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.

Are You a Collector?

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For most Magic players, there’s an element of the game that has nothing to do with the play of the game: the thrill of having something special, unique, or rare.

There are some players who could not care less about having a foil, signed, foreign, or misprinted card. They want the cards in order to play the game. Others want to make a strong statement, and choose to use any many of those as possible.

You need to understand if you’re a player, a collector, or a combination of the two. When you understand what brings you the greatest satisfaction, you can adjust your outlook on what cards to prioritize.

 It’s been my experience that frequent Standard players will use regular versions of cards.  Many Modern players also neglect to use particular copies. On the other hand, we have Legacy, Vintage, and plenty of casual players that will go to great lengths and spend significant money to obtain rarer cards for their decks. Price checks bear this out: look at a foil Brainstorm’s price against any of its many non-foil printings.

brainstorm

Through this there remains, as always, the bittersweet torment of being a Magic collector: we have a built-in mechanism for showing off a sweet version of a card (playing the game of Magic) but sometimes that card doesn’t see the battlefield. This is especially true in EDH, with a new card being one out of 99 in the deck.  If you have a cube that you have put time, energy, and money into making your unique flower, then it’s a disappointment when you can’t get everyone over to draft with it.When you are not satisfied with the English non-foil version of a card, you’re not just a player, you’re a collector too. You need to understand that about yourself, and it’s not always easy.  I’ve been down this path many times. I spent more than a year chasing specific foils because I wanted every card in one EDH deck to be foil. At the end, I had to make tough decisions about cards that were not available in foil but worked in the deck thematically. My collector side won out, and now my oh-so-shiny Vampire EDH deck doesn’t have Volrath’s Stronghold or Baron Sengir.

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volrath stronghold

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There is an additional issue when you have a particularly valuable card: the risk of damage.  A powered cube will easily contain several thousand dollars worth of paper. Paper!  A spilled drink, a careless shuffle; any number of things can happen to damage a card and lower the value dramatically. Herein lies a tension: players want to cast the sweet card, and collectors want to protect their investment. Double-sleeved or not, having expensive cards in a deck or cube can be wonderful yet terrifying.

So we walk a fine line between desire and caution. We make proxies, we use printouts, we settle for a cheaper version to play with.

This topic is particularly salient because we have been rather saturated with collector’s editions in the past twelve months:  Commander’s Arsenal, Modern Masters, the black foil SDCC Planeswalkers, and From the Vault: Twenty. If you bought one, you felt good and enjoy it (that’s me and the Arsenal). Two, then you’re feeling like an investor.  Three or more, and your bankroll may be feeling the pinch.

When you realize that special editions are all reprints, things get a little easier to handle.  None of the cards above are new to Magic.  None.  You could have them before and you can have them after.  Spending $100 or more on a single SDCC planeswalker represents an investment as a collector, not a player.  For that much money, you can build an entire EDH deck (or three) that play well.

Like most players, I have to balance my urge to collect with my urge to play.  I encourage you to do the same, because you probably don’t have unlimited funds to feed both the collector and the player.  When you understand which you like doing more, then you can focus your spending wisely and subsequently gain greater joy.

I tell people to pick an EDH general based on what type of Magic they like to play, and your financial outlays should be based on similar principles.

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Conditioned Response

By Cliff Daigle

For much of the MTG finance world, condition is a big deal. Scales, grading, and the smallest of dents can knock significant value off of a card.

However, to someone who is building a cube, or needs that last foil, or mainly plays at someone’s table on Saturdays… condition isn’t nearly as big a deal.

I tell you this because if you’ve ever tried to sell/trade to a vendor or a collector, you know that they will take money off based on their grade of the card. It can be frustrating and then some, especially if you think you’ve taken good care of it.

Here is a secret for dealing with most casual players: minor and sometimes major flaws in a card are not that important. I myself have a Bloodstained Mire that I bought for $15 from a retailer, because it had been bent. Undamaged ones were $30, and I had planned to get one of those, but when I put the bent card in a sleeve, the damage wasn’t easily apparent.

Should I ever need to trade that Mire, I’ll be looking for someone who doesn’t care about condition, and I’ll find such a person before too long.

