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

Prerelease Trading

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By: Cliff Daigle

I’ve told you to trade everything away at prereleases. Journey into Nyx is making me reconsider that advice.

Four times a year, I’ve had a simple mantra: trade everything you open at the prerelease. The reasoning is this: nothing is bulk yet. Everything has a higher value due to scarcity. Buylist prices are never higher, trade values are never greater. Nearly every card from the set will go down in price over the next three months, and it’s rare for a card to have a value higher than its preorder price during its run in Standard. 

Picking out the cards that will go up requires laser-like focus and a healthy amount of luck. I’ve never been that lucky, and I’ve made consistent gains in value just by trading things away before they’ve had a chance to tank.

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However, as I’ve covered, things from Journey into Nyx are going to be rarer than cards from Theros and Born of the Gods. That scarcity is part of why I’ll be hesitant to trade some things away after my Prerelease is over, cards that will fall into three categories of hesitation.

#1: Keranos and Kruphix

Most of the mythics I’ll be happy to let go. Flamespeaker Prophet doesn’t actually cast the card, it just does the pseudo-draw that red has gotten lately. Godsend is interesting but not big long-term. The other mythics are not singing to me, and I’m especially eager to move the new Ajani before his price lowers.

I will be tempted to hold onto these two Gods, though. The other three are more likely to decline in price. I think that Keranos has a chance in Standard (Especially when paired with Thassa!) and Kruphix’s casual demand will keep the price high for a while. This is a long-term hold, until at least Halloween. That’s when I see Keranos’s value being highest, and I suspect Kruphix will just steadily increase over time.

#2: Foils

As a player who is mostly in Commander games, I see a lot of people who like to trade for that which is shiny. I’m one of those people who, when given the chance, will always try to trade for the foil ‘upgrade’ for a deck. With that in mind, I’ll be asking a real premium on foils I open at the prerelease. People who want shiny cards understand that it’s tough to give up those new and shiny cards.

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Should I crack open a foil God, I’ll be keeping it for the long-term appeal. Eventually, I’ll find someone that’s been dying to have that foil and then I’ll be happy to let it go…for the right price.

#3: Temples

While there aren’t many Black/Green or Red/Blue decks running around at the moment, the fact remains that these temples will be the hardest to find for the next year and a half. We’ve seen three-color decks use the full twelve Temples because they are just that good! A free scry, even if attached to a enters-play-tapped land, is a powerful effect in any format, though it seems to be too slow for Modern or Legacy. I can vouch for their effectiveness in EDH!

Again, to repeat myself: I’m probably going to trade it all away. This is a guess about what I think will go up in value over the long term. I have had good luck with this mindset over the past few years. The scarcity and the power of these cards are making me question a few examples, but I know that even if I trade it all away, I’m possibly giving up some value if I need to get some of these back.

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Reviewing the Divination

By: Cliff Daigle

Two months ago, I made a set of predictions about what the Gods of Journey into Nyx would do, and what cards might see a spike as a result.

The results are in, and I’m sad to say I was off in many ways.

We are still in the prerelease mode, and no actual Standard decks have been built yet. The spikes I predicted are still possible, but we’ll see about that over time. For now, I’m focusing on the cards that have gone up in the midst of the hype. As ever, that’s the best time to sell.

Iroas, God of Victory

What I predicted: It could cost four, and “that this God will grant a bonus to attacking creatures, a la Orcish Oriflamme

Well, it is a bonus, just a different one. More tricky, less direct. But because it rewards attacking so directly, in two ways, it’s going to be the finisher in a Boros deck. This is prototypical aggro decks, in that you want to swarm the first few turns and never take your foot off the gas. When they have one, maybe two blockers, Iroas lands and messes up their plans.

What I thought would spike: Aurelia, the Warleader, Assemble the Legion
What did spike: Boros Reckoner

Assemble gets much less of a boost with the Goblin War Drums/Dolmen Gate combo than it would with a straight-up Orcish Oriflamme. It’ll be more of a standalone victory condition, and not need the God at all. Bad call on my part.

