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

Replacement Effects

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When you’re looking at new cards, the immediate impulse is often “Holy crap that would be amazing in my Standard/Modern/Legacy/EDH/Cube list, it works so great with this and that!” I’m sympathetic to this, since I have nine EDH decks, and that means every new card has a potential home.

However, Magic is a game of rules. EDH has a hard rule about 99 cards in the main deck, and only the bravest of souls play Constructed formats with more than 60 cards. For every new card that gets added to a deck, something has to come out. There lies the problem.

I have a very bad habit: I trade for cards that I think will be good in a deck before I think about what has to come out of that deck. This process of “making room” has several complications.

Quantity Conundrum

Conundrum Sphinx

In Commander or Cube, seems easy on the surface. You need one. Unless…you need several. Command Tower and its new cousin, Opal Palace, are something that can really go into any Commander deck.  Very few people can say they have only one EDH deck; we tend to have multiples. There are certainly exceptions to ‘staples,’ but you need to have a reason not to play something as universally good as Solemn Simulacrum in every single deck.

Alternatively in Constructed formats, you’re almost always forced to trade for a playset because it’s better to have that option. You want to be able to slot in the full four if needed. And even if a deck doesn’t play four copies of a specific card this weekend, it very well may next.

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The Agony of Choice

In competitive decks, adding a card is often a matter of playing the “which is better?” game, with the loser being removed from your deck. There’s a certain amount of figuring out what to add or subtract for synergy as well. Depending on your deck, you’ll find out in the course of playing if a card needs to stay or go.

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In the casual formats, a lot of people like to make changes merely for the sake of making changes. That is valid and can be a lot of fun, but you wind up making changes constantly. One thing that I do, and I know others do, is keep a separate box/binder for cards that are no longer in decks, because I might go back to that card down the road.

Metagaming

This is something I’m terrible at, and I refer you to others more experienced. Suffice to say that if there is some hot new card you want to be the guy running it the first week, but by the time everyone adapts to it, you may need to be off it in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Strategic Planning

I have a small binder full of cards that I traded for to put into EDH decks but never found their way there. I just wasn’t able to find something to take out in favor of the new cards! Primeval Bounty

Such wasted effort in a trade is something I want to avoid. I’ve learned that in Commander at least, it’s possible to plan ahead. Before I trade too hard for a new card, I sit down and look at the deck I want to put that card into. I have to decide what I would take out in favor of that new card – and if I can’t make that decision, then I’m not trading for that card.

Case in point: Primeval Bounty. In light of examining why the price of this card never fell as far as I thought it should, I decided not to trade for all three copies I planned on needing initially. I settled for one that I tried in three different decks, and came away unimpressed.

So when the next big thing hits (we aren’t that far from Born of the Gods spoilers,) be realistic about what you can use. You’ll save yourself some time and effort if you do.

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The Value of Being Social

By: Cliff Daigle

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you’re not, you should be: @WordOfCommander) then last week you saw this tweet in your timeline:


That’s two foil Forests, three foil Mountains, seven foil Swamps, a full-art alter of Sol Ring, and a full-art alter of Solemn Simulacrum, all of which are signed by the entire EDH Rules Committee. Damia, Sage of Stone

I got these by participating in the Merry Grixis Gift Exchange held on the mtgcommander.net forums. Last year, as part of this Secret Santa exchange, I sent some signed cards and a custom foil Damia, Sage of Stone to another member. The exchanges were thrilling and generous – one member received an entire Zombie Horde deck!

The foil lands were given to every participant in the gift exchange. After all the gifts were given, we voted on whose was most awesome. I tied with another member, and lost the coin flip. He got the Sol Ring, the Solemn, and a Command Tower with the same treatment. If only I had voted for myself!

I’m bringing this up because Magic is more than a game, more than a competition, more than a way to make money. It’s a powerful tool for social interaction, especially in casual formats. When drafting a high-power cube and faced with a third pick choice of Stoneforge Mystic, Timetwister, or Lightning Bolt, you’re likely both welcomed and encouraged to have a conversation about what else the pack may have contained.

