Category Archives: Casual Fridays

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Price Targets for Iconic Masters

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This…this is weird.

We are neck-deep in atrocious spoilers for Unstable and yet the set that’s getting opened this weekend is Iconic Masters. I’m not a marketing or economics major, but it seems something is off about this timing. We’ve known this set for months, a few folks drafted it at HasCon and all I want to do is mess around with Contraptions and Host creatures.

There’s another factor at play with Iconic Masters: Somehow, this set is dirt cheap to buy. The EV is there, with 16 rares and mythics that match the price of a pack, but why am I going to drop $30+ on a draft at my LGS when my pals and I can chip in for a box at $160-$170?

With this set, I’m not going to buy any boxes or any packs. The far better bet will be to choose the prices I want and see if cards settle to those ranges. The availability of boxes makes me think that this isn’t going to tick prices downward, it’s going to yank the rug out from under them and expose a giant hole.

I am open to being wrong, but the box prices are worrisome to me. We’re only going to be opening this for a month (Unstable lands December 9, so four weeks?) so that’s going to mitigate the damage, but I can’t help thinking that this is going to torpedo a lot of prices.

Here’s my targets, with their current prices.

Mana Drain ($90): So this represents the chase mythic of the set, the headliner, and I think it’s about to tank hard. I think this drop into the $50 range, and $40 wouldn’t shock me. There has been a judge foil, to go with the original, and now the rest of us are going to get a crack at it. Question is, what’s the demand? No one needs a playset, so is it going to be all EDH decks? It’s a pretty phenomenal card in there and in Cube, but that’s going to fill pretty fast. The people who were drooling for a cheaper version are going to get their wish. I will be looking to pick these up around $40-$60.

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Ancestral Vision ($19): This is a card that has really ridden the rollercoaster over the years.

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The truth is that while it feels really great to resolve this as a control player, Modern has become a bit too fast for this card. For right now, anyway. I fully expect that in the fullness of time, someone will build a control deck that sweeps away the aggressive decks and defeats the combo players. That time isn’t now, though. I know this will go below $10, but it’ll have to fall further to interest me, maybe to $7.

Flusterstorm ($31): This is another card that’s about to take a beating. I can’t find a Legacy or Vintage list that uses more than two, and that’s a bad sign because this is a rare. I think it’s going to drop into the $10 range, and I’m not sure I’d want to pick any up. Where’s the demand? This goes in some Cubes, but it seems like trash in Commander.

Aether Vial ($30): We keep getting this card, but never ever in Standard again: Darksteel, FTV, Masterpiece, Modern Masters, and now here. It’s dropped in price before and always recovered well, so I don’t think it’ll fall far. $20 would be my target, especially because when people want this, they want the full set. That bodes VERY well for future demand.

Thoughtseize ($15): This is a difficult call to make. Let’s go to the history:

It’s easy to forget that Thoughtseize was worth ninety dollars at one point before being in Theros. Even now, the original is worth about twice as much as the Theros version. We’re back to the original art and flavor text, which means little when a card is played as much as this is. It’s awful in casual formats, worthwhile in Cubes, and it’s among the most-played cards in Legacy and Modern. The demand is real, but the question of how much supply worries me.

Here’s the bottom line: It’s going to trickle down to $10. Will it go lower? I don’t think it will, and I’ll be content to stock up at $10 and wait. It’s played too much to stay that low for long, and if growth is slow, well, I’ll be patient until it gets back to a buylist of $10 and move on.

Glimpse the Unthinkable ($12): This is already half the price of the original Ravnica version, and is going to test the premise ‘casuals love mill cards enough to keep prices high.’ This will be a $5 card. It’ll stay a $5 card for quite a while after that, and I won’t want to get any.

Cryptic Command ($23): Lorwyn. Modern Masters 1 AND 2. Invocation, and a textless promo. That’s a LOT of printings, and two different alternate looks for those with a taste for either. This sees some Modern play, and that helps, but I can’t help feeling that a lot of people who want a Cryptic or four have them already. This will drop by at least half, and that casting cost is going to rule out a lot of Commander decks…though EDHREC has it in 11,000 decks already.

I can’t imagine this stays above $20, and only if it goes below $10 will I be interested. Getting in at $15 and waiting  is just going to take too long to be useful.

Cliff is an avid cuber and Commander player, and can be found investigating all sorts of unusual formats. His first boosters were in late 1994, and the years since have seen a range of spikes, sellouts, thefts, and triumphs. Catch his articles here every Friday or on Twitter @wordofcommander

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Pickups pre-PT Ixalan

The PT starts today. Right now, as a matter of fact! I’m posting this at 6 am PST, two hours before the first draft starts, and I’m stoked. I agree with the people who say that the three hours of broadcast would be better spent showing us different drafts for 2/3 of the time and then maybe the finals of a draft pod. I don’t like watching the draft games, but I’m not in charge.

