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

What EDH Can and Can’t Do to Prices

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What up, nerds?

I wrote a lot this past year about what EDH can do to prices. With 2015 winding down, I’m looking back at what I’ve written so far and thinking about the series as a whole. We’ve talked a lot about the effect new printings can have on prices, but there are a few nuances I want to really solidify so we can head into 2016 swinging.

What I am going to do for a bit is revisit the basic thesis of this series, and that is:

“Cards that are coming out in new sets can serve as an event that can shift the prices of older cards. “

Unifying Theory

Is This Effect Real?

It’s a pretty simple thesis, and I think I’ve made a pretty good case for it. Not even that—it makes a good case for itself. It doesn’t take a ton of detective work to look at Teferi’s Puzzle Box, Winds of Change, Forced Fruition, Wheel and Deal, and Wheel of Fortune all spiking the same week, just after the Mind Seize deck with Nekusar, the Mindrazer came out, to figure out those things were related.

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Nekusar came along and the card launched an entire deck archetype. It’s a very annoying one, but it’s a very good one. It’s easy and obvious to build, and it’s effective, popular, and everyone who had access to the precon had access to it. With financiers buying up every copy of Mind Seize they could get their mitts on to flip the copies of True-Name Nemesis, some people had an opportunity to get the rest of the cards for fairly cheap after the financiers culled the copies of Nemesis and Baleful Strix. These cards saw their prices affected to a huge extent and the spikes all occuring at the same time, a few weeks after the set was released and people began building with Nekusar and figuring out wheel effects were the gas that made the deck work, prices spiked accordingly.

What Can’t It Do?

That’s something I feel like I haven’t covered as well. It’s important to understand the limitations of this effect. EDH has a broad appeal, and that appeal is growing, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t limited in the effect new cards can have on prices of other cards. The more copies of a card there are, the more the deck will need to be played to affect the price at all. While Nekusar was able to move older cards like Puzzle Box and even a recent-ish card like Forced Fruition, cards that everyone has lying around, let’s re-examine some of these graphs and talk a bit about what happened with the cards’ prices.

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This is the price of Forced Fruition over the last 3 years.

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The arrow points to the point where people started to realize this card was nuts in Nekusar decks. This was a $2ish card—not selling briskly on TCGplayer or eBay or Cardshark, but not shipped in bulk, either. A $2 card isn’t worth putting in a store display case. It’s not worth having in a binder, because it’s too old for anyone to care and not valuable enough for anyone to be after. This card was total trash to all but the casualiest of casuals until it was suddenly the perfect card for a deck that just popped into existence.

What happens when something like that occurs is a weird process. First, the internet gets bought out very quickly, causing a very sharp price increase as the cheap copies are bought out and the people hoping to cash in post their copies for as much as they think they can get.

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Then, people start to dig the cards out of boxes and the supply begins to catch up as copies come out of the woodwork.

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Organic demand takes over and people start to realize they don’t mind paying more than they used to be able to for the card because it’s quite good in the deck, but slowly, increased supply catches up and satisfies the demand. Finally, the race to the bottom begins and the copies sell at a slower rate and prices plateau.

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The price ends up higher than it was before, lower than its peak, and at a place where people are comfortable both buying and selling. The price has a tendency to equilibrate here. But this is pretty unique to cards that are spread out and not concentrated in the hands of dealers.

What would happen if Wizards printed another card like Nekusar, and people who had Nekusar decks built already decided they wanted a second copy of Forced Fruition? Well, we’d see the price basically track to its new equilibrium point. It would fluctuate a bit, overcorrecting at first, but not as drastically. The copies are concentrated in the hands of dealers who paid a fair price for Forced Fruition and overpaid a bit when the price was beginning to equilibrate as supply caught up to demand. Those dealers who overpaid aren’t in a hurry to sell at a small gain, so they are hanging onto their copies and selling one at a rate of one per new Nekusar deck.

That’s a slow rate. That rate would increase if there were a new Nekusar, possibly in different colors and people built the new deck as an addition instead of taking the old one apart. When there are a lot of copies out there in the hands of dealers, the prices don’t go quite as nuts. We are seeing a high percentage of copies of Forced Fruition out of collections, shoe boxes, rubber bands, and dollar boxes, because when the card initially spiked, everyone and their cousin hit their LGS and their closets and binders looking for copies of the card to ship into the frenzy.

This effect is going to be attenuated greatly for a newer card. How do I know? Let’s look at a card that’s played in a much greater percentage of Nekusar decks. This is a card that, according to EDHREC, 61 percent of Nekusar decks play compared to the 49 percent (can that be right?) that play Forced Fruition.