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I’ve moved several times in my adult life. Every time I do, I know that I’m going to head to the local game shop (or shops) and find people to play with. I don’t need to feel awkward or unsure, I simply need to look around and I’ll find people to play Commander with, or draft with, or trade with. This is an instant pool of people for me to find new friends who have common interests.

Your quest for success in the realm of Magic finance doesn’t have to be a solo one. The relationships you foster with other people and other groups can have a strong effect on your performance and your enjoyment. Timetwister

I was once famous for hosting eight to thirteen people in my apartment after an FNM, for Cube or EDH or poker or whatever game we’d fallen in love with. Of course not everyone can or wants to invite others into their home, but it has certainly been a rewarding experience for me.

Online, there’s a few ways you can interact with people. Keep in mind that given the shroud of anonymity, a lot of folks are often less than helpful or outright mean. Learn to sort through the negativity.

Forums: I’m a member of several, such as MTGCommander, Deckbox, and MTGSalvation. Generally, the less people who interact on a forum, the friendlier it will be. Small communities are frequently more welcoming. I should disclose that I’ve been banned and suspended from MTGSalvation in the past, because their policy is very strict when it comes to foil proxies (which are technically counterfeits). I’m not a member of Quiet Speculation’s boards, since they require a paid account, but many people I follow on Twitter have mentioned that it is a very useful forum. Evil Presence

Reddit: The r/MagicTCG subreddit and its cousin, r/MTGFinance, are both places where anyone can interact with anyone. This is a Sword of Good and Bad. There tends to be a lot of negativity, especially when it comes to predictions. There’s also an interesting ‘hive mind’ effect in play, where a group picks a viewpoint and defends it vigorously, attacking any disagreement.

Twitter: I wouldn’t try to steal Jason’s “Who to Follow” series on GatheringMagic, or Travis’ recent foray into Twitter’s applications, but I will say that you’ll be surprised how many people will answer questions on Twitter. It’s a higher number than you think. Not just Magic finance people either–a lot of Wizards employees work hard to interact with the community. On Twitter you can also interject yourself into a conversation or try to arrange for a gaming session pretty easily.

Being social carries a value far beyond that of cards you pick up in contests. Being connected to other people in large and small ways not only increases your enjoyment of the game, but also gives you a pool of people to buy, sell, and trade with. I would encourage you to develop these connections, and be open to the resulting fun.

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Commander 2013

It’s finally here; what was promised to us way back in 2011. A new set of Commander decks has arrived, complete with new toys to play with and to spend a lot more money on.

Commander has really taken off, enjoying a growth period that Wizards really wants to encourage. They’ve shown their eagerness to push Commander by releasing cards in each expansion, such as Theros, that are perfect for the format. If you’re new to 100-card decks, buy any of these new product and have a blast.

For more experienced players, the retail price of $150 for all five decks is a big cost. Is it worth it?

Before I get to the discussion, let’s see if I did well in some of my predictions a few weeks back.

I never would have thought Sol Ring would come around again, but I’m strongly in favor of Swiftfoot Boots being reprinted over and over. I’m impressed that they gave us new Zombie and Bird legends, and enable new strategies using the Command Zone. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

I was right about a Naya beast legend, wrong about Angels and Sphinxes (ugh, Sharuum *again*?) and totally wrong about fetchlands. C’est la vie.

Perhaps the big surprise is the Portal:Three Kingdoms reprints. These cards have popped up before: Cao Cao and Sun Quan in FTV: Legends, Xiahou Dun as a judge foil, Loyal Retainers and Diaochan, Artful Beauty in Commander’s Arsenal, and now three legends (Hua Tuo, Honored Physician, Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”, and Lu Xun, Scholar General) plus three spells (Spoils of Victory, Strategic Planning, Borrowing 100,000 Arrows). None of these are overpowered legends, though I can easily see someone building a control deck around Lu Xun.

