that is two and a half years ago. In addition, that set has some of the widest gaps I’ve seen in terms of the cards. You might crack a $70 Mox Opal or a 75-cent Comet Storm at the same rarity level. Ouch.

I do not like alternatives for the Leyline either. Runed Halo has already spiked hard and is twice the price. Witchbane Orb comes down too slowly. Don’t try to get cute. If you’ve got the courage, a playset of Leyline will cost you $85-$100, but I think it’s very likely going to go up to $40 each or even higher, depending on the camera time and the decks it stymies. 

 

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His next project will be a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Streamer Influence

I love watching Magic content. I can devour an awful lot of content, especially with Cubes, unusual decks, and high-level play. YouTube is a fantastic resoucrce for me to learn about new innovations, to see how cards get played correctly, and other ways to move a beat ahead of the market.

We are living in a time where some people are capable of influencing card prices just based on ideas they have had and they don’t even need to win a tournament. The phenomenon of ‘net-decking’ is nowhere as evil now as it was before, and ignoring data is a flaw in your approach to the metagame.

What I want to look at today is a few ways that individuals online have swayed prices significantly. The decks played don’t even need to do well, because all it takes is the attention and the cards begin to spike.

Let’s look at some recent examples.

The Professor and Pauper

In case you weren’t aware, there’s a YouTube personality called The Professor, and he’s in charge of the Tolarian Community College. You might not think it’s important, but he’s got almost as many subscribers as the official Magic: the Gathering video page (295,000 to 315,000, if you want to know the specifics). The Professor has had a quest for a while now, one that’s recently bore fruit: To take the online format of commons-only called Pauper and translate it to the paper world.

GP Santa Clara was the first time it happened, and they drew a hair over 200 people. GP Indy had a similar experience, and Pauper events are going to be at most GPs going forward, since the same company is in charge of all the GP-level events.

As a result, a lot of people are taking up Pauper in paper events. Stores are starting to hold Pauper events, and with the growth in interest comes the growth in prices.

I freely admit that I don’t know enough about Pauper’s best decks or the metagame. There’s some awesome interactions, such as Grapeshot and Storm the Warrens being banned but Storm lives on with things like Thermo-Alchemist as the win condition. With that in mind, some prices are really fascinating.

Hear them screech and bring their friends!

Battle Screech is now $6, but it jumped from bulk to $4 back in January of 2016. It popped again recently when it was shifted to common in Vintage Masters online, because paper events all use that same banlist.

As a result of all this, pauper cards have gone absolutely mad. If the appeal of the format is that the cards are all common, and therefore cheap, there’s some $8 Ash Barrens that would like to have a word with you. Even if it’s cheap now, it won’t be for long.

It’s a format with an interesting (and non-rotating!) card pool, which means it’s likely to stay around. MTGO has been incubating the format for a while and that means it’s probably not going to get newly broken as a new pool of players takes it up, and event accessibility is probably still an issue for many stores, but I think it’s here to stay.

What this also means for us from a financial standpoint is that your bulk just got a bit more valuable. Every new set is going to offer a stack of new cards to add to the format, and new chances for old cards to become worth a lot more.

 

SaffronOlive and MTGGoldfish

With 125,000 subscribers, this is not one of the top channels in terms of numbers, but what this channel does offer is a continuous stream of oddball decks trying to play weird cards in new ways. Most of the time, that means a card or two gets highlighted, the deck does badly but has one or two really epic games, and we move on with our lives.

Occasionally, though, Seth (better known as SaffronOlive) hits upon a deck that is unexpectedly powerful, and a few cards can really take off. The most recent example of this is a B/R deck featuring Hollow One, Flameblade Adept, and a couple of commons that allow for mega-discarding: Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore.

Yup, this is $3 now. Go dig out your old boxes!

Those commons have gone from pure bulk to selling from $3 each. Buylists haven’t caught up yet, as stores have a lot of bulk to sell off and I’m not sure how many people are actually buying at this price, but the effect is real. This deck has had some staying power, putting up good results on MTGO Modern events, so these particular cards are not going to go down in price for a while yet.

To be clear, there are a lot of streamers out there, making a lot of content, but a lot of them aren’t trying new things every single week. LSV isn’t going to show his newest deck that will break the Pro Tour, he’s going to show you how to play a deck more effectively than you’ve been doing. Streamers using new cards in new ways offer a new avenue for us to gain value in our collections.

 

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His next project will be a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

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