All posts by James Chillcott

MTGCritic Unboxes his $10K+ MTGFinance Spec Order from Europe & the US

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Hey folks. I recently streamed an unboxing of some of my most recent specs from Europe and the US via Twitch and posted it to YouTube for future viewing. This video includes interactions with Twitch chat viewers and detailed logic and results from a large stack of my latest action.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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Pro Tour Dominaria: Financial Preview

Pro Tour Dominaria, the second Pro Tour of 2018 got rolling this morning in Richmond, VA, USA.

As per usual the world’s best players have been holed up in east coast hotels and rented homes for the last week or two, all seeking to answer the only query that matters: is there a fresh deck or reconfiguration of existing archetypes out there that will allow them to catch the field off balance while offering consistent play against the known quantities in the field?

With $250,000 USD on the line, and  $50,000 for the winner, players looking to Top 8 will have to tap into both luck and skill to secure the victory.

Six weeks after the release of the ultra-popular Dominaria set, we find ourselves well entrenched in one of the better Standard formats in recent memory.  With a relative dearth of major Standard tournaments over the last few weeks due to significant Modern and Team Trios representation, our hard data on the best decks of paper Standard is more scarce than usual. Perhaps the most relevant recent result can be drawn from the Standard decks of the Team Trios results from GP Toronto, two weeks ago, where the following decks made Top 4:

  1. BW Vehicles
  2. UW Control
  3. BR Aggro
  4. UW Control

Entering into this weekend, the online meta would suggest that the top decks sync up with what we saw at the recent IRL team tourneys:

  • RB Aggro (12%)
  • UW Control (7%)
  • GB Constrictor (5%)
  • Red Aggro (5%)
  • UB Mid-Range (4%)
  • WB Vehicles (4%)
  • Green Aggro (4%)
  • UB Control (4%)

By any standard that is a fairly diverse and healthy looking field.

It is worth noting that the Pro Tour currently requires that players succeed in a mixed schedule of booster draft (DOM/DOM/DOM) and constructed play with 3 rounds of draft this morning at 9am , followed by 5 rounds of Standard starting around 1pm EST/11am PST, Friday.

For we finance types, this is going to be a tricky tournament to make or save money on, given the various factors in play. Firstly, Dominaria’s popularity has resulted in demand exceeding supply on the first wave or product allocations. As a result, heading into this weekend, we still have five mythic rares from the set commanding prices over $10, including Karn, Scion of Urza, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Lyra Dawnbringer, History of Benalia and Mox Amber. Of the rares, the most relevant thus far is Goblin Chainwhirler, a consistent four-of in the red decks that is holding $5 at present. On the other hand, additional supply is now making it’s way into the supply chain, and we’re also heading into the summer season that typically leads to a general collapse in card prices, especially for Standard staples, and even more so if they are rotating in the fall. As a result, our focus is likely to be most productive when used to identify the cards that may be set up to spike after the major fall rotation and that we may be able to get on discount during a summer vendor sale or Ebay coupon day.

Cards to Watch

Karn, Scion of Urza

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Karn, Scion of Urza

Current Price: $50
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 3
Monday Price: $50

Initially widely underestimated, the new Karn with pants immediately started putting up results in multiple formats as soon as he was released on the unsuspecting Magic population. In Modern, Frank Karsten has been advocating Karn, Scion of Urza as a 2-of in Affinity lists, and we’ve also seen the big metal planeswalker show up in Legacy Mono-Red Prison, Eldrazi and Affinity/Prison hybrid lists where the presence of City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb make Turn 2 Karn a real possibility. In Standard, Karn is in the top 10 most played cards in the format, most prominently appearing in WB Vehicles decks as a 3-of. UB Mid-Range & RB Aggro decks also have been spotted running Karn, though not as consistently. Generally speaking I am most interested in Russian or Korean foils as close to $250 as possible, since they are highly unlikely to see a reprint in the next five years, and should enjoy some strong multi-format support rolling forward that pushes rare original printings sky high. If you have been looking to acquire your personal play set, your position is uncertain. In theory, summer doldrums and additional Dominaria supply should lead to downward price pressure, potentially opening up access to sub $40 copies. On the other hand, a dominant showing this weekend might encourage even more players to pile onto the card speculatively, which would open up a chance for the card to top $60 in the short term. Net, net, I’d recommend holding off for the summer sale season.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Current Price: $35
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $35

