Category Archives: Casual Fridays

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Pre-release movement on Masters 25


Here we are, the release weekend for Masters 25 and we’ve got an oddity: People have been able to draft this set online for a week now. Will that change the in-person experience? Hopefully not, but tell me how that goes.

Opening A25 packs is a real rollercoaster. There are, as of this writing, 18 rares and mythics that are at the MSRP of $10 for the pack. That leaves 50 of them that aren’t, so you’ve got a 26% chance of getting your money back from one pack.

For an equivalent set of odds, I need you to flip a coin, twice, and have it come up heads both times.

Then do that three times, for the three packs you’d open in a draft.

The format looks pretty fun, but from a financial standpoint, it’s terrible value. There’s stores offering you a free pack if you open a Tree of Redemption, and that’s nice, but there’s a lot of clunkers too. The nail in the coffin for the pair of Akromas, Prossh, yet another Armageddon, etc…


There’s really high variance on the foils as well, and take foil Prossh immediately.

What I want to look at today is the trend lines for some of the cards. All of them are downward, as befits a set that is going from pre-order hype to being opened, but some of these are really impressive and with only six weeks until Dominaria, it’s time to get the wallets ready.


Jace, the Mind Sculptor (price on 2/26: $140, today $105)

He’s down about 30% so far and clearly isn’t done as the market gluts this weekend with everyone tearing open their boxes. On eBay, I see some Buy it Now in the $90 range and even that I’m not big on.

Not going to be available for $20, sorry. (probably)

This summer, we’re getting Signature Spellbook: Jace for $20 and that’s not going to contain JTMS. Let’s be clear about that. Wizards isn’t that crazy. I’m 99% sure they won’t. I’ll let you guess who it’ll be but that’s the last shot at Big Jace for some time.

JTMS is not immediately lighting up Modern. Is he good? Indisputably. Is he broken? No…..t yet. Early results are promising, though. It’s a powerful card that can take over a game, but it’s not a slam-and-win card. I expect Jace’s price to keep sliding, and as the headliner for Masters 25, that doesn’t bode well for the overall value of the set.

My prediction for his price at Dominaria’s release in six weeks: $75 on eBay will get you a copy. You’ll definitely be able to get a playset under $300.

Should you buy at that price: If you’re going to play it, yes. For spec purposes, no. Jace will tick up slowly from this new price point, but the growth will be relatively slow. Even winning a PT isn’t going to do much to his price, it’s not like Liliana of the Veil breaks $200 because it wins. I’d expect that if the price gets too high, he will get reprinted again.

Imperial Recruiter (was $75, now $60)

A Portal: Three Kingdoms card who’s enjoyed in Legacy Aluren, this has mostly been a Cube and Commander card. Let’s not overlook that there’s a judge foil of this already made, so it’s not like Masters 25 has the only reprinting or even the only foil. Yes, this has a sweet watermark but that’s only going to matter to a few people.

But what war will you fight with him?

Recruiter plus sufficient mana means Kiki-Jiki combo. First one finds KJ, then it gets copied and finds the Pestermite or Exarch, GG. That’s been enough, plus the scarcity of P3K, to keep the price high but the really low demand has this falling and fast. Sure, there’s good stuff you can go find in your EDH deck, but there’s no shortage of tutors already for creatures.

Dominaria price: $40. Mark it down. People will buy one, if that many. The supply will be much greater than the demand. I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone sell a playset for $120 on eBay.

Should you buy at that price: Absolutely not. Get the one you need and then do nothing else with this card.

Rishadan Port (was $60, now $40)

It’s not done, people. There’s BIN on eBay for $35 right now, $30 on TCG, and this is not the . Yes, it’s a four-of in a tier 2 Legacy deck, but that’s it for the demand. The land is terrible in Commander, good in some Cubes, and is a real stay-away for me.

Dominaria price: $25. I won’t be shocked if it’s $20, either. This price was all due to a tiny supply that the judge promo didn’t do much to lower. Now we’re getting a large influx of supply, and this is on top of how most people that wanted to play Death and Taxes already got their Ports. Given the distribution to Wal-Mart and such, it might well be that the circulation of this card as a rare in Masters 25 in 2018 is equal to the number that was originally printed in 1999.

