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

When Does a Staple Act Like a Rock?

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I always imagine there is one person who has never read one of my articles before. I imagine them reading the title and thinking, “What in the actual crap is this dude talking about?” and it makes me laugh. There is a non-zero chance even people who read my article from last week are confused. Either way, maybe brush up on that piece because I introduced a few metaphorical concepts that we’re going to continue here.

Last week we talked about identifying cards that either can make other cards go up by how they impact the format (rocks, so called for the way they aren’t interesting themselves but can generate ripples when thrown into a pond) or are going to impact the format directly by virtue of their own power and be used across a variety of different decks (staples).

I only mentioned the card once, but I really structured how I thought about all of those  concepts around the card Eldrazi Displacer. Do you like the card Eldrazi Displacer? Do you want to talk about the card Eldrazi Displacer? Would you like to see me spend 1,800 more words on it? Because that’s what’s up. In case you need your memory refreshed, and also because I love posting the picture of the card so I can admire it in all of its glory, here it is again. Your new overlord.

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If you know anything about EDH, you know this card is going to be ridiculous and will make people re-evaluate mana bases to see if they have the non-generic colorless to support this card. I feel the same way about Endbringer, so I think the first topic we should tackle is the effect that non-generic colorless mana will have on manabases and other cards. There is real upside here.

I consider Eldrazi Displacer to be a future staple. I don’t know if its adoption in EDH is initially going to be enough to make non-foil copies of the card worth any money, and for a card that’s just a staple, that’s usually the end of the conversation. Its sheer power level influences its ubiquity and its ubiquity influences its price. However, there are times in this wacky durdle format that I love (and I also assume you love, because when I ask people who want to make money on Magic cards but don’t personally play EDH themselves, they look at me like I asked them to donate a kidney), where a card that looks a lot like a staple of the format can act a lot like a rock. It pushes up prices of the cards in the deck with it without meaning to.

This is odd behavior for a staple. Chromatic Lantern didn’t do that. So why should this? Well, I’m obviously going to tell you why. That’s sort of my whole deal.

Effect on Mana

At first glance, this looks more mana-hungry than Deadeye Navigator because it costs three to activate to Navigator’s two and requires you to have true colorless, which could be harder to generate than we think. However, the need for colorless mana and ways to turn generic mana into colorless can really get some use.

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This card has been reprinted into just about powder, and it could see another reprinting in Commander 2016 (although it didn’t in Commander 2014) so that limits its upside a bit, but this is the sort of card you want to be looking at. You can turn generic mana into colorless mana at the rate of three for three. That doesn’t look like much, but this sort of card is useful in a manabase that needs true colorless in ways it wasn’t necessary before.  Basalt Monolith prima facie is pretty inefficient, but as a mana filter, it’s pretty saucy. There has to be some way to make some money from this card seeing more play.

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The Unlimited printing seems to be shrugging off the ugly reprints nicely. I like how this looks compared to Commander and Revised, but its odd centering may bother some. Still, they aren’t making more of this particular card, and I like how it’s retaining value despite not seeing more play. If it sees more play, we can pretty safely predict there will be some upside.

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Compared to a less efficient, more expensive card, Basalt Monolith starts to look like what it is and less like a bad Grim Monolith, which is in turn just a bad Sol Ring. Let’s ignore the price of Grim Monolith since it’s predicated on other formats, but let’s remember Grim Monolith is expensive because it’s a good card—and if Basalt Monolith can be better in our decks, the price has upside.

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I think true colorless mana is going to put some pressure on some manabases to change. I talked about generic and colorless mana and its implications in depth in a previous article which still has a lot of info worth brushing up on. Cards that generate true colorless are going to be in more demand with silly Eldrazi that require this specific mana and those cards will see some upside based on the new demand. I won’t rehash the examples from that piece here—take some time to reread it if you want a better sense of what could be affected.

It seems like Eldrazi Displacer is powerful enough that people are willing to change up their manabases, especially if they jam a few more Eldrazi like Endbringer to make the most of that new manabase. I like pain lands a lot in the future, especially the ones which generate white mana.

