Category Archives: Casual Fridays

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Streamer Influence


I love watching Magic content. I can devour an awful lot of content, especially with Cubes, unusual decks, and high-level play. YouTube is a fantastic resoucrce for me to learn about new innovations, to see how cards get played correctly, and other ways to move a beat ahead of the market.

We are living in a time where some people are capable of influencing card prices just based on ideas they have had and they don’t even need to win a tournament. The phenomenon of ‘net-decking’ is nowhere as evil now as it was before, and ignoring data is a flaw in your approach to the metagame.

What I want to look at today is a few ways that individuals online have swayed prices significantly. The decks played don’t even need to do well, because all it takes is the attention and the cards begin to spike.

Let’s look at some recent examples.


The Professor and Pauper

In case you weren’t aware, there’s a YouTube personality called The Professor, and he’s in charge of the Tolarian Community College. You might not think it’s important, but he’s got almost as many subscribers as the official Magic: the Gathering video page (295,000 to 315,000, if you want to know the specifics). The Professor has had a quest for a while now, one that’s recently bore fruit: To take the online format of commons-only called Pauper and translate it to the paper world.

GP Santa Clara was the first time it happened, and they drew a hair over 200 people. GP Indy had a similar experience, and Pauper events are going to be at most GPs going forward, since the same company is in charge of all the GP-level events.

As a result, a lot of people are taking up Pauper in paper events. Stores are starting to hold Pauper events, and with the growth in interest comes the growth in prices.

I freely admit that I don’t know enough about Pauper’s best decks or the metagame. There’s some awesome interactions, such as Grapeshot and Storm the Warrens being banned but Storm lives on with things like Thermo-Alchemist as the win condition. With that in mind, some prices are really fascinating.

Hear them screech and bring their friends!

Battle Screech is now $6, but it jumped from bulk to $4 back in January of 2016. It popped again recently when it was shifted to common in Vintage Masters online, because paper events all use that same banlist.

As a result of all this, pauper cards have gone absolutely mad. If the appeal of the format is that the cards are all common, and therefore cheap, there’s some $8 Ash Barrens that would like to have a word with you. Even if it’s cheap now, it won’t be for long.


It’s a format with an interesting (and non-rotating!) card pool, which means it’s likely to stay around. MTGO has been incubating the format for a while and that means it’s probably not going to get newly broken as a new pool of players takes it up, and event accessibility is probably still an issue for many stores, but I think it’s here to stay.

What this also means for us from a financial standpoint is that your bulk just got a bit more valuable. Every new set is going to offer a stack of new cards to add to the format, and new chances for old cards to become worth a lot more.


SaffronOlive and MTGGoldfish

With 125,000 subscribers, this is not one of the top channels in terms of numbers, but what this channel does offer is a continuous stream of oddball decks trying to play weird cards in new ways. Most of the time, that means a card or two gets highlighted, the deck does badly but has one or two really epic games, and we move on with our lives.

Occasionally, though, Seth (better known as SaffronOlive) hits upon a deck that is unexpectedly powerful, and a few cards can really take off. The most recent example of this is a B/R deck featuring Hollow One, Flameblade Adept, and a couple of commons that allow for mega-discarding: Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore.

Yup, this is $3 now. Go dig out your old boxes!

Those commons have gone from pure bulk to selling from $3 each. Buylists haven’t caught up yet, as stores have a lot of bulk to sell off and I’m not sure how many people are actually buying at this price, but the effect is real. This deck has had some staying power, putting up good results on MTGO Modern events, so these particular cards are not going to go down in price for a while yet.

To be clear, there are a lot of streamers out there, making a lot of content, but a lot of them aren’t trying new things every single week. LSV isn’t going to show his newest deck that will break the Pro Tour, he’s going to show you how to play a deck more effectively than you’ve been doing. Streamers using new cards in new ways offer a new avenue for us to gain value in our collections.


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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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!


The Merfolk

Deeproot Elite ($5, up from $2.50)

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca ($23, up from $10)

Jadelight Ranger ($8, up from $3)

I don’t like tapping Merfolk and not attacking. Am I crazy?

First of all, I want to apologize for last week, when I wrote words indicating that Kumena wasn’t good enough and you should sell at $12. I didn’t think this through. Merfolk are pushed in Standard right now, and yeah, they were waiting for their chance to shine. Maybe now is that time? People are buying up this card at rates to indicate this is the case. Even Kopala, Warden of Waves has gone up by $1.50.


I can absolutely see the appeal to the Merfolk deck, and the linear way it’ll play. Double explore on turn three is just great value no matter how you end up with cards, and there’s a lot of synergies to play with.

Any Merfolk, not just this creature. Be warned!

Lots of other Merfolk have seen minor bumps, but these are the big three and these are the ones to look out for. This feels like a ceiling, I wouldn’t be holding out for $30 on Kumena or $10 for the other rares, even though the other two really love being four-ofs. If Merfolk does well this weekend, on camera as part of the SCG Tour, they might indeed grow this first week until supply can be opened enough to meet demand.

Sleeper pick: Heroic Intervention

So here’s the thing: Merfolk wants to flood the board (pun intended) and the best answer to the perfect Merfolk curve is a sweeper, like Fumigate. Heroic Intervention is going to rotate in a few months, putting some risk on it, yet it’s in 6500 Commander decks over on EDHREC and that makes me feel a lot better about picking up a few copies.


The Dinosaurs

Ghalta, Primal Hunger (up to $5 from $2.50)

Tetzimoc, Primal Death (up to $3 from $1)

These two have doubled in price because they are powerful and awesome. Tetzimoc is being hailed as one of the best Limited cards ever ( a fair assessment, if you’ve played with it or against it) and Ghalta is able to land on turn four or five in Standard these days, ending the game rapidly if there isn’t an answer.

Regisaur Alpha also gained $1.50 this week, seems decent with Ghalta?

Are these giant death lizards enough to combat the finned menace? Perhaps. It’s a lot of fun to play cards like these, even if both die to the Ravenous Chupacabra. What seems clear is that people want to play with these cards in Constructed, which is why the prices doubled this week.

Sleeper Pick: Slaughter the Strong

This card basically says “Sacrifice all Dinosaurs, including that pesky Carnage Tyrant!”

I don’t think it’ll be a four-of in maindecks. I see this as being a three-of in control sideboards, who don’t always want to give the mana advantage of Settle the Wreckage. You can find Slaughter right now in the $1.50 range, and I don’t think it’ll be adopted in the first week, giving it a chance to slide under $1. That’s a pretty sweet price point to move in on, and it’s a card that has a year and a half to make waves.

The Vampires

Twilight Prophet (Up to $9 from $7.50)

Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle (Up to $2 from $1.25)

Sanctum Seeker (Up to $2 from $1)

We had a small window for profit on these back in November, when Mono-White Vampires made a splash at the Pro Tour, but the deck didn’t stay around. It’s got the potential to do some truly amazing things. Sanctum Seeker is the second coming of Hellrider for these decks, and perhaps people have forgotten how fast that card closes games? Not having haste is worse, yes, but there’s a lot of good cards to play.

The other B/W legendary vampires haven’t seen much movement yet, and that’s not a huge shock so far. They are for more grindy games, and at first blush, Standard looks like a race.

Sleeper Pick: Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Just get me that Grave Pact, darling, and we’re in business!

It’s easy to forget about the sweet vampires we were given in Aether Revolt, and Gifted Aetherborn is an easy four-of if the deck is real. Yahenni has potential to see a big bump as an addition to the new Vampire decks, as long as they aren’t too far on the white side.



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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