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.

UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 10/9/17

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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.


Congratulations to Huey and the Peach Garden Oath for a strong showing at the World Magic Championship this weekend. Ok now that that’s out of the way, what the hell, everyone that competed. Every single list coming out of this event was a complete snoozer. Ramunap Red. UB Control. Temur Energy. That’s it. That’s like, every single list that showed up. We’re 100% familiar with Red and Temur Energy. UB Control flirted with the idea of being new, but really, it’s just Scarab God, Torrential Gearhulk, and a bunch of commons and uncommons.

If anything had a good weekend, it was Search for Azcanta and Vraska’s Contempt. I wanted to talk about Search last weekend, after it was showing up at the Open, but at $5 I couldn’t recommend it. Well now we’re here with it at $15 and thbpt. I wasn’t sure if Contempt could pull a Hero’s Downfall, as each additional mana on those effects is rough, but it would seem the exile clause is enough to make it worth it, with Hazoret and Scarab running around.

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We’ll have to wait until the next Open, or even the Pro Tour for a change to see the juicy lists, I guess.

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Heart of Kiran

Price Today: $5.50
Possible Price: $20

While the only vehicle being driven this weekend was Aethersphere Harvester, don’t count Heart of Kiran out yet. It’s without peer in Standard, and even if it didn’t have a place at Worlds, it doesn’t mean it won’t be part of the broader landscape as the format rolls out.

There’s no need for me to sell you on how good Heart of Kiran is; last season’s metagame proves that enough for me. Instead I’ll remind you all of the sage Warren Buffett wisdom: “be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” Within the context of Magic, it basically serves to put you one step ahead of the trends. Be fearful about your Searches and Contempts — sell them. Be greedy about great cards everyone has forgotten about for the moment — like Heart of Kiran.

A few copies are out there around $5.50, and that number is still dropping daily. Before the Pro Tour we could see it firmly under $5. I can’t predict the future (which may come as a surprise) so I can’t guarantee this is going to return to the format. If it does though, expect prices to climb to $15 or more in a hurry.

Geist of Saint Traft

Price Today: $8
Possible Price: $15

It hasn’t been in the public eye quite as much lately, but Modern is still a robust, exciting format that tens (hundreds?) of thousands play regularly. It’s not unreasonable to say that it’s in the best shape it has been in years. A relative newcomer to this healthy metagame is a deck that goes by several names: Jeskai Tempo, Patriot Geist, Jeskai Midrange, whatever. What’s important is that they all play Geist of Saint Traft.

A former darling of Standard, Geist fell into disuse after rotation many years ago. People have been trying since Innistrad previews to get him into Modern, and for the most part, they’ve failed. I’m not clear on what specifically has changed in the format to finally let him in, but something did, and he’s smashing faces now. Given that he swings for six each turn, your opponent is likely dead in three attack phases, which is good beats for what is often a fairly controlling strategy otherwise.

Geist was reprinted in Duel Decks: Blessed vs. Cursed, which hasn’t helped his price of course, but there aren’t actually that many on TCG Player. Less than 100, mostly all $8 or so. There’s also no more than 30 of the Innistrad printings in basically the same boat. I particularly like the Innistrad copies, as we’ve seen several times in the past that people like original pack printings much more than the promo deck printings. (Knight of the Reliquary has been an example of this in the past.) At this point I don’t think many people own Geist, since it hasn’t been considered a staple card in the format the way so many others are, e.g. Snapcaster Mage. If this begins to turn, we’ll see Geist coast right on up into the $15 to $20 range.


Path of Ancestry

Price Today: $3.50
Possible Price: $10

The more I play EDH, the less I like lands that enter the battlefield tapped. I know I’m not the only one that feels that way, but in this case, I don’t think that matters. Path of Ancestry showed up in all four Commander 2017 lists this year, so supply is healthy, but that hasn’t prevented the card from climbing north of $3 already.