I’m also on the watch for decks that are going to be played, and what cards are ripe for a spike. There’s a few factors at play, but it’ll come down to camera time, frequency of play, number in a deck, and final performance. Making the Top 8 will be good, but winning will be better.

With all this in mind, here’s the cards I’ve been picking up this week. I haven’t laid any big bets, but I’ve picked these up in trades and sniped a couple of auctions.

Ruin Raider – I suspect that black aggro will be in play this weekend, even if it doesn’t put up a huge finish or a big slice of the metagame. There’s a lot of flavors of aggressive decks, and this is a creature that allows a deck to catch up on cards, especially if Fumigate is all over the place. This is a card that rewards players for attacking, which is all an aggressive deck wants to do anyway. Plus, it’s relatively cheap at $1-$2, depending on fees. It’s also got two years to get good, so even if it doesn’t see play this weekend, it’s got good potential.

Bomat Courier – If aggressive decks are as prevalent as I suspect, then this is a card with room to grow. It’s got about 11 months before it rotates out of Standard, and that’s going to bode well for this card. It went up to $3 when Ramunap Red first premiered, and now it’s down in the $1.50 range. This is more of a ‘sell into the spike’ sort of card, it’s not for long-term holding.

Fatal Push – This has quickly become one of the top removal spells in Modern and Legacy, dealing with a wide range of problems for one mana. It’s also very widely played in Standard, and I don’t see this as something that’s going to drop anytime soon. Nonfoils are about $9, foils are $30, and the FNM promo can be had for $10. I am a big fan of grabbing the foils at $30, as $50 seems in play within a year or two, and it would be unusual for it to be reprinted too soon in a Masters set of some sort. (Note I did not say impossible!) Supply is at maximum, and you should acquire accordingly.

Rogue Refiner & Blossoming Defense – I think this is going to be a big weekend for these two uncommons. They aren’t exactly cheap now, but after the PT, you’ll be able to buylist these for a little more than you can today. Both are efficient at their mana cost, and Rogue Refiner is a great pick to bump to above a dollar.

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Bristling Hydra – I wish energy wasn’t as good as it is, but this is one of the cards that has room to grow. It’s been slowly growing in price to get to its current $2.50, and one more big tournament showing might be enough to solidify its status, considering that this is one of the cards common to both the Sultai and the Temur builds of energy decks.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner – I really want this to be good, as it’s a way to convert energy into a more tangible advantage in a long game. It’s $2.50 now, and just like the Hydra, I think it’s due for a weekend where it breaks $4 or $5.

Rampaging FerocidonIxalan is probably not going to have a huge weekend, considering the spikes that have already grown to impressive numbers. This is a $3 card, as a four-of in a lot of Ramunap builds, and it takes away one of the big advantages of Approach of the Second Sun decks: the 7 life gained is often just enough of a cushion to get there. I think this is a good candidate to break $5 if the Red deck runs rampant.

Dread Wanderer – If mass removal is all over the place, I like this as a recursive answer alongside some Vehicles and some Scrapheap Scroungers. Being able to reload effectively after a big Fumigate is a real test for some of these decks, and while you need to dump your hand, Hazoret the Fervent wants you to do that anyway. This is at a very low price, can be had for $1, and is ripe for the picking and ripe for a bump.

Chart a Course – I don’t think this is going to be big on the PT, but it’s got a foil price that is about 10x the nonfoil. Two mana to draw two is amazing, especially if you dropped a Delver turn two in Modern or Legacy. It’s a two-of in Vintage Delver, even! Standard decks looking to abuse the graveyard with God-Pharaoh’s Gift love casting this turn two as well. I’m snagging the foils whenever I can get them around $5, and I’m prepared to be patient.

Carnage Tyrant – This is due to drop. There’s no deck playing this as a four-of, though the biggest deck, Temur Energy, is playing one main and one in the board. The big dino has been slowly declining from its initial spike to $30, and is already sub-$20. I think it’ll get to $15, though I highly doubt it’ll go down to $10. Once we are done opening Ixalan packs, I’ll have to see if I pick some up for a spike about October 2018.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Reprint Risks

We’ve has some impressive spikes lately, and there’s two things that I want to keep an eye on when a card increases in price:

First, I want to see what the buylist price becomes. I respect the ability of people on eBay to get a price during a spike, but it’s been my experience that if you don’t ride that increase immediately, it’s very difficult to get the price you’re hoping for. When the buylist goes up, though, that means the vendors have sold out of a card and are incentivized to restock with the new price in mind, not the old price.