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There was some initial hype surrounding Whispering Madness when people tried to couple it with unblockable creatures in an attempt to mill opponents to death. Casuals are always going to try to play Dimir mill; they just are. When this card proved that it couldn’t carry a whole archetype on its back and the supply began to overwhelm the dwindling demand, the price suffered. Want to see something really interesting? Let’s look at what the graph did when Mind Seize was released.

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That little dip may or may not have been caused by the Nekusar frenzy. There’s not much of a mechanism for new demand to cause the price to go down, but if you ignore the dip and just look at the average price since the deck was being built, you’ll see it’s on a decline, on average—pretty similar to the slope of the buylist price.

Why would we see such a profound effect for one card and such a different one for another card? The answer seems pretty simple to me: recency.

Whispering Madness is in every bulk bin, every binder, every shoe box. It was less than a year old when the Commander 2013 decks came out, and copies were everywhere. Anyone who wanted a copy of Whispering Madness to jam in their Nekusar deck probably had one already, or had a friend who would give them one for free. It was a bulk rare, and therefore, it was everywhere. The card wasn’t concentrated in the hands of dealers, but dealers still had more copies of Whispering Madness than they likely had of Forced Fruition, despite having a smaller percentage of the total number of the available copies.

A new event can clearly move the needle on older cards with relatively fewer copies printed. Magic has gotten continually more popular, so the further back you go, the fewer copies of a card there are. With fewer copies of old cards in the hands of dealers and more scattered to the four winds, cards have time to spike in price as people slowly unearth their buried copies and gradually feed them into the machine. Are there ways we can mitigate this and make some smart buys in more recent cards?

Can Recent Cards Move?

They can, and there are a few things we can do if we correctly predict a new card is going to make a new archetype that people will want to play.

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Sage of Hours is pretty busted with the new Ezuri. Once you get him up to five experience counters, he can dump five +1/+1 counters on your Sage of Hours, allowing you to remove said counters and take an extra turn. If your opponent(s) can’t interrupt this with an instant, you take every turn and kill them with your creatures and win the game.

Despite it being a mythic, there are quite a few copies of Sage of Hours out there because it’s recent and not in high demand from Standard players. Most of the copies of this card are just sitting in store inventories, and the new Ezuri deck hasn’t been built enough to move the needle. The threat of a reprint is always present, also, and no one seems super willing to gamble on this card. Store inventories haven’t moved much, either. There wasn’t really money to be made predicting this would pair well with Ezuri as soon as he was spoiled. Or was there?

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This went from a Vorel of the Hull Clade spec to a bit of a bust to an Ezuri staple, in foil. Foil copies are less prone to a reprint, especially in a Commander-series deck which doesn’t have any regular-sized foils. Foil copies have higher upside, since there is usually a multiplier that will drive the two prices apart as the non-foil increases. There are fewer copies of the foil, and for cards that are printed in event decks and such, the set foil is even scarcer compared to the non-foil. The relatively few numbers of copies make it easier for buying behavior on a small scale to signal the market that the price is moving, and when the card is merely twice as expensive as the non-foil like we saw here during Sage’s lull, you can still buy effectively, getting half as many copies but experiencing four times the upside.  Currently sitting pretty around $13, this card could go back down, but with Ezuri’s current popularity (it was the second most-built deck last week according to EDHREC), that may take a while.

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Moving very nicely up in price for years, Contagion Engine seemed like a good way to proliferate experience counters with the new commanders in Commander 2015. It’s colorless, allowing it to go in any of the five decks, and it serves as removal, something that is important in decks like Simic that lack a ton of ways to kill things without bouncing them or turning them into tokens. Still, the slope of the graph doesn’t really increase with the printing of Commander 2015. It seemed almost a shoo-in in one or more of the decks, and while it’s getting up there, it’s nowhere near the popularity of a card like Darksteel Plate, a card from the same block whose price is higher than you might think. Was there any money to be made on Engine?

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Apparently there was money to be made on the card in foil, where the price tripled overnight, and while it’s returning to equilibrium, it’s equilibrating much higher than the price was before experience counters made us pay attention.

The Future of This Series

I plan to continue identifying upcoming archetypes made possible by new printings as well as identifying staples that don’t necessarily need events to drive the price up. There was no real event other than EDH being a fun format that caused Chromatic Lantern to climb like it has, but every once in a while, the price corrects higher due to adjustments in dealer buying behavior and player buying behavior.