As for Aurelia, I’m going to hold out some hope that she gets a chance to shine in Standard. If not, she’s $5 while seeing no Constructed play. Picking up a few of her and waiting for a year will be decent value.

Long-term casual appeal: Iroas is going to fight with the other aggressive R/W legends to be our EDH generals and rightfully so. There will always be a home for four-mana, seven-power of indestructible Victory. Personally, I like Aurelia more but I’ll respect the choice. Regardless of Standard, I’d expect his long-term price to be around $10 ($25 foil).

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Keranos, God of Storms

What I predicted: “I would really like to see something amazing, like having it deal damage to a creature or player.”

And what we got isn’t far off! It’s actually better than I guessed, since it will draw a land or get you three free damage. If it was triggered on each turn, for your first draw, then it could get out of hand, but as it is, it will be quite efffective. I’m pleased that my best-case scenario is so close. It can be inconsistent, but the prevalence of Scry allows for this to be as effective as desired.

What I thought would spike: Ral Zarek, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius.
What did spike: Nothing yet. Ral Zarek’s minus ability works a lot like Keranos’s ability, and if you need to chain the two together for 6 damage, it’ll work well.

Long-term casual appeal: middling at best. Keranos is not a combo-enabler like Jhoira of the Ghitu or Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. Being indestructible is nice, but the Bolt/draw a land requires library manipulation so you can get what you want. This price would be around $8/$20 long-term.

Kruphix, God of Horizons

What I predicted: “I devoutly hope Kruphix will do something with +1/+1 counters, like double the counters on target creature at the beginning of combat. It’s more likely to do something tricky, like tap or untap a permanent at the beginning of each upkeep something along those lines.”

Well, I was way off. I certainly did not expect an update on Omnath, Locus of Mana. While this God doesn’t use traditional Simic abilities, what it offers is quite unique. At first, I was dismissive if the card because it didn’t offer what I wanted it to have. I really wanted some great effect for my Experiment Kraj deck.

I’ve come around somewhat. This effect is unique, not suffering Omnath’s issue of being an easily-killed creature. Kruphix doesn’t get bigger based on mana, and stores it as colorless. You’re going to see a lot of casual Kruphix decks. Plan accordingly.

What I thought would spike: Prophet of Kruphix, Prime Speaker Zegana
What did spike: nothing yet

The God and the Prophet work disgustingly well together. In a four-player game, if you cast Prophet on turn five, Kruphix on opponent #1’s turn, store mana for two other turns, you’re throwing Genesis Wave for 13 on your turn 6. Or you’ll get really crazy with Hydra Broodmaster. The prices on my predictions have not gone up yet, but I think Prophet is a great pickup anyway.

Long-term casual appeal: high. I think this will never stay in your trade binder long. $10, and a premium up to $30 on the foils.

Athreos, God of Passage

What I predicted: “My prediction on this god’s ability is that it is a reprint of Sanguine Bond, only better in multiplayer.”

Instead of Sanguine Bond, we got a variation on Prince of Thralls. I like this effect in these colors, especially as Cartel Aristocrat is still around. I admire the subtle elegance of how Athreos defends your devotion, too: if your opponent does kill your creatures, life must be paid to keep it all from coming back.

What I thought would spike: Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Obzedat, Ghost Council
What did spike: nothing yet

There’s a good chance that this doesn’t cause many spikes. It’s cheaply costed and that allows it to slide right into some decks, without enabling a whole new archetype. It certainly does play well with the Ghost Council, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Athreos end up in some midrange decks.

Long-term casual appeal: Some but not strong. Orzhov doesn’t have all that many legends to choose from, and insurance against Wrath effects is nothing to overlook. Still, I’d be surprised if this was over $8 and $20.

Pharika, God of Affliction

What I predicted: “It’s likely that there will be interactions with the graveyard, my guess is that we will see something that brings back creatures from the graveyard to the hand.”

I’d felt pretty good about this prediction. 3BG for the ability ‘At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand’ seemed just right on a 6/5. If we can Lightning Bolt every turn with Keranos, we can’t get a Raise Dead each upkeep?

