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 9/3/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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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.


Wizards used PAX as a big jumping off point for Ravnica’s Return (or whatever), as they normally do, and we got a pile of spoilers. Shocklands are back, just in case anyone was nervous. Convoke is the only returning mechanic (making me unsure of what to do with my Chord of Callings and having very little time to decide), and there are some cool looking basics. Other than that it looks like a fairly standard Standard set so far. Oh yeah, and also, there’s a new Masterpieces set too. They’re part of a separate product which contains eight boosters and one of each of the planeswalkers. For the privilege, you’ll pay $250, only through the Hasbro Toy Shop website. You know that one that crashes every time the SDCC promos come out because it can’t handle more than forty concurrent buyers?

Carnage Tyrant

Price Today: $15
Possible Price: $30

We’ll begin by starting off this week with something I do rarely; talking about Standard cards. I know people are jazzed about the PAX spoilers though, and want to know what they mean for FNM’s favorite format. You probably didn’t see anything that made Carnage Tyrant look good, so let me explain.

Saffron made what I assume was a not-entirely-serious tweet regarding one of the newly spoiled cards, Quasiduplicate. It creates a token of a creature you control (ala Cackling Counterpart) for three mana. It also has Jump-start, the new Izzet keyword. Jump-start lets cast the spell from your graveyard by paying its mana cost, exiling it, and discarding a card. He pointed out that a strong line of play will be Carnage Tyrant on turn four (after ramping twice), then Quasiduplicate into Jump-start Quasiduplicate on turn five.

My suspicion is that this line of play is actually quite reasonable, and could in fact drive demand for Carnage Tyrant up significantly. Casting Tyrant on turn four means you need to ramp on turns two and three. That’s generally the play for a green ramp strategy; ramp for two turns, then start playing out nasty threats. Ramp strategies suffer a fatal flaw though. Most every card in the deck is either ramp or threat. A or B. Gas, or gas pedal. The issue lies in drawing too much gas, or too much pedal. Too much of one and not enough of the either means you’re not doing anything. And until they start printing modal spells that are either Rampant Growth or 8/8s, it will continue to be a structural problem with the strategy in general.

Where Quasiduplicate, and other spell-jack cards come in is bridging that gap. Spell-jack turns your ramp into late-game utility. Those Llanowar Elves and Rampant Growths that you draw on turn seven can now actually do something for you if you’ve got a Spell-jack card floating around. Allowing your ramp spells to play double duty may smooth enough of the rough spots of Go Big strategy to be a contender in Standard. Especially with a threat as potent as Carnage Tyrant. And what will the other Spell-jack spells look like? Something that draws cards with the ability would be fantastic. A four-mana divination isn’t good in most decks, but if you’re ramping on turn one or two, you can still play it on three, and then being able to run it back on turn six or seven by pitching a Rampant Growth is going to be big game.

Tyrant is a savage card, and popular to boot: he’s $15 to $17 as the 35th most popular creature in Standard. That’s awfully far down the list. Clearly there’s a lot of existing demand from casual level players keeping that price popped up. Add in any meaningful Standard relevance and we’ll see a meteoric rise.

Hallowed Fountain (MSP)

Price Today: $110
Possible Price: $200

With the return of shocklands, attention will be paid anew to the Expeditions series. Several years old now, these have had time to hit the market, pop, deflate, flatline, and bleed out of inventories again. To wit: all the shocks have climbed towards $100, and Bloodstained Mire, a fetch I picked up for about $85 to $90 three or four years ago, is now about $175. Across the board, this particular tide has lifted.

I went looking for an oddly under-priced shockland that I could recommend, preferably one that was 20 or 40% less than its peers. Unfortunately, there just isn’t any wiggle room. They’re all firmly at $90 or more, with no stragglers. So instead of picking out the one that’s under-priced relative to its peers, we’ll go the other direction. Assuming a relatively neutral starting position, which one is poised to jump the highest?

With Teferi reigning over Standard, Azorius is going to be the tribe to beat. Even if they aren’t in the initial slate of guilds, he alone will provide enough strength that other builds will warp to include him. With both Dimir and Izzet in the first set, I suspect we’ll see Teferi splashed into one of their shells. Either way, they’re going to want Fountain for the white.

If the shockland Expeditions can sit at $100 to $120 since January on Modern demand alone, they can easily push towards $200 with new and real demand. The biggest format in Magic suddenly making players care about them, now that they’re several years old, is going to drive a lot of players to consider picking them up. Even if only .001% of FNM players look into buying Expeditions, that’s still hundreds, if not thousands of players. There’s four copies on TCGPlayer right now.