Path is effectively a five color land that likely lets you scry once each turn, so long as you’re playing a tribal deck. Even if you aren’t on a tribal strategy it’s still a painless “all colors that matter” land with occasional upside. That may end up being it’s greatest boon; that not only does it have solid utility in tribal lists, it’s completely playable in non-tribal four and five color decks.

My biggest concern with Path of Ancestry, and this should surprise no one, is how reprintable it is. And it will be. But until then, attrition will take its toll on Path, possibly quicker than we may expect. Could it be a $6 card by January? I suspect so. $10 by July? Sure, why not? There’s going to be a lot of demand behind this, and until Wizards prints it into the ground ala Command Tower, prices are going to continue to rise.


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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UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 10/2/17

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.


Ixalan is upon us, and players came out in droves this weekend to hunt for booty. Wizards sponsored two Grand Prix, but they were both limited, so all eyes were on Dallas for the SCG Standard Open.

After one of the worst Standard formats in the game’s history, this is a welcome refresh. Not only did you have a set full of cool tribes to get people’s juices running, players were also treated to a new day, a new beginning for Standard. And best of all, it didn’t disappoint! There were five archetypes in the top eight of the SCG Open alone.

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This weekend’s headliner is probably Hostage Taker, which not only performed admirably, but was noticeably referenced in many of the top eight player profiles as the card that impressed them the most. The ship (hah) has sailed on Hostage Taker at this point, although there was really never a great time to buy in. The absolute lowest price point for this card I’m aware of was $4, which certainly looks good when they’re sitting at $12, but wait until you see how many copies actually sell, and don’t forget all the risk that’s wrapped up in that as well.

Walking Ballista

Price Today: $12
Possible Price: $20

It feels weird putting Walking Ballista, arguably the best card in Standard — a fact everyone knows — on this list. And yet, I find myself wondering if there isn’t still a good bit of room left for it to occupy.

In almost all situations I’d tell you that a $12 Standard card is not a wise investment, and that you should be selling them immediately. However, Walking Ballista isn’t your ordinary “good Standard rare,” in the way that Boros Reckoner was, or Hostage Taker is looking to be.

Walking Ballista first and foremost is colorless, which means anyone that wants to play it can. It’s also found in Modern, as, amazingly, the fifth most played creature, with 15% of decks looking for at least a copy. It even pops up in Legacy and Vintage, although not as much, and those don’t generate nearly as much demand as the former two formats. Shooty man robot even clocks in at a respectable 3,500 EDH decks.

My point here is that there’s a lot of demand from Standard itself, and also from most every other constructed format in Magic. $12 would normally be close to the ceiling on a strictly Standard rare, but with all of this additional demand, and the fact that Ballista isn’t set to rotate until next fall, there’s a lot of time for that price to creep up towards $20 between now March. I’m not advocating you run out and buy Ballistas or anything, but if you’re looking for something to trade for at your local store, you could do a lot worse.

Fumigate

Price Today: $2
Possible Price: $6

Perhaps one of the more intriguing decks at the moment is UW Approach, which relies on Approach of the Second Sun as a win condition. It started peeking over the horizon during the last few months, and with rotation, is poised to be this format’s control deck. It relies on answering everything its opponents do and eventually casting Approach of the Second Sun. Twice.

What’s noteworthy about the lists from Dallas are that both have a dearth of rares and mythics. They aren’t even playing Torrential Gearhulk in the main deck this weekend. That may change, of course, but if that ends up being the default build, there will be scant few cards even capable of carrying a price tag in the main sixty.

If that’s where we arrive, Fumigate stands a good chance of coming out on top. It’s the default sweeper for the format, and with it’s added ability to gain plenty of life againt pesky vampire players and answer the otherwise unanswerable Carnage Tyrant, it will do a lot of work in UW Approach, as well as any other strategy looking for a sweeper.

