All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

The Watchtower 3/13/17

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By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


About seven minutes ago (at the time of writing this), WotC revealed the first five week post-Pro Tour ban list update. Twitter was buzzing ahead of time, in no small part due to the fact that this was the first of the new announcements. Would they make a big change in Standard? Hit Gideon? Take out a few commons or uncommons, like Thraben Inspector, to keep strong cards around but disturb the base? Would they reach out and touch Modern or Legacy? Will Jace, the Mind Sculptor be unbanned? (No, stop asking.)

Despite all the wild conjecture, nothing happened. No formats were touched. Perhaps most telling was the language used in the announcement – results from GP Utrecht were cited, and Jersey and Barcelona weren’t discussed. This leads readers to believe that decisions may have been made weeks ago. One wonders how WotC employees were feeling Sunday night, knowing that nothing was going to change, as they looked over the Barcelona and Jersey results, which were absolutely saturated with Copycat and Vehicles.

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In any case, it means many more weeks of stagnation for us. There’s simply nothing that looks interesting out there right now. Even Temur Dynavolt, which is just barely hanging on to a top 32 slot’s worth of quality right now, has no worthwhile targets. Ah well. Guess we’ll turn elsewhere.

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Ancient Stirrings

Ancient Stirrings

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

Given that this series is called “The Watchtower,” that would metaphorically put Ancient Stirrings in ‘pour hot oil over the ramparts’ range.

Supply hasn’t been deep for awhile, given that the only printing was in Rise of the Eldrazi. Granted, that was a popular set, and Ancient Stirrings was common, it was nigh seven years ago now. That’s a bunch of years. It’s an auto-four of in every single Tron build that’s green (which is all of them), as well as the various builds of Eldrazi, Bant Eldrazi prime among them. That’s not all though; Lantern typically plays all four as well. In each of these strategies the ability to look five deep not just for high-powered lands, but also colorless Eldrazi monsters or artifacts means it’s well worth the slot.

We’re not likely to see Ancient Stirrings show up anytime soon, either. The upcoming Duel Deck, Mind vs Might, is red and blue. We’re about seven months away from Commander 2017, and I doubt we’ll be seeing any Eldrazi in Amonkhet or Atlazan. There’s a great chance we don’t see additional copies of Stirrings this year, and possibly even next. (Although that’s a lot less reliable.)

Copies are around the $6 to $6.5 mark right now, which sounds pretty wild for a common, but Mishra’s Bauble is an uncommon, played in like one deck, and is $35. Given that as a benchmark, $15 for Ancient Stirrings doesn’t sound unlikely at all. For reference, it’s played about half as much as Thoughtseize, the third most played spell in Modern. We may not see it at $15 next week, but by November, if it doesn’t plummet in metagame share, it’s absolutely possible.


Lotus Bloom

Lotus Bloom

Price Today: $9
Possible Price: $25

In keeping with this week’s metaphor, Lotus Bloom isn’t in oil range, but the archers wouldn’t have any trouble hitting it. (This is probably a tortured metaphor at this point, right?)

Lotus Bloom is primarily an Ad Nauseam card, which I highlighted a week or two ago. It’s a mandatory four-of in that particular deck. Given the reduction in Infect, which was generally just better at racing, Ad Nauseam is now looking much more palatable. Most of the other decks in the format aren’t fast enough, and while I’m not clear on how the Death’s Shadow matchup looks, at least their proclivity to reducing their own life total means that drawing your one or two copies of Lightning Storm is a real out.

Beyond Ad Nauseam, Lotus Bloom shows up in Eggs. This has almost completely fallen off the radar since Second Sunrise was banned years ago, but it does manage to occasionally pop up in Krark-Clan Ironworks (KCI Eggs) lists, typically alongside Reshape. There was some additional chatter regarding Bloom during Aether Revolt’s spoiler season, when Whir of Invention was spoiled. Nothing has materialized yet, though the ability to tutor a Black Lotus for UUU has to come in useful somewhere, right? Hierarch on T1, Whir on T2, 7 mana on T3? I don’t know.

Flipping through TCG, SCG, and ABU, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to put together 15 NM playsets of Lotus Bloom right now. I’m not expecting a sudden pop on this in the next couple of days, but it won’t take many more interested parties for supply to hit zero. I like both this an Ad Nauseam (the card) similarly, so whichever scratches your itch (or that you can find cheaper relative to market), really.

