All posts by Jason Alt

Jason is the hardest working MTG Finance writer in the business. With a column appearing on Gathering Magic in addition to MTG Price, he is also a member of the Brainstorm Brewery finance podcast and a writer and administrator for Brainstorm Brewery's content website. Follow him on twitter @JasonEAlt

Brainstormbrewery #249: Non-Foil Mindmoil

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The cast is down a host this week as Corbin is summoned to chew loudly near a national scrabble tournament.  DJ and Jason answer the call and recap current trends.   The long-awaited discussion on running a case in a card shop is covered.   The patreon is getting very close to frosted tips, yet somehow farther away from DJ being a real cast member.   Most shockingly, it appears as though Jason might actually be a loss for words without Corbin around to make fun of.

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Jason E Alt – E-mail – Twitter – Facebook – MTGPrice

Douglas Johnson is and will forever be merely a guest.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: 5 Things I Learned Sorting By Color – Red

Image by Cameron Gray

Previous Installments:

Green

I’m back and despite thinking I’d have some sweet Commander 2017 leaks to discuss, I am sort of without anything to talk about and thought it was the perfect time to pick up the “Things I learned sorting by color” subseries that I’ve done exactly one other installment of.  I actually managed to get some insight into what EDH players want and need when it comes to the color green merely by looking at the top cards from that color.

I think there is stuff to be learned from looking at the other colors, also, so I’m going to… you know, do that.

Here’s a refresher of what I did so you can do it yourself.

Click the “cards” button on any page to open the dropdown menu.

Navigate to “color” to pick a color and then see the top cards in that color. It’s easy, but I still felt like showing you what I did so we’re on the same page, literally and figuratively. Are we good? OK, then. Let’s dive into Red because I’m sure we can learn a few things, hopefully things that we can use to predict which cards from new sets will catch on so we can buy those Magi of the Wheel when they’re $2 because that’s what we’re all about.

1. Removal Matters 

The top 3 most played red cards are removal, that sticks out a little bit.

Removal, especially good removal, is at a premium in any color but in red, it seems like players are shoehorned a little bit more. Despite being pretty bad as a color, Mono-Red is fun to play and popular and that’s not going to change. When you elect to play Mono-Red, you accept certain realities and one of those realities is that you’re going to have a hell of a time dealing with Enchantments. Chaos Warp has become a red staple in part because it does something that red basically can’t do otherwise (and it used to be able to tuck a commander so a portion of its play is an artifact of that. It’s good enough not to take out of the deck even though its role is diminished and then  a reprinting helped keep it accessible so more people can add it to new decks. That was a long aside. Any longer and I’m going to start putting numbered links to endnotes like I’m David Foster Wallace over here. Let’s get back to the previous sentence, already in progress) and that’s removing problem permanents like enchantments.

One of the Top 3 cards helps red shore up something it does badly, but the other 2 are cards that help red do what it does well – dish out a ton of punishment and destroy artifacts. Both mechanics – Blasphemous Act’s precursor to “Undaunted” and Overload, are very good mechanics and similar mechanics on future cards will get a long look, especially if they do the things these cards do, but maybe better. I mean, you don’t need an article to tell you a Blasphemous Act that does 15 damage for 9R is better, I’m just saying. People knew Blasphemous Act wasn’t a 9 drop but they still acted like Curtain’s Call was too expensive. That card was like $0.50 for a minute, so I appreciate a lack of imagination from the community sometimes since that was a nice quintuple up for me.  Red even plays removal like Lightning Bolt which I think scales horribly in EDH but which is still in 6% of all 72,000 decks with access to red mana. Red does removal and red does it well, so when I saw a card like “By Force” I was pretty sure it was going to see play.  It’s getting there slowly, seeing play in 256 decks so far. It’s no Vandalblast but it may make you more friends if you can leave some people alone.

Expect any future red card that can deal with Enchantments to get a real long look from EDH players and potentially become a staple, quintuply so if it’s Legacy-playable.

2. Can I Borrow That A Second?

It’s taking a minute, but I think Mob Rule, barring a reprinting, has legs. It has a few knocks against it. It’s not Insurrection for example, it’s a recent non-mythic, it can’t always go wide enough to get around big creatures or go big enough to get past an army of chump blockers (giving all of your creatures trample helps, but that’s a 2-card combo to build a bad Insurrection) and even so, Mob Rule is in 2% of the 72,000 eligible decks – that as much usage as Jokulhaups, Fiery Confluence, Warp World and Bonfire of the Damned.

