Category Archives: Casual Fridays

PROTRADER: Hammer Time!


Punny titles just make my heart sing.

So the banhammer showed up this past Monday and hit hard on the two tall trees in current Standard, making Energy and Ramunap Red both less consistent yet not completely dead.

I want to reiterate that point, before we go much further: The decks aren’t dead, they just aren’t as good as they were. Energy loses a lot of the free buildup it got with Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, which makes a lot of the associated cards worse. It’s not impossible that someone builds a pretty good Energy deck, but it’s harder to do. Red loses the reach of Ramunap Ruins and also the oppressive power of Rampaging Ferocidon, a card I was going to write about in a week or two.

On the heels of that announcement, we have a number of cards that are jumping in price, and frankly, it’s exciting. The hammer came down on four cards, and a bunch of other cards popped up.

Keep in mind that these are prices for week 1 of Standard, we haven’t gotten the large-scale product being opened until this weekend.

To the cards!

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Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His next project will be a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

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Oh it’s prerelease weekend already?

We’re all looking forward to Dominiaria, 25th Masters is coming soon, and I just finished up a great weekend at GP Santa Clara.

Hopefully you’re opening cards and trading them away immediately. It’s always a safe bet, and advice I give every time.

Some cards are really picking up in price as we go forward and people pre-order for brewing, but with a Banned and Restricted announcement Monday (they’ve promised no Modern changes) lots of people are hesitating on brewing for Standard.

The exact numbers are fluctuating pretty wildly, given that this is weekend #1, but it’s worth noting that even at prerelease prices, only about a third of rares or mythics will get you your $4 back. If your store offers credit in lieu of prize packs, take it.

Let’s look at some prices, shall we?

Rekindling Phoenix (up to $12 from about $7): Yes, it looks like an owl. A terrifying one, but yeah, there it is. This seems like a good card in a range of decks, a four-power flyer that requires two removal spells to be dealt with permanently. Notable that you can play it, block with it, and it’ll be back and hasty the following turn.


I don’t see a nose/beak of any sort, right?

What I can tell you is that the interest in this card is high, but I can’t pinpoint the deck that wants it. Is it another efficient and effective cog in the Temur Energy machine? Is it a new player in Ramunap Red? I don’t know, but exile removal is looking better and better with each day.

Something in this set has to be expensive, right? Usually that’s the planeswalkers, but our choices this time around are less-than-bombtastic. It’s been quite a while since we had a set that was so lacking in overall value, something I’ll dive into soon.

I think if you open a Phoenix this weekend, move it. We’ve had a lot of variations on Phoenixes over the years, and very few have made huge impacts. It’s true that this one comes back into play and doesn’t need to be recast, but it’s also the most fragile of the group too. It’ll need to see a fair amount of play to hold this price.

Dire Fleet Poisoner ($5 now, up from $2): Creatures are incredibly efficient at this point, and this is all sorts of stuff. It’s a sweet combat trick, giving deathtouch on top of +1/+1, but it’s also just a decent aggressive card as a 2/2 deathtouch. This just in: Blocking is for chumps?

What I like about this is that the Poisoner gets played as the full set. That always bodes well, but I need more results for this card before I’d invest. My biggest question is the one-drop that gets played the turn before. Right now, there’s some fun Pirates (and a fun payoff in Fiery Cannonade for being all-Pirates) but there’s a lack of aggressive Pirates until now. We are getting a 2/2 for R and a 2/1 attacker for B in this set, and that’s very intriguing. There’s a strong case to be made that if the most-played deck in standard wants to go Attune, Servant, Refiner, the new Pirate deck can shoot under that curve effectively.

For right now, though, I’d move this at the new price too. We’ve got a lot of Rivals to open and it would take a whole lot of play to make this a $10 rare.

