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

Being a Casual Financier

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I’ve spoken before about my perspective on Magic finance, and it boils down to this: I do not want to spend cash on cards. I want to have a trade binder full of things people want to get from me so that when I see a card I want or need, then I can get it from them. sol ring

We use stock market terms all the times in Magic finance. One that I like is use of “frozen” and “liquid” assets. My EDH decks are frozen assets: I am not getting rid of them, short of a dire occurrence. I have got multiple $100+ cards in those decks, and they would make fantastic trade bait. But what could I want more than those?

My trade binder is liquid assets. Everything in there is fungible, though I admit that it is a little bare at the moment. I moved a lot of product for shocklands and I’m just starting to trade those away now that they are at $10-$15, since I do not think they will make it much higher. But when the cupboard is bare, what is a casual trader to do?

Since I despise buying cards and I refuse to buy packs just to crack them, I am limited to these two paths:

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  • Limited events. I love drafting and I enjoy Sealed tournaments as well. Packs are still expensive but there are prizes and skill involved. I may not be going infinite on Magic Online, but I’m a pretty good drafter, mainly because I’ve been doing it for years and years. Drafting is also a way for me to increase my take-home of cards without spending additional money on more packs. I’m not above picking up a $3 card with my 6th pick.
  • Strategic trading. I’m all for planning ahead; I have posted the list of cards I’ve targeted for guaranteed growth down the road. I am not skilled at predicting what will be good in Standard in three months, but I can feel pretty good about forecasting long-term prices on more casual-oriented cards. I made a ton on Darksteel Plate and Asceticism; I got them both for $1 or less in trade all over the place, and within a couple of years, I traded them away for $5.

I’m never going to be a high-volume speculator. I’m married with an infant daughter, and I’m a high school teacher. I simply don’t have the time or spare funds for speculating on cards.

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dark plate

 

Perhaps you’re in the same boat, or perhaps you have the time, energy, and money for
buying and selling lots of cards. Either way, I’m here to help you capitalize on the casual market. There is far lower volatility, but it does require more patience. I’ve traded for 25 Thespian’s Stage since Gatecrash came out, and I’m still snapping them up when I find them in binders. It seems like easy money that these will be $5 lands before long, entirely because they are the best utility land you can be playing in Commander.

My tip for this week is to stay patient on Theros cards. Lots of them are still coming down in price as more and more get opened. If you have to have it right away for a deck, so be it, but remember that feeling of “I MUST HAVE THIS” when it’s worth 50% of the current sticker price in a couple of weeks.

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Atheism

I am going to come out and say it: The five gods of Theros make terrible commanders.

I have been playing EDH for a few years now. I’ve had 15 decks at one point, though I am down to 9 now.  I have a combo deck, an all-creature deck, several tribal decks, goofy theme decks, and foiled-out goodstuff decks. Yet I can’t see myself ever making one of the five gods my general. I would be fine with adding them to some of my decks, certainly, but allow me to explain why they are not very good for what they do.

Each of the gods is cheap, I will give you that. Their static abilities have a constant effect on the game so long as they are in play, they are indestructible, and when you are properly devoted,  they can really shine. Nylea, God of the Hunt

That is precisely why they are underwhelming as a general: the devotion requirements.

Each of them adds one to your devotion. That means you are likely going to need at least two, more likely three permanents with in play. (Remember that with a God as a commander, you are restricted to a single color.) Two permanents with two of the mana symbol will get you there, and four other single-symbol permanents is the minimum.

I have an unpleasant truth for you: It is going to be the rare game where you get to attack with the God of your choice more than twice. It is too easy to wipe the board in Commander! It is not tough for your opponents to make sure the other permanents you need are not on the field. Let us not overlook how permanents such as Darksteel Forge and Blightsteel Colossus have taught EDH players the necessity of exiling or tucking (putting them on the bottom of your library,) so do not start thinking that indestructibility is truly invulnerability.

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You do not want your Commander to be an accessory. Your Commander is the theme, the defining keystone of your deck. When you choose to be mono-color, you are giving up a lot of the color pie, and it needs to be a worthy tradeoff. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade

If one chooses to take the thematic path of Zombies, there are a range of legends to use. Thraximundar, Sedris, and Lord of Tresserhorn offer all three colors, Grimgrin is two colors of goodstuff, with Korlash, Heir to Blackblade and Balthor the Defiled providing mono-black choices. Each of those legends has an appeal and offers abilities as well as their colors. I went with Balthor because I like reanimating over and over again, but the deck would surely like to have Rhystic Study and Deadapult. 

To choose one of the legendary enchantment creatures is to focus on one color, and the abilities you get for having those Gods in play are notable, but not overpowering. Erebos, God of the Dead is the best, with the card draw almost always useful and the ‘your opponents can’t gain life’ clause is often not irrelevant. He at least can refill your hand and find more gas, but you are going to be spending a lot of mana and life to get there.

Purphoros is especially frustrating, as red does not have enough ways to take advantage of his ability. Thassa gives you that unblockability and scry, but the scry is underwhelming in a format with fewer upkeeps and rampant card draw. Nylea gives your team trample and a very expensive pump effect, while Helios is basically a more expensive, indestructible Mobilization. Heliod, God of the Sun

These are effects that you can put to very good use in Commander, don’t get me wrong. I am planning on adding several of them to assorted decks and kicking some butt. As a general, though, they are not going to be nearly as good as you want them to be.

One quick tip: If you open one of these in foil, don’t be afraid to demand a premium in trade. These are going to be highly sought-after foils, along with their weapons. The card frame in foil is gorgeous, and the casual players who love shiny are going to be clamoring for these cards, so be sure to capitalize on that during trades.

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Where’s the Price Drop?

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!

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.

 

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.

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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