I would expect the prices of these reprints to stay reasonably low. Their original incarnations won’t budge much (see Loyal Retainers,) but these will be available.

As I mentioned last time, the price spikes in the sealed Commander sets from 2011 is due to both the Legacy playability of the cards as well as the sheer value of the rest of the cards. For example, in the 2011 Heavenly Inferno deck, Kaalia of the Vast, Sol Ring, and the Command Tower make up the MSRP, while everything else is a bonus. True-Name Nemesis

There is a lot of value in the five 2013 decks, and the flag bearer is the Grixis deck, since True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix are in there. Those, plus Thraximundar and Sol Ring, easily put you over MSRP.

True-Name Nemesis alone is pre-ordering for around $40. That is more than the MSRP. More than any other card in this set. I can’t see it holding this price for long, not when big box stores like Target get product. Scavenging Ooze is the historical example, and that hit a high around $40 before tapering off and getting reprinted.

It doesn’t seem like you can go wrong buying the Grixis deck and moving the singles, especially while the hype and demand is at its peak. With the price of Nemesis and Strix being so high, this looks to be the chase deck and might well depress the price of everything else inside. I’d get rid of everything I could immediately. Sell into the hype, as Jason Alt likes to say.

Again, everything is gravy… if you can move it.

As someone who bought eight of the first decks, allow me to toss this stone from my glass house: I will be trading for specific singles this time around, not buying complete decks. The reason is because aside from some of the brand new cards, I don’t need anything from these sets. I’ve still got most of those cards sitting in a box.

I know, I know. I could buy the deck that has what I want and trade away everything else.

The problem is that it took me 18 months to find someone who wanted to trade for my Commander Sol Ring. It sat in my binder forever! I preach patience but really, that drove me crazy. It is possible to extract the value from the decks, but the process is not a fast one. Keep in mind that lots of other people will be trying to do the exact same thing, and Wizards has indicated that they will reprint these decks if the demand is there. Unexpectedly Absent

So this weekend I’m going to start trying to trade for a few select cards. I suspect that the Legacy chase cards will be True-Name Nemesis, Unexpectedly Absent, and Sudden Demise. Unexpectedly Absent is fantastic if you have WW open and they use a shuffle effect; cast it for zero in response and put whatever on top of their library, which results in them being forced to shuffle it away. Keep an eye on Angel of Finality, because it’s cheaply costed, an effective beater, and has a very relevant ability. You’re paying two colorless more than Rest In Peace and getting a 3/4 flyer!

If you don’t want to spend the cash on the decks, you’ll be fine. If you’re a Curse player, you’ll be able to trade for the new ones cheaply. If you want one of the new legends, you’ll found one before too long. If it’s the last two 8-drop forces you crave, they won’t be difficult to find.

Before you run out and spend your cash for the value stuffed into these decks (and there’s good value!), do yourself a favor and evaluate which cards you want. Singles may be the better path for you.

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Trades from the Time Capsule

I have espoused my love of deckbox.org in a previous article, and today I want to share some trades I’ve made in the past nine months. These are trades I either made for a card to go into an EDH deck, or trades I made in order to buy low and/or sell high.

I show these to you in order to demonstrate how a little time can drastically change values, especially when rotating sets are involved. Trades such as these are why you want to trade into the hype, and not worry too much about extracting every possible dollar.

All trades were equal value at the time of completion. Deckbox’s trade screen makes it hard to lose much value, based off of TCG mid.

Let’s start with my first trade ever on Deckbox.

 

Master Biomancer

Feb. 12, 2013
My: Garruk Relentless & Restoration Angel
Their: Master Biomancer (Foil) & Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Today: about $13 each side.
Explanation:  My Experiment Kraj EDH deck loves having a foil Biomancer. The Ajani was just to even out the value. Garruk and the Angel were both higher than they were now, but their value had already started to taper downwards.