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The Watchtower 3/6/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


I’d love to tell you about some cool new deck in Standard, I really would. Maybe a Mechanized Production list that took the MOCS by storm, or something showing up repeatedly in the MTGO constructed leagues. That would be great. But I can’t. The MOCS was as boring as can be, with almost everyone in the room playing Copycat or Mardu Vehicles. The most exotic deck there was Temur Marvelworks, which is hardly an unknown quantity. I guess we’re stuck waiting for Amonkhet to shake things up? That or the ban list announcement next Monday. Either way, Aether Revolt’s exploration period was short lived indeed.

Instead, we’ll look over at Modern again. With the Modern Masters 2017 spoiler now completely available, we know exactly what’s coming, and more specifically, what isn’t. The last few weeks I’ve featured several cards that I thought had good outlooks if they weren’t reprinted, and I don’t think any of them were. All of those perspectives still stand. We’ll get into a few more now.

Threads of Disloyalty

Price Today: $4.50
Possible Price: $15

Remember this card? Remember how it used to be $30? Well, it’s $4.50 now. When a card that used to be $30 is now $4.50, and there was no reprint or banning involved in the presence of the card in the metagame, that means we could reasonably return to the old high.

Somewhere between Born of the Gods and Journey to Nyx, Threads spiked hard, and has ridden a slow train downhill to the roughly $4.50 a copy you’ll pay today. It doesn’t show up all too often today, though it was still seeing play for months after the initial price spike. Does that rule it out as unplayable though? No, not at all. More than likely, people just sort of forgot about it after it stopped serving an immediate need in the format.

Imagine this against Death’s Shadow, for instance. Threads can steal their Tarmogoyfs, for one thing. It can also steal the eponymous card. And in the instance where your life is high enough that Death’s Shadow doesn’t stick around, hey, that’s cool. It acts as a pseudo-removal spell in that situation. People aren’t playing three mana removal spells in Modern too often, but a three mana control magic that can kill Death’s Shadow in a pinch is fine. And it’s not like people stopped playing Tarmogoyf, or Snapcaster Mage, or Arcbound Ravager, or Scavenging Ooze, or Dark Confidant, or Grim Flayer, or…

There’s not an immediate impetus to grab copies of Threads of Disloyalty. I don’t expect it to come roaring back into Modern this week. It’s worth keeping an eye on though, all the same. With no additional copies having been added to the market since the last time it was far into double digit territory, there’s no reason whatsoever to think that it couldn’t do it again. If this begins sneaking into 5-0 league lists at some point, it may be time to act.

Eldrazi Temple

Price Today: $7.50
Possible Price: $15

This may have made you money a year or so ago, and it could be time to double dip if so. If you missed the first time around, well, don’t make the same mistake twice.

Browsing Modern events, whether they’re 5-0 league lists, or GP top 32s, or SCG Opens, there always seems to be a few Eldrazi lists floating around. They’re mostly Bant builds these days, with the usual crew: Reshaper, Displacer, Smasher, Seer. In every list there’s four Eldrazi Temple; mini Mishra’s Workshops each. The alien menace hasn’t run over Modern or anything, but it’s definitely carved out a part of the metagame for itself.

There’s also the Eldrazi/Taxes hybrids floating around. Those play cards like Leonin Arbiter, both Thalias, and Chalice of the Void. They’re more about restraining your opponent’s resources while presenting a clock rather than running hasty 5/5s into people’s faces, but they still play at least eight Eldrazi, and as such, four Temples. This isn’t a fringe deck either; like the Eldrazi Aggro builds, this archetype has claimed a slice of the meta.

We’ve now got two different Modern decks each running a full playset of Eldrazi Temple, as well as your typical fringe usage in Legacy, cube, etc. It’s even in a good 1,500 EDH decks over on EDHREC.com. Supply on the Rise of the Eldrazi and Duel Deck printings is sparse, with maybe a couple of playsets between the two editions. MM2 supply is considerably deeper, but there’s still less than a page total on TCGPlayer. This means that while I’m not expecting an explosion in price in the immediate future, there’s few enough copies out there that we could certainly see this start to climb without too much public chatter necessary.

With the Cavern of Souls reprint bringing down the price barrier on the Eldrazi strategies, supply where it is, and Modern’s history of driving mana bases wild, there’s definitely reason to believe that we could be looking at $15+ Eldrazi Temples within 2017.