There’s no reason to expect Fumigate to climb north of $10, but it’s not unreasonable that a key rare — and in fact one of the only rares — in the format’s control deck could climb to $5 or $6. Again, not a “buy them and stash them” plan, but a great pickup in local trades.


Herald of Anguish

 

Price Today: $2
Possible Price: $12

Zac Elsik is as Zac Elsik does, and this weekend was no different. He took down the Standard classic with Grixis Improvise, which I expect nobody to know anything about. After all, why would you?

The overall plan for Grixis Improvise is to flood the board with artifacts, which allow for a well-ahead-of-curve Herald of Anguish. Playing out an artifact on turns one, two, and three sets up a turn four Herald, which is a 5/5 flyer that makes your opponent discard cards every turn and can start killing creatures when you untap. Turn four may be a little bit of the dream, but even on turn five, which I’m sure you can get to basically every game, he’s still a savage monster (that doesn’t die to Fatal Push, ever).

Herald’s appeal here is that he’s a mythic from a small set that’s currently $2 or less. Mythics that cost $2 or less that suddenly show up as a four-of in event-winning decks certainly draw one’s attention. If this has been the open, rather than the classic, I’d expect copies to be $6 or $8 this morning. With another high profile success, he could easily end up in the $10 to $15 range as the most important mythic in the deck.

And if you’re not into Herald, Tezzeret the Schemer is also an important card in the list, with prices currently at $8. If Herald gets a spike, Tezzeret will be due for a double up.


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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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 9/25/17

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.


Rawr. Ixalan’s prerelease was this weekend, and if the anecdotal evidence is to be believed, it was a smashing success. After a prolonged, miserable Standard that dragged on for nearly two years and saw how many? cards banned, players are ready for a reset, which is perhaps the most exciting part of Ixalan.

Set prices are wonky for a few reasons. First, there’s no masterpieces, which is certainly going to have an impact on singles. I don’t have the numbers handy, but they accounted for somewhere in the neighborhood of 5% to 15% of a box’s value. Without them, that value is going to be distributed back amongst the normal cards. And since commons aren’t likely to really see a 15% increase in price, it basically means that the moderate to best rares and mythics are going to pick up that slack.

In conjunction with that, because there’s a small set of flip cards in this set, mythics have increased in rarity. Rather than finding a mythic in 1/8 packs, which is typical of past sets, they’ll instead show up in 1/7 packs. This means they’re about 12% more rare than they have been in the past. Between the lack of masterpieces and this particular mythic distribution, we could see the return of the $50 Standard mythic if one of them is truly the best card in Standard.

Of course, right now all the mythics look underwhelming for the most part. It’s not unreasonable to imagine Wizards did this on purpose.

This week we’re mostly going to discuss EDH, since we don’t really know enough about Standard to know what’s going on yet. That will come next weekend.

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Deathmist Raptor (Foil)

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

If you listen to James and I on MTG Fast Finance, you know that we’re both real big on Commander specs this year. It’s been the most consistently profitable market segment, with its massive playerbase that’s happy to buy into niche cards. With Ixalan’s release and the arrival of Dinosaur Tribal, there’s fresh opportunity to capitalize on this. Most of the tribal staples — Cryptic Gateway, Urza’s Incubator, etc. — already spiked months and months ago on the news of Commander 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still some room in the dino-specific field.

Deathmist Raptor is one of the creatures that got updated with the Dinosaur creature type update a few weeks ago, and is no longer just a lizard beast. He’s a full fledge dinosaur, and as such is prime fodder for dinosaur EDH decks. Of course, it doesn’t take an EDH scholar to recognize that Deathmist Raptor isn’t actually that great. A 3/3 deathtouch is…fine? He’s good at carrying swords or triggering your Nature’s Will, since people won’t want to block and he doesn’t hit that hard, and he plays a good defense, but he’s certainly not thrilling. The recursion is a nice addition, but not especially relevant. Still, he’s a dinosaur, which is the most important thing here. You’ve also got your outside shot at Modern play, where he could conceivably show up as some part of dredge strategy. Green decks already want to dump Vengevine, so adding Raptor isn’t a far cry.