 

domri

Feb 22, 2013
My: 2x Hellrider, 2x Frontline Medic
Their: Domri Rade (Foil)
Today:$10 vs. $40.
Explanation: I aggressively traded away Hellrider at its peak. Small set or not, I knew that price was unsustainable in the long term and I never wanted to hold onto these for long.  Foil Domri was about where he is now: $35-$40 or so.  Hellrider was in the $12-15 range, about to hit his peak, and Frontline was in the $3-$5 range. Meanwhile, I have a Jund EDH deck with 60 creatures that Domri is perfect for.

I bought the Boros event deck and immediately shipped everything in there, as all the rares were, pardon the pun, red-hot.

 

Cavern of Souls

March 4, 2013
My: Morningtide Mutavaut
Their: Cavern of Souls (foil)
Today: About $20 for the Mutavault, $30 for the Cavern.
Explanation: Around $40 each, this was a trade I hemmed and hawed over for a week. I needed the foil cavern for an EDH deck, so I gave in. A month later, the price for Mutavaults tanked when it was spoiled.

 

Domri Rade

March 7, 2013
My: Falkenrath Aristocrat, 2x Knight of Infamy, Slaughter Games
Their: Domri Rade
Now: $7 vs. $26
Explanation: Domri had dropped quite a bit, but was just starting to rebound.  I knew I wanted to get rid of Aristocrats ahead of the curve, so I grabbed the Planeswalker. As of late, Domri has made this look even better.

 

Vraska the Unseen

April 2, 2013
My: Bonfire of the Damned x2
Their: 2x Domri Rade, Vraska the Unseen, 3x Thespian’s Stage
Now: $18 vs. $65
Explanation: I had acquired a set of Bonfires for a Rakdos control deck that wasn’t working out.  So I moved on.  I didn’t let them go at quite their peak but I still got good long-term value.

 

Jace, Architect of Thought

April 22, 2013
My: 2x Sunpetal Grove
Their: Jace, Architect of Thought
Now: $6 vs. $26
Explanation: I was looking for Jaces around $10 and I found one for trade.  Simple enough.

 

ipad4_2

(Perhaps my favorite trade ever)
July 29, 2013
My: 4x Deathrite Shaman, 4x Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique (Morningtide), Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, 2x Badlands, Scrubland, Plateau (all duals were Revised, NM-)
Their: Factory sealed 16GB iPad 4
Explanation: Believe it or not, this was the third iPad this person has traded through Deckbox. I missed out the first two times, but grabbed him for the third. I’d been looking for an iPad for a while, and was prepared to go through Craigslist or perhaps purchase a refurbished one, so to get full retail value on my cards for something that I wanted–badly–was a real winner. I wasn’t happy about ripping out the best part of my Kaalia deck’s mana base, but that gives me something to work on now.

(Just for fun, read this article from two years ago, about trading for retail items at buylist prices: http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/finance/22886-Going-Infinite-An-Epic-Trade.html)

 

Abrupt Decay

Here’s a recent trade of mine, made with this same eye on what’s hot vs. long-term stability.

October 1, 2013
My: 4x Jace, Architect of Thought
Their: 4x Cavern of Souls, 4x Abrupt Decay, Deathrite Shaman
Explanation: With this trade, I’m cashing in on Jace’s rising price and getting things which I feel will go up.  I’ve spoken of my love for Cavern, and if $13 is the floor, so be it. I’ve been patiently waiting for Cavern to hit bottom so I can put it into my EDH decks, and now I’m finally moving in. This trade proved quite amusing to me, as we finalized it on a Friday when Jace was at $22, and then by Monday he was up to $30. I’m behind right now, but in a year (the Caverns are going into EDH decks, the Decays into my long-term binder) I expect to be far ahead.

I hope you’re able to make some similar trades for their long-term value. I’m not sure exactly what those cards are yet, so stay tuned!

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