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This was a card everyone knew was good basically just in EDH, but which no one really talked about. This went up calmly, behind the scenes, and keeps surprising everyone with how high it continues to go. I plan to spend a lot of time talking about event-driven upcoming price increases next year, but I also want to spend some time identifying staples that are going to march solidly up in price and which will be great cards to stock a binder with.

Remember, EDH players are who we want to trade with. They want a much larger range of cards from us, and they’re more likely to undervalue (maybe not money-wise, but to just generally care less about) Standard staples and other cards we can instantly sell on TCGplayer, much faster than we can sell EDH cards. I hope you’ll join me next year, where we’ll keep looking at the fascinating world of EDH finance and chart some uncharted territory while we do. See you in 2016.

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Brainstorm Brewery #176 – Year in Review

 

2015 was a wacky year for this Children’s card game. Jobs were gained and lost, cards were leaked, tournaments were won, Vegas happened and what happened in Vegas needs to stay there for the most part. 2016 will be full of diaper changes and a lack of a core set and leaks being severely punished. It’s hard to know for sure what the future will hold, so the gang takes a look back at 2015 and what it all meant.

 

  • Cease and Desist?
  • Leakers PUNISHED
  • 2015 retrospective
  • Support our Patreon! DO IT. You know this cast makes you more than $1 a week
  • We’re serious about the Patreon. Expect new perks.
  • Need to contact us? Hit up BrainstormBrew@gmail.com

 

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Contact Us!

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

Ryan Bushard – E-mail – Twitter Facebook

Corbin Hosler – E-mail – Twitter Facebook MTGPrice

Jason E Alt – E-mail – Twitter FacebookMTGPrice

Marcel White – E-mail – Twitter

 

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Generic Finance Article

[Greeting]

  • [Acknowledgement of reader base]
  • [Reference to last week’s article]

[Paragraph detailing plans for this article]

[Body]

  • 1-10 paragraphs
  • [Images]

[Closing Paragraph]

I want to talk about generic mana versus colorless mana now that the two terms can’t be used interchangeably, and I wanted to do it by making the article itself generic, but while that seemed meta and funny to me, it wouldn’t have come across and would have served to amuse only me, like an Easter egg hidden a little too well. I didn’t manage to make it happen, but I’m sure you won’t mind moving on, because there is a point I wanted to make this week: the differentiation between generic and colorless mana, a brand new concept, is going to matter. It’s going to matter a lot. So while the article itself won’t be generic, the subject matter is going to be. If you want a generic article I have a few sources I can point you to.

600-03697886 © Jean-Christophe Riou Model Release: No Property Release: No Generic Canned Food

The Distinction

This is what it looks like when I dive right into the topic at hand without a lot of foreplay. Try and keep up, I guess. It’s foreign to me, too, but we’ll manage.

Why is there a distinction between colorless and generic mana now? It didn’t matter before. As I’m sure 100 percent of you know, we have had to make the distinction because of a new mana symbol that has appeared on some spoiled cards.

endbringer

Look at Endbringer’s mana cost. Its converted mana cost is easy to suss out: it’s six. Endbringer costs six mana, five of which can be generic mana and one of which must be colorless mana; that is to say mana that originated from a colorless source. Generic refers to mana of any color used to pay non-specific mana costs like the little (5) in the circle we’re all used to. Like an Island putting a mana in your mana pool gives you a mana that can be used for blue or generic but not green, Island also gives you a mana that cannot be used for true colorless (non-generic) mana, which is denoted by the diamond mana symbol on this card in both the casting cost and two of the activated abilities. It’s not quite a sixth color, but it’s going to give you a little more trouble than you might imagine.  Planning for it is going to be important.

The Impetus

Why do we care about this distinction? Well, for starters, Endbringer is stupid. I love this card. I want it inside my decks. I want it inside me. I am not sure if I will be able to find room in all of my decks for this card, so I’m really trying to manage my expectations, but the more I think about how much I want to play this card and maybe some others like it, the more I realize it may be a little trickier than I thought. Colorless mana may not be as simple to come by as generic mana, and when the distinction matters, you need to really re-evaluate everything.

mirrorpool

Mirrorpool is a sexy, splashy EDH card that does everything I want a land to do. This plus a Crucible of Worlds is going to change the world. I was so doe-eyed over this card when it was first spoiled that I didn’t stop to consider how tricky this could be to activate. Five mana to make a clone is a bargain when it’s an ability on a land, but if we don’t have enough ways to make true colorless mana in our entire deck, we can’t play Mirrorpool at all. And I want to play Mirrorpool.

