Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Bad Owners, Bad Policies

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By: Cliff Daigle

Let me give you a situation that you might not remember having been in.

You’ve been playing Magic for a few weeks. Maybe a friend taught you, maybe you played Duels of the Planeswalkers, maybe you found an intro deck and just liked the art. You feel ready to head to your local game store and you head there, being told that you can rule at FNM, or something to that extent.

I want to share with you some things to watch out for, as a new or experienced player. These are financial pitfalls that can ruin your experience or turn you off from that store for good.

Rare Redrafting

There is no situation that will sour me faster on a store than the practice of collecting the rares after the last round of the draft and then having first place in the draft choose a card. I get what it’s for: a reward for having won, your choice of the cards that were opened. Instead of the best cards in three packs, you’re looking at the best of 24 packs. Seems like a great idea, right? It’s even good training for a high-level draft, where you’re choosing card quality over card value. 

If you and a group of friends want to redraft the rares, that’s pretty awesome. You’re playing for something of value without needing to have extra packs. If this is how you and seven friends want to draft three times out of two boxes, more power to you.

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At the store level, though, there are real problems with a rare redraft. One, it feels terrible to open a sweet card and know that you’re not going to be able to keep it. Imagine that you’ve had a bad two packs of a draft. You misread signals, you opened poorly, someone in front of you changed colors, etc. It happens to all of us. Then in pack 3 of Khans, there it is, a foil fetchland. Congratulations! You view tonight as a win.

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With a redraft, though, there is little chance that you’re going to hang on to that foil. Unless you do something sneaky, like take it out of circulation. Draft the card, hide it in a deck box, and don’t tell anyone. They’ll notice at the end of the draft that something is wrong, and that’s the second issue with redrafting: I’ve rarely seen it work where 8 players put up 24 rares. With the foil fetch example, what’s to stop me from swapping in a Clever Impersonator out of my binder once the time comes?

It’s especially egregious to have a redraft in place of prize packs. Stores get excellent prices on their packs, about half retail price for the most part. Stores that charge you $12 to draft and give a redraft as the prize are shorting you on value and experience.

Shoddy buylisting/credit

True story: I went to a game store six months ago and was seeking to sell a Gaea’s Cradle. It had a retail price of about $120 then. I went into the store, which I had drafted at before, and they had a tablet set up displaying their buylist. I could browse what prices they gave without troubling a clerk. I picked out a few things and told the clerk I wanted cash, not credit.

“The price on there is the credit price. We give half of that credit if you want cash.” So I got offered $35 cash on a Gaea’s Cradle.

Needless to say, I haven’t been back there.

Stay away from stores that are trying to make too much money off of individual transactions. It’s just bad business and it’s going to leave you feeling angry that you were taken advantage of in such a way. Not getting full retail for your cards is a part of the game, but getting dimes on the dollar is just too much.

Cheap play area

There are some remarkably awful places to play Magic. I’ve been in stores where neither side of a table had room to get in and out, but instead each player had to pull the table to them, in order to let someone else out. I’ve done a draft in a store that had room for exactly eight players, and anyone extra was going to play outside. Heaven help me, I’ve played PTQs in the cheapest, flimsiest of IKEA chairs.

My wife wins, though. She visited her parents in upstate New York, and for fun, went to an FNM draft. This place, in October, had drafts occurring in an open garage, around a high table with no chairs. She was the only one who brought sleeves!

If you encounter a store that can’t bother to have a place to let you play, don’t give them your money.

On a related note: Don’t stay one minute if anyone ever talks to you about table fees.

Arbitrary store owners/employees

This is less of an issue than it used to be, I hope. I learned to play at stores that tolerated Magic, but who felt in their heart of hearts that everything should be comics or miniatures. I knew, for a fact, that Magic made them more money but they didn’t like having to learn a new game or depend on something they didn’t understand.

So they didn’t bother.

This would lead to store owners who didn’t care, or worse, let some constantly-present customer take over. I know the era of ‘I don’t work here, but I get treated like I do’ isn’t over and that’s a shame, because that can be bad for business.

Perhaps the worst is when a buddy of the owner decides he doesn’t have to play by any rules, and the owner allows it. That store won’t be around long and you should plan for their going-out-of-business sale.