Oddly enough, we have not one but two planeswalkers from Dominaria showing early signs of multi-format utility. During spoiler season, players also widely underestimated Teferi but just a month later pro players are now wondering aloud whether the classic character is actually better than the recently unbanned Jace, the Mind Sculptor in blue-based Modern control shells. In EDH, the interaction with Doubling Season in Atraxa super-friends decks will set up a solid support base for the card longer term even if he won’t see the kind of Legacy/Vintage play that Karn does. In Standard, Teferi is only really showing up in the U/W control builds, where it is a rock solid 4-of. As such, price movement over the weekend on Teferi is likely to hinge on that archetype making waves in the Top 8 and winning the tournament without triggering any serious calls for a banning. That’s a narrow tightrope to walk for short term gains, so as with Karn, I am more interested in targeting rare foils and personal playsets of non-foils a bit later this summer.

Goblin Chainwhirler

Goblin Chainwhirler

Current Price: $4
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $5

Goblin Chainwhirler is a hyper efficient aggro card, presenting a significant body, dueling prowess via first strike and the ability to needle the final point of damage against your opponent or pressure Karn or Teferi from outside the red zone. That being said, it’s pretty tough for Standard only rares from a popular set to hold price tags over $5. As a result, I am more interested in this card to potentially top $10 in the fall once supply has drained, on the assumption that there will still be a red or Rx aggro deck that wants this card in the aggro friendly early days of the fall post-rotation format. If a red aggro deck wins this Pro Tour or dominates the Top 8, there is a chance that Chainwhirler could briefly push $8-10, but supply pressures will likely force a retrace in the coming days or weeks.

Mox Amber

Mox Amber

Current Price: $12
Odds to Top 8: Near Zero
Monday Price: $11

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Mox Amber was perhaps the most hyped card of Dominaria, with pre-order pricing topping $30 a copy. It’s a mox! Buy, buy! Thing is, this is one of the tougher mox incarnations to reliably squeeze early mana out of, and since a deck hasn’t emerged in either Standard or Modern, we are likely to get a good shot at a solid long term spec here. Later this summer I would expect to be able to snag regular copies under $10, and foils under $20, which is something I feel confidant will pay off over a long enough horizon. Eventually, EDH demand is likely to be supplemented by a tipping point of one and two mana legendary permanents, and an interesting Modern deck should emerge that wants the full four copies. Of course there is also a decent chance that your funds get buried in the spec box for three to five years when you could have turned your funds over multiple times in the interim, so you really just need to decide how much of a pet spec this one will be for you.

Walking Ballista

Walking Ballista

Current Price: $20
Odds to Top 8: 2 in 5
Monday Price: $20

At this point, we should all be fairly suspicious of any XX colorless creature that WoTC deigns to print into Standard. Ballista is another multi-format all-star, with significant play in Modern, Legacy and Vintage. Showing up in 40% of decks in Standard at present Ballista has a very good chance of winning the trophy this weekend, in any of GB Constrictor, UB Control, Rx Aggro or WB Vehicles. This card has more than proven it’s mettle at this point but none of that is likely to overcome the gravity exerted on non-foil copies as we head into the fall rotation of Kaladesh block. Consequently you should almost certainly be trying to unload your non-foil copies. Longer term I like foils (especially Russian/Korean copies) as a hold or rotation period acquisition, but for now you should be looking for the fire exit.

Vraska's Contempt

Current Price: $12
Odds to Top 8: 2 in 5
Monday Price: $12

Vraska’s Contempt has seen a surprising amount of play in recent Standard decks given that it carries a CMC of 4. Turns out that in a format that revolves around powerful planeswalkers and threats that need to be exiled to be handled effectively, flexible removal that also adds a bit of a life buffer is at a considerable premium. This card has been as high as $16, and may fall closer to $8 this summer. There is a chance that post-rotation in October this is still one of the best removal spells in Standard, and that that fact pushes the card back over $14, but I think I’ll elect to stay clear in favor of safer plays. I think this is also a sell call, especially if you have copies beyond your personal play set.

Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer

Current Price: $20
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $15, $30 if it wins

We have seen expensive mythic angels on the back of strong Standard play patterns before in both Archangel Avacyn and Baneslayer Angel. Lyra however has so far been on a downward trend, starting out around $30 and falling 50% or so since release. With 20% of Standard decks running Lyra, and in a couple of different archetypes, there is a shot that she can recover and push higher if her pilots start putting up big wins this weekend. Overall however, I feel safer with selling Lyra now, and potentially looking to reacquire in late summer once we have a sense of how the fall Standard meta will shape up.

History of Benalia

History of Benalia

Current Price: $20
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $20, $30 if it wins

History of Benalia is an interesting spec. This is a mythic card that is showing up in 20% of Standard decks, and the play is supported by  3-4 of inclusion in both UW control and Wx Aggro shells. That’s a strong pedigree, but in just one format. The real question is whether this can be just as good after rotation. If it is, this could be an excellent fall payoff, with the card spiking over $30 at some point in the next year. On this premise, I suspect I will be interested in $15 copies later this summer. On the other hand, if the white enchantment posts up strong Top 8 results and/or wins the weekend, the spike could come a lot sooner. Keep an eye on the Day 2 conversion rates to decide if that’s a decent play in the shorter term.

Will any of the teams find a way to unlock a hot new deck with solid game against the entire field? Will a fringe deck from the early weeks of the format suddenly end up perfectly positioned to take off? Will there be a chance to get in on a must-have card that shows early promise or will the hype train leave the bandwagon speculators out in the cold without enough buyers come Monday morning? Follow along as we explore Pro Tour Dominaria!

Editor’s Note: We will not be providing round by round coverage this weekend but we will provide relevant notes as the weekend progresses. 

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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Tipping Point: Invocations About to Pop (Apr 2/18)

Welcome to the second installment in my Tipping Point series, which looks to explore important cards that are teetering on the verge of major price spikes due to low supply. My focus here is to try and flag cards in time for you to grab what you need for decks or get in early enough to profit.  In comparison to picks made earlier in the reprint cycle, the cards found in this series are going to a) offer less meat on the bone but b) be more likely to succeed (due to their already low supply/reprint risk). You will also notice that many of these picks will tend to be foils and promos rather than non-foils as for obvious reasons foils tend to dry up much faster than non-foils, except for the most important of staples, where regular copies may quickly follow during a spike in demand. In terms of timeline, I’ll be aiming to get you in and out of positions within a year, or setting you up to save good money on cards you might have been holding back on unnecessarily.

This week we’re looking at the Amonkhet Invocations. Perhaps the most maligned of the Masterpiece Series cards released so far, the Invocations put off many players due to their busy borders and near illegibility as game pieces.

Despite the fact that I’m personally not a fan of the borders, given my success with the Kaladesh Investions over the last year, I’ve been checking in on the Invocations to see which if any, seem likely to break out. Blood Moon currently has the lowest inventory of the Invocations in North America and is very near a tipping point of it’s own, but at $140 buy-in, the % returns are tough to predict from here forward given how popular the M25 foils may end up. (I’d guess Blood Moon ends up near $200 given enough time.)

Without further ado  here are my picks for cards at the tipping point heading into early spring.

1) Blood Moon (Invocation)

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Current Price: $140
Target Price/Timeline: $200+ (6-12+ months)

Indisputably the most important Modern card in the Invocation list, Blood Moon also sees play in both Legacy and EDH as well. This should mark this version as the most durably popular of the Invocations, but there are a few cautionary notes. Firstly, the card was a lot more exciting near it’s lows around $90. The other factor is that this card has a small pile of competing versions, including foils from 8th, 9th, Modern Masters, Modern Masters 2017 and M25. That really is a lot of competition, but the reality is that the inventory has been draining hard on this version. Given that word on the street is that Hour of Devestation is already out of print on low demand, Invocations from that set are likely to be very tough to restock moving forward and this could be contributing to the low stock.