Caves of Koilos

Archetypes It Bolsters

Decks that are already decks are going to love this card. Basically, if you go to EDHREC and look for decks that are playing Mistmeadow Witch and/or Deadeye Navigator you will see quite a lot of action. Roon. Brago. Reaper King (awww yiss!). Augustin. Phelddagrif. These decks are already doing stupid stuff with Mistmeadow Witch. The list gets even bigger when you add Deadeye Navigator. Sakashima. Tasigur. Sedris. Silumgar. So many decks that are using this silly ability. While only decks that play white benefit from Eldrazi Displacer, it’s fun to see how many decks cards like this effect. But it’s worth looking a little deeper, because there are some decks where Eldrazi Displacer is more than just a second copy of Navigator or Witch.

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This creature comes into play with seven counters on him that can be removed for colorless mana. You remove all seven, putting seven colorless mana in your pool. Use three of those mana to activate Eldrazi Displacer, removing Rasputin from the game before returning him with all of his seven counters restored. Do this a lot of times to net four colorless mana each time you do it. Proceed to drill everyone in the face with whichever way to use infinite colorless mana you’d like to use to end all of their lives. This doesn’t make this deck more than a turn faster, but it does give it one more avenue to go infinite, and it’s a two-card combo plus your mana outlet rather than you having to come up with blue mana for Deadeye. This makes Rasputin a much better deck than it already was, and it was already pretty good. Rasputin has demonstrated the ability to hit $50 or more and with copies available below $40, this seems like a good example of a card whose archetype is bolstered disproportionately. Eldrazi Displacer works with Rasputin better than it works with almost any other Commander which can play it in its deck, and that has to matter. Rasputin is old and it’s not like it’s getting a reprint.

This could lead to some people building a new Brago or Derevi or Lavinia deck which means staples in those decks have upside. I’d absolutely watch cards like Great Whale, Peregrine Drake, and the big one:

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Palinchron was on the way up anyway, and any little boost could just steepen the curve.

This is all fascinating for a card that isn’t a legendary creature. It’s a staple that’s behaving like a rock quite a bit with all the ripples it’s creating.

mays

True “rocks” don’t just bolster old archetypes.

New Archetypes It Creates 

Eldrazi Displacer is white, that much is obvious. But did you know it also wasn’t blue? That’s sort of important, because Mistmeadow Witch and Deadeye Navigator and Venser, the Sojourner and Grover from Sesame Street are all blue, and that limits the number of decks they can go in. While Deadeye Navigator is played in decks like Tasigur that Witch can’t go in, it can’t go in some of the non-blue decks with white the Displacer can go in. If there’s no blue at all, Witch and Navigator aren’t an option, but all of a sudden Displacer is.

Are there commanders that have white but not blue that could use this? Of course there are! It may take some time for people to figure out exactly which white-but-not-also-blue decks they want to jam Displacer in and which archetypes can be created. In the mean time, we do know which cards pair with it, and that’s important.

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This took quite a blow from being forgotten by Standard players and getting a reprint, but it has growth potential, especially since this can be abused in decks without blue. There are enough angels with good enter-the-battlefield effects that Eldrazi Displacer could bolster one deck right off the bat.

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This badass and all the cards that go in the deck suddenly look a little sexier. FTV Angels (don’t google that exact thing. It’s porn. You get porn.) got people jazzed about angels and Displacer does dumb things with basically every angel and demon in the deck. Once, you couldn’t go nuts with an Angel of Despair that you could tutor for, but now you can. And that’s just dandy.

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Hey, look at a combo  that was only available in decks with blue before. Isn’t that dandy? Everything is dandy. And that’s the point.

Lots of decks are going to want to use Eldrazi Displacer as a mono-white Deadeye Navigator, but it has defensive properties as well. If you use it on an opponent’s creature, it leaves combat and comes back in, tapped. This can keep you from dying to certain Voltron decks until they give their commander protection from white or creatures, it can lock down big beaters and creatures that have to hit you to take effect, and can generally just keep a lot of damage out of your face. Tokens? Dead meat. Forever.

What’s one last way a card that seems like it’s bound to be an EDH staple is going to act a bit like a rock, and therefore a card whose own price may actually matter (and go up from where it is now)?

Effect on Other Formats

EDH is EDH. EDH rocks tend to not be worth a ton of money sometimes (Nekusar) compared to staples (Mana Reflection). But EDH is only one format, and it’s just one place where the cards can impact play and therefore be financially relevant. Edric was a great commander, but his price really soared when people played him briefly in Legacy. The speculation community as a whole, as well as armchair speculators reading tweets from pro players, all bought in heavily to Edric and other first-generation EDH commanders. Even a modicum of playability in Legacy set off a chain reaction.