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Mob Rule

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At sub-$1 foils like this seem pretty good and they’re not as easy to reprint, which is double plus good for this card. It’s not just big, massive swipin’ spells that red loves, though. Zealous Conscripts is a big card and it’s bigger because it combos infinitely with Kiki-Jiki. Molten Primordial gets a ton of play, also, so the combo potential is potentially an afterthought (I still see Maelstrom Wanderer decks run Pestermite, a basically useless card, when they could run Zealous Conscripts to Tooth and Nail for like I do) in the grand scheme of things. Conscripts is stupid and it’s better with cards like Deadeye Navigator or sac outlets so you never give the creatures back.

Threaten effects are over-represented in the Top 100 and I think that’s telling. When they’re printed, they tend to look like Limited chaff sometimes, but Threaten effects really get there. Pay special attention to those printed at rare because those have financial upside, especially in reprint-dodging foil.

Word of Seizing (Foil)

Rare Threaten effects are worth looking at, especially if they print new, very good ones. I don’t know how relevant financially this is but I do know that a significant portion of the Top 100 cards fit this bill and I’m not discriminating between things worth knowing and things worth knowing that may not make us money in the immediate future, here.

3. Always Be Combat

It may be all Narset’s fault, but extra attack phase cards are creeping up a lot. Taking extra attack phases is a great way to squeeze in a ton of extra damage and if you have cards to double damage or give creatures double strike, you’ve got a double double situation and that makes me want to get In ‘n’ Out burger but they don’t have those around here and the last time I went to In ‘n’ Out burger, it was in Vegas and the food was super terrible so I don’t even know, some people who have access to both In ‘n’ Out and 5 Guys says 5 Guys is better so I don’t know what to think.

Aggravated Assault

I talked a lot about how Mana Echoes is a “print or die” card that could get a ton of attention after people start building tribal decks and barring a reprint in Commander 2017 it could become $30 and basically unreprintable? Well, imagine all of that stuff but applied to this bad boy.  They have a lot of choices for Relentless Assault effects to reprint if they’re inclined to do one in, what, Commander 2018? The reprint risk is mitigated by the plethora of equivalent, more reprintable targets leaving us with a $14 card that has no reason to come down, really.  This ticks up slower but I think has the same “reprint or die” tipping point that some of the other cards I’ve highlighted have had. Just watch what happens with Patriarch’s Bidding. If it pulls a Phyrexian Altar, take a look at Aggravated Assault. They print another “triggers on swinging” card like Narset and this is $30, bank on it.

4. Chaos Reigns Supreme

Cards like Warp World, Gamble, Grip of Chaos etc. don’t seem terribly good, but that’s OK by Red players. Red isn’t terribly good and they’re not in it for the guaranteed win, they’re in it to mess things up. I play Warp World in my Prossh deck because I firmly believe in screwing with the game and, besides, if you don’t have a Food Chain out when you cast Warp World with 30 kobolds, your odds just went way up. I have had 50 Kobolds out and Warped right into Food Chain, Prossh and Goblin Bombardment. It’s hard to lose the game when you do that. It went from “Hahahaha guise wut if i casted warp wurld rn wuldnt that be lulz” to “I ween!” in under a minute. That’s the secret charm to these cards – you look like you don’t have a plan until it comes together. It’s the drunken boxing of EDH. Add to that the number of times a spell about to blow up one of your permanents gets something else instead or you force two people to hit each other who were leaving each other alone and you can break the game wide open. If you attack one person three times in a row, they’ll resent it, but if you randomly roll a die and get them three times in a row, they’re mad at the die. That’s politics, baby.

As much fun as those cards are and as many decks as they appear in (and in as many decks as they appear?  And with as many decks in which they appear? How do I not end that with a preposition?) there isn’t a whole lot of financial upside to them since they’re pretty reprintable and they need to be like Gamble, old enough to drive, to drive their own price up. As much as chaos effects are cool, they might be bulk rares. That is, unless, you stop them from doing something at the same time.

Stranglehold

Also the name of a decent song by a terrible musician and worse person, Stranglehold is the kind of card that might need a reprint and might not get it. A Commander original, the reprint venues for a card like this are pretty few. Cheating a bunch of stuff into play with Warp World is one way to cheat, but being the only one whose cheaty stuff works is another. If you’re untapping all of your creatures with Relentless Assault anyway, why not play Smoke to lock them down? If you can’t take extra turns because why would you play Final Fortune (503 decks do, by the way, a lot of them Krenko because Krenko is a YOLO deck that plays Warp World and kills people with Purphoros. Wait, why don’t I like Mono-Red?), you can always put them in a Stranglehold. Then you can say “You best get out of the way” but they can’t get out of the way, you’ve got them in a Stranglehold, they’re basically stuck like right in front of you. Let their neck go, Ted. Idiot.

Prices aren’t going up a ton, but supply is dwindling. This is a card that people can take or leave but scarcity, modest demand, time elapsed since OG Commander and new decks being built by people who aren’t taking apart their old decks all conspire to push this price toward a tipping point. They don’t want to reprint a $13 Stranglehold but they basically can’t reprint a $22 Stranglehold. I’m finding some pretty juicy “Reprint or Die” cards I didn’t expect to find in Red.