There’s way too many non-foils of Raptor for me to be interested. Foils, on the other hand, are sparse. We’re talking about foil mythics from Dragons of Tarkir, a relatively under-opened set. You can score foils for around $6 right now, and there’s maybe three playsets on TCG. With 50 dino decks on EDHREC this week, it’s not hard to imagine a couple hundred people nationwide deciding they want a foil copy and emptying the market.  

Fungusaur (Foil)

Price Today: $1
Possible Price: $5

Fungusaur, also a newly appointed dinosaur, has a surprising eight printings to his name. Most players have probably never even seen Fungusaur. Well it’s your time to shine now, buddy.

I’m not sure if Wizards lifted the enrage mechanic from Fungusaur. They probably did. In any case, he basically says “Enrage – put a +1/+1 counter on Fungusaur.” Since the dino deck is already interested in zapping their own dudes, he fits right in. He goes “infinite” — so long as you have the mana — with a Pyrohemia, or other repeatable damage source. That’s pretty nifty, since you can turn him into a 6/6 or 7/7 the turn you cast him, and potentially much larger.

Even though there’s eight printings of Fungusaur, there’s only one foil printing, which, coincidentally enough, is found in 8th Edition. There’s almost none left, so I’m not sure how successful you’ll be, but foils at $1 are an easy buy. You can flip them for $5 or $6 (or $10?) on TCG to people foiling out their new dino deck, since he’ll fit right in and be relatively cheap. This is small ball, but it’s easy if you can find them.


Metallic Mimic (Foil)

Price Today: $10
Possible Price: $20

As far as foil multipliers go, Metallic Mimic’s is far too low. The cheapest non-foil copy is $8, and the cheapest foil is only $10. That type of discrepancy means something should be changing soon, and in this case, I think it’s the foil that’s going to be experiencing a price correction.

Mimic is reasonably popular in EDH, with over 3,000 decks listed with him on EDHREC. That’s about the point at which I start considering EDH specs. Add in the price discrepancy and I’m a lot more interested. Add in that we’ve back-to-backed a tribal Commander set and a tribal Standard environment and I’m a lot more interested. Really, how do you build a tribal deck without this card? A permanent increase in power to every single creature you play is A+, especially when you consider that many decks can find ways to use those counters to great effect.

I picked up on Mimic from looking at the dinosaur deck, but really, it fits in everywhere. It’s obviously wildly popular in multiple formats, as one would expect an $8 Standard rare that’s not really that popular in Standard to be. Pair that with a surge in tribal demand and a wonky foil multiplier and you’ve got all the markings of a card that’s looking to move soon.


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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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 9/18/17

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.


Ixalan’s prerelease bears down on us rapidly, and with the full set spoiled, players are hard at work grinding out decklists to find the hidden gems. Those that pay close attention and apply a critical lens (or are otherwise in touch with pros, or just lucky) stand to be rewarded. Will Gisath, Sun’s Avatar replace Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as Standard’s go-to big body? Will tribal synergies be enough to become the dominant archetype in Standard? Will people stop buying non-foil Zendikar copies of Spell Pierce?

Meanwhile Modern looks to be in excellent shape, with a dynamic, wide range of top-tier decks. It certainly looks like anything can win, and while that possibly isn’t true, the belief that it is is good enough. Commander 2017 also continues to drive the market, and for the first time in awhile the most-built deck isn’t Atraxa. Exciting!

Spell Queller (Foil)

Price Today: $12
Possible Price: $25

Modern has a lot of strong strategies, most of which can win on any given weekend. That doesn’t mean there aren’t standouts though, and Jeskai and UW Control have been mainstays for months now. It’s a welcome change for some, given that control has at times been almost entirely absent from the format. Along with the growth of the archetype, we’re seeing an increased presence of Spell Queller.