Could we see Eldrazi Displacer make some movies in Standard? There are potential combos with Standard cards, and some of them let me kill people with Zulaport Cutthroat, which is all I ever wanted to do as a Magic player. Any interest in Standard, even interest that doesn’t end up substantiated by sustainable play, can give this card itself a chance to move up in price. If it does work out, it can bring other cards with it to the top. Those speculations are outside the scope of this article series and better left to Standard specialists, but an EDH staple can find its price affected by things no one anticipated.

I was taking my time and trading for See the Unwritten at a leisurely pace when Standard speculation about upcoming Eldrazi kicked the price in the ass, and it still hasn’t recovered. It’s good to be on top of things, because you never know what Standard could do to upend your plan of, “Wait to get this for cheap at rotation,” and the price may never get to below where it was when you decided to wait.

Eldrazi Displacer is a very special card. It’s going to cause all kinds of tumult, and it’s going to make all kinds of shenanigans possible. I personally welcome it and can’t wait to jam it in every deck. Cheap foils? Sure hope so. Expensive non-foils? Maybe, and I hope I’m invested if it happens. All I know is that there’s more than meets the eye with this card, and it’s going to cause more ripples than any other card in the set. Seeing what this card can do will help us immensely if we see a card like it on future spoilers. Until next week!

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Brainstorm Brewery #178 – Don’t Use the B-Word

Stop saying “Buyout” because you’re almost certainly using it incorrectly. There were some price corrections, some runs and some hype this week and the gang gets to the bottom of what happened. With Oath of the Gatewatch nearly spoiled and EDH cards heating up in Financial markets, there is a to to discuss. You won’t want to miss a nanosecond.

 

  • Marcel’s typical intro
  • Buyouts?
  • EDH Finance?
  • Oath Spoilers!
  • Pick of the Week is back! You’re welcome
  • 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

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Corbin Hosler – E-mail – Twitter Facebook MTGPrice

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Rock, Paper, Stapler

It’s a new year and there are new cards and everything old is new again, but that doesn’t mean some new things aren’t just old things. The good thing about old things is that they behave predictably. Predictability is moneymakeability sometimes.

New cards are like rocks for the purpose of this upcoming metaphor and the sense that new cards and rocks are both “things,” I guess. People who spend a lot of time thinking about “traditional” MTG finance are very good at scrutinizing rocks. They take measurements, write articles about how many uses the rock has and whether people are going to take other rocks out of their… 60-rock collections (this metaphor is breaking down much faster than I thought it was going to) to make room for the new rocks and generally focus too much on the rock. The rock doesn’t matter, probably. I mean, it matters, but not in the way you might think.

Why the Rock Itself Doesn’t Matter

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You may recognize this picture from our Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler coverage, and I am going to keep posting it because I think it’s very important. This is a list of all of the cards in Battle for Zendikar that are worth more than $2 retail. This is it. Fifteen cards. Coming in a hair over $2 is Omnath, Locus of Rage. How can that be? This card is EDH gold. Have you seen this card?

Omnath, Locus of Rage

Look at this card.

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Look at it.

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Look at it.

This is a card that is going to cause people to run right out and build a deck around him. He’s a pretty good-looking rock. So why shouldn’t we spend too much time thinking about him?

It’s pretty simple, really.

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Buying this for at its reasonable-seeming $6 preorder price turned out to be an excellent way to nutpunch yourself to the tune of $4 a copy plus shipping and handling. It turns out sometimes it doesn’t matter how good a card looks and how obvious it is that the card is going to launch an archetype.

What Are Rocks Good For?

I’m glad I pretended you asked that. While everyone else is studying the rocks and pontificating about how reasonable a $6 presale price is in the short term, I’m throwing rocks into ponds and checking out the ripples they make. The money’s all in ripples.