Ravenous Chupacabra (up to $1): It’s no Fatal Push, but it’s got plenty of room to be a $2 or even $3 uncommon. It’s surprising how few creatures in all of Magic have this text without some sort of drawback, like non-black creatures or some such. I love it as a card, and I’d expect it to be a feature of the format until Ixalan block rotates in September 2019. I’m going to tell you to hold any that you open, and trade for them at $1. You won’t be able to sell these for $2 cash, but you’ll be able to trade them away at $2, and send them off to a buylist at $1. If that’s too small-time for you, that’s fine, but this is straightforward.

As an aside, if you played Standard during the time of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, you likely remember the ‘Jace test.’ Did your creature do something when it came into play, or did the other person bounce your creature and negate your whole turn? I worry Standard is now getting into the Chupacabra test, but we will see.

I love spilling over the mana cost, right off Wizards' page!

Ghalta, Primal Hunger (currently up to $5 from a low of $2.50): Green never passes the test, unfortunately. Ghalta here started out $10, slid down to $2.50 but has rebounded. A big beater, yes, but this dies to just about everything. Keep in mind that this is going to be the Game Day winner promo, and in case there was casual demand for this dinosaur, that value is about to be soaked up. Move any you open immediately.

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca (Started out $10, up to $12.50): This lord does some cool things but the biggest strike against it is the costs you’re paying. Why am I tapping three Merfolk instead of attacking with them all? Do I have that many 1/1 hexproof tokens? It takes a lot of work for this legend to get you ahead on cards, and they don’t do much for the board state.

Is the uncommon lord just better? Am I crazy?

I have trouble seeing this as an automatic four-of in Standard Merfolk, and that’s the sort of play needed to keep this in the $12-$15 range. Do not buy. Sell if you get them.

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His next project will be a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Resolutions Old and New

I do like to look back at a year and look forward to the new year.

It’s been a crazy time for me, as I have had a lot of upheaval in my personal and professional life, but here I am, chugging along at this, the habit and hobby that has treated me so very well over the years.

Let’s start with a review of last year’s goals:

#1: Make Day 2 of a Grand Prix

Nope, hasn’t happened, but to be fair, I only played in one GP main event. I’m starting to think that the value isn’t there, for the main events anyway. This is a discussion that a lot of people have, and I strongly suspect that the prevalence of team events is a way to fire up interest. Plus, a lot of times, the main event (especially if it’s Sealed, I don’t have the competitive fire to play the same Modern or Standard deck for 15 rounds) just feels like wasted time when there’s so many awesome side events to be doing. More on this line of thinking in a moment though.

#2: Spend more money

Mostly accomplished. I’ve taken profits out of my collection in order to fund new acquisitions, and that’s been a delightful time. I’ve given myself some treats this year, especially after 2016, a year in which I sold off a lot of things at a very good price. It’s true that if I’d held, I’d have made more on some of them, but reprints have been fast and furious this year. I don’t feel jilted, or upset.

#3: Build a Cube

Holy crap did I accomplish this goal. I started with a card I loved but I could never draft it or if I did, I never got the deck for it: Winding Constrictor. I started looking for other build-around cards, and that led me to a theme of only uncommons. (If you’re interested, the list is here.)

I’d enjoyed the Cubes of others but building one has shown me the ridiculously high EV of having my own Cube. I’d rather Cube than any other format, hands down. I’m less fond of busted formats like the current Vintage/Holiday Cube on MTGO, but that is always an eye-opener of an experience.

I would strongly advocate that you build a cube that you can update. Vintage Cube gets a couple of cards with each expansion, but mostly afterthoughts. Pauper Cube, or Frontier Cube, or Tri-Color Cube, those get some great new cards with every set that comes out, and it’s super fun to curate your own list.  

#4: Treat Magic as a social event, not just a game or a financial transaction.

Super accomplished. It’s easy to lose sight of the social aspect, given the financial angle and the competitive aspects of the game, but for me, this is always going to be social.

Like a lot of other players, this game has been the gateway for me to meet some of my best friends. I didn’t get to play a lot while my children were young, and with them being a little older, I’m able to go out and be me again. Getting divorced was (and is, the process takes FOREVER) painful, but I’ve got a support system of friends who know that sometimes I need a good twenty minutes to rant about Cyclonic Rift and why it needs to be banned.