Keep in mind that for older cards, condition is likely to be a key factor. Dual lands, pieces of Power, Alpha lands: all of these (and more) have their price affected by condition, sometimes heavily. These are 20-year-old pieces of cardboard, and very few have made it through unscathed. In case you didn’t know, we didn’t really have sleeves for cards for the first few years, and so the backs of cards will often have all sorts of dents and scratches from being turned sideways on a piece of concrete.

Now, it’s true that some cards are truly damaged and unplayable. Some are so warped that they cannot be used in tournaments, and I respect anyone who won’t keep such cards. But for many players, if it looks okay-to-decent in a sleeve, there’s no problem. You won’t get as much in trade as you would an undamaged card, but you’ll get more than you expect. In some cases, people won’t ask for less at all.

If they do care about the condition, and want to knock a little off the value, you should probably accept that it is indeed worth less (but not worthless!). If they want to grade the card in front of you, then it’s probably time to move on.

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This is especially true with foils. I’ve met players who really wanted the effect a foil gets if it’s been played without a sleeve and there’s an edge of silver around the card, from where the black ink on the border has worn off. I’ve met others who don’t want that effect at all, and wanted a lot less than the card was worth.

When you’re trading online, then you’re in a much trickier area. I’ve had multiple experiences where cards arrived in a different condition than I expected, and I’ve had people say I sent Slightly Played cards instead of the Near Mint I promised them. My advice in this regard is to be open and honest. Communication is everything. If there’s a chance of a problem, scans are good, pictures are good.

On eBay, I’ve heard tales of someone who sold a card at NM price, but the buyer then claimed that the card was SP. So the buyer sent the card back, and indeed, it was a SP that got sent back. This is an evil, criminal tactic to upgrade the condition of a card and a reason why you need to be diligent with feedback. I’m told eBay always takes the buyer’s side, so be appropriately cautious.

Be cautious as well when you’re dealing with signed cards. Most vendors view that as a negative, even though many casual players will view a signed card as more unique and personalized. I like my signed cards, as they represent a journey of different artists I have met and events I have been to.

So if you have a slightly worn yet very awesome card, don’t despair. Just be patient. A vendor may not give you full value for it, but there are many trade partners who are looking for that exact card. You’ll find them, make the trade, and everyone wins.

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Planning ahead for Commander 2013

There is a healthy amount of debate about which casual format is the most popular. We have so many to choose from! EDH is my forte, but we have Cubes, Rainbow, Highlander, Horde, and so many more. I’m of the opinion that 60-card casual is the most popular, without much regard for sets and legality. There are some awesome and fun decks to build, and I’ve got the Voltron deck with the Visions Chimera creatures to back this statement up.

Shiny.

EDH is the casual format that gets the most press, though, and it also gets the most official support from Wizards. In 2011, they released a set of five preconstructed 100-card decks that contained cards never printed before. This was a real gamble from the company, because if a card took off for Legacy, then the decks would get bought up.

Luckily, this wasn’t really a problem. Flusterstorm was quickly a judge promo, and just as Scavenging Ooze was getting out of hand in price, it’s a rare in Magic 2014.

Let’s not overlook the value that was crammed into these decks, though. On top of the new cards, there were lots of reprints with monetary worth. Sol Ring was in every deck, and the price on that alone is 25% of the MSRP.

We got lands, artifacts, creatures, all sorts of amazing goodies, and for a surprisingly reasonable price. Since this was a wide release, game stores didn’t have a chance to mark this up like they do with FTV or other limited releases.

Why am I reviewing things from two years ago? Because there is a new set of five Commander decks coming out this November, and we know enough to make some plans. Last week I made some specific price predictions that are taking into account a new batch of EDH players, and the increased demand for such casual cards.

The decks are three-color shards, allied colors as in the Shards of Alara block. This means that the tri-lands like Seaside Citadel, currently $2 uncommons, will very likely get a reprint. I think their value will go down slightly (so you should get rid of extras you have now), but you should pick up foils now if you can.

We didn’t get much in terms of rare lands last time, aside from Command Tower, an elegantly simple design. Expect that to get printed again. I would suggest you keep an eye on eBay for the two foil Towers, the judge promo and the Commanders Arsenal, as those won’t come around again with that art and in foil. When the new decks come out, people will want the foils and I doubt you’ll be able to find these under $20.