Reality Ripple

Sometimes, a big enough rock can raise the water level in the pond a little bit, which I am going to assume translates to a lot of cards going up in price. Like Nekusar made a ton of related cards go up while doing nothing financially himself, Omnath has a chance to impact lots of other cards that go in a deck with him at the helm or in the 99 somewhere. Landfall is a cool mechanic, and landfall enablers could see a bump in those colors. Elemental cards like Elemental Mastery have upside now. Every ripple in the pond is an opportunity for a much older card to go up in price, even as the rock sinks to the bottom of the pond and ends up only worth a buck or two.

So why am I bringing this up?

The Next Big Rock

This card is probably the most important card in Oath of the Gatewatch in terms of EDH, and this card is going to be a bulk rare for a while. This is a concept that took me a while to adjust to. I was used to Standard and Modern and Legacy finance, where a good card was a good card and then people gave monies for it at the cards store and then everyone high-fived.  It’s taken some getting used to, but I am learning that even though cards like this sometimes don’t really make a financial impact, they can make stuff happen with other cards. What makes me so sure that Eldrazi Displacer won’t be worth money if it’s as good as I say it is? Let’s look at a different kind of card.

What is a Staple?

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A good commander like Omnath can be the centerpiece of an EDH deck that causes the cards that go in that deck to go up in price, and that’s cool. It’s also a little bit narrow. While a good card with a solid foundation that you can build upon (brought that rock metaphor right back around. You thought I couldn’t do it and I showed you. I showed both of us.) is certainly good for the cards that can go in that deck, what do we do in a block where we don’t get a bunch of juicy legendary creatures with sicko abilities and relevant tribal affiliations? Do we wait for the annual Commander sealed decks for innovation to happen, or do we look at some other cards that can do things financially? I vote we look a little harder and identify a different kind of card that can also matter.

My series has focused mostly on “rocks” since I started writing it, and that’s cool because we have identified a lot of really saucy cards and made a lot of money on cards that seem like obvious targets. Still, while we were focusing on new, splashy, obvious stuff, cards we didn’t really focus on because we took them for granted just kept going nuts.

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A staple is a card that’s considered an auto-include in a wide array of decks. Sol Ring is a staple. Command Tower is a staple. Yes, Chromatic Lantern is a staple, also. Staples work a little differently, price-wise. Since they are used in a wider array of decks, their price is a little less capricious and tied to the whims of individual cards. The health of the format as a whole is the metric that puts pressure on prices, not individual commanders being printed (or banned, I guess).

Which is Eldrazi Displacer and what makes us think we can predict its price?

I think Eldrazi Displacer may be a bit of both and a bit of neither.

Not All Staples Are Created Equal

Staples are an odd thing. Sometimes prices don’t make much sense given how overwhelmingly good one card can seem versus another card with more supply and a much higher price. It’s pretty clear that not all staples are created equal, and while some cards may have more power narrowly, broad utility seems to carry the day. We have nothing but examples of this, and we have a chance to play with EDHREC a little more to see if we can figure out some patterns.

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Some cards shrug off a reprinting and continue to climb seemingly no matter what happens. These are cards that are needed in most decks that can run them, nearly irrespective of the specific commander. These cards are going to be safe-ish but unsexy ways to ensure incremental growth until a second reprint sneaks into your house, drenches your life savings in kerosense, and flicks a lit cigarette at the pile while it walks away in slow motion without even turning around to look at the fire.  Cyclonic Rift is very good in EDH in a lot of decks, and is sure to get you punched in your throat if you Overload it two games in a row.

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Cards like this aren’t always super sexy, but they’re worth knowing about, and they’re worth stocking. If you buy some of these at buylist and jam them in a binder, they will be good trade bait and there is no reason to hurry to get rid of them since they’ll grow at a steady rate. There’s some reprint risk, but if there were no risk in MTG finance, no one wouldn’t do it.

There are cards that seem like they’re staples because of how well they interact with a lot of decks but which don’t necessarily span the format like a card like Temple of the False God does. Food Chain makes mana way more efficiently than Temple and it enablers some explosive strategies, but it’s also narrow compared to Temple. It’s important to know how wide a card appeals when we start throwing around the word “staple.”

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Gilder Bairn is worth a surprising (to some) amount of money and it’s a great enabler in a lot of different strategies. Solid cards like this are worth knowing about, worth stocking, worth playing, and worth watching, but they don’t quite have the reach. This can still be called a “staple,” I guess, and I’m not sure we want to say there is a cutoff point where a card this good becomes too narrow to be considered one, especially since we lack a metric other than price to compare the two. Or do we?