Tolerating cheaters/bullies

If you’re a high-volume trader, seller, or speculator, you might do a lot of business with one store, building a relationship with them over time. This is usually beneficial for you, for them, and for the other players at the store who get access to more cards that they want.

Such things can sour, though, if there’s preferential treatment or awful behavior going on. If the guy who ‘runs’ the card case at a store decides he’s only going to play with Ice Age lands and no sleeves, and the owner does nothing, no one else will play!

Crazy Pricing

Finally, I want to bring up stores that don’t seem to know about the Internet. Sure, a brick-and-mortar store can have a small increase in price over a card’s price online, that’s part of the price you pay for getting the card immediately. If you need it fast, it’ll cost you more. (This is why Containment Priest was $50 on the GP New Jersey floor the morning of the event)

Some stores, though, never catch up. It’s understandable if they get bought out of a card before they found out about a card spiking (maybe they need to become ProTraders!) but I’ve been to more than a few stores that bought at the new price, and then tried to sell it at an even higher price!

Buying singles is generally the way to go. Buying packs and hoping to crack the value is usually not going to give you a return on your investment. Singles, though, are only worth it if the stores aren’t trying to make up for their mistake when buying.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful when you’re choosing a store to play at.

And if you have some ‘awful store’ stories, I’d love to hear them, in the comments or tweet me @WordOfCommander


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Potential Commander Spikes

By: Cliff Daigle

With Commander 2014 being a month old, it’s time to take a look at the five decks, and see if there’s something to be anticipated this time around. Last year, there was a series of spikes around cards that went well with Nekusar, the Mindrazer. Since that was a new legend who came with the chase card (True-Name Nemesis) I want to follow that lead.

Containment Priest is currently the priciest card, thanks to her spike during the Legacy GP. So what’s in the white deck and what might we make money on? There’s two themes: Equipment and Tokens.

On the equipment side, I like a few things: First, foil copies of Taj-Nar Swordsmith can be had for $1 or less. It’s much easier to recur a creature than to get back a sorcery in an all-white deck, though the Gift is a $3 uncommon that could go way up. Steelshaper Apprentice is slow, yes, unless the first equipment you tutor up is Lightning Greaves

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Stoneforge Mystic is also good but she’s too expensive for a useful spec right now. She’s going to get reprinted before too long. Stonehewer Giant was just in Modern Masters and can be had for about $2, with foils going for between $7-12, depending on edition.

The token theme is harder to spot. My favorite two, though, are Twilight Drover (two printings, about $1) and Custodi Soulbinders from Conspiracy. Sure, you can have Geist-Honored Monk or others, but I like cards that offer a backup plan.

The red deck offers three valuable cards: Daretti, Scrap Savant, Wurmcoil Engine, and Dualcaster Mage. The legends of Feldon of the Third Path and Bosh, Iron Golem make is clear that this deck is all about artifacts coming and going from and to the graveyard. Kuldotha Forgemaster has already crept up a little in value, but what else might?

I like Precursor Golem to give me Golem tokens, Genesis Chamber, Myr Battlesphere, Myr Matrix, Myr Turbine for lots of Myr, Pentavus for value, and Urza’s Factory for the long games.

Summoning Station is the secret tech for this deck, though. Artifacts are cycling from play to the graveyard like crazy and you want to get some bonuses. I would also watch Darksteel Forge. Though there’s three printings of it, it’s an effect that is very good at keeping your things in play once you get them there.

The green deck is all about lands and Elves. I don’t think that an Elf deck has much room to grow, but a lot of the less-common elves got a new printing, like Priest of Titania. I think that Elvish Promenade and Jagged-Scar Archers are the ones to watch. They are Lorwyn uncommons, so there’s not that many out there by modern standards. The Duels promos are not a large enough amount to matter too much.

Titania as a legend offers some interesting designs. You want to sacrifice lands and get value. I think Life from the Loam is the biggest potential gainer from this build, and it’s had just enough reprinting that it could go up a couple of dollars. Crucible of Worlds won’t go up too much, but that’s gold for a deck built around sacrificing lands.

Other cards to watch: Dust Bowl, Constant Mists, Crop Rotation, Zuran Orb, Scapeshift, Rath’s Edge, Lotus Vale, Scorched Ruins, Petrified Field. These all sacrifice lands to gain benefit, which when Titania is out, gives you some 5/3 Elemental action too.

