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

Where’s the Price Drop?

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A few weeks back, I posted a list of cards I expected to get low in price, then creep back up as casual demand increased.

Some of those cards did not drop quite as much as I expected, and I want to talk about why I think that is. Ring of Three Wishes

I’m going to focus on Primeval Bounty as one example. While I was right about many of those cards, the Bounty is still $7! Now that we’re in Theros season, less M14 is going to be opened and the price on Bounty might start creeping upwards, which would really run contrary to my expectations. I expected Bounty to bottom out like Ring of three Wishes or Rise of the Dark Realms, and it has not.

So why was I wrong about this? I thought it would hit bulk prices, and it’s been far above that!

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In case you don’t know, I’m a teacher and I take this responsibility seriously. After I give a test, if the whole class misses one question, then it is probably my fault. So what are the potential reasons for me to misdiagnose the card this badly?

 

Reason #1: Casual appeal

Demand for Bounty has stayed high enough to keep this price where it is. It’s that good in casual formats, and playing with it is just value all over the place. It gives life, creatures, and counters, all for doing stuff you would do anyway.

This is a card that people open in an event, realize how powerful it is in play, and immediately run home and add it to a deck. I confess I tried adding it to my two creature-centric EDH decks and it was underwhelming to me. I expect a lot out of cards in my decks, after years of tweaking to get each deck where I want it. I underestimated the appeal of this card.

For someone as focused on casual formats as I am, I might have allowed my personal experience to influence my thinking too much.

 

Reason #2: Standard

There have been decks using this card in Standard, though it is not getting a ton of attention. It has been just popular enough to nudge its price up a few bucks, and I did not see a six-mana enchantment with zero immediate effect being good enough in Standard.

This is likely because I do not play enough Standard to make the assessment of how good such a slow card can be. Next time, I will consult with some other players who can give me a better outlook on the speed and nature of the format.

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Reason #3: Burnout

Wizards of the Coast does not release specific sales information. We do not know how much of each set gets sold, and that is probably for the best. Specific information on how many copies of a certain card exist would be prime information for speculators and those seeking to artificially raise prices. What we do know is that Magic has been consistently growing and breaking its own sales records, though.

However, the Core Sets are not the biggest sets in terms of sales. Ideally, they should move a lot of product because it’s summertime. Kids and parents have more free time, and many game stores have extended summer hours. The fall blocks usually sell more packs though because of their story lines  flavorful worlds, and unique prerelease experiences. (The Helvault, the Guild Packs, The Hero’s Path, etc.) 

The Hero's Path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This summer there were two factors working in concert to overshadow M14:

1)    Modern Masters came along a month before M14 was released. Not only did that eat into the usual buildup and spoiler season, it took a lot of budgets with it.

2)    Theros was getting teased and spoiled all through the summer, taking attention and excitement away from the Core Set.

Granted, these factors haven’t stopped the Ring of Three Wishes from being a touch over a dollar, or Rise of the Dark Realms from being $2.50. But I do believe that there’s been less M14 opened, and that in conjunction with larger demand than I anticipated, might be enough.

 

Reason #4: Redemption

This was brought to my attention by those who take the time and energy to collect and redeem a full set on Magic Online. It’s gotten significantly more expensive to redeem a set, from $5 up to a whopping $25, which does not even take into consideration the costs to acquire all of the cards. Anyone who runs a trade bot will find it is not too difficult to pick up complete sets, and redeeming them for $5 plus shipping was an easy choice. Now at $25, the margin for profit is much smaller, which likely has led to many less redemptions.

It’s worth mentioning that set redemption for M14 has only been available since the beginning of September. It is possible we haven’t seen the full impact of the MTGO redemptions, which may still reduce the price of M14 cards like Primeval Bounty.

I was wrong about Primeval Bounty, and several other cards in M14. These are four potential reasons that may have occurred, but it may be something I haven’t thought of. It’s not easy to look back and admit when I’m wrong, but it’s a necessary part of making predictions. Self-evaluation is a necessary process for us financial types, as it keeps us credible and gives both us and our readers an opportunity to learn from mistakes.

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Theros Casual Stars

Theros is here!

It’s felt like a long time coming, but then again, with the sheer number of products Wizards is putting out, and the growth of the game in general, we’re getting more and more Magic product to choose from.

For casual players, Theros is another set full of flavor and themes to build around. I’m going to go over some of the cards I feel will be showing up in assorted Cubes, Commander, and other casual playgroups.

These are cards that will have a certain value for a long time, like Darksteel Plate or Lurking Predators. Some of these will hit the bulk box, others will not dip far in price. I’m here to tell you about their long-term casual appeal.

First of all, anything with Bestow is appealing. Everyone likes getting options and value, and having a creature or an aura is going to see some play. In case you had not noticed, Serra’s Sanctum has gone on a roller coaster ride lately, and as a reserved list card, it will never be printed again. Its price spiked when the enchantment theme was announced but if you need one, grab one now before it happens again.

sanctum

 

Now, onto the specific cards:

Chained to the rocks – Fantastic flavor and an incredible bargain. I know a lot of people have built Boros decks recently, often combining the two Ravnica blocks, and this will fit right in.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – I won’t predict how much Standard play this sees, but the ability to get lots and lots of free tokens will be used in many casual decks. Elspeth Tirel is comparable and she’s $10.