Well, apparently not. Instead, we get a symmetrical effect on a three-cost, 5/5 God. We’ve never had a graveyard-removal ability that gave a benefit to the owner of the exiled card, and we have Night Soil, Necrogenesis, and Cemetery Reaper as examples. In a word, Pharika is underwhelming.

What I thought would spike: Lotleth Troll, Vraska the Unseen
What did spike: Nothing, if ever

I can’t see this causing much of a spike. The ‘dredge’ deck in Standard will look into playing this card, mainly because that deck plays Jarad. But that deck can lay down an active Nemesis of Mortals on turn three, and Pharika lacks a lot of the synergies the deck requires.

Long-term casual appeal: Regrettably low. There are lots of graveyard-exile options that don’t reward your opponents with deathtouch tokens. Those will see more casual play. $5/$13 foil.

I think that these Gods, especially the final two, show the tradeoff you have to make when you lover the mana cost of a card. I’d be surprised if my version wasn’t in playtesting at one point, and then they tried lowering the mana cost…so they needed new abilities that were less powerful.

Still, most of these are awesome cards, and should be a lot of fun to play!

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What I’m Trading For

By: Cliff Daigle

My goal is always to increase the long-term value of my collection. I’m not thinking in weeks or sets, I’m thinking in months and years.

Right now, there’s a few cards that I’m targeting. I’m not aggressively spending money here, but I am picking these up in trades whenever possible.

Conversely, there’s a few cards I am looking to get rid of. The idea of ‘When should I get rid of my rotating cards?’ is something that I and other writers have covered on this site, and my answer is always “Early.”

If you wait to get rid of these cards, then you’ll be one of very many people who are no longer playing these cards and are trying to trade them away. No one will be seeking these out during the summer, so if you want to get maximum value, the time is now. Keep one set for the Standard deck you’re playing all summer, and understand that you’re getting value out of the games, not the trade value of the cards.

First, the cards I’m trading away:

Desecration Demon, Pack Rat:

Right now, these cards are part of a winning strategy in Mono-Black Devotion. People want to play this deck, and it’s putting up results that give these once-bulk rares some surprisingly high prices. The truth is, between the clear lack of value at rotation, and being in the Event Deck, these have already started to decline.

Capture

That value will be even lower when the new block arrives in September and these lose their Standard legality. Keep a set if you want to play the deck, but right now you need to move these cards out.

Nightveil Specter:

Similar to the two above, only this sees play in Mono-Blue as well. There’s no future in Modern for this, and you should let others enjoy this card for six months.

Mutavault:

To be clear: I don’t think this is going to fall down terribly far. Modern has shown that it can keep some prices amazingly high. I do think that its current price of $30-$35 is sustainable in the long term, but that is a year or more away. I think there is profit to be made in trading it away now, and then getting some back when they rotate in September. I suspect these will be around $15-$20 then. The historical example would be Cavern of Souls.

Ad Nauseam:

I’m always going to side with those to advocate selling into the hype. If you have any of these, you likely didn’t get them at $8. It will take sustained success for this Modern deck to inflate the prices much further, so you’re risking substantial profits if you try to hold out for it to reach $10-$15. Don’t get greedy.

Most of Return to Ravnica block: 

I’m not sure that Deathrite Shaman is going to be the next Stoneforge Mystic, price-wise. The amount of supply is far greater, and the Legacy demand is far smaller. Jace, Architect of Thought is not good enough for Modern. Sphinx’s Revelation isn’t either. Boros Reckoner is riding a new wave of hype, sell into it.

I do advocate holding your Abrupt Decays, though. I think there is going to be a Modern boost to that card, it’s just too good against too many things.

Now, the cards I’m trading for:

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Born of the Gods previews started this week (more on that next Friday) but I remain firmly convinced that this will be $15 around Christmas-time. This card is capable of some obscene tricks, despite its limitations. It has a chance to be amazing in Modern, too. I think there will be some very good devotion decks, and I also think that this card is a lot of fun to build around in casual circles.