5. Maybe Red Doesn’t Suck After All

Purphoros, God of the Forge

This card is reprintable. I mean, maybe. They reprinted Iroas, but that was in a boring deck and they haven’t really shown any indication of reprinting Gods recently. I think a lot of people are worried about this getting reprinted. I know I am – I have a lot of copies I am sitting on, although I sold enough when it first crested to have broken even so they’re all free copies, which I appreciate.  Could we get hosed on a reprint, here? Yes, but this card is also so stupid that it could easily be $25 in a year or two, especially since it’s the 4th-most played card in decks with access to Red. Winning with this and a flood of tokens feels good.

That does it for me this week. I think there is some actionable stuff here and I think we should keep an eye out for cards that resemble cards in Red’s Top 100. Any upgrade on an existing card has a ton of applicability and demonstrated demand, and sometimes EDH can make stuff happen, especially on foils and mythics and older cards. Until next week!

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Brainstorm Brewery #248 – We Really Tried

http://traffic.libsyn.com/brainstormbrewery/Brainstorm_Brewery_248.mp3

This week the cast discusses the current state of standard, including deck diversity, cheap deck option, and sneaking Gideon into sideboards.  The power of suggestion drives Corbin to custard, and Jason briefly disappears from the cast.   Listener emails cover Pucatrade and consumer confidence.  DJ reviews some coming changes to the patreon, including chances to frost Jason’s  hair.  Strangely, breaking bulk features as many rares as pick up the week.

Contact Us!

Brainstorm Brewery – Website – E-mail – Twitter – Facebook – RSS – iTunes – Stitcher

Corbin Hosler – E-mail – Twitter – Facebook – TCGPlayer

Jason E Alt – E-mail – Twitter – Facebook – MTGPrice

Douglas Johnson is and will forever be merely a guest.

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First Spikes Count

Hello again,

We talk sometimes about second spikes on cards. I’m going to pretend that both you didn’t know that sometimes we talk about that and also that you don’t know what that means. When a card’s price is at a certain level and it jumps up rapidly, due to a large amount of the supply being bought out and retailers restocking the card at a much higher price, it’s said to “spike” and I can’t believe I feel like I have to explain this, like who even doesn’t know what that means? Let’s get through this. We mention “second spikes” when we talk about a card that has spiked once due to some circumstance and then, later after the price recovers a little, spikes again to different or sometimes even the same circumstances.

The first spike causes the price to go up which means dealers need to restock which usually means buy prices go up and finance people start feeding the dealers copies. Stores that have mispriced copies either change the price or they get bought at the old price, meaning the cheap, mispriced copies disappear forever and the new price is the new price, mostly. That means when a card spikes a second time, most of the copies are concentrated in the hands of dealers so without cheap copies to mitigate the new demand and dealers free to establish the new price, prices spike much higher and faster the second time. You probably knew all of that but since I want to talk about first and second spikes, it didn’t kill us to go back over it.

We’re seeing a lot of second spikes lately on cards that were spiked by Nekusar and Leovold because of The Locust God. I avoided writing about The Locust God initially because it felt like all we were going to see were second spikes on wheel cards. While that’s true to an extent, the Locust God is distinct from Nekusar in Leovold in a way that’s obvious in hindsight but wasn’t a factor I considered initially when I was evaluating it as a commander. That difference could cause some “first spikes” nestled among the second spikes and let you buy in at the ground floor on some important cards in a deck people seem excited about.  What are we in danger of missing by focusing on the sexier, second spike cards that are more obvious?

How Are The Locust God and Nekusar Similar?

They’s is both the Magic cards.

Welp, I think we’re done, now. See ya!

You need more analysis than that? Fine. OK, since they both scale off of the number of cards a person draws, wheel effects seemed appealing right off the bat. By “off the bat” I mean, “it took like months for that stuff to go because all anyone cared about doing with Mind Seize was busting it for the Strix and Nemesis, not building Nekusar” but eventually, pieces of human excrement (this is an opinion piece) started building the deck and cackling like a Lich King whenever someone played a spell and got domed by Forced Fruition.  Playing a Windfall to make everyone pitch a bunch of cards then get domed when your full hand made them draw a dozen cards added to their feeling of helplessness. It’s not much fun to play against and they get enough cards that they can build their web of hate.

 

Similarly, The Locust God loves wheel effects. You dump a hand and draw all new cards and suddenly the table is dumping the cards they tutored for and getting mystery cards and you have an army of Locusts. Wheels help you keep an army of critters ready to alpha strike and keep your irrelevant cards out of your hand while letting you cycle for new stuff.

How Are They Dissimilar?

