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

Joining the Conspiracy

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By: Cliff Daigle

I know that most of you here are enthusiastic Magic players. You’re likely to do a lot of trading, buying, and selling. You attend a range of events, from FNM to PTQ, GP and other large events. Wizards knows this and does things to make Magic an awesome game for you.

They also understand that a huge part of the playerbase is not here to gain value, or to win a tournament, or even to win a game. Many players are here because this game is a social interaction interwoven with a card game, and this interaction is tremendously fun.

That’s how we get Conspiracy.

I’m here to tell you that Conspiracy is draft- and multiplayer- based, and in a way that is going to be very, very fun. You are going to see people want to draft this set on a basis that I don’t think has been matched. Modern Masters may have come close, but the value on that set made it sought after in a different way.

I’ve been lucky enough to draft almost every set of Magic. I’ve drafted Unglued and Unhinged. I’ve drafted the Ice Age block. I’ve helped build Reject Rare Cubes for drafting.

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Nothing is going to come close to what Conspiracy offers. The mechanics that alter the draft, even going so far as to add a ninth booster pack to the eight that are circulating. You get to peek at another pack, or see what else has been taken.

The gameplay mechanics are fantastic too. Will of the Council allows for democracy, unless you have Brago’s Representative and then you’re a dictator. None of the choices are ever weak either. You’re going to get a great effect no matter the vote, and ‘helping’ others decide how to vote is going to be a game within the game.

Dethrone is a simple and effective tool for deciding who to attack. I’m salivating at the thought of what effect is going to give other creatures dethrone. If we’re really lucky, we will get an effect that can be passed from player to player. “At the beginning of each combat step, all creatures controlled by target player gain Dethrone” would be something amazing to put on a creature. It’s super helpful that Dethrone triggers on the attack, not on the damage.

Parley is just a great way to peek at what other players will have going on. Reveals and bonuses are a way to make the information palatable to those players because you’re usually getting much more of a bonus.

I want you to go to the release events. Just play. Play as much as you can. This is a set that will reinforce the vast array of player types that Wizards has learned to accomodate. The same company that rules the Modern banned list with an iron fist also creates a set where Deal Broker is a card.

There are going to be some unique cards available in Conspiracy, and with the presence of foils, might be incredibly pricey. Of note so far will be only the third foil printing of Brainstorm and the first non-promo foil of Swords to Plowshares. Exploration, an Urza’s Saga rare that did not get the reserved list treatment, will have its first foil. Dack Fayden in foil will also command a hefty price tag, but if you’re looking for a lower bar of entry on your speculations, I’d suggest going after foils of the cards that affect the draft, like Cogwork Librarian.

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Conspiracy is going to have a big effect on Cubes this way. Some purists won’t want to touch these sorts of cards, and I suspect that more will add them with gusto. Even the foil common versions will be worth a surprising amount after we’ve moved on to Magic 2015 and the Khans block.

There’s one more thing to note about prices and Conspiracy: We’re going to have an effect on Journey into Nyx – Born of the Gods – Theros drafts. If your FNM is doing Conspiracy instead of JBT, that’s going to keep Theros block cards a little more scarce. Modern Masters interfered with M14 this way and led to a dearth of Mutavault. It’s possible that Conspiracy makes Journey into Nyx cards even rarer than my 6:2:1 article would indicate. It’s possible that if Conspiracy sells well and get reprinted, it will affect the summer sales of M15 as well.

I’m seeing preorder boxes for pretty close to MSRP. Some are even below, as if this were any old booster set. This is not the usual 36 packs, and if you get the chance to put away a box or two, it will be an easy way to grow your money over time. Booster boxes usually are, but ones that offer a unique and fun format, AND AT THE SAME TIME are stuffed full of value, should be treated with respect and purchased freely.

And if anyone asks…I didn’t tell you. Shhh!

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Judge Foils I’d Like to See

By: Cliff Daigle

With the recent spoiling of some special-edition judge foils, it became clear to me that there are more judge foils that need to be released.

I leave it to others to speculate on the price of the promo Force of Will (ALL THE DOLLARS) and instead I’m thinking of my experiences buying foils that are given out in judge packs at high-level events for a while. Judge foils usually follow a pattern of being at a very high price on their release, and that price slowly comes down over the duration of the card being given out.

For example, a friend of mine bought a Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed when it was first printed as a promo for the price of $120. Eight months later, it could be had for $60.

First of all, two cycles:

Sword of War and Peace & Sword of Body and Mind (old frame) – We’ve gotten three of the five swords in the old frame, and Wizards knows we like our cycles. Expect these as a when, not an if. WaP and BaM are the weakest of the Swords, and would probably end up in the $30 range. 