I don’t expect the check lands (Sunpetal Grove, Sulfur Falls, etc.) to be in these decks either. I’m targeting these lands when they rotate anyway, but you want to have the two allied lands and the enemy-color land to trade away at high value once people are opening the decks and want to improve the manabase. So for the red-black-blue deck (Grixis colors) someone will want a Dragonskull Summit, a Drowned Catacomb, and a Sulfur Falls, all at once. You should be able to get the assorted checklands for very low investment once rotation happens, and they will bump up when the Commander decks come out.

Since the new decks are shards and not wedges like the last, I’m also looking for the legends from the 2011 set. Being printed two years ago and safe from printing this year means that they are safe for at least another year. When someone picks up EDH as a format, the tendency is to go on a deck-building spree. Did you know that Kaalia of the Vast is a $15+ card? She will probably be retailing for $20 before Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to find spare singles from Commander’s Arsenal but it may be worth it, since we have been told that the preconstructed decks will be a yearly thing and CA was a one-time product.

The two spoiled legends from the set are a Vampire and a Dragon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Bant Angel, a Naya Beast, and an Esper Sphinx as legends. I’m on the lookout for cards that go well with those tribes and two are about to rotate: Thundermaw Hellkite and Vampire Nocturnus. I’m sure we will see some tribal enablers too.

Give me a moment to make a wild-eyed prediction. Ever since Jace, the Mind Sculptor was put in FTV:20, I’ve had it in my mind that the C13 decks will have fetchlands in each deck. Maybe just one per deck, the enemy-colored ones from Zendikar, because this would increase the supply of those lands for Modern decks somewhat. I’d really love to get the maximum of three fetches per deck but that would just be too amazing.

I want to leave you with this closing thought, based on my play with the first set of five Commander decks: These are not Duel Decks, these are not Event decks. These are very playable, staple-filled, fairly competitive EDH decks. Even now, two years later, each of the decks is easily worth more than its MSRP. Don’t sleep on the value involved just because you don’t play the format.

But you really ought to be playing the format.

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October Rotation Price Targets

By Cliff Daigle

Theros is coming.

It’s going to be released the first week in October, and that’s when ‘rotation’ happens. All of Innistrad block (Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored) and Magic 2013 will not be allowed in Standard decks anymore.

Traditionally, this means that their prices fall, and indeed, a lot of those cards are starting to creep lower.

Today, I want to go over the cards that are going to get taken out of Standard decks and you should snap them up at their lowest prices. I can’t say for sure what those prices will be, but whatever they end up at, get them at rotation. When their price goes back up in a year or so from casual appeal, you’ll be thanking me.

I’m also going to make a prediction for what their prices will be in October 2013, and again in October 2014. My only caveat is that if something gets reprinted or banned, the price will do something really weird and that prediction will be irrelevant.

 

Magic 2013

The M10-M13 checklands (Sunpetal Grove, etc.): These are very common after four core set printings and yet they are still a decent price, because they are very good in casual decks, even as a one-of. These do not see much Modern play, so once their price drops low, they will creep back up around Christmas, I’d say, when the new Commander decks come out and people are building a lot of new EDH decks.
Price at Rotation: $2 each
Price in a year: $5 each

Thundermaw Hellkite: Dragon decks are fun and easy to build. This particular dragon is a powerhouse, being five hasty power for five mana. It’s also worth mentioning that this on turn five is one of the best followups to Kaalia of the Vast on turn four, because he clears the path for her attack. Doesn’t see much Modern play, but sees lots of casual use. I’m in.
Price at Rotation: $7
Price in a year: $12

Rhox Faithmender: Doubling lifegain effects is something casual players love to do. He hasn’t been paired with Thragtusk in a while, but his appeal outside Standard is very high.
Price at Rotation: $1 or less
Price in a year: $3

Sublime Archangel: Angels are a serious thing for casual players. This one is cheap and can hit very hard. She fits into a lot of different decks: Tribal, Exalted, or even ones with themes like “beautiful women on the card” and if you think I’m kidding about those sorts of decks, remember there’s an Elvish Ranger who wants a word. As for Sublime, she will hit a floor at rotation and tick slowly up for years.
Price at Rotation: $6
Price in a year: $10