2) No Mercy (Invocation)

No Mercy
Current Price: $30
Target Price/Timeline: $50+ (6-12 months)

Surprisingly, the other Invocation representing very low supply is black enchantment No Mercy, a powerful EDH card that has only ever been printed in foil (or otherwise) one other time, way back in Urza’s Legacy. EDHRec has the card reported in 4000+ decks, which suggests moderate demand, but it’s possible the card is underplayed by black mages overall. In contrast to Blood Moon, this is a cheap card that has only seen two foils in twenty years so it should be a strong option for acquisition given the solid price floor, broad utility in EDH and good possible upside.

3) Maelstrom Pulse (Invocation)

Maelstrom Pulse

Current Price: $55
Target Price/Timeline: $80+ (3-6 months)

Maelstrom Pulse is another card with multiple competing foil printings (Alara Reborn, Modern Masters &  GP Promo) but with Jund back on the menu in Modern this season, all of them are on the rise. This version can currently be found between $55 and $60 and I can see it easily cresting $80 before the end of the year given how small the supply already is. As with Blood  Moon there is some moderate EDH demand to backstop this play.

4) Diabolic Intent (Invocations)

Diabolic Intent

Current Price: $32
Target Price/Timeline: $50+ (3-6 months)

This card may not be on your radar but that’s probably because it’s only EVER seen one other printing, with the original fifteen years ago in Planeshift. OG foils already go for $65+ and the odds of WoTC reprinting this again anytime soon are low given their general lack of interest in efficient tutors. Supply on the Invocations is already low, the black cards are the best looking of the set, and EDHREC.com reports 7000 decks running the card already, which as with No Mercy, is probably too low. I see no reason to hold off on picking a few of these up to add to decks and wait for the near inevitable payoff.

 

5) Hazoret the Fervent

Hazoret the Fervent

Current Price: $140 ($80 in the EU…for now)
Target Price/Timeline: $140+ (6-12 months)

We’re late on this one. Of course Hazoret was a major part of Standard this year, but it’s not Standard players that recently cleaned this version of the card out closer to $60. Those purchases were almost certainly made on the assumption that this will be an occasional player in Jund builds for Modern for some time to come. I’d pass on the card at the current North American prices, but you can still source it closer to $80 in Europe, so I’ve picked up a few on the assumption that the Invocation can hold $100+ moving forward. There is some possibility that copies will enter the market when Hazoret rotates out of Standard this fall, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on a major price drop for this version.

That’s it for this edition of Tipping Point. Expect me to check in with new editions once a month to keep you guys on the cutting edge. Take care and have fun!

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Tipping Point: Magic Cards About to Pop (Mar 15/18)

Welcome to my first installment in a new series called Tipping Point, which will look to explore important cards that are teetering on the verge of major price spikes due to low supply. My focus here will be to try and flag cards in time for you to grab what you need for decks or get in early enough to profit.  In comparison to picks made earlier in the reprint cycle, the cards found in this series are going to a) offer less meat on the bone but b) be more likely to succeed (due to their already low supply/reprint risk). You will also notice that many of these picks will tend to be foils rather than non-foils as for obvious reasons foils tend to dry up much faster than non-foils, except for the most important of staples, where regular copies may quickly follow during a spike in demand. In terms of timeline, I’ll be aiming to get you in and out of positions within a year, or setting you up to save good money on cards you might have been holding back on unnecessarily.

Let’s jump in.

It’s been a very busy month in #mtgfinance, with the reveals of the Magic 25 card list, the Challenger decks and the bulk of the Dominaria set being leaked.

As the dust clears on the information overload, a few things have become clear:

  1. WoTC’s reprint policy release pace on key cards in Modern and EDH seems to be slowing a bit, rather than gain momentum. This is in part due to their decision to shift focus on Masters sets to loose themes that let them stay flexible.
  2. Based on what we know so far about additional sets this year, there are very few risks in investing in or acquiring play sets of cards that have little to no chance of reprint before Core 2019, which releases July 13/18. The next big reprint risk would be a potential Masters set in the late fall.
  3. The leaked release notes for Dominaria do not seem to indicate that we are getting fresh Masterpieces, which could further protect some key potential reprints, especially foils. Of course, I wouldn’t totally discount the potential for some twist on special cards to appear in the set, but even if it happens, I suspect we’d be dealing with Legendary cards specifically given the theme of the set.
  4. Modern, operating under the halo of Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor being successfully unbanned, continues to look healthy and related cards are selling well accordingly. Many important Modern (and EDH) cards seem to have dodged a reprint for the first half of 2018, setting them up for imminent gains. Our best bets here are likely to be cards that are seeing heavy use across multiple archetypes that are unlikely to be knocked out of the winners circle by meta shifts.