The other Praetors in Phyrexian – Again, this is a cycle begging to be printed. The Phyrexian Elesh Norn is sick, and I’d love to have this same effect applied to the other four colors. Since the other four see less play and are arguably weaker, their prices will be low too, probably down to $20.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – There are three Legendary Eldrazi, and Ulamog and Emrakul have each had a special edition. Set foil Kozilek is surprisingly expensive, and the judge foil wouldn’t make it any lower than $60, I’d say.

Iona, Shield of Emeria – As a reanimation target, Iona is super-popular for her ability to shut out an entire color. She’s popular in Cubes for this reason, and there are polite disagreements about her use in EDH, when a reanimation/Kaalia/Bribery can put her in play early and lock out some players. A judge version of her would be around $30 once the initial demand was met.

Mana Drain – If Force can finally make it, this is the other one that Eternal players are eager for. It’s enormously powerful, a card that hearkens back to the days when counterspells we not only undercosted, they gave significant advantages. I suspect that this would be a limited edition as Force is said to be, and therefore I’ll say the price here would be around $600.

Vigor – This would be an attempt to goose the supply of Vigor for casual players. It’s a really great effect for a wide range of decks and players, something I try to put in as many decks as I can. It dates back to right before Magic started to explode, and would be welcome in lots of formats. It’s never seen much Constructed play, so I’d expect these foils to be around $25.

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Yavimaya Elder – Hear me out. This is a card that isn’t worth much in nonfoil, but there’s only been one foil printing. This could use the superior Matt Cavotta art, and be a very pretty upgrade in nearly every green deck ever. It would carry a price around $15-$20, and I would be delighted to pick those up.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – This is a card that frankly people in casual formats don’t play enough. It’s not only Wrath insurance, you’ll also get a re-use of all the sweet enters-the-battlefield effects on the creatures you play with anyway! this would not be a high-value card, but it would be a lot of fun. $15.

Sensei’s Divining Top – It was a mainstay of so many decks that it’s banned in Modern due to sheer logistics. It’s an old uncommon, it was in FTV: Exiled, and it doesn’t matter because so many decks like having this effect. Judge foils on this would never be below $50.

I imagine that I left out some fun ones. (Remember, judge foils can no longer be from the reserved list, despite the presence of Survival of the Fittest and Thawing Glaciers promos) and I’d like to hear what you want to have. I’m excited that Terese Nielsen’s Hanna, Ship’s Navigator will be available, and more Commander-only cards are sure to be printed too! Let me know what should be here, in the comments or on Twitter @WordOfCommander

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Uncontrolled Growth

By: Cliff Daigle

Aaron Forsythe, head of magic R&D, was on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast two weeks ago. Among the many things mentioned on that show was that sanctioned Modern events have tripled in one year.

Tripled.

There were three times as many of these events held and sanctioned, meaning that this format is not only accessible, it is popular, despite the financial barrier to entry that has occurred in the past year.

Shocklands pushing $100. Tarmogoyf going up despite being in Modern Masters. Spell Pierce being a $2 common. The list goes on.

Commander has seen a similar set of price trajectories in the past year, with a range of cards spiking due to Nekusar’s popularity and the release of a second set of Commander decks. Some of the format ‘staples’ are at high prices due solely to the appeal of this ‘casual’ format. 

In many ways, these two formats have allowed Magic to have a period of sustained and substantial growth. More and more people are not only taking up the game, they are finding the ways to play that appeal to them. EDH brought back stacks of players, and when we returned to the game, we found that our old cards were worth enough to pay for our re-entry into this game.

I’ve said before that I’ve done my fair share of selling out. I wanted the cash instead of the cards. I’m likely to do so again.

When it comes to the growth of Magic, I’ve come to the conclusion that for the most part, reprints are not going to affect the price for long. Wizards has demonstrated that they want to err on the side of underprinting, and in some cases, being in a major set has not affected the price for long. Thoughtseize is going to be an exception, but it would not be surprising if that card regained a price level of $40 within two years.

While I can’t think of another game that waited until years 16-20 to start such a period of growth, I feel pretty good about the next couple of years. I don’t know if the next large fall set (a revisitation of an old one, if the pattern holds. Dominiaria? Alara? Zendikar?) will be the best-selling set ever again, but I can say that it will be fun to introduce new players that way.

As for some specific cards, I’m quite surprised at Athreos’s current price. We’ve barely started events with Journey, and until we start getting more results, I’d be happy to trade these away at $25 or so. It’s cheap and capable of being powerful, but what creature in Standard are we recycling for value? Perhaps that will be answered soon.

Mana Confluence is slowly trending down. It’ll be present in greedy control decks for the next year, but probably at a 2-or-3-of. I’m really surprised that with some decks not running basics at all Burning Earth hasn’t had a chance to shine. I’d pick up any Confluences around $10, but it hasn’t gotten that low yet. I would absolutely trade for them at $40 in value, though.