Spell Queller is an above-rate threat that does everything control in Modern wants to do. It comes down early, gets around “can’t be countered” effects, and applies evasive pressure to help close out a game before an opponent can restabilize with multitude of powerful spells available to them in the format. Even if Queller dies several turns later and gives an opponent their spell back, there’s a chance it could now be blank (e.g. removal), or considerably less useful (e.g. a Collected Company while the control player is now holding Supreme Verdict.)

Foils are on the market at $12 to $13, and while supply is decent, it’s not massive. As a growing Modern staple in an archetype that’s beloved by established players, and a constant regardless of how strong it actually is in a metagame. In other words, this is no flavor of the week combo piece. I suspect the foil supply will drain over the next three to nine months, and we’ll be looking at $20 to $30 foils in a year or so, so long as there’s no reprint, which really would only come in Masters 25, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation.

Reality Smasher

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $10

If you’re not playing Modern or Legacy regularly, you may not fully appreciate how omnipresence the Eldrazi threat remains. Both formats, Modern especially, continue to see Eldrazi rampage through top places. Modern especially sees a lot of Eldrazi action, and they see it in various stripes. Eldrazi Taxes, Eldrazi Tron, Bant Eldrazi, etc. There’s two mainstays amongst all of these variations: Thought-Knot Seer and, of course, Reality Smasher.

TKS is certainly appealing, but with a higher buy-in, we’re not looking at him today. Instead we’re talking about Reality Smasher, which is the enforcer in the “brain and muscle” pairing. Smasher is truly a marriage of name and form — he hits very hard, immediately, and is absolutely miserable to answer. If he doesn’t score a hit the turn he comes down your opponent probably spent two cards getting rid of him, which means the next one is basically guaranteed to have free run of your opponent’s face. There’s a single-digit number of threats in Modern as efficient and nightmarish as Reality Smasher, and so long as Eldrazi Temple is legal, the two are going to show up hand-in-hand, because once you’re in the market for the latter, you’d be foolish not to bring the former.

While TKS is already $6, Reality Smasher is half of that (or less) today. Normally I wouldn’t advocate buying in at $3 in order to ride it to $6, so there’s got to be more room ahead, and I believe that there is. Thought-Knot Seer is the second (!) most played card in Modern, and Reality Smasher is 10th, and the gap between them is fairly narrow. $2.50 for a top 10 Modern creature that was single-printed in the middle of a chilled Standard is going to look silly a year from now.

Malakir Bloodwitch (Foil)

Price Today: $1.50
Possible Price: $15

As I mentioned in the intro, Commander 2017 continues to drive prices, and Atraxa has finally lost her throne. This week it’s been taken over by Edgar Markov, the Mardu Vampire Lord. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t find him interesting or remarkable as a commander in any capacity, but apparently others do, and that’s what matters. Twilight is apparently still popular I guess? Probably in the midwest; it’s like 2002 over there still.

Looking through EDHREC at the signature cards for Edgar is pretty funny; two of fifteen were printed in the precon. One of those two is an uncommon from SOI, and the other is Bloodline Keeper, which already tripled awhile ago. That leaves us looking to make money on vampires in a different way. If we can’t buy any more non-foils (because they reprinted all the damn things), then let’s chase foils.

My first choice was going to be Anowon, the Ruin Sage, since I can’t fathom a Vampire deck without them, but he’s already like $15 now so never mind. I was pleasantly surprised to find Malakir Bloodwitch foils at $1.50 though. I was further pleasantly surprised to see that her damage trigger is all opponents, not one, and the life gain is equal to the total life lost, which means you get to triple dip. Compare her trigger to something like Palace Siege and you can see how much stronger this is. Add in the fact that Edgar’s whole shtick is to poop out vampires and you can see how a single Malakir Bloodwitch trigger could do 20+ damage.

Supply isn’t what I’d consider sparse but at $1.50 for pack foils I don’t care. I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a $10 foil by the spring.


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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