The Issue

Manabases in EDH are currently designed with accessing colored mana being pretty important. This may be a “basic land format,” where basics are just fine and cards like Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Kodama’s Reach, and Myriad Landscape reward you for playing basic lands, and cards like Boundless Realms really reward you for playing basic lands, but we like access to the mana we need reliably. Players are so eager to make sure they get their colored mana that they don’t see a big issue with “risky” lands like Sejiri Refuge, Golgari Guildgate, and Gruul Turf. You notice players will play that last one, Gruul Turf, but aren’t super likely to play a card like Karoo which does the same thing but gives you a spare colorless rather than two colored mana, even in a mono-white deck? Players aren’t as in love with the Karoo effect as they are with having a land that taps for two colored mana every time they use it. This shows how important colored mana is to players. Whenever we need generic mana, Gruul Turf is good for two of them, helping us power out big spells like Genesis Wave or Primal Surge.

It’s trivial to generate generic mana, so we don’t think about how many sources we have, do we?

PopQuizHotShot

How many sources of true, non-generic, colorless mana do you have in your favorite EDH deck? Four? Five? Do you even know? Well, you probably have a Sol Ring, and maybe a Temple of the False God. Probably a few more. I’m going to estimate seven sources in a two-color deck, six for a three-color one, and maybe four for five-color lists. How close is this estimate?

The answer is a bit surprising. I started poking around online to find lists, mostly at random to try and get a decent sampling of what players are currently building. I found a Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck with one source (Maze’s End) right off the bat.  Some Oloro decks ran six or seven with sources like Pristine Talismanand some ran only three. I even found a few two-color decks that had zero ways to produce true colorless mana. Those decks were rare, but they exist.

Granted, the more likely a player was to be a tryhard with only one deck and load it up with fetches and shocks, the less likely they were to have sources of true colorless. Anyone can easily build with generating colorless in mind, but I think the point isn’t how easy it might be to fit more colorless sources in, but how hard it will be to take good, useful lands out to make room. Sure, we can upend our current mana bases and build them differently so we can jam one new card, but we probably don’t want to. Are there unobtrusive ways to still get the mana we need, not disrupt our lives too much, and have access to the true colorless mana we need? I have a few solutions—and there is money to be made.

Solution – Run Some Wastes

In a three-color deck, we already have cards like Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Evolving Wilds, Myriad Landscape, etc. Jamming a few Wastes in there to tutor for means we can keep the same number of basics but have access to true colorless in the deck. We basically remove a few color-generating basics for a few Wastes.

Effectiveness as a Solution

This makes it harder for us to get colored mana. We could take every mana-producing land out and run 40 Wastes. Is that going to help us cast most of our spells? I hate the idea of weakening a deck’s ability to get colored mana. Otherwise, we’d run Rath’s Edge and Dust Bowl and Wasteland and Strip Mine and all the other utility lands in every deck. Unless your commander is an Eldrazi or a silver golem, you’re not going to want to take out colored basics for Wastes.

Is There Money to be Made? 

Yes, actually. I feel like Wastes will be everywhere and under-valued initially, but looking at snow-covered lands and foil snow-covered lands, I feel like foil Wastes could be as much as $10 in a year if they become popular in EDH. They’re almost certain to be undervalued at peak supply and rotation, and those are the two times I’d start to look at them. I’ve harped on this in other articles, so I won’t belabor the point, but Wastes are a card for some situations, just not solving our Endbringer problem.

Solution – Colorless Ramp

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We have a few lands and spells we could run that are such efficient ways to generate mana that we forgive the fact that the mana they give us is colorless.

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Effectiveness as a Solution

These do the trick, however a lot of these have restrictions. Whether you can only spend the mana on spells like with Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, have to sacrifice the land like with Crystal Vein, or having to wait like with Temple of the False God, these lands come with strings attached. However, we play with a lot of these cards already, because the restrictions aren’t so great as to keep us from playing them in decks that don’t require the colorless mana to be non-generic. If we want to jam a Kozilek or Endbringer (and I do want to jam Endbringer), that just makes these lands even better.

Is There Money to be Made?

Eh. The problem is the cards that are good enough to be played already are already expensive. Repeated reprintings has crushed the price of Temple of the False God to around $0.50, but the foil is $25 and seems safe but not poised to go anywhere but glacially upward. The cards that are the least obtrusive new inclusions have the fewest financial opportunities. The cards with the most room to grow are not played much now for a reason, and we’d need a huge increase in adoption to move the needle. My desire to play with a Staff of Nin that’s also a 5/5 isn’t enough, I fear. These cards do the trick, but they’re kind of doing the trick already. Sol Ring isn’t going to spike because it helps us draw a card with a bulk rare Eldrazi, it’s going to go in decks because it’s Sol Ring.