Omniscience: This is popular in Legacy Show and Tell, often used to cast an Emrakul for free, getting an extra turn and the win pretty often. EDH players go just as crazy for this card. I don’t expect the price to fall far on this card, but I’ll be ready if it does. Of all the cards on this list, if any get banned, this one is the most likely.
Price at Rotation: $8
Price in a year: $20

Vampire Nocturnus: In Magic 2010, with all the cheap vampires and fetch lands from Zendikar, Nocturnus was the top of the curve and a $20 card despite being the prerelease foil. He’s seen zero Standard play this time around, because the cheap vampires all need red mana and his triple black is just too much. One of the spoiled legends in the new commander set is a Vampire, though, so there’s room for that tribe.
Price at Rotation: $4
Price in a year: $7

Elderscale Wurm: Big and has a unique effect. You can think of him as a green Platinum Angel that attacks very well. He’s nearly bulk now, and I’ll be happy to scoop some up.
Price at Rotation: under $1
Price in a year: $3

Rancor: Another casual all-star, this was a $2 card even after duel deck and Archenemy printings. Pick up as many of these as you can as throw-ins when you’re trading in October–they will be $2 again before long.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $3

Thragtusk: The value you get from this one card is still quite impressive. It’s in Cubes and EDH decks and not Modern at all, so when he rotates, get these cheap.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $6

Reliquary Tower: One of the lands that every EDH deck should consider playing. I like to have these in my binder for when someone tells me they are building a new casual deck. Foils especially, but regular ones will be a good pickup too.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents
Price in a year: $1

 

Innistrad

Mikaeus, the Lunarch: Yes, he was in FTV:Legends. His effect is very good for one big creature or powering up a casual token army. He’s not used in Standard anymore though, so his price might not change at all.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $3

Garruk Relentless: If he drops to $5 or lower, I’ll get all I can. He’s too good for that price. Other such examples: Nissa Revane and Sarkhan Vol. Planeswalkers will always have a certain appeal.
Price at Rotation: $5
Price in a year: $10


Enemy checklands
(Sulfur Falls and the like): Just like their M10 counterparts, these are great and easy mana fixing for casual decks. The bonus here is that these are rarer than the ally-colored ones that have been printed four times, so grab all you can when they bottom out. It’ll be easy money before long.
Price at Rotation: $3 each
Price in a year: $8 each

Geist of St. Traft: I doubt he will go much below $15, because he is used often in Modern and in Legacy. That said, once he rotates, his price will creep upwards. Get in if you can, but I can see people taking their Standard Hexproof deck and turning it into one for Modern.
Price at Rotation: $15
Price in a year: $25

Kessig Wolf Run, Gavony Township: These are the two best utility lands for their colors. They are powerful in different ways but they are easy to add in, because most decks will be able to use such an effect.
Price at Rotation: $1 or less
Price in a year: $2

 

Dark Ascension

Increasing Devotion: Token decks are always going to be a popular way to play. This is one of the best cards for such decks, and let’s not overlook that they make Human tokens, one of the few cards that makes this relevant creature type. Pick this up cheap and sock it away for a year.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents or less
Price in a year: $2

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: This little lady does it all. She slows spells, she attacks and blocks well, and has a low mana cost. She’s also popular in certain Legacy and Modern decks, so her price might not fall very far.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $8

Geralf’s Messenger: A restrictive mana cost and being terrible at blocking mean he won’t see Modern or Legacy play. It’ll be casual or bust for this.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $5

Gravecrawler: Zombies are a great tribe and this is a flavor winner. Gravecrawler enables all sorts of combos in all sorts of formats. Keep in mind he’s a buy-a-box foil.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $6

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed: Another Zombie whose price is all due to his casual appeal. I’m hoping his price drops to $3 or less, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays where he is.
Price at Rotation: $4
Price in a year: $7

Drogskol Reaver: Here’s a card that will be close to bulk at rotation. It’s too good in assorted EDH decks to stay that low.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents or less
Price in a year: $1.50