So what about this coming year?

#1: Finish the Un-Cube

I haven’t yet built a Cube that contains multiples, often called a Draft Cube. I’m arguing with my friends about how I don’t want the logistics of the 5 copies per common as opposed to 4, but the framework is in place. I want, very badly, to have it be evenly split between the three Un-sets but they are such different animals and have very different ideas of design.

#2: Attend at least 3 GPs, including #GPVegas

I’ve missed both big GP events in the desert, and this year, with my summer break coinciding well, I’m determined to make it out there. I also want to try and hit up another American GP, likely on the East Coast but that’s in the air.

#3: Meet Travis and James and Jason in person

Strange but true: I’ve been writing for MTGPrice for four and a half years, I think Travis came on a month before me, and James not too much later, but we’ve never crossed paths in person. I don’t have a particular motivation, and I hope this happens at GP Vegas.

Yes, in my mind everyone in Vegas looks like a Foglio drawing.
#4: Stay Organized

I hardly ever go deep on a card, not since the grand burn of Prophet of Kruphix. I’m content to pick up a couple playsets, tops, and instead of keeping boxes full of toploaders/cases, I like using an old binder, some penny sleeves, and a Sharpie for keeping track of what I bought, when, and for how much. I am not yet in large enough quantities that spreadsheets are needed.

#5: Buy more of my picks

I have a confession to make: For the last few months, when I’d write up a piece, I’d go on TCG the night before and I’d fill my cart with the cheapest NM versions of cards I wrote about. Usually, the bottom 8-10 copies, give or take.

Then in the morning, about six hours after I post my writing, I’d check the cart again and mostly they’ve been sold or relisted. Some of you really like my work, and that makes for an ethical quandary for me. I don’t have extra information. I make my picks based on my experiences, which have been right and wrong. On MTG Fast Finance, you’ll hear us disagree on picks sometimes and we rarely get immediate closure.

This is a personal view, and not one I’ve talked about: I don’t think I should buy the cards I pick right after I pick them. It feels wrong to me, and I know that’s an irrational feeling. There’s a lot going on in my head, not all of it makes sense. I don’t want what I own to influence my thinking.

It also feels slimy to pick a card, extol its virtues to you, the audience, and then buy some up as part of an artificial hype wave.

That said, this year I’m going to wait a couple days after posting and then grab some copies. There’s going to be some hot cards coming up, and I don’t want to get left out because of some weird self-inflicted moral code.

Speaking of picks, have a couple! (I’ve bought none of these as of 12/28)

Foil Solemnity ($8): The nonfoil is just $2, and that’s pretty tempting, but I’d rather get the foils. This is a card that’s already part of all sorts of shenanigans, as Phyrexian Unlife makes you immortal and Decree of Silence locks the game unless you’ve got Abrupt Decay. It hasn’t been truly broken in tournament play yet, but it’s a small-set rare with a 4x multiplier and with each card that comes out, it gets better and better.

The spikes happen every time a streamer tries to break the card!

Thoughtseize ($14 or so): Well, I’d hoped for $10 but we’re two weeks away from Rivals of Ixalan and there’s one NM on TCG at $13. I’m going to try my luck at GP Santa Clara, trying to get a couple of playsets for $45 or $50 by offering vendors cash and haggling, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I’m an optimist, and I also have to accept that we’ve reached bottom. Grab your copies now, people!

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Presents for Future You

I love this time of year. I love how excited I get about buying people presents, and seeing their reactions.

Know what else I love? Getting presents from my past self! This past year, my biggest presents were a stack of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and a few foil Thought-Knot Seers. Thanks, Past Cliff!

So with the year closing down, I want to highlight a few things that you should buy for your future self, and that person will thank you for spending as little as you did for something so valuable. Yes, this is a semi-wordy way of explaining that I’ve got some juicy picks for the coming year, but it truly felt like a present to trade away foil TKS at $40 when I’d gotten them for a lot less!