Gift of Immortality – Often, a card will gain its casual appeal by being awesome in Limited formats. We open something sweet, it wins games for us, and then we want to build a deck around it at home. This is exactly that sort of card. It’s got some timing issues, but it’s worth noting that this is three mana and can be fetched by Zur the Enchanter decks. (Sigh.)

Nylea, God of the Hunt
Nylea, God of the Hunt

All five of the Gods – The new card frame makes these and the weapons very desirable foils. I would expect to see people building all sorts of decks to take advantage of these cards. Of special note is cards like Followed Footsteps and Cackling Counterpart which create tokens that are a copy of a creature; these tokens do have a mana cost and aid in your devotion.

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Bident of Thassa – I love this Courtly Provocateur or Goblin Diplomats sort of effect. Any time I can make my opponent do something, I’m on board. Giving all your creatures Curiosity is a winner as well.

Curse of the Swine – This is my pick for the casual card of the set. We’ve had Pongify and Rapid Hybridization for pinpoint removal in the past, and this card is going to see play all over the place. It might even be good enough for significant Standard play, when coupled with Jace, Architect of Thought. Even if it doesn’t get played in tournaments, it’ll go into any casual blue deck and do a lot of work.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel – Zombies are one of the top casual tribes, and this is absolutely going into every zombie deck. For me, I’m really going to love using my Balthor the Defiled to bring this and a stack of other zombies back at once, and draining everyone for a bunch.

Hero’s DownfallMurder saw very little play in Standard, as was the case with Dreadbore. I don’t see this as being much different. However, I can see this being a desirable card to have in most EDH decks and in other formats, where everyone loves options.

Hythonia the Cruel – My all-creature EDH deck is drooling hard, though if you’re playing this, you had better hope no one is playing Chameleon Colossus or other changelings. Do not underestimate the number of all-creature decks out there – demand for this type of card will be higher than you think.

Anger of the Gods – This is a sweeper that will show up in a lot of Cubes. It will be up to the Cube designer whether to play this with or instead of Pyroclasm given that third mana in the cost, but the third point of damage can be worth it.

Hammer of Purphoros – As another Haste enabler, it’s always going to have appeal. The additional ability to turn excess lands into hasty 3/3 tokens is a definite bonus.

Hammer of Purphoros
Hammer of Purphoros

Stormbreath Dragon: Yet another mythic dragon; not nearly as good as Thundermaw Hellkite. That said, even terrible mythic dragons tend to keep at least some price because we love our dragon decks.

Polukranos, World Eater – A 5/5 for four mana with no drawback is a good place to start. The fact that he can get monstrous and stomp chump blockers pushes him over the top. I definitely can’t wait to add him to my Experimental Kraj deck and do it more than once.

Ashen Rider – Ashen Rider immediately overrides Angel of Despair as the reanimator target for many sorts of decks, be they Legacy, Cube, or even Modern. I will say I’m a bit surprised that this isn’t an Angel or Demon for Kaalia of the Vast decks though.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – Finally, the mill deck gets a Planeswalker. Oh, wait, they’ve had Jace, Memory Adept for a couple of years now. What we get instead is as grindy as possible, closing out games exactly like Nephalia Drownyard. It’s a bonus that you don’t have to fear Eldrazi triggers reshuffling the library back in, but you’re exiling just three cards a turn. In an EDH deck, you’re looking at 20+ turns. At least at the kitchen table he’s more powerful.

Daxos of Meletis – Lots of words to say what it does, but this sort of ‘play with your opponent’s deck’ effect is always fun, and rare in this color combination too. (See: Praetor’s Grasp)

Medomai the Ageless – Extra turns? Yawn. That’s the last thing UW decks needed more of. Medomai combos end up with someone doing something which triggers this and leads to that and brings back a third thing and then it’s a 20-minute turn where the rest of the table is watching one deck masturbate. Not really fun for anyone. [Well, except maybe for the one doing it…-ed.]

Prophet of KruphixSeedborn Muse #2 in so many decks. Sign me up.

Xenagos, the Reveler – I love this card so much. It does everything I want it to; including having an ultimate that is fun and random and something I would try to do multiple times.

Akroan Horse – It’s got the flavor. Icot’s got the effect. All sorts of casual decks will enjoy this card, not just Zedruu the Greathearted EDH.

Colossus of Akros
Colossus of Akros

Colossus of Akros – What’s not to love about big, trampling and indestructible?

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – I am nowhere near as high on this card as some others are. It’s certainly no Cabal Coffers, though I understand why the comparison occurs. I’m always leery of ‘win more’ cards and that’s exactly what this is. It doesn’t work with tokens and it’s terrible after the board has been wiped clean.

The Scry lands (RG, BW, UB, UG, RW) – These are the real deal. A Scry 1 is just a peek but it’s so good when it’s free! Powerful cubes with more dedicated and awesome duals won’t take this, but you’d never convince me to leave them out of EDH decks. Best of all, their price is still falling and the set hasn’t even been released yet. I’ll be trading for a lot of these.

I hope your prerelease experience was awesome, and your release day is even better!

 

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Are You a Collector?

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.

volrath stronghold

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.

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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