Mina and Denn, Wildborn (Foil)

Price Today: $4
Possible Price: $15

While I wouldn’t have predicted it, this pair has become wildly popular in EDH. They’re in 6,000 EDH decks already, despite having basically a single relevant line of text. (And one that isn’t even all that impressive, honestly.) How often are you really giving something trample? It can’t be that often, right? That doesn’t really matter all that much in EDH, unless you’ve got some infinite/infinite shenanigans going on. I don’t know, I’ve never considered trample that significant in EDH. Maybe I’m foolish.

Regardless, the pair is certainly popular. And with Lord Windgrace’s arrival, they’ve only become moreso. At time of publication, we’re looking at 15 foil copies on TCG. One of which is already $10. Someone already bought out prerelease foils, so there isn’t anything left there. Why would you buy out prerelease foils and not the pack ones? I don’t know. But they did. This isn’t an unfounded play to make a $.50 foil $5 either. Pack foils have been hanging around $2 to $2.50 virtually since they were printed. Once Windgrace was printed, popularity picked up, as now there’s a legitimate tier one (popularity, not quality) EDH deck that wants a copy.

In any case, Windgrace shows no sign of slowing down. That’s on par with what we would expect, too. This year’s commanders should remain quite popular at least up through Christmas or so, especially so if they’re actually good and fun, which by all accounts they appear to be. So long as this steady flow of demand from the notoriously slow-to-move EDH crowd continues, these foils are going to keep disappearing.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


 

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The Watchtower 8/27/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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.


If Grand Prix Prague accomplished anything, it was letting us all know that Modern is still a vibrant format ripe for disruption. Hardened Scales Affinity did well last weekend, and it secured another top 8 in Prague, which is roughly the amount of success you need before the deck is worth considering beyond a statistical aberration. I can’t promise you that it will gain mainstream traction, but it’s cool to consider at least.

UW Control was all over the top 32 slots, with Jace and Teferi teaming up in something I imagine DeviantArt will reimagine as a hunky buddy cop duo. While they couldn’t crack the final tables, 8 of the 9th to 32nd place decks were some form of the UW control deck featuring the pair. Control decks by their very nature need to shift and evolve to meet the threats of the weekend, though there’s typically a core of cards that gives the deck its power. Jace and Teferi may be that core, and this may be the vehicle which delivers unto Modern the JtMS deck it’s been waiting for.

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor (Masters 25 Foil)

Price Today: $140
Possible Price: $200

As I mentioned in the intro, UW control had a big weekend. At the helm of every instance of the deck was Jace and Teferi. The pair were what enabled pilots to gain a stranglehold on the game and lock opponents out of coming back. Jace has been dancing in and out of Modern since he was unbanned, and this may be the deck that cements him as a pillar.

Worldwake foils have been infinity dollars since forever, and the Masters 25 and Eternal Masters printings didn’t change that. EMA hit the scene at around $300, and after dropping off towards $140, jumped hard ahead of M25 (lol) and has settled right around $200. M25 copies, meanwhile, started just over $160 and have dropped as low as $140 in some places. This means that today, right now, there’s about a $50 price difference between the M25 foils and the EMA foils. Can you think of any reason why the M25 copies are less desirable than the EMA oens? Because I can’t.

The elephant in the room on this is the FTV: Twenty copies at $75. The thing is, we can pretty much put that to bed now. Those copies are awful. They warp easier, look bad, aren’t as cool, whatever. Take your pick as to why they aren’t good. Those will sit closer in price to non-foils, while pack foils (from any set) will sit well higher.

Regardless of what happens in Modern, we should see this gap close, likely upwards. Additionally, I’d expect the foil prices in general on EMA and M25 copies to float north of $200, especially if we see UW control continue to perform well on the GP circuit.

Imprisoned in the Moon

Price Today: $2
Possible Price: $8

No, this isn’t a Modern UW Control pick. If you take a look at the most popular EDH commanders this week, you’ll see both Estrid and Tuvix. Sorry, Tuvasa. (Estrid and Tuvasa together were 91 deck lists this week, one behind Aminatou and Yuriko.) Bant Enchantments was apparently a market that needed another serving, given how popular these two have been. This popularity is in spite of those two, since as commanders, they’re just completely flat and unexciting. Like, seriously. Tuvasa is just an absolute snoozefest.