Huntmaster of the Fells: Much is going to depend on price memory for this card. When people think about how much they spent on it in its heyday, they will be reluctant to let it go at the new low price it will get to. It’s a fringe player in Modern currently, but if it dips very low, I’ll pick them up.
Price at Rotation: $5
Price in a year: $10

 

Vault of the Archangel: An outstanding effect on a land, and very popular with the casual crowd Grab them and put them away for a while.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $4

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad: Again, cheap planeswalkers are something to speculate on. It takes one being truly bad to stay at a low price forever. Even Chandra Ablaze is up to $8, and Sorin is much, much better. Remember that he has a Duel Deck foil nudging his price downwards.
Price at Rotation: $8
Price in a year: $20

 

Avacyn Restored

Avacyn, Angel of Hope: Look at this price. Nearly $20 right now, and that is ONLY due to casual appeal. She’s never been played in Standard or Modern or any Constructed format, but this speaks to the power of the casual crowd. Not just EDH, but every deck wants an effect like this. I do not expect her price to go down at all.
Price at Rotation: $20
Price in a year: $25-$30

 

Cathar’s Crusade: Parallel Lives never had a chance to be cheap, the ship has sailed on making good money off of that. This card offers a different kind of power, and will be available at bulk rates. Get a stack of these, they will be buylisted for $1 within a year.
Price at Rotation: 50 cents
Price in a year: $2

Entreat the Angels: This is a great effect, and when it gets cheap, you should trade for these. Remember, we love Angels and we love tokens!
Price at Rotation: $4
Price in a year: $10

Terminus: I cannot overstate how good this card is in EDH. With every set, there’s new, powerful creatures that resist destruction. This is one of the best spells to cast and its price will be at an all-time low.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $7

Deadeye Navigator: Nearly bulk now, he’s too good to stay that low forever.
Price at Rotation: 25 cents or less
Price in a year: $1

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage: Planeswalker, cheap, powerful. You know the drill by now. But in case you’re not aware, there’s nothing a blue player loves more than to bring spells back to hand after casting them.
Price at Rotation: $7
Price in a year: $20

Temporal Mastery: I’m aware that Time Warp is cheaper and more consistent. But it remains a fact that there’s a lot of players who love to take extra turns. Pick these up and help those players realize their dreams.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $5

Zealous Conscripts: I still can’t believe this is a card. It’s a combo with Kiki-Jiki, and it will be nearly bulk at rotation. It’ll be good for a long time after that.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $3

Craterhoof Behemoth: I sold out on these when they had their spike at the beginning of the year and I’ll be glad to pick them up on the cheap when they bottom out. The effect is too strong and too popular to remain inexpensive.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $5

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight: Anything that doubles damage is going to have a high casual appeal. Her ability to halve damage makes things like Pyrohemia amazingly good in EDH. Amusingly, there is exactly one creature that can block her, kill her and live: Withengar Unbound.
Price at Rotation: $3
Price in a year: $10

Sigarda, Host of Herons: A fringe player in Standard for her term, she doesn’t see any play in the Eternal formats. She’s powerful as a Cube or EDH card, especially as a General heading up a Selesnya deck.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $6

Bruna, Light of Alabaster: There’s a chance that she gets a lot better with the enchantments coming in Theros block. She is, by far, the best general for an enchantment deck because of her built-in recursion. Others like Uril, the Miststalker or Krond the Dawn-Clad have to work much harder to bring back their Auras.
Price at Rotation: $2
Price in a year: $5

Alchemist’s Refuge: Yes, it requires two colors and three lands, but the effect is undeniably powerful. Something like this is always going to have appeal, no matter the color requirements. Winding Canyons is the nearest example we have.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $2

Cavern of Souls: I don’t think this will take much of a hit at rotation. It sees enough Modern/Legacy play to keep its price, and as someone with four tribal EDH decks, I know I’ll be wanting them to get cheap.
Price at Rotation: $15
Price in a year: $20

 

 

Slayers’ Stronghold: Just like the refuge above, it’s worth stretching your mana a little to get an effect this good. Vigilance, power boost, and most importantly, haste on a land. Hall of the Bandit Lord is our comparison, and some decks will want both of these lands.
Price at Rotation: $1
Price in a year: $3

As always, find me on Twitter @WordOfCommander and tell me why I’m so very right or wrong.

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