Now for the cards:

Whir of Invention foil ($5): It’s started to pop up in Lantern Control builds, and it’s a terrifying card in that deck, able to get whichever one-of they need. This is only the first deck to make good use of the card, and that’s why it’s still just $5. The casual appeal is also off the charts, as artifact tutors are really powerful (Fabricate, an uncommon, is nearly $3 for this reason) and abuseable. I’ve called it out, as has the MTG Fast Finance crew, and consider this your last warning for getting in under $10. There’s 20 pack foils on TCG right now, and another 70 Prerelease foils.

Treachery ($23): Reserved List cards have been popping all year, some for reasons no better than ‘It’s on the RL, BUY THEM NOW OMGWTFBBQ’ so getting this while it’s cheap is wonderful. There’s only 32 on TCG right now, so it won’t be available for long. It’s awesome in both Cube and Commander, and how about a foil price above $300? That’s a 12x multiplier, an indication of the super-tiny supply in existence.

I could also be talked into buying Future Cliff some relatively cheap Gilded Drakes, a card that just wants one more good flicker effect. Roon of the Hidden Realm does love this fella.

Containment Priest ($12): Yes, I know there’s an Invocation version, but I have a very strong bias against those cards, but that version will likely rise too. If this spikes, I like to be in on the cheaper version and get the bigger percentage gain. This was a $50 card its first weekend, if you remember all the way back to the GP right after its premiere. I don’t think it’ll hit those heights again, but there are enough Legacy and Vintage decks, plus the Commander/Cube users, to give this legs. The Invocation likely means it’s safe from reprints for a little while, and the supply is pretty small.

Solemn Simulacrum, Invention version ($55): I think the Inventions are home runs every time I see them, and as the card with the widest range of homes, I want to get my future self a couple of these relatively cheaply. It’s not going to take much for this to bump to $75, and given the number that get soaked up by casual players, there’s never going to be a lot of these in circulation. The sad robot is at the sweet spot for the amount of play it gets and the price it’s at. Sure, there’s a ton of printings out there, but this is the sweetest version of all, unless you’re a pack foil purist, a totally respectable stance to take.

Ignore the non-filters in the list, though they are intriguing…

Expedition-version filterlands ($32-$59): I keep being surprised that they haven’t reprinted these lands, but given the prices of these special versions, maybe I shouldn’t be. What’s really surprising is that these specials are around 1.7x the price of the normal paper version, with the exception of Graven Cairns, who’s had two extra printings in Future Sight and now Iconic Masters. These are some of the best lands you could ask for in color-hungry decks, and if I’m needing just one for casual play, why not pay a little more and get the super-sweet one?

Sigarda’s Aid in foil ($3.50): There’s ~150 total foils of this on TCG, and a foil multiplier of a touch over 3. For a small-set rare, that’s awfully intriguing, considering that this card is truly absurd in the decks that want it. Equipment has flash AND free equips? Auras are all instant-speed too? (Don’t overlook that, I sure did!) It’s an enabler in two archetypes, and the name means we’re less likely to see it in a Masters set where it’d be in foil again. This seems like a great contender to be in a nonfoil special release, like Commander decks.

Too bad it’s not the top ten cards of your deck!

Deploy the Gatewatch foil ($4): Here’s another card that I feel pretty good about going forward. It’s got HUGE appeal among the casual crowd, and is a card worth jamming in the superfriends decks that commanders like Atraxa love. It’s even a small-set mythic, with only 50 NM copies on TCG right now. I’m also tickled to have this card because Magic’s creative team is leaning away from the Gatewatch as a story element, making reprints that much less likely.

And whatever holidays you’re celebrating, I hope they are awesome!

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player and loves any unusual way to play Magic, especially avoiding endless Temur Energy mirror matches. Catch his weekly articles every Friday on MTGPrice or hit him up on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

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