So where does that leave us? Here are my picks for cards that are currently at the tipping point:

1) Traverse the Ulvenwald (Foil)

Traverse the Ulvenwald

Current Price: $15
Target Price/Timeline: $25+ (3-12 months)

We first flagged this card in the spring of 2017, with an entry point in the $8-10 range. Traverse has already proven itself in Modern as a cheap and efficient tutor that is almost always a 4-of in the Traverse Death’s Shadow decks. It’s not clear what position that build will occupy as the meta continues to evolve, but with very few foils still lying around, 4000 decks registering the card on EDHREC.com,  and relatively little chance of a reprint in the next year to eighteen months, you probably don’t want to sleep on this card if you’re in need. From a speculation perspective this was clearly better at $10, but given that the card is almost always played as a four-of, you could still make $25-30 on a playset if things keep going the way they’re headed.

2) Cyclonic Rift (Foil)

Cyclonic Rift

Current Price: $15
Target Price/Timeline: $25+ (3-12 months)

This card has a similar profile to Traverse: first called at $10 last spring, sitting at $15 already, and facing  a steep price ramp with every copy that gets purchased on the major platforms. As arguably  the most important blue card in EDH/Commander, Cyclonic Rift’s reprint in Modern Masters 2017 opened the door to acquire cheap copies but now we’re not far from hitting $20+ and the next reprint may be a non-foil in Commander 2018 or ’19. Get ’em while you can.

3) Gideon of the Trials (Foil)

Gideon of the Trials

Current Price: $18
Target Price/Timeline: $30+ (6-12 months)

Given that this card is less than a year old, the relative scarcity of foils under $20 is telling. Not only are players experimenting with this card in various control builds for Modern, but the ability to play it alongside Gideon Jura and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar due to the new planeswalker rules has really opened up the utility of popular planeswalker characters in general. I was picking these up under $15 last September, but as a foil mythic I could easily see these ending up in the $30-40 range given enough time. There is also a SDCC 2017 promo foil of this card available in the $35 range, so feel free to check that out instead.

4) Cavern of Souls

Cavern of Souls

Current Price: $80+
Target Price/Timeline: $100+ (6-12 months)

Generally speaking, buying in on $80 mythics that have already appreciated in recent months  isn’t where you want to be. If you see this late and it’s already at $90, even less so. But as a player, if you need this card, what are you waiting for? They just printed this last year, so it’s likely safe at least until November, and probably beyond that. As a speculator, I went ahead and bought copies near $70 recently. Why? Well, for one, though it was originally printed as a rare, that was almost a decade ago now and the reprinting at mythic was almost certainly a mistake given how many tribal decks are running this thing in Modern, EDH and casual circles. The Eldrazi, Humans and Merfolk demand alone would be enough to keep this rolling, but Elves, Goblins, Slivers and Spirits may also prop it up. At this point $100 seems very likely this year, and $120 may be possible. If that’s the case, you’ll want to acquire sooner than later to play with, and then consider selling into the peak when it comes.

5) Expedition Strip Mine

Strip Mine

Current Price: $65
Target Price/Timeline: $100+ (6-12 months)

Every once and a while I check in on the Expeditions to see if any of them look ready to finally make a move. Recenty Hallowed Fountain caught my eye, but Strip Mine makes more sense. As the most efficient land destruction of all time, Strip Mine is clearly a staple playable in whatever format allows it. At present that means it only sees play in competitive MTG through the occasional vintage gathering. On the other hand, there are over 28,000 (!) decks using the card on EDHREC.com, which qualifies this as one of the most important lands in the format. This was also an Oath of the Gatewatch expedition rather than a BFZ release, so there are significantly less around. Cavern is already rather low on most major platforms, and I think these will clear $100 easily within the year. As a Commander player you certainly have use for this bad boy, and if you choose to exit and downgrade later to reap some profit, all the better.

That’s it for this edition of Tipping Point. Expect me to check in with new editions once a month to keep you guys on the cutting edge. Take care and have fun!

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