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 2/27/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Chances are, by the time you’re looking at this, the very first Modern Masters 2017 spoilers will just be hitting Twitter. My guess is that before the day is over we’ll have Liliana of the Veil  confirmed, and possibly Domri Rade. Other than that, who knows! Hopefully we’ll also get an idea of major returning mechanics, so that we can start to figure out what’s in store for us over the next two weeks.

This weekend saw two events; a Standard GP over in Europe and an SCG Modern Open in Indianapolis. Looking through the Standard results, I’m completely unmoved. It feels like 80% of the format is BG or Mardu Vehicles, with a small smattering of Saheeli and a few Dynavolt lists that a couple of crazy European guys came up with. I’m not seeing any potential price shifts that we can capitalize on, and even the Dynavolt lists don’t have any cards that could spike. We’re basically stuck until someone reinvents the format or Amonkhet spoilers start rolling in.

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SCG’s Modern results were slightly more interesting I suppose. They’re tough to work with though, given that nearly every card I would be inclined to write about could theoretically be announced as a reprint within an hour of my article being posted.  

Atarka’s Command

Atarka's Command

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

While energy has certainly been the most compelling mechanic from Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, the mechanic of the same name has inspired a new build of Zoo, that is, Revolt Zoo. Revolt Zoo plays 12 fetches to fuel Hidden Herbalists and Narnam Renegade. Herbalists are Burning-Tree Emissarys 5-8, giving the deck the ability to spill it’s entire hand between turn 2 and 3. Wrap it up with a Reckless Bushwhacker and you can theoretically be swinging for lethal on turn two.

A list came in 9th at the SCG Modern open, and it’s awfully light on rares. You’ve got a playset of Goblin Guides, which is hardly cheap. With MM3 spoilers rolling out in an hour though, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Guide takes a huge hit in the immediate future. If Guide is reprinted and his price crashes, that leaves just the mana and Atarka’s Command as the only rares in the main deck. What that translates to is a list that’s explosive, promises Magical Christmas Land turns (which more casual and entry-level Modern players love), and most importantly is affordable. This is that “budget Magic deck” recipe that really only has a single card that can reasonably budge in price, and in this case, it’s Atarka’s Command.

I don’t anticipate Command rocketing upwards in price or anything. I think that if A. Goblin Guide is reprinted at rare and B. the deck has enough staying power to keep people on it, that Command could double over a few months as players begin picking it up as a cheap, fun strategy. That Command is also usable in the Naya Burn lists that have become mainstays in modern certainly helps. I’d consider looking for these in trade over the coming weeks, as there’s at least potential.

Utopia Sprawl

Utopia Sprawl

Price Today: $2.50
Possible Price: $10

It’s not often I get to pick a common as something to watch for, but as far as commons go, this is a spicy one. Of course, this comes with a huge caveat: if it’s reprinted in MM3 — or any set, as it could realistically show up in any non-Standard product — then the price is immediately flattened. Utopia Sprawl is a ticking time bomb in this regard, but we could see it explode before the price is defused.

Most recently this popped up in a GR Ponza deck that took 15th at the Modern Open. That man is doing God’s work. GR Ponza, for players that haven’t had the pleasure, is a deck that focuses on denying your opponent mana. This particular list has a full playset of Blood Moon, three Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, and best of all, honest-to-God Stone Rain. Stone Rain! There are few more cards more fun to cast in Modern than that.

This build, like many of this stripe, tends to be mana hungry. You’re trying to deny your opponent’s mana resources while at the same time building an advantage on the board, so that they can’t eventually draw into enough lands to stabilize. To that end, it’s using MTGSalvation-rogue-deck-building-form favorite Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl. This fun, flirty little combo sets up four mana on turn two, which gives you Blood Moon, Stone Rain, and most dirty of all, Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. I’m eager to play Magic just writing that sentence.

Ok, focus. Utopia Sprawl is the best at what it does, and it’s useful in all of these green ramp style decks we see floating around Modern. It was used in the Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx builds from a year or two ago, and a Tooth and Nail build popped up in the MODO results recently that uses it as well. It’s hardly a format staple, but there’s several various lists on the fringes that all want to put it to good use alongside Arbor Elf.

A $2.50 common may sound wild, but remember that Mishra’s Bauble is a firmly $25+ uncommon. Utopia Sprawl is older, with only a single Dissension printing. If one of these decks picks up a head of steam — good or not — we’ll see Sprawl dry up real quick. I can easily see this card hanging out in the $8 to $12 range. Of course, as I mentioned before, it can be reprinted in basically every single non-Standard product that exists, so buyer beware.