Should you buy at that price: I would get in at $10 a copy, but that’s it. I’d be understanding of the decision to set aside a playset in anticipation of Death and Taxes winning a large event on camera, but that’s a marginal case. There are just so few areas of demand for this card.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (was $14, now $10)

I’m excited about this printing, which came along at the perfect time. Thalia is a star in every format where she can be played, and that includes Commander. Put her in play and then watch the dirty looks people give you. It’s heartwarming. Even better, she’s almost always a four-of, which is what you want in a spec target.

Dominaria price: $6-$7. That’s about where she got to during her last printing and she wasn’t nearly as popular then.

Should you buy at that price: 100% yes. Even Jace will have to pay a Thalia tax, she beats Bloodbraid in a fair fight, and is possibly the two drop you want most in the ever-popular Humans deck. She’ll get back to $15 within a year and $20 not long after that. Be warned, though, that when she makes it up you need to let her go–Wizards is going to reprint her again.

Other quick hits: Vendilion Clique will migrate down to $15 and hold that price, in line with the other printings. Ensnaring Bridge will stop at $30. Blood Moon at $20. The filter lands will stay in the $10 range, except for the blue ones which will be a couple bucks more. Animar, Soul of Elements is an $8 card but the foil will be something ridiculous.


Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this amazing game, as well as being guest host on MTGFF when needed. His current project is 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: On Spoilers and Masters

Every so often, Wizards of the Coast has something happen and some or all of an upcoming set gets leaked/spoiled/revealed.

Sometimes these are technical glitches, like the Dominaria leaks from yesterday. One Chinese website accidentally put up the release FAQ, then the world had it, and Wizards decided to make the document official.

Sometimes this is pure humans being greedy, as has happened where a worker at the printing plant removed a sheet of mythics and rares, then posted pictures.

Sometimes this is a combination of both, as when the MTGO Beta team got all of Judgment a few weeks early.

Spoilers will be discussed after you’ve logged in and scrolled down. I’m going to trust that you know what to do about reprints, and instead I want to look at one mechanic and see what we can see.

Also, because I don’t want the leaks to rain on my parade, there’s a couple of Masters 25 prices that we REALLY need to talk about.

My favorite story about leaks involves the Godbook from New Phyrexia. Guillaume Matignon, a writer for an honest-to-God paper French magazine about Magic (called Lotus Noir, and is only coming out a few times a year) had a PDF file with the complete visual spoiler of New Phyrexia a month before the set went into previews. It’s called a Godbook, and in an era (2011) when magazines needed that much lead time, it made sense.

It’s bad enough that a pro-level player had early info, but he shared it with a couple of other high-level players for testing purposes, and one of them inexplicably went into an open IRC room and bragged about it. I’ll let Caleb Durward tell the tale, but you should read it just for the pure idiocy.

We’ve had cards from the next expansion show up in the current prerelease, but with the rapid-fire pace of sets coming out, one leak inevitably will overshadow the newest set.

Courtesy of the Magic subreddit, here’s the releases till September.

It’s a real pain, because we ought to be focused on Masters 25, but here we are, figuring out how to take counters off so that our Saga enchantments can keep doing good things.

The Saga cards tick up a couple of times and then get sacrificed. You put a lore counter on, then it has an effect, and at the third counter, you get a bigger effect and are forced to bin the enchantment.


All the lores fit to print!

We will likely not be able to break this effect in Standard, but in Commander, all things are possible. I used to play around a lot with Decree of Silence, a card that also cared about counters, and there’s a few cards that can favorably interact here.

Power Conduit (50 cents nonfoil/$2.50 foil) – I think this is the easiest card to use with the Saga enchantments, because it’s colorless and an artifact. If your playgroup allows for Giant Fan, By Gnome Means, or Hungry Hungry Heifer, great, but if you want to keep the Saga at one level turn after turn, this is your winner.