Imprison in the Moon has been relatively popular in EDH since it was released in Eldritch Moon, with nearly 7,000 decks packing a copy. That’s strong adoption for a relatively new card. It’s going to keep increasing too, as it seems that there will be a surge in enchantment players over the next two to four months with more casual players taking their time to pick up the deck.

What I specifically like in Imprison the Moon that’s different from any other random enchantment card is that it’s blue. Many of the enchantment-matters commanders have been Selesnya or otherwise not-blue. Adding two Bant commanders that care about enchantments, and are good at caring about enchantments (albeit boring) means that enchantments going to be cemented in EDH as a more than just GWx. Anyone that was playing a GWx enchantment deck may find themselves migrating to Bant.

NM English copies are about $2 to $2.50 right now, with enough supply for a few months, but probably not much longer. Depending on how strong demand remains between now and January, I suspect we’ll see non-foi copies at somewhere between $5 and $8 by the spring. Foils are solid too, where you can find them at $5 to $7, but that well is much more shallow.


Oath of Teferi (Foil)

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $15

It’s not enough that Teferi has to take over Standard and begin positioning himself as a pillar of control in Modern, he’s got to find a way into EDH as well. His planeswalker card may not be positioned to manage that, but his Oath certainly looks like it will.

There are a few things EDH players love doing, and blinking permanents is one of them. Many of the best cards in the format are such because of their absurd ETB triggers, and blinking them lets you relive that excitement time and time again. Enter (heh) Oath of Teferi, which blinks one of your permanents on its way in. It’s a delayed blink too, which lets you blink, for instance, your Sun Titan, cast a wrath, then have the Sun Titan return at the end of turn. (Which then returns something you destroyed in the wrath, which then returns…)

That’s only half of it of course, with the rest of the text letting you go wild with planeswalker activations. Most planeswalkers are a touch underpowered in EDH, but when you start triggering them twice a turn, they make up for that quick. Add in additional support, like Hardened Scales, and you can find yourself putting four to six loyalty counters on a Planeswalker in one turn. It’s a build-your-own Doubling Season!

A reader brought it to my attention that Hardened Scales doesn’t work with planeswalkers. First of all, a reminder that it’s illegal to correct my article. Second, even if Hardened Scales doesn’t work in this way, there’s other effects that certainly do, and they will also compound with multiple activations each turn.

Oath is very new, so supply is still fairly deep, and EDHREC doesn’t yet reflect what I suspect is the true popularity. Give it a few months, and as players are slotting them into their Estrid, or Tuvasa, or Aminatou, or Brago, or whatever decks, you’ll see fewer and fewer at $3.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.



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The Watchtower 8/20/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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.


Am I the only one that feels like we just had a Banned and Restricted announcement? Apparently the last one was July 2nd, so it’s been a month and a half at least. Still. Feels like it was like two weeks ago.

Anyways, it came up blank. Mox Opal, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Nexus of Fate, Alex Bertoncini — absolutely nothing that we thought may get banned has found itself on the way out. Overall it’s not surprising. Krark-Clan certainly has the makings of a problem deck, but it’s hard to argue that it’s there already. One player spiking two GPs and mild assorted success elsewhere is hardly enough reason to pull that trigger. That’s not to say we won’t get there eventually. We’re just not there today.

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Krark-Clan Ironworks

Price Today: $18
Possible Price: $40

Shortly after the B&R announcement went live, my lightly played Krark-Clan Ironworks (KCI) set that’s been for on TCG for a few weeks sold. I suspect that there were a fair number of players waiting a few weeks to see if KCI would get the axe. When it didn’t, they’re realizing they’ve got at least two months to jam the deck, and that’s worst case scenario. It could easily be several B&R rotations, if ever. If a chunk of players start going in on these, supply will evaporate rapidly. There’s 11 English NM playsets on TCG right now. If one player from each state decides to buy a set of KCI, the market will run dry.

Of course we’re also still talking about a single-printed uncommon from Fifth Dawn, the spring set from 2004. That’s 14 years ago, mind you. That’s older than several percentage points of players that showed up to GP LA this weekend, I’d imagine. What do you suppose overall supply looked like back then, in the midst of Affinity and a decrease in player count so significant that Wizards still looks back on it as one of the darkest periods of the game?

Modern has shown us time and time again that key components of combo decks can hit wild highs. This isn’t Standard. I wouldn’t bat an eye at $35 – $50 KCIs, and that’s without the deck becoming a tier one pillar.