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The Watchtower 2/20/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Fans of the best Magic were treated well this weekend, with Modern events in both Brisbane and Vancouver. 18 hours and 12 decklists different, each offered its own perspective on the format. Vancouver was, at least in the top 8, overrun by Sam Black and team’s Death Shadow, with three copies and the hoisted trophy. Over in Brisbane we saw a crowd-displeasing Lantern Control take first, with a pair of Dredge following up, Living End rounding out the top four, and then some more familiar lists to fill.

Overall it’s hard to argue that there isn’t something for everyone. There’s more GP-viable decks in Modern than any other constructed format — Merfolk took second, for God’s sake! — and there are dramatically different play styles available. With Modern Masters 2017 close on the horizon and looking to ease access for new players and provide established players discounted staples, it’s a good time to be in the market to cast modern-bordered cards.

Breaking // Entering

Price Today: $2.50
Possible Price: $10

While Beck // Call was the more immediately exciting fuse card after the reveal of Aether Revolt’s various Expertises, Breaking // Entering is catching up quickly. This weekend a GPT at Vancouver was won by “Expertise Fuse,” which is four Kari Zev’s Expertise, four Sram’s Expertise, four Brain in a Jar, full sets of both fuse cards, some fast mana, and a pile of gigantic monsters to be Entered.

Your overall strategy with the deck is to fuse a Breaking // Entering targeting yourself, flip an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and swing with haste. This is technically possible on turn one (thanks to “why isn’t this banned” Simian Spirit Guide), though turns two and three are more likely. Brain in a Jar gives you a repeatable, if slow way to cast the fuse cards, and Beck // Call is there mainly to be tremendous value for a strategy that’s already going through the effort to play it.

From a pricing perspective, there’s a lot of dead ends here. All the monsters (Emrakul, Griselbrand) are basically already saturated. Both of the Expertises are brand new and still in print, which means their prices are going to have a hell of a time climbing. Brain in a Jar is also still very fresh. That card could see some percentage gain, but not enough to gain materially in price. Really, the only two cards in this deck that have meaningful price potential are Beck // Call and Breaking // Entering.

We’ve talked about Beck // Call in the past, so I’m not going to rehash that here. Breaking // Entering is similar, though subtly different. While it doesn’t have the synergy with Elves or other strategies that may really want the Glimpse effect, it is a strong mill card that appeals to casuals independent of Modern viability. It’s also theoretically a stronger card, given that you can in essence put a hasty (and permanent!) Emrakul into play for two mana. That’s basically Goryo’s Vengeance. It’s also more critical to this particular build, though I can’t guarantee that will be the case week in and week out.

Copies are available around $2.50, and supply seems to be drying fairly quickly. There’s less than a page of both the promo copies and the regular ones, so if it isn’t already being bought up because of this emerging strategy, that means that there’s an existing steady demand profile. If that’s the case I like the trajectory even more on this, because there’s not going to be many copies out there for the people that want to play an Expertise strategy. Given how easily Retract is selling at $15, I’m very comfortable with an outside combo deck generating enough demand to sell Breaking // Entering sets at $40.

 


Living End

Price Today: $8
Possible Price: $20

Do you guys remember this deck? Someone at Brisbane did, and he scored fourth place with it. Do you guys also remember that Living End used to cost $15? I do.

The eponymous card of the archetype, this also had new life breathed into it with the introduction of Expertises. Brisbane’s list only played a single Expertise, and still kept to three Living Ends in the main, but that may evolve over time. Hell, we could even see the deck lean into Rishkar’s Expertise as a late-game strategy. Who knows.

What I do know is that Living End is a surprisingly resilient, strong deck that can wreak havoc if a metagame isn’t prepared for it. I’ve lost more than one game to the strategy that involves them simply activating Fulminator Mage four times in four turns. There was a time in the past that it was a strong tier two contender, and with new tools at its disposal, there’s no reason to think it couldn’t come back at any time.

With a former price of $15, we know there’s fertile ground here. There’s fair supply right now, but not enough to field even a couple of players from each state. Another run on this would land it firmly in the $15 to $25 range. Remember, it’s only got one printing, and that was Time Spiral. So long as this doesn’t show up in MM3, it will be one to watch closely.

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