All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a husband, father, teacher, 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 write intermittently at wordofcommander.blogspot.com and can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Price Movement on HOU

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Hello and welcome to the new world of super-cheap cards that aren’t worth the cost of packs or boxes!

Well, that was at the beginning of this week, anyway. Not a lot has changed, either, but there are some cards that have changed price in surprising ways over the past few days, and I want to look at what’s happening.

A note: I’m not always sure why a card is moving, as we don’t have any tournament data to look at yet. We have a very small amount of 5-0 results from Magic Online, but the saga of Wizards and data suppression is its own lengthy article.

Still, price movements online and in paper can tell us some things, and I always like a clue on the first weekend.

The Scarab God ($15 now, up from $9 this week): Can we take a minute and reflect on how silly it is that no one bothered to give these Gods names? Is that part of the appeal or something? A testament to the power of the Moriarty-Dragon? It’s irksome to me, but I’m old and a curmudgeon.

The card has crept up about 50% this week probably because it’s a brutal EDH card and it doesn’t take much to have this be a game-defining effect. The ‘each opponent’ clause is pretty darn fantastic, and having a relevant graveyard ability is important in Commander as well. I think this price bump is not here to stay, as people will get their copies and the price will trickle back downwards.

Neheb, the Eternal ($4.50 now, was $2.50 this week): I cannot imagine a world where people are playing this over Glorybringer in Standard. Same mana cost, but one is far more impactful immediately than the other. I suspect this bump is due to the casual market as well, I’ve seen people trading for it at this price, and I’m staying away. Show me the combo in Standard, I know it’s capable of dumb things in Commander.

Razaketh, the Foulblooded ($6 now, was $10 a week ago): First off, the foil multiplier is nearing four on this card, so you can imagine it’s tearing up Commander games. I haven’t seen it in action myself, but it seems pretty degenerate and worst of all, it’s lots of tutoring and can be done at instant speed. I was really in on Griselbrand when it was printed, and that banning took a whole cycle to happen. If Razaketh survives the first banlist update from the EDH Rules Committee, then I’ll be listening, but for now, I’m staying away.

I don’t want to hear about reanimator decks playing this in Modern or Legacy either. The requirement of an additional creature just costs too much when you’re playing this on turn one. Griselbrand gets your seven back immediately.

Bontu’s Last Reckoning ($4.50 now, was $3 last week): Is this worth it? There is not a comparable card to look at, oddly, but I’m cautious. I suspect this is going to be a card that gets more play than we are first expecting…for the first couple of weeks. People are testing this card, and the price is going up. Usually that means it’s going to get played this first weekend, so I’ll be keeping track of events to see if it’s pulling its weight.

Fraying Sanity ($2 now, was less than a buck a week ago): You’ve heard it from a million writers: casual players love their mill cards. The list is long yet not consistent, though. Sure, Consuming Aberration is $2, but Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker is still $1. I would be dumping Fraying Sanity at $2 right now, in trade or in what you can get in cash.

That’s my plan for right now. I’m expecting this card to drop like a rock, it ought to be fifty cents or less in a month. I don’t think the foils will ever drop below $5, though, and that’s where I would prefer to be. I get it that the effects stack, and the second is quad damage…but I can’t deny this:

Sometime in the next 18 months (this set rotates out in September 2018) there will be a mill deck featured someplace and this card will spike. I would plan on selling into that hype.

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Hour of Devastation ($8 now, was $3 a week ago): This is the card that I first thought of. We already have some pretty good UR decks, and now those decks get a sweeper that can even deal with planeswalkers! This is going to make a big impact early and alongside Abrade, makes UR able to deal with the vehicle/walker cards that are usually so resilient to wrath effects.

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I think this isn’t done going up. It’s going to break $10, and might even get close to $15 in the early hype. It won’t stay there, as this is too mana-intensive to be a four-of in the decks that want it, I’m expecting it to be a defining card of the format for some time, though. I’ll say that this stabilizes at a solid $10.

Ramunap Excavator (Now $7, was $4): Being the release weekend promo means that there will be more foil copies out there, but this card is just amazing in a format with fetchlands. I’m not sold that it’s Legacy-worthy, but I can see the appeal. Playing this alongside Wasteland is a repeated kick in the teeth. Yes, it’s amazing with Glacial Chasm too.

The thing is, though, I have a hard time believing that all the cards in this set are super-low-priced. Most cards are trending down, as they should, but it’s clear that the Excavator is getting enough value to invite purchases. I just can’t justify buying a promo rare at this price. I would be shocked if it bumped to $10, because it would have to start trending down from there.

The counterpoint is Sylvan Caryatid, a card which had a high points above $15 and is still $2. If the Excavator has legs in the eternal formats, that’s a possible price.  We will have to wait and see what the early adopters do. I won’t be shocked if it’s showing up in the eternal formats, and I won’t be shocked if it sees no play.