Skyshroud Claim (Foil)

Price Today: $7
Possible Price: $15

Commander 2018’s release pulled everyone’s attention away from what was the hot topic prior to that, Battlebond. That’s good for us, since now the “hard work” of just letting Battlebond be what it is — scarce — can progress quietly, driving prices on singles up across the board. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that Battlebond will end up having seen massive gains by this time next year.

Skyshroud Claim is probably the best ramp spell in EDH. It’s not the most played — there are about five ahead of it — and I chalk that up to availability. Cultivate and Rampant Growth have been printed a zillion times and show up in precons everywhere. Prior to Battlebond, Skyshroud Claim had never been reprinted, so it rarely made it into the “stuff that’s currently on my table” decks. With Battlebond, there may be a relative uptick in popularity.

Regardless, it’s the best ramp spell, and players that know EDH know that. Prophecy foils have been expensive for a long while for that reason. You can find played copies around $25 to $30 right now. Good luck with NM though. Battlebond copies are where many players will turn to for their foil fix, naturally, and turn they will. I’d estimate a huge percentage of players with Skyshroud Claims have non-foil copies, because the foil ones were too expensive, and they knew foils would come along eventually. Now anyone that’s been waiting for the reprint has finally gotten it. There’s even plenty of weird people that prefer the modern border to the original.

Foils at $7 are definitely going to climb. Long-time players are going to be picking up copies to replace their older, non-foil Nemesis copies, and new players getting turned on to Skyshroud claim are going to be grabbing them too. Without reprint, we’ll see Battlebond foils easily break $15.


Utvara Hellkite(Foil)

Price Today: $10
Possible Price: $25

One of the cooler looking commanders from this year’s product that hasn’t gotten nearly as much air time as the others is Brudiclad. His ability is a bit difficult to parse at first, but once you do, you can see how awesome he is. He turns all your tokens — not just token creatures, tokens — into one type of token you already control. What’s that mean? Well, if you have a pile of treasure and clue tokens, then make a token copy of Massacre Wurm, you suddenly have an army of Massacre Wurms. Cast that wrath!

Brudiclad decks are going to be looking for two engine pieces: cards that generate a lot of tokens of any sort, and cards that generate awesome tokens. Utvara Hellkite is the latter. Attacking with Utvara makes a 6/6 dragon token. Now you’ve got an awesome token to clone. Turn your 10 treasure tokens into 6/6 dragons. Good start. Now attack with all 10, making 10 more 6/6 dragons. That’s getting the hang of it!

Utvara was reprinted in Commander last year, but we’re not talking non-foils. Foils are around $10 or $11, and I imagine nearly every Brudiclad player is going to be slotting Utvara into their deck. Scroll through the EDHREC page for him and you’ll see that there’s a surprising dearth of excellent token generators. Utvara should become a lock for the strategy.

Supply is quite low, and with newfound Brudiclad demand on an already-taxed tribal card, I suspect the dominos will fall and we’ll see $30 Utvara’s before long.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance


 
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The Watchtower 8/13/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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.


One week out from Pro Tour: Nexus of Fate, and things are mostly ok. One Turbo Fog deck made the top 8 of Brussels, but none cracked the ceiling of Orlando. There were three and four lurking in the top 25 and 32 of each event though, so it’s certainly clear that despite what I imagine is every single player showing up to those events with clear knowledge that it would be the deck to beat, Nexus of Fate is still powerful enough to (reasonably) overcome. Prices aren’t too absurd at the moment at $25 a copy, which makes it one of the most expensive cards in Standard, but not the most, and not a seemingly unacceptable rate for for the format in general. We’ll see how October goes.

If anything, the real problem is Teferi. I’ve seen several pros on Twitter lately remark that every single line of text on that card is poorly designed. His +1 is deceptively protective, since while it doesn’t give you a direct blocker, it provides resources to thwart attacks, and his ultimate (which is your plan A with Teferi, as I understand it) is one of the most miserable ways to lose a game possible.

I was curious to see if I could include him this week as a card to watch despite an already-high price tag, but that just wasn’t going to fly. You’ll pay $35 on TCGPlayer to take home the cheapest copy on the market. For comparison, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was only more expensive than that for a week or two immediately after release. He was south of $30 for like, 95% of the time he was legal in Standard. Interesting.