Second, I want to figure out if this new price is the plateau, or if the card is too likely to be reprinted for my comfort level. It’s true that nothing is safe, aside from the Reserved List. There are only so many reprints that can happen though, so I want to take it all into account before I get in on a card.

With these points in mind, let’s look at some recent jumps in price for a range of cards.

 

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($15): She was available in this form at sub-$10 at the beginning of summer, but she’s due for a price correction. Even the Humans deck that took down the SCG Open last weekend is just proving the point: This is a card to be reckoned with. She’s only got one toughness, but she is capable of slowing down the best strategies in both Modern and Legacy.

She’s buylisting for nearly $10, and that’s a good sign for her price. I am expecting her to break $20 before long, just off the growth of builds that deny your opponent the chance to do things on curve. Keep in mind that she’s a small-set rare from six years ago, and her only additional printing was the WMCQ qualifier promo, one of the more iconic images you can have on a card. There’s been few enough cards with this much face on them (Blood of the Martyr) and it lets this version really feel unique.

I think she’s going to get reprinted soon, though, and that’s going to kick the legs out from under her price. To be clear, I think ‘soon’ means that I don’t think she will avoid a reprint between the next Commander set or the first Core set next summer. You’re going to walk a fine line if you’re holding copies: You want to hold until she gets the price you desire, but you also have to not hold too long, else the reprint announcement will torpedo the value.

Corpse Harvester ($4): We’ve had some odd spikes in price lately, and this one is likely just due to the supply. This was an uncommon in Legions, and a one-of in the original set of Planechase decks. This means it hasn’t been printed in 8 years, and it’s a card that will take over a game if not dealt with rapidly. It’s a star in one of the most popular tribes (Zombies) and frankly, the reprint risk is through the roof here.

Couple thousand people have the right idea!

The buylist prices haven’t caught up to TCGplayer yet either, and so I don’t think this new price is going to hold for long. If you can sell these on eBay for $2, go for it, but I hate selling singles at such a low price, it’s just not worth the time involved.

Aura Shards ($17): This was about $10 until the GW Commander deck landed, and was one of the first cards people wanted to add to that deck. This is a tremendously powerful card in Commander, but has only had two printings, one from the first Commander release in 2011 and the original printing in 2000. Combine that low supply with the very solid demand, and you have a card that deserves its price.

The buylist is solid at $10-$12, but this is another card that wants a reprint desperately. A lot of cards want to be reprinted, but Wizards won’t get to all of them. I don’t think this gets reprinted soon, but the risk is real. I can’t imagine this being uncommon again, this feels like a Modern Masters 2019 rare.

Kitchen Finks ($14): This isn’t a spike but this is a card that comes to mind when I think of long-term risks and holds. It was a $10 uncommon, and then printed in the first Modern Masters, and that’s it, aside from being an FNM promo some time ago.

Wizards put this card into a set that had almost no other persist cards, indicating that they are winning to pop this into whatever set might need a strong midrange assist. I highly doubt that this would be put into Standard again, though. I would place this about a medium risk for a reprint–it’s one of the most commonly played creatures in Modern, in the sideboard if not the main.

Thought-Knot Seer ($8, but $35 foil): We’ve had the price of the foil go up recently, but the original hasn’t gone up much yet, and it’s due to correct upward. This is one of the best creatures in Modern, and as a small-set rare, the supply is relatively small. Keep in mind that sales of this set were during ‘Eldrazi Winter’ and a time of depressed Magic sales.

I am cautiously in on TKS. I think that the colorless mana symbol as a casting cost is going to require a lot of support, even in something like a Modern Masters. I suppose they could put this in on its own, but without help (Talismans, painlands, something!) it’s uncastable in a limited format. If you have some, I’d say hold. The correction to above $10 is coming soon, and I fully expect that when the price rises, it’ll get to $15/$45.

Scapeshift ($56): This was $20 a couple of years ago, but spiked around Oath of the Gatewatch’s release, and has come up from $40 around the time of Kaladesh. The deck is real, in Modern. Get to a critical mass of lands in play and then fire this off and end the game with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers.

This has been printed once, and the buylist is a solid $30-$35. It’s dodged reprinting so far, but sooner or later, it’ll be printed and the price will dive significantly. There’s no auxillary demand boosting the price, and being printed in modern numbers will saturate the market. I would get out of these if I were holding, as I just don’t like holding cards this expensive and this deperate for a reprint.