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Draft enthusiast. He believes in keeping one, maybe two playmats max and tends to enjoy the side events more than the main attraction at a GP. Ever since getting his first Revised packs in 1994, he’s sold cards for a new transmission, a sweet bed, and even the security deposit when moving into a new place. Find him on Twitter @wordofcommander or Fridays here at MTGPrice.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: How I’m using CardSphere

Here we go, prerelease weekend! I’m planning on attending a midnight prerelease, because I am indeed crazy like that. I hope yours goes amazingly, you open well and play better, and that you trade everything away as fast as you can this weekend.

That’s basic advice that I give every time a new set comes around, and it remains true. Some of the Hour of Devastation cards are going to spike, eventually, but I am bad at that guessing game.

I know prices are at their max for most of these cards, and they are going to fall. I’m looking to out them pronto.

Which leads me nicely into today’s topic: Cardsphere, and why you should be using it too.

Full Disclaimer: I am not an employee of CS. I am going to give my experiences and my viewpoint. I have bought value on this site, I have sent and received cards. I’ve been a user for about six weeks. I advocated for Pucatrade, and I’m advocating here too. Your experience may be different than mine, and I hope you have as good an experience as I have had.

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Now, I want to refer you to an interview that MTG Fast Finance did with the founders of Cardsphere a while back, but that was before it went into public launch. The interview is worth a listen, for the philosophy and the backstory, but let’s get to how you should use it and what is happening there.

If you’ve used Pucatrade at all in the past couple of years, the idea is the same: It’s a trading environment. You send off your cards for currency, and you can get cards for that currency. The primary difference is that the currency in CS is straight cash, US dollars. You can get your dollars out of their system and into your account, for a fee.

Otherwise, it’s a similar economic system. Because it’s in real dollars, the offers tend to be adjusted downwards, where they were going up and up and up in Pucatrade, since that was in a currency locked into their system. It’s an interesting flip: On Puca, the question was ‘How many extra points do I need to offer for someone to send me this card?’ On CS, it’s ‘How low can I go with my offer and still get the card I want?’

Philosophically, the experience with CS is that you’ll have to decide how far off of retail you can go. You’re setting your own wants, and how much extra you’ll give/take away. Then, when sending cards, you decide how much you want to get.

Right now, here’s what is happening. Granted, this is only my experience. I’m not trying to trade up for things (yet) but I have been getting cards for my uncommons Cube, building a Standard deck, and building a new Commander deck.

The experience has been amazing.

I am someone who did very well off of Puca in the salad days. I bought low, sold high, accumulated points. I got SDCC walkers, I got a Gaea’s Cradle, and a judge foil Sol Ring. Future Site hit, and the values tanked. Inflation is going mad there. I’ve gotten myself down to 92 points there, and while I’m monitoring the site and the subreddit to stay informed, I’m no longer putting cards or a subscription into that economy.

I say this so you’ll get what I mean when I say that the CS experience is wonderful. I can’t keep credit for more than a day or two. I have had a range of wants filled, and while I haven’t chased any foils, or any high end cards, I’m having a steady churn and it’s fun. I’ve been asking for uncommons and commons at about +20%, to make it worth sending, and most of my wants for Commander are between 0% change and -20%. I got a Deadapult for +50%, because that’s a crap rare and I wanted to make someone feel good about sending it.

I am seeing that there are two categories of offers on CS: The full-value (or nearly) or higher, for people that want to get stuff right away, and there’s the lowballers, the ones who are literally offering buylist prices plus ten percent. I’m finding that the offers at 90%-110% get filled fast, and the 60% and less offers take a lot longer to be sent.

Which is fine and the freedom of the platform, quite frankly. I would surely have a standing order to buy foil Thought-Knot Seer at $15 if someone wanted to sell them at that price, and then that person pays for the shipping to send it to me? Done and done.

Cardsphere is also doing an excellent job with transparency and feedback. The founders and other admins are very active on Discord and Reddit, the home page shows exactly the userbase and flow of cards, the most wanted and most traded, plus weekly updates on how cards are being traded. Here’s an example post. (It’s Reddit, while this post is safe for work huge swaths of the site aren’t, be forewarned.)

This image shows the quartiles of the trades being made, by % of value, for the month of June. Someone listed a card that was a dollar or less and put it at 224%. Someone else sent a card at 21% of that value. Hopefully that was part of a package. Someone listed a $5-$10 card at 7% of its value…and someone else sent the card at that price.

Where I feel really great is that last column. Of the $25-$50 cards traded, there’s a real packing together. Nothing under 71%, nothing over 110%. Should I decide to go for higher-value cards, it’s nice to know they will be there.