Chisei, Heart of Oceans (30 cents/$1.00 foil) – This will also get the job done for no cost, but as a creature, and a colored one, it’s going to be more difficult to utilize.

Hex Parasite ($1/$4) – This is the only way to get ahead on the counters. You can reset the Saga to zero if you wished, and do so for more than one enchantment. The downside is, you have to be able to play black cards. That’s restrictive, on top of this being easy to kill in so many ways. Ferropede needing to attack makes it pretty weak too.

And if you really want, here’s all the ones that will reset the Sagas once.

As for Masters 25, and the events going on, starting next week, I have to side with the many folks who are leery of this at $10 a pack. There are reports that stores did not get their full amount, so Wizards either can’t meet the demand of hungry fans or they are artificially trying to create scarcity. I’m not sure which is worse, frankly.

Boxes are still selling in the $170 range on eBay, and that’s dangerously close to what your LGS is paying (likely in the $120 range) and to be honest, the boxes look like a Jace hunt to me. It’ll bum me out if it’s a fun limited set, because I don’t want to pay $35 to draft a set that doesn’t have a lot of payback.

There’s a couple of cards I want to discuss, on top of Blood Moon as I mentioned last week.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($13 now, $17 original/$40 pack foil) – She’s likely to take a hit, and a significant one. Her price is a great confluence of strong demand and low supply, and the jump to $17 was from being a four-of in the Humans decks running rampant in Modern lately. While the new version will go under $10, it won’t go lower than $8. I’ll be watching to see how much product gets opened, because I think a buy-in at something like $25/playset on eBay is a great entry. She will rebound in time, count on it.

Eidolon of the Great Revel ($5, $10/$30) – Just ouch. This is going to be brutal if you still have excess copies around. Journey into Nyx wasn’t opened much at all, relatively speaking, and even though this is a four-of in both Modern and Legacy Burn, that’s the only place you find demand. The price of Eidolon was a financial barrier to burn, depending on if you wanted to play shocks/fetches/duals. This will help that deck stay a budget option.

Ensnaring Bridge ($34, other printings from $40 to $130) – The Invention printing means that this card will have a price ceiling, but this is a four-of in more than Lantern Control.

None of these have a big supply, and now it’s a mythic?

It’s also a mythic in this set, so we are going to see a small drop, and then prices will start to climb back up. This version will be $50 by Christmas, so if you want your copies, get them now.


Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this amazing game, as well as being guest host on MTGFF when needed. His current project is 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: Variance and Masters 25

Here’s the scenario:

You hear about a run of boxes where every 8th pack, there’s a $50 mythic. You travel to where those boxes have been sent, and you head to the counter, and start counting. Every time someone buys packs, you keep track, you monitor when the money shows up and now you count packs, buying a pack after seven others have been purchased.

You’ll make a lot of money that way but every other person is gonna be pissed. That’s called a fixed-ratio schedule. Every X trials, a desired outcome happens.

Humans figure that out really quickly, and it’s not a formula for success. What we would get is the box mapping scenario, or the peeking at packs: Some people figure out where the money is and then sell the loose boosters at slightly less. In the case of Masters 25, if you opened six good rares/mythics and were about even on value, you could put the rest of the loose packs on eBay or Amazon for $5 or $7 each and clean up.

Gambling (and I’m including opening Magic: the Gathering packs here) works on a variable-ratio schedule. With every trial, there’s a chance of the desired outcome. Because it’s random, you might get two really good packs in a row, you might have 30 bad packs in a row.

Weirdly, the longer the run of negative outcomes, the more likely humans are to keep trying. WE ARE DUE. This works on video games, slot machines, booster packs, etc.

I bring this up because Masters 25 is shaping up to be a really frustrating set to open.
It’s a truism that you should never buy loose boosters. Box mapping, peeking, weighing, there’s a lot of margins that people can exploit. Don’t do it for those reasons, but also don’t do it because it’s just bad value.