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Brago, King Eternal (Foil)

Price Today: $6.50
Possible Price: $15

EDHREC has got the new Commanders up, and we’re getting an idea of relative popularity, and what people are planning on including. For the first time in awhile Atraxa fell out of first place, and Aminatou took the top slot. (Let’s be clear though, this is temporary. I fully expect Atraxa to reclaim that throne (of Geth) soon.)

Initial builds of Aminatou are going hard on the flicker line, as evidenced by Cloudblazer as the top creature of the aggregate decks. And of course, if you’re on that plan, then you certainly want the king of flickering, Brago the Braggart. He’s not a tough include. There’s no single card that can repeatedly generate as much flicker action as Brago can. He’s made even sillier when you can use a permanent — perhaps a Gilded Lotus — flicker it with Aminatou, use it again, attack with Brago, and then flicker Aminatou to reset her loyalty and +1 her. That type of thing is a lot of fun, let me tell you.

If there’s any interest in flickering permanents in an Aminatou deck, Brago is going to be there. Originally from Conspiracy, his first run of product is particularly shallow. We saw him return (heh) in Eternal Masters last year, which added a fair bit of product to the market. Yet the foil supply isn’t particularly deep. Conspiracy copies start at $10 or so, and you’ll find maybe 25 copies all said and done. (You’ll also find a few foil Japanese copies for sale by yours truly.) EMA copies start cheaper; around $6. For less than $150 you could buy every single NM Foil EMA copy of Brago. Somehow, EMA supply is even lower than Conspiracy. I don’t exactly get that, but it is what it is I guess.

Brago is in a respectable number of decks as a single card, and as a commander, he’s a top 10 all time. Aminatou is going to add a new batch of players looking to reign eternal, and there’s no better option. Barring any more reprints, foils are not going to be much under $15 by next year.


Gonti, Lord of Luxury (Foil)

Price Today: $3.50
Possible Price: $10

Continuing down the Aminatou page you’ll find Gonti. I’ve mostly been disinterested in Gonti, both as a player and financier; he just doesn’t do it for me in either capacity. I’m not blind though, and I’ve noticed his popularity with others. This was further confirmed when I popped over to his own page and found that he’s in nearly 6,000 decks. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Kaladesh is still relatively recent, and it’s not easy to push into that many lists in that time frame.

Supply is sort of middle of the pack right now. Three people buying a playset each isn’t going to empty the market, but then again, ten people will. You aren’t going to sell these as sets very often, of course. It shouldn’t be hard to push a sale or two a week once they climb though, and they’ll make great binder fodder for your local store.

What appeals to me here is the price tag. Cards around $2 to $4 are in the sweet spot of cheap enough to actually buy a chunk of copies, and not miss a mortgage payment because of it, and yet still have enough weight that if they quadruple up you’re making more than $1 a copy. At $3.50 or so, these can hit $10 for a solid $5 to $6 profit on each card if you’re selling through an online vendor. They’re also still going to remain fairly liquid, unlike $300 reserve list cards, which can take awhile to find a buyer.


Vanishment (Foil)

Price Today: $.50
Possible Price: $5

On the bottom end of the scale this week is Vanishment, which is about a magnitude cheaper than Brago. It’s not often that I like cards at this price point, since it’s so tough to realize the gains, but I’ll make an exception this week.

Miracles in EDH have been “ehhh” for awhile. Sure you can do the work to set them up, but even if you did, they weren’t even a major payout. Other than Temporal Mastery and Entreat the Angels, they’re…fine. Then Aminatou came along and is all about manipulating the top card of  your library, including a feature important to miracles: an easy way to put cards from your hand back on top of your library. If you’ve ever tried to brew with miracles in Modern, you’ll know it’s annoyingly difficult to find reasonable ways to put the excess miracles back onto your library. Not a problem any longer!

Most every Aminatou player is going to try and put in as many miracles as they can, because uh, it’s cool and why not. It’s never really worked before, so it’s fun to finally have that as a semi-reasonable option. Which means that while demand for foil Vanishment basically hasn’t existed up until now, it’s going to get a bump.

If you’ve got a pile of these you scored in the sub-$1 range, you’re not going to want to sell them individually if they hit $5. That’s going to be miserable. You’ll either only have four, in which case the effort wasn’t worth it, or you’ll have forty, and you’ll not want to stick every single one of the damn things in an envelope. No, your plan here is buylists. Grab a good chunk of them, wait for them to hit $2 or $3 on buylist, then send them in for store credit with a 30% trade-in bonus. An investment of $25 could turn into nearly $200, if things go your way.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


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