Foil Kruphix, God of Horizons is around $25 and I would happily trade for them at that price. The casual appeal for that card is measured in megatons.

Finally, a word about the judge foils recently announced, including Force of Will: These include some very chase cards, and I’m least surprised by the old-frame Sword of Feast and Famine. You may expect Body and Mind and War and Peace to follow, as Wizards knows collectors love their cycles dearly.

I do not expect many of these foil Forces to make it far. They are going to be snapped up quickly, and I’ll be watching the effect on the non-foil Forces. Terese Nielsen has put some legendary alters of this card on the market for those who needed to make their nonfoils more unique, so there’s some collectors who might not care at all.

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Will the market get flooded with nonfoils as people upgrade to foils? I don’t think so. I expect the nonfoil price to hold steady…with a good chance of it rising. Modern Masters taught us that when you bump the supply of a card, especially something that’s often a four-of, the demand can go up even more. We will have to wait and see.

I’d love to have one of the first judge foils, just to set the market on eBay!

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The Cards You’ll be Sick of

By: Cliff Daigle

Journey into Nyx has given us some very interesting cards to use in casual formats. Some of them will be niche cards at best, but others are going to see a lot of casual play even if their price isn’t very high.

I’m going to rate these based on what I’d do if I opened these at a Release Event, with the set still new and prices high.

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

This cat does it all, unless you’re losing. His lack of board impact means NOTHING to the superfriends decks, the ones that play almost every Planeswalker and Doubling Season. (Except Tibalt. No one plays Tibalt.)

This Ajani not only completes the two-color combinations for Planeswalkers, he digs for those friends quite quickly. You’re going to sigh when he lands, because he’ll grab another annoying card almost immediately.

I don’t see this making a big splash in Cube, it’s a bit slow for that, but if you can get $25 in trade I’d make such a deal. A warning: as a mythic PW in a third set, he’s got a very real chance to spike hard during the next block. Better to take the sure thing, though.

Prophetic Flamespeaker

I admit I misread this card. I thought you’d be able to cast it without paying the mana cost. Instead, we get the pseudo-draw of Chandra, Pyromaster. In the next year, in Standard and in casual games, you’re going to have to correct someone how it works far more than you want to.

Even with that, it’s a card with both double strike and trample, a combination that has only been on Dragon Tyrant so far. (Someone forgot Greater Morphling. -ed.) Any equipment, any pump spell, and this guy is ready to set the world on fire.

Kruphix, God of Horizons

For all sorts of reasons, this is going to be a popular card in casual games. Fun color pair, enables big spells, no maximum hand size…and indestructible on top of that. At first I thought it was lame that the mana became colorless, but then I realized that if the mana kept its color, you’d need many colors of dice to keep track of what was still being saved.

Exiling enchantments has never been more necessary in EDH games, for this God and its kin.

Worst Fears

I understand why this needs to exile itself after use. I’ve seen Mindslaver/Academy Ruin locks and Wizards wanted to avoid adding another one of those. I do like the point-and-click nature of this spell: No warning, no chance to get Krosan Grip-ed before use…just take their turn. Done.

I think this is going to be the card that keeps its price higher than expected for a while, like Primeval Bounty in M14.

Dictate of Erebos

Grave Pact is a little rough on the mana with triple black, and others can see it coming. Giving it flash means that the surprise value is going to be very, very high. Having some iconic art (especially in foil!) doesn’t hurt at all. I don’t think this is going to be a Standard player, but it will be a mainstay of kitchen table Magic for quite some time.

What to Grab

I told you last week to trade everything you open, but at certain prices, there are things I’d try to trade for this week in the release event (All prices as of Wednesday):

Mana Confluence at $15 – I will be surprised if the big MC goes below $15 for its time in Standard. The foils are at an appropriately ridiculous price, indicating the appeal of this card in casual/pimp formats. I’d be happy to pick these up at $15 in value, because it won’t go below that for very long, if at all.

Temples at $6 – The two temples of Journey into Nyx are going to be the rarer ones, as I’ve covered before. I think $6 is a great price point for lands that I’ll be trading away at $10 in the middle of the next block.

What to Ship

Godsend at $13: While the effect is neat and there’s a chance of Legacy play in the True-Name Nemesis matchup, it’s just too much mana. More likely this settles in around $7 for the casual crowd.

Prophetic Flamespeaker at $10: While I think you’ll see a lot of this card, it won’t hold this price for long. A spike is possible, since it’s a mythic, but the safer play is to get out now. If it hits $15 in a year, oh well. Look at something like Deadbridge Chant to see the other path it could take.

Good luck at your events!

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