Solution – Lands That Do It All

Do you want to summon and activate Endbringer with the same lands that can help you play the Prophet of Kruphix that makes him even stupider? It’s pretty simple, really.

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Sexy, right?

Effectiveness as a Solution

Perfection. These give us two colors of mana and can also tap for true colorless, and don’t give us damage to boot. These can’t be tutored up with Burnished Hart like a Forest, fetched with a Misty Rainforest, or divined for with Cultivate, but these solve our problem and solve it good. If you have a Simic Guildgate, Thornwood Falls, or some other land that’s not super exciting but is in the deck because it’s cheap, taps for mana of two of your colors, and doesn’t deal you damage, you have a card to take out. Pain lands deal damage to you, but that rarely matters. The number of times I’ve lost games of EDH to my life total being reduced to zero pale in comparison to the number of times I’ve been milled, killed by commander damage when I had over 100 life, been hit with a quadrillion copies of Zealous Conscripts, or lost to Laboratory Maniac.  A pain land is “calibrated” for a 20-life format, so when you think about it, Yavimaya Coast deals about half a damage in EDH terms. I’ll pay half a life to get an entire mana any day.

Is There Money to be Made?

Yup. These were already a pretty good buy and these are a cheap solution for EDH decks. For a while I thought “check lands” were my go-to non-basic, two-colored land. The problem there is that there is a wild price divergence going on.

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It’s a little difficult to tout this cycle as the “answer” when there is such a price divergence going on. One has been reprinted much, much more often than the other, but you see my point. Jam a Sunpetal Grove all you want; I used to buy these for a buck cash from players before they stopped selling at all on TCGplayer for me. Enough players are fine playing guildgates and gain lands that come into play tapped that the fact that these sometimes don’t come into play tapped seems trivial.

Guildgates are durdly. Karoos don’t tap for colorless (except for actual Karoo). Shocks are expensive, and if you have them you’re playing them already and know they’re worth it. Too many utility lands like Alchemist’s Refuge dilute your ability to produce colored mana reliably, and even gold-star lands like ABU duals can’t get you the true colorless you need. Pain lands are perfect here. If only you could run more than one in a Vorel deck.

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This is the graph for an Origins foil. It’s under $3 with a lot of potential. There is the risk of even more reprints, true, but with core sets being a thing of the past, it’s less likely that we will see another printing. Most likely, the mana needs of each individual set will be covered by something new. For now, these cards are the cheapest they’re ever going to be and there are a lot of them in binders. If you can get these for buylist (cash is king no matter where you go), it’s pretty tough to lose. There is very little downside to adopting these in EDH and the number of lands each deck wants goes up precipitously depending on the number of colors it is. A two-color deck can only run one pain land, but a three-color deck can run three, and a five-color deck can run ten. Will it want to? I guess that all depends on how badly it wants to activate Mirrorpool and not Maze’s End.

It remains to be seen whether the few “true colorless” cards are going to be a significant price  driver in EDH. What is known is that with the pain lands being historically affordable and historically available and less likely than ever to be reprinted soon, these are a great target. Pain lands are generic. But that’s what we want.

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Brainstorm Brewery #175 – Instances of Sorceries

Corbin starts us off by regaling all of us with a tale of his pocket getting “picketed” and we’re off to the races with a great episode where clearly we know there isn’t a lot to talk about Magic-wise until we start discussing it and, holy crap there’s actually a lot to talk about. The episode goes a little long. These things happen. The important thing to remember is that we’re your favorite Magic podcast and Corbin getting robbed is hilarious. There’s time to discuss spoilers, why it’s terrible that we have so many spoilers, and why this set is going to be a real financial curveball.

 

  • Corbin’s picket-pocket story
  • SPERLERS! Sperlers galore!
  • Expeditions are discussed at length
  • Potential new fair dual lands?
  • Support our Patreon! DO IT. You know this cast makes you more than $1 a week
  • We’re serious about the Patreon. Expect new perks.
  • Need to contact us? Hit up BrainstormBrew@gmail.com

 

Contact Us!

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

Ryan Bushard – E-mail – Twitter Facebook

Corbin Hosler – E-mail – Twitter Facebook MTGPrice

Jason E Alt – E-mail – Twitter FacebookMTGPrice

Marcel White – E-mail – Twitter

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