Thassa, God of the Sea

This isn’t even about blue devotion. This is about being cheap and powerful and low-risk to use. Every deck that turns on her devotion sees that as gravy – making Mutavaults unblockable is a real treat. Her price may approach $10 as we get to the end of Theros block, and at that point, I might skip trading and start buying.

Any Temple

Temple of Enlightenment is perhaps the exception, since everyone likes a UW control deck. All the other Temples are around $6, and the two in Journey Into Nyx might not make it below $8, due to the smaller amount of packs that will be opened. 

In terms of trade value, these are easy picks to hit $10 during the next block, and perhaps higher. We’ve seen that many decks are currently willing to play extra Temples for the free scry and perhaps that will continue into the next block. We don’t know what the next set of dual-producing lands will be, but the Temples have demonstrated their value in Standard and are good targets to increase in value.

Any foil God

There’s always going to be players who are looking for their favorite cards in foil. The Gods (all fifteen) offer unique effects and play mechanics, but I’m not yet ready to go for blanket pickups of them all, except in foil. The frame looks good, they are mythic, and they are not that pricey. The supply of the ten multicolor Gods is going to be much lower than the original five, and that means the prices on the foils aren’t going to come down too far. There may be room for the prices to come down a few bucks, but every one I see for trade, I’ll be pushing for.

I expect the Gods to hold strong casual appeal for a long while.

Any foil shockland

These are comfortably sitting between $25-$35 right now, and that value is not going to change at all at rotation. These have nowhere to go but up, both from casual demand and Modern players wanting to pimp out their decks. (Did you know that original Ravnica block shocklands in foil are all over $100?)

Foils are collectibles. Once someone gets their hands on a foil, it is going into a deck/binder/Cube and staying there, reducing the number in circulation. I’ve got enough doing exactly that, believe me.

Join me next week as we begin evaluating Journey into Nyx and my predictions about those Gods.

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Chicken or Egg? Omelette!

By: Cliff Daigle

In case you didn’t know, I play a lot of commander games. I love the interactions of 99 cards, I love offbeat tribal decks, I love seeing the unique creations we build in the format.

We’ve had two generations of the preconstructed commander decks, and each time, we have gotten some legends who truly deserve to be built around.

One thing that has happened with each set of decks has been that some of the legends included in the precons have gotten a lot more attention, focus, and decks built in their honor. From the 2011 set, I’d have to say that Kaalia of the Vast and Riku of Two Reflections got the most decks built around them. All of them got tried but these two did some unique things. Kaalia is a way to cheat costs on some popular and overcosted tribes and Riku copies spells and is a combo-enabler, traits which led to some enjoyably degenerate decks. 

Animar, Soul of Elements has seen a recent spike to near $20, indicating that I’m not the only one who enjoyed chaining together creature after creature. (Want some real gas? Put Animar in charge of an all-Artifact-Creature deck. Start with Frogmite, add a Vedalken Archmage, chain all the way up to Blightsteel Colossus. Affinity never had it this good!)

In the newest incarnation of preconstructed decks, there’s been one clear winner: Nekusar, the Mindreaver. This card has led to price spikes in lots of other cards, such as Wheel of Fortune and Forced Fruition.

However…there’s an added wrinkle. Nekusar just happens to be one of the legends included in the same Commander deck as True-Name Nemesis.

TNN is still a $40 card, despite the deck itself being found at big-box stores randomly for $30. Is it possible that Nekusar decks are becoming so popular not because of the legend’s power or flavor, but because people are buying the deck for the Nemesis and then have a pile of cards to work with?

Wizards is about to change their distribution model too. Instead of retailers getting one of each C13 deck, they will get two Mind Seize and three random decks. More supply is coming!

This represents an opportunity, even if we missed out on some of the already-spiked cards. Perhaps Underworld Dreams is going to spike next, as a backup. Maybe it’ll be the new Hag who also damages opponents who draw cards.