For instance, Rest in Peace was just previewed for the set yesterday. Right now, it’s a $10 card. At MSRP, you need to hit that card to break even. You have about a 1 in 3 chance (at current prices/spoilers) to open a pack with a card that has retail value of $10 or more. That’s better than a lot of other sets. Some data:

set Cards worth > $4 or $10 # of rares + mythics in set % chance of winning
RIX 13 65 20%
IXL 16 82 19.5%
IMA 15 68 22%
EMA 16 68 23.5%

These are only the cards that retail for the cost of the pack, so if we are talking about Eternal Masters, something worth exactly $10 (Maze of Ith) is as much as a win something going for $140 (Jace, the Mind Sculptor) and that brings us to how many we need to open.

You’ll have to open about five packs to get one worth $10, on average. You’ll spend $50 to hit one $10 card. At that rate, your numbers get much much worse. There’s only three cards in EMA worth $50, and that rate is so much worse.

Is there the potential for a three-Jace box? Absolutely. You might hit a Jace and a foil Force of Will, and you’ll feel like you hit the lottery, and it’s a great great feeling.

You’ll also open boxes with Balance, Worldgorger Dragon, and Sphinx of the Steel Wind, and which have foils of Nevinyrral’s Disk, Eight-and-a-half Tails, and Malicious Affliction.

That level of variance is a bad investment. It’s bad value. It’s not worth it, and Masters 25 is going to be worse, it seems. You will hear about amazing boxes, but people won’t be trumpeting their godawful mythic pulls the same way.

If there’s cards you want from Masters 25, just go buy them, about three weeks after the release. We haven’t seen the whole spoiler yet, but the early signs are that this set is going to smash a lot of prices.

Masters 25 appears to have a pair of card types getting a reprint: Multi-format staples whose prices will drop and slowly rebound, or cards which had a high price due to low supply, and those prices are going to fall off a cliff.

Sticky: Blood Moon

Blood Moon is a card that has had a lot of printings, including two Modern Masters printings, and it’s managed to remain a $20 card. That level of price retention is testament to its popularity, mainly in Modern as a backbreaking sideboard card in a lot of matchups.

Among the decks that get counted, this is the 12th most popular card in Modern, even though blessed few decks are playing it in the main. A full 1 in 5 decks has at least one copy in their 75, the average is between 2 and 3. That’s some amazing numbers, considering the popularity of Modern.

I wouldn’t be shocked if this trickled down into the $15 range, but it’ll get back to $20 within a few months. It won’t go higher and it won’t go lower.


Slider: Rishadan Port

Let’s be clear: Port is a powerful card in denial strategies. In the right deck, and god forbid in multiples, it can severly limit what a deck can do in Legacy matches.

Unfortunately, Legacy and Cubes are the only formats where this gets played. Yes, you can use this in Commander, but the benefit is pretty low, and a colorless only land has to be pretty awesome to be worth the addition.

Port is a 4-of in Legacy Death and Taxes builds, but not being Modern legal is a big knock. The only supply has been the original Mercadian Masques printing, and a recent judge promo. At a presale point of $50 it’s already lost nearly half the value. I don’t think the original will move much, but the new version will struggle to stay above $40, because not that many people need it.


Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His current project is 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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PROTRADER: Rivals of Ixalan Pickups

Believe it or not, it’s time for another preview season.

Masters 25 lands in about four weeks, and if that seems like not a lot of time since Rivals of Ixalan was first introduced, you’d be right! We’re at a point where about every two months, there’s a new group of cards for us to deal with and decide on, and I haven’t yet decided if that’s a good thing.

I first got into this game heavily in 1995, and the summer of that year had three major releases in a four-month span: Fourth Edition, Ice Age, and then Chronicles. Needless to say, I didn’t have much spare money that summer.

I used to think we would never return to that point…but really, we aren’t far off. We got Rivals on January 13, Masters 25 prereleases are March 16, Dominaria is April 21, and Core Set 2019 is July 7. That’s four in six months, and the first three are in a four-month span. We are back! RIP wallet.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the turnover, the churn of new cards and product, is very real. We’re about done drafting the Rivals/Rivals/Ixalan format, and so it’s time to think about the Rivals of Ixalan cards that are at max supply, and therefore lowest price.