Well, while Nekusar players casting wheel effects domes your opponents for a lot of damage when they draw cards, it doesn’t help you per se. Sure, if you sock away a lot of land in your hand and wheel it away, that’s good but if you cast a wheel with an empty hand it would have the same effect on your end game because you’re trying to hit them for damage. You can play spells like Forced Fruition because you’re trying to put them between a rock and a hard place and grind them out with Howling Mine effects and wheels.

The Locust God players don’t want the opponent to wheel. Sometimes it screws them, but sometimes it helps them. Nekusar doesn’t care how many cards they draw that are good because ultimately they won’t live long enough to use it and they will likely just get wheeled again. Half the time, Locust God players would prefer only they got to wheel. That’s an interesting proposition when you realize that while generic wheels have been good from Nekusar to Leovold to The Locust God, wanting “personal” wheels all of a sudden turns on cards that weren’t used before. You could chase the Portal Winds of Change to $50 or you could get on the bandwagon of first spikes at the ground level. What are some cards that The Locust God will uniquely make go up that weren’t good in Nekusar decks?

Mindmoil

This is a card designed for you in a Locust God deck. You don’t lose cards, you just bottom them meaning you could conceivably loop back around. You can also have easier (theoretical) access to them if you shuffle. Really, though, this is just about turnover. Keep on cycling hands and watch those Locusts fill the board. Find your skullclamp and your Mana Echoes, kill them with Impact Tremors. Boom.

Foil Moil doesn’t look too bad, either, below $5. Ravnica is pretty old and there are probably fewer copies of Mindmoil than there are of Mythics from Innistrad so once supply dries up, it’s likely to gallop out of control. I normally think saying “just buy the foils” is really lazy intellectually and it requires you to find people who want to foil out their Locust God deck rather than just spend that $20 on cards for another deck, but Foil Moil could his $20, at least temporarily. This is one to grab now while it’s still relatively cheap.

Arjun, the Shifting Flame

Mindmoilmancer is a pretty saucy commander in his own right. If you build around him, throw in a Locust God. If you build Locust God, throw in an Arjun. Commander 2015 stuff is never going to get cheaper unless it’s reprinted and while the Mizzix deck wasn’t super exciting, the value needs to come from somewhere. These are bought up, as evidenced by seeing Daxos decks still on shelves to this day, and it’s likely Arjun was underrated until now. This is a mythic-level card from an out-of-print set and it’s like a buck. You’d have to suck bad to not make money on this card. This is in 3/4 of the decks registered on EDHREC so it’s clear EDH players are aware of this card. With Locust God continuing to be opened and with people just now taking their completed Locust God decks to the shop to trounce people, there is upside here.

Tolarian Winds

Could be too late on the foils as they are selling out (I mentioned this on BSB last week and multiple listeners have sent me pics of the 7th foil Winds they bought) but there is hope, I think, for Beatdown Box copies. It may sound odd at first, but if you look at Portent, the Ice Age copies moved less than the Ice Age precon deck copies. If you remember, when Coldsnap came out, they made Ice Age block precons with Ice and Age Alliances cards in them and Portent got a reprint.

The Beatdown Box version could have similar upside. Tolarian Winds has a few too many printings to really move from one deck (that’s why we like Mindmoil but not Jace’s Archivist, for example) but foils are already irrevocably spiked and other premium versions could be next.

Magus of the Wheel

This is close to popping off as well. It’s got the exact same supply as Arjun but appeals to Nekusar players, also, as well as Feldon, Yidris and Vial Smasher players.  This was a card we liked as a Nekusar card but just needed a push, and a push it got with The Locust God decks.

Impact Tremors

When you see something like this discrepancy, it means a card is moving.

The Market Price is good for showing you what things used to sell for, which is great when prices are pretty stagnant. People sold foil Impact Tremors for $3.50 +/- last week? List yours for $3.50 +/-. That is, unless you check the currently listed Median and it’s double the Market Price. When do you see that? Why it’s when something sold steadily at a price then got restocked higher. It means the price moved. Look at what things used to sell for but also look at the listed Median. It may be the same but it may not. In this case, it looks like Foil Impact Tremors is about to double in price, so get those copies under $6 while you still can. It’s a win condition, it’s a foil from a bad set and it doesn’t need a third thing.

Check out the EDHREC page for The Locust God for yourself if you think there are cards I didn’t mention (there are) that might get there (they might). Foil Forgotten Creation? Enter the Infinite (finally, right?)? You decide. I gave you a few tasty fish here to sample, but if you think you’ve learned to fish on your own, give it a try. As always, the comments section is reserved for the Guatemalan company that tries to sell us cheap NFL jerseys no matter how many thousands of Spam posts our filter catches and also for people telling me I’m wrong and/or telling me I wrote a great article. Sometimes it’s both. As long as it’s not neither, we’re in good shape.  Let’s see if we have some C17 to talk about next time. Until then!

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