Apples to Oranges

Playing around on EDHREC, I realized there is a way to judge a card and develop a mathematical (or at least numerical) basis for comparing the degree to which a card is considered a staple in EDH. EDHREC does something very useful when you search for individual cards.

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Do you see it?

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Numbers! We can look at numbers to see how often a card is played and use that to judge how broadly it appeals. The more broadly a card appeals, the more likely its price is to rise, because more decks push it up and the overall health of the format (growing in popularity daily) can expose the card to upside. A narrower card has less upside even if it’s more powerful. Sol Ring is in 25,839 of the 37,091 decks that can play it, a percentage of 69.66. That seems a little lower than I had expected, but what can you do? A percentage this high shows its appeal is broad, but is also a decent harbinger of reprint risk. With annual Commander decks on the horizon, reprint risk is worth knowing about.

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A percentage of 51.23 for this card.

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And 46.60 percent for Cyclonic Rift. Almost half of the decks running blue on EDH Rec run a utility card. It’s no wonder the card is trending up in price. Reprints slowed its growth down for a time, but this is really impacting the format. I think a percentage around 40 to 50 is very good and indicates the card is a staple for the format, not just for particular decks. Did I expect the number that I wanted to see to be a bit higher than 50 percent? Yes, but Command Tower isn’t much higher than that and there isn’t much point in not playing Command Tower in decks that are more than one color. They’re $1. Get you some. If Command Tower is played in 51 percent of eligible decks, than Cyclonic Rift’s 46.6 percent is pretty phenomenal.

I think checking the percentage is a good metric and I am going to use it in my analytical toolbox from now on.

Is There a Card to Compare Eldrazi Displacer To?

Yep. And you all know what it is already.

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Deadeye Navigator is a lot like Eldrazi Displacer, and it’s $1. While we have no idea to what extent Eldrazi Displacer is going to get adopted when it’s printed, if we find a corollary like Deadeye Navigator, we can analyze the card by proxy a little bit. What can our new metric tell us about what percentage of decks we can expect to jam Eldrazi Displacer?

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We’re coming in at about 15-percent adoption for the Navigator.

Power level is important. It’s very important. It tells us whether a card is worth bothering with. It tells us the likelihood that the card is worth removing a card in the deck already to make room. It tells us whether it can launch an archetype or support one well enough to make that archetype more worth playing. But Cyclonic Rift is five times as expensive as Deadeye Navigator because it’s in three times as many blue decks. Some other factors matter, also, such as the butt-puckering fear that Deadeye will be banned basically every ban cycle, but for the most part, the extent to which a card is played across the format seems to be what matters most.

I feel like we can expect to see Eldrazi Displacer in about 15 percent (plus or minus five percent) or so of EDH decks. It’s likely to be redundant to Deadeye Navigator and in a lot of the same decks. It’s also going to give decks that run white but not blue access to these shenanigans, but since decks that are blue but not white can run Deadeye already, and since blue is played more in EDH than white, I imagine that’s a wash. If Eldrazi Displacer doesn’t get some help from other formats, it’s likely going to end up a $1 card just like Deadeye Navigator. There is a bit of good news, though.

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Foils of Deadeye are almost $9. I expect the foil multiplier on Eldrazi Displacer to be much lower for about a year, so you have a while to snag as many foil copies as you can before they jump.

I have a lot more I want to say on this topic, but I’ve exceeded my word count. Why not turn this into a two-parter? Next week, we can look at how a card like Eldraiz Displacer being destined to be in roughly 15 percent of the decks in the format can be a little deceiving. When can a staple act like a rock? Find out next week. Until then!

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Brainstorm Brewery #177 – 2005 Behind, 2016 Ahead

 

The episode begins like all good episodes with a slip of the tongue that derails the cast for ten minutes. When you hear that, you know it’s going to be a good one and this is no exception. Oath spoilers, talk about past technology and resolutions for the new year are all on the docket. There’s a reason this is your favorite podcast.

 

  • 2005?
  • Discussion of iTech
  • Oath Spoilers!
  • Marcel’s clarification on the Cease and Decease notification
  • New Year’s Resolutions
  • 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!

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Corbin Hosler – E-mail – Twitter Facebook MTGPrice

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Marcel White – E-mail – Twitter

 

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