 

Cliff has been playing magic since late 1994 and writing about Magic: The Gathering finance since 2013. Cube has become his favorite format, but unusual decks of any format will always catch his eye. Follow him on Twitter @wordofcommander or catch his weekly column here on MTGPrice.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: What did we miss?

We are two weeks from Pro Tour Ixalan, and that’s going to offer some very interesting price changes. At least, that’s my hope. I really want something to dethrone Temur Energy, but the deck is consistent and powerful. Silver bullets are few and far between in Magic.

Before we get to the PT, though, I want to take a moment and acknowledge some lessons that we’ve all had to learn in terms of the prices of Ixalan cards. There’s a handful of cards that preordered for low prices and have spiked, hard, into two or three times the value.

What should we have learned from these cards? Why didn’t we see this coming? How can we apply these ideas to future sets?

 

Vraska’s Contempt ($4 preorder, now up to $10) – First of all, let me quote myself, from about a month ago:

Vraska’s Contempt is good, but at four mana, it might be too much. Hero’s Downfall was super powerful, and the Contempt will see play as an answer to the indestructible/recurring Gods, but oh it stings. I don’t think Contempt will be a four-of, and that’ll keep the price reasonable.

What I predicted was true in terms of the numbers: Very few decks have the full four as part of the 75, and they are tending to start with three in the main. What I was wrong about was the popularity of control decks, even though there were a lot of Approach of the Second Sun decks running around. I simply underestimated the prevalence of control, a theme we will return to.

I have to admit, this one hurts the most. I knew that The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent are two cards helping define this format, and this card deals with both at instant speed. I should have seen this as a more expensive card. I made money off of Hero’s Downfall being positioned well!

Legion’s Landing ($2 up to $6) – It kills me that I could have gotten these for $2 and buylist them right now for $4. It stings, because I looked at this card and said, “It wins long games but it’s hard for a token for five mana to be worth it.”

I missed out on the confluence of casual demand for lands that make tokens, and Anointed Procession decks in Standard. I knew that Procession was a strategy, and had a lot of enablers, but I didn’t give enough credit. It’s not like this card spiked all the way to $10 or $15, but it does have enough interest to be worth a lot more than its preorder price.

Hostage Taker ($5 to $15) – When a rare is preordering for a few bucks, my thought is often “Well, we are going to open a lot of these packs and that price should hold.” For most rares, that’s true. For this Pirate, though, I just overlooked the smell of pure value. How amazingly powerful it is to remove a creature by playing a creature of your own. This card allows you to get even more value by getting the creature for myself! It requires an answer immediately or it’ll get to cast the stolen card! It’s also a fantastic answer to the two Gods mentioned before, especially if you get to steal it!

I thought of this as a Cast Out/Oblivion Ring sort of card, which was a gross understatement of the card’s power. Mea culpa.

Search for Azcanta ($4.50 to $14) – Remember how I said I underestimated control decks? Here’s the other card I just whiffed on. It’s a terrifying way to fuel the control player’s hand, but there’s layers on top of that.

The card is only two mana to get going. Legion’s Landing is the same way, being cheap to come down and flip relatively quickly. That’s important, because these legendary enchantments are low-impact when they come down. The card also is a form of ramp spell, because about turn four or five it’s going to become an extra land. This means Fumigate or Approach happens a turn earlier, a payoff that’s worth striving for.

I truly underestimated how well it plays with Approach, digging you to the win a lot sooner, and also how you can have a Search for Azcanta in play and choose not to flip it!

Deathgorge Scavenger ($2 to $6): We are really short on effective ways to deal with stuff in the graveyard in Standard, and that’s a big part of why The Scarab God is tearing up the format. Until this dinosaur came along, we needed to exile creatures immediately, because the graveyard was a pretty safe space, difficult to interact with. Answers like Scarab Feast or Sentinel Totem are too focused, but this creature gives you an immediate effect, and a bonus couple of life, depending on what you wanted to exile.

I didn’t give proper credit to the dire need that decks and for an efficient and effective way to interact with the graveyard, perhaps it had just been so long since I saw one printed. This also fits nicely into one of the more popular decks in the format, the Energy lists.

Hopefully, now that I’ve looked at why I missed on these, I’ll be able to keep an eye on things that will play very nicely with Approach of the Second Sun, or deals with indestructible/recursive threats effectively. I’ll also be keeping an eye out for stuff that plays well with the legendary enchantments. For instance, how good is Thought Scour in combination with Approach and Search?

 

Cliff has been playing since Christmas 1994 and the gift of three booster packs in a stocking. Since then, he’s spent a lot of money on cards and made even more, with the goal of always being able to trade for cards instead of buying them. Follow him on Twitter @WordOfCommander or tune in every Friday here at MTGPrice.

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