Cardsphere is growing slowly but surely. They have increased membership by more than two thousand users since they went live on May 27 of this year. As I said before, I put in $40 at the beginning and it’s given me a bit better value than I would have gotten on eBay or TCG, but the ability to send out stuff and get stuff back…I’d forgotten how much fun it is. Go try it! Costs you nothing but a stamp.

I’m going to be sending out all I can of Hour of Devastation on Saturday afternoon. See you there!

Cliff is an avid believer in saving money for stuff that isn’t Magic, and his goal is to enjoy this hobby without paying cash for individual cards. Drafts and other events are fine, but buying singles stings. It’s just cardboard! Nothing has the EV of Cubing, though, so that’s a solace to his cold, Scroogelike heart. Find him on Twitter @wordofcommander and tell him about the three ghosts that will be visiting him.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Devastating Preorders

Hopefully you’ve read enough of what we write here to know that pre-ordering cards is usually a bad idea.  Cards are overhyped and usually very overpriced, but there’s something kind of unusual going on with Hour of Devastation: The preorder prices are remarkably…sane.

Today I want to look at a couple of the reasons why that might be, and if that means we’ve turned a corner as Magic vendors and players. We don’t want $40 Day’s Undoing, or $50 Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

Idea #1: We are more patient

We all know that a set’s value goes down over time as more and more packs are opened. That’s true of any set, for any of its time as the set that’s being opened at FNM and Grand Prix events. Even the Masters-level sets that are only reprints, those follow the same curve most of the time.

We’ve learned that unless you’re going to be using these cards the very very first weekend, you’ve got time.  Even waiting a week or two can be worth a lot to someone who isn’t a pro player. Preordering cards is devastating from a feel-bad perspective, and hopefully people who have done that have learned their lesson.

Imagine being someone who looked at the Amonket previews, and saw Gideon of the Trials. You know he’s good with the Gideon, Ally of Zendikar deck you’re already playing. You think, “It must be worth this much or people wouldn’t be paying this much!” and you plunk down $160 for a playset.

That card, one of the banners of the set, a three-drop planeswalker, can be had for $40 a playset now. So that’s a painful lesson to learn.

Is this permanent: God, I hope so. I fervently want to believe that players will not break their bank trying to get out ahead of the new cards, but I doubt it in the long-term.  New players might not listen to others who have learned, and new cards are always going to sucker us in.

 

Idea #2: We are stretching our Magic dollars

This is something that Wizards/Hasbro has been doing to us for a couple of years now: We are getting more and more Magic products each year, each designed to suck our wallets dry.

Have you seen this list? That’s a murderer’s row later this year, and that’s before you take into account all the stuff we’ve already had this past seven months, which includes a Masters set, three regular sets (I’m including Hour of Devastation) and two different Anthology releases.

I don’t think there’s a market for those who buy every single product released, but that’s a lot to spend money on.

Is this permanent: Unless the company decides to slow it down, apparently this is the world we live in.  Let’s also not forget that the Magic Digital Next program is also coming, and that might be a whole new siphoning off of money. Heaven help us, they are going to keep making a zillion products a year.  Budget accordingly.

 

Idea #3: The cards aren’t that powerful

I’m not saying that they aren’t good, but they sure aren’t backbreaking. The set (so far, the full set should drop the day this article is published) has a cycle of undercosted ‘exert sorceries’ where your lands don’t untap for a turn, but everything else looks to cost a little too much for that effect.

Perhaps this is the overcompensation of stuff like Smuggler’s Copter being two mana? Perhaps this was meant to be part of an 18-month Standard which was more midrange-focused? I don’t know the answer, or if from time to time, we just get a slightly clunkier set.

I want to reiterate that point, though: Just because we don’t have a ‘pushed’ card doesn’t mean these aren’t going to be players in formats going forward. Right now, though, only a few of the mythics and none of the rares are preordering for more than the retail price of a Fatal Push.

Is this permanent: Likely not. There will be undercosted, overpowered cards again. None of them have been shown in this set, though.

Idea #4: The cards are just worth less due to Masterpieces

This is an idea that’s been explored several times, and the summary is as follows: When Masterpieces are in a set, they account for some of the value of the set. If cards have a total value that’s higher than the cost of a box at the distributor’s price, then retailers will crack those packs themselves and sell the singles.

We saw this recently at work, with Battle for Zendikar block and Shadows over Innistrad block.  The Expeditions helped push the prices of other cards down, except for Gideon and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Basically, more packs of BfZ block got opened to find those lands, and that meant a lot more of the other cards were released into the world. When the Masterpieces weren’t present, we had a more even distribution of value.

Is this permanent: We already know it isn’t. While the Masterpieces are helping make Standard be the cheapest it’s been in a while, they are running out of cards quickly. There’s some real clunkers in the Invocation series. Divert? Super niche. Diabolic Edict? Who was clamoring for more copies of this? They have already announced that Masterpieces won’t be in every single set going forward, so this effect will certainly vanish.