Dire Fleet Daredevil ($4 nonfoil/$12 foil)

I like this card for a lot of reasons. Being able to raid your opponents’ graveyards is an amazing trick, and while Snapcaster is a more reliable play, this Pirate is seeing a bit of Modern play, and it’s a useful card against Blue Commander decks that are going to abuse their graveyard. The foil multiplier is exactly where you’d expect it to be, so the casual demand isn’t there…yet.

All of today’s picks are small-set cards, meaning that the supply is impacted noticeably, and with the added pressure that is Masters 25. We should be opening Rivals until April, but we are going to lose a few weeks of these cards being added to the worldwide supply.

What I really love about this card is how it’s popping up as a fun-of in Vintage lists, since being able to play the other player’s Time Walk and Ancestral Recall is just the nicest spice you ever sampled.

This is unlikely to see play as a four-of in any format, it’s just too inconsistent. But a card making waves across formats and with excellent casual potential…I want a couple copies on hand. It’s not big in EDHREC yet, only 96 decks, but the plethora of great spells makes me want to snag foils for relatively low cost.


Blood Sun ($4/$20)

First off, that’s a heavy foil multiplier, especially for a card not heavy on Commander play. In fact, this isn’t seeing a lot of play in many formats, though Legacy is trying its hardest to break the card by using two-mana lands to cheat it out as early as possible.

This card had a tremendous amount of hype, and caused some other cards to jump very high very quickly, but hasn’t made much impact yet.

I strongly suspect that people who bought this for absurdly high preorder prices are refusing to cut their losses and let go, especially on foils. I feel like the price is low for the power that the card offers, so I’m on board for a few copies and holding patiently. This is probably never going to be a standard player, though the prevalence of utility lands in the current format does make it a tempting sideboard option.


Warkite Marauder ($2/$6)

If it goes further down, I’ll get more copies.

Yes, it’s an aggressive blue card. This is rarely a dominant archetype, but every time I look at the Favorable Winds lists floating around, this is the one that stands out to me. It’s quite powerful, difficult to block, cheap to play, and the best news is that when you want this cart, you’re in for the full four copies. No one is going to play two or three of this, and so when a deck does well, you’ll see the available copes get snagged quite quickly.


Ravenous Chupacabra ($1.50/$7.50)

I know, I know. It’s an uncommon. Hear me out, though. It’s seeing play across a lot of archetypes, just for the sheer value it represents. It’s a fantastic creature even in control decks, because it gets value and then trades or chump blocks. It’s mostly seeing play as two or three copies, which makes sense. We have Vraska’s Contempt at the same mana cost, eclipsing what it’s capable of.

It’s a $1.50 uncommon while the set is still being opened. It’s going to be in Standard for another 18 months, and that’s a long time for this to see a lot of play. I’m not going to be shocked when this is a $3 card, and I won’t hesitate to buy these at $1 right now and trade them away at $3 in a few months.

One thing to add here: this foil price might be confusing you, but you’re underestimating the number of people who play Commander more casually. If you want this effect, you’re spoiled for choices if you poke through Magic’s history. This is the cheapest ‘destroy target creature’ effect, one with no drawbacks, and what I think is happening is that newer players are just not letting the foils get into circulation. Heck, there’s only ~330 total copies on TCG right now, combining foils and nonfoils. That’s less than a lot of the rares, and for comparisons’ sake, there’s 239 listed copies of Azor, the Lawbringer on the site.

Journey to Eternity ($2.50/$10)

I sort of wish there was a promo version of this too, because this is a super-solid pick for long-term casual growth. There isn’t an EDH deck that doesn’t want this effect, and enabling it isn’t hard. You have to dodge the exile effects, or stuff in response, but you’re going to see a lot of Meren decks go turn two Sakura-Tribe Elder, turn-three this, and then that’s all she wrote.

Barring FTV: Ixalan’s Secret Locations or some other type of set, this is going to make you some great money going forward.

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His current project is 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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