For an example of what I mean, look at the price of Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Released within a few months of Kaalia, the two of them are the best of friends. Avacyn is a pricey card, especially in foil, though she sees no play in any Constructed format. Avacyn’s only drawback is her mana cost, and luckily, that is what Kaalia is best at dealing with. Nekusar and Forced Fruition work together in a similar way; it’s hard to imagine a curve of five into six that will result in more shenanigans, since every spell played means seven damage.

The Nekusar decks are going to get a real tool in the Magic 2015 enchantment Waste Not. It’s cheap and it rewards you for making others discard, which many of the Nekusar effects also cause. It’s not as direct as something like Megrim or Liliana’s Caress, but it enables so much more.

Seizan, Peverter of Truth is creeping upward, and I’m really surprised to see Memory Jar at its current price. I have had a good time trading for Jars at $4-$5, or the FTV foils at a couple dollars more. Eventually, Nekusar players will catch on to the power of not just drawing, but discarding too.

So if Nekusar is the first general to cause spikes in price, because of True-Name Nemesis, which generals will cause other spikes? Let’s look at one general from each deck.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic: likely Exquisite Blood, perhaps foil Vizkopa Guildmage

I love lifegain decks. I’ve had one myself, based on Vish Kal. I like that this Esper deck gives you three very different generals to play with, and Oloro has the unique effect of free lifegain no matter the zone he’s in. What do we do when we gain life? Anything!

For my money, this is the most likely general to cause price increases, for two reasons:

1) It’s free lifegain.  If you’ve ever piloted a lifelink deck, you know that’s the trick: gaining the life. It’s not about what tricks you have, it’s about having the trick AND some way to gain life. This is automatic, costs nothing, and works all the time, unless he got shuffled in somehow.

2) Toxic Deluge is one of the best sweepers in Legacy. It can go early and late and have exactly the effect you need, and there’s no resistance or protection from having negative toughness. This is the package that the still-pricey Deluge is in, and could get the same bonus that Nekusar got for being in the TNN package. More copies of this deck being bought means more of Oloro, and more people seeking lifegain synergies.

Prossh, Skyraider: Breath of Fury, In the Web of War, Goblin Bombardment

The trick with Breath of Fury is that you don’t need to be attacking the same player over and over again. All it takes is getting through once, and that enables you to start chaining sacrifices and attacks together.

In the Web of War is so amazing. It’s two mana more than plain Fervor, but the instant bonus and haste is incredible, especially if you spent a lot of mana on Prossh. Sure, you can sacrifice tokens for all sorts of effects (I love that Goblin Bombardment was included in this deck) but why not do what comes natural, and send those Kobolds to do some work. Sacrificing can always be post-combat.

Gahiji, Honored One: Aurelia, the Warleader, In the Web Of War

Gahji would be great in a token strategy, but doubling his effect with either Aurelia or ItWoW is what we love to do as Commander players. Sure, it’s a bit of a win-more play, but getting twice as much for each creature seems like a lot of fun to anyone.

In the Web of War is in the perfect place for a spike: It’s from an older, underprinted set, it is available for cheap in lots of places, and fits either of these strategies remarkably well.

Roon of the Hidden Realm:  Minion Reflector and Strionic Resonator

First of all, my apologies to anyone who knows the Phasing rules. I’d originally been trumpeting the utility of Teferi’s Veil, but it turns out that Phasing doesn’t trigger leaving or entering the battlefield effects. I’m not sure how I got that so confused, but that’s my bad.

Instead, here’s two other cards that will combo well with either Roon’s ability to flicker or with creatures that want to be flickered. Both cards allow you to double up on the enter/exit abilities of any creature for an extra two mana. The Reflector is especially spicy, since no tapping is required. This means you can use the Reflector as often as you have the mana and the ability to flicker!

Both cards come from a less-opened set. Shards of Alara was forever ago, with a significantly smaller print run, and M14 had pressure from Modern Masters lowering its expectations. The Resonator already has a devoted following, but if Roon becomes the new popular kid, lots of others will jump on the Strionic bandwagon.

The best part of compliing this list was thinking of awesome cards, and then seeing that they were already in Commander 2013. It’s pleasing when Wizards can jump on a theme this way.

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