 

Cliff is an avid player and frugal financier. His love of unusual Cubes and formats is resulting in some very interesting Magic experiences, and Grand Prix events have been offering him all sorts of new ways to play this amazing game.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Amonkhet Stock Watch

There’s a lot of reasons why Amonkhet prices are falling as fast as they are, from Invocations to peak supply to a lack of new toys to play with, considering we’re about to get all of Hour of Devastation and we know a lot about Ixalan already.

With the Hour upon us, and prereleases next weekend, it’s time to take a look at the trajectories of some of these cards and see where they have to go. There are still packs of Amonkhet being opened, and while that’s going to exert some downward pressure, the historical data tells us that most prices won’t fall too much further.

Want some examples? Sure. Let’s start with a rollercoaster of a card: Panharmonicon.

 

So it spiked to $10 right away as people tried brewing midrangey value decks with it, and those were sweet. They were not winners, and Panharmonicon had been trickling down ever since.

I didn’t highlight when Aether Revolt came out. Looking at the graph, can you tell when it did? Maybe you know release dates off the top of your head.

See that spike in January? That’s when Aether Revolt came out, and there were decks trying to brew with this again, and it tapered off quickly. (I think this card is a steal at $2, which you can find on eBay. Foils at $10 or less are even better value.)

How about something more basic? Botanical Sanctum.

You already know when the second set came out, and you can see how the price barely moved. The demand was pretty steady, until pretty recently when everyone figured out that Marvel was the best deck, and now it’s banned.

 

With this data in mind, let’s look at some Amonkhet cards and see where they might be going.

 

Rhonas the Indomitable ($13 nonfoil/$23 foil/$52 Invocation) – What’s interesting is how little play this is currently seeing in Standard. It’s become a spicy one-of in assorted Collected Company decks in Modern, as a powerful attacker and also another way to use infinite mana if you haven’t drawn the Duskwatch Recruiter. If something comes along to make it good, it’ll spike (generically useful advice!) but barring that, this will continue to trickle downwards and will likely end up at $10 or so.

Gideon of the Trials ($12/$24) – Oh how the mighty have fallen. This was preordering for $40! I hope you’re not preordering anything from Hour of Devastation. Just don’t do it. Haven’t you learned? That’ll be its own article soon.

Anyway, Gideon v6 (I’m counting Kytheon, Hero of Akros) was heralded as an unstoppable force in Legacy, as a combo enabler in Modern, and as a three-mana planeswalker, shouldn’t be underestimated in Standard.

He’s played mostly in Modern now and is making no waves in Standard at this time. He’s going to end up at $8 or less, and hopefully you’ve learned your lesson.

Vizier of the Menagerie ($6/$16) – No one is trying to make this work in any constructed format. This is a casual card, all the way. It started out at $10, and hasn’t fallen very far, and that’s mainly because this is an auto-include in almost any green Commander deck, and that’s absorbing the supply at a pretty good pace. I actually don’t think this will fall any farther, and it’ll stay stable until we get to Ixalan, at which point it might even start trending upwards.

Glorybringer ($4/$10) – You’d be impressed at the number of big hasty beaters who have never had a big price. Thundermaw Hellkite. Stormbreath Dragon. Either version of Kolaghan. And so on. This was $10 at first but the price has stabilized, and I don’t think it’ll go any lower. A pickup of this at $4 (or less!) is a decent one, but I’m not going to get too happy or too deep. Not many decks will seek to run a full four of these.

Sweltering Suns ($4/$6) – Yeah, take a look at that foil multiplier. I can’t recall the last time foils and nonfoils of a rare were that close in price, but here we are. The card is showing up in a lot of sideboards in Standard, and it’s a fun card to put in your UR control deck. The extra spicy tech in that deck is how Thing in the Ice is going to come down anyway, and live through the Suns. Nothing telegraphs a sweeper like refusing to play a creature into it.

It’s not common for us to see a card slowly rise like this over time. Usually, we see spikes as someone figures it out and does well, but this is getting play here, and there, and in this sideboard, and it’s possibly better in Modern than Anger of the Gods (you want cycling or you want exile, take your pick) but it’s a card that is a good contender to keep going up. Three damage is enough to kill almost everything played before turn three, and if you can get the double red, it’s hard for this to not get at least two creatures. And it cycles!

I’m not advocating buying Sweltering Suns right now. It’d have to go up in price tremendously to be worth it. I would, however, trade for them slowly and hold onto them for a while, because it’s going to be climbing more.

Cliff is an avid Cuber these days, having played far too many Commander games that lasted two hours. He first opened a pack of Revised in late 1994, and has been writing about Magic for longer than he’s been a father. He’s always on the lookout for value or weird ways to play.

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