Also consider that Doubling Season will party like a rock star in this deck, as will Parallel Lives and other token-doublers like Parallel Evolution.

I also like Terminal Moraine and Myriad Landscape in this deck, but I don’t think those prices would grow very much.

In the blue deck, we have Teferi, Temporal Archmage and Stitcher Geralf. Those builds could go a lot of ways, but there’s a strong card-draw theme in the blue deck and so I have two suggestions: Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur to maximize your card drawing and Psychosis Crawler.

The Crawler is so amazingly good in a lot of decks, but there are extra foil versions out there, since it was the foil included in one of the Mirrodin Besieged intro packs.

Finally, Ob Nixilis’s deck. Ghoulcaller Gisa offers a very straightforward ‘Zombie horde’ strategy, and Ob Nixilis offers a repeatable method for draining/gaining life. I would look out for the re-rise of the Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo with Ob Nixilis.

My favorite card to add to a Gisa deck would easily be Endless Ranks of the Dead. If Gisa gets you two Zombies, this adds a third. The growth chart gets really crazy from there up. Gempalm Polluter is good, and Gravecrawler might be the perfect card to sacrifice to Gisa. Also watch out for Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, as he enables a lot of shenanigans.

Shepherd of Rot is pretty amazing at what it does, and combined with Gutless Ghoul and some Gisa activations, you can do a lot of work. If Gisa makes a few tokens, the sky is the limit. Door of Destinies in a tribal deck, Obelisk of Urd or Coat of Arms if you just want to grow a horde. Stronghold Assassin is very strong, and in a multicolored deck, Deadapult is the best combination of name, ability, and flavor ever!

From this list, I’d say that Steelshaper’s Gift is the most likely to spike. I think Darksteel Forge won’t be far behind. I’ve tried to outline a range of options, though, so if you see these in someone’s binder at FNM, feel free to pick up a few spares.


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Price Surprises Pt. 2

By: Cliff Daigle

I had meant for this to be a two-part series, but there’s just too much to talk about! Remember, these are cards at $5 or more that might well be sorted into bulk boxes, because many of these were very cheap at one point. I’ve already gone to my boxes and re-sorted more than once.

Mercadian Masques: Unmask, Dust Bowl

Unmask is perhaps one of the most busted things to do on turn one in Legacy or Vintage. It does cost you an extra card, but it needs no mana and has to be countered. (Otherwise, you’re taking that counterspell!) There was a time when I played in a tournament, when it was called Type 1, and I played this before anything else. They cast Force of Will, so then I played Swamp-Dark RitualHypnotic. Brutal.

Dust Bowl has seen play in Legacy rarely, it’s more of an EDH card. It’s very good at what it does, turning all of your basics into Wastelands.

Nemesis: Kor Haven

Mostly, it’s a second Maze of Ith, but if they attack you and you have blockers, you can kill their creature without losing one yourself. It’s better, but it costs mana.

Prophecy: Phyrexian Altar

One of the iconic engine cards in token combo decks. Make X creatures, sacrifice them, do something silly. Casual all the way.

Planeshift: Diabolic Intent

It’s not used with combo decks, because it needs a creature. Commander players can just play Demonic Tutor, and often do alongside this. I’ve see it the most with Child of Alara decks. Wipe the board and find what you want!

 

Odyssey: Squirrel Mob, Patron Wizard, Karmic Justice

Your eyes do not deceive you. The Mob is indeed. It’s all because a certain amount of casual players love their squirrels. It’s surprising to me that the foil is only double the regular, but then again, it makes sense. You want to play a deck with four Mobs, not two. Patron Wizard was brutal when he was Standard-legal, and remains a very good play in Wizard-themed decks. Karmic Justice is an all-star in Commander.

Judgment: Solitary Confinement

This sees a little play in Legacy, as part of Enchantress decks or decks that want to put their shields up. This doesn’t have a condition that breaks the bubble, so once you can draw extras, having hexproof and prevention is pretty strong.

Onslaught: Mana Echoes, Blatant Thievery

Mana Echoes. How many times did I try to break this card and have it work in my Turbo-Thallid deck? I suppose I could do it now, but the thrill is gone. The card is insane, enabling all sorts of infinite shenanigans. It’s a two-card combo with lots of cards (Sliver Queen!) and with something like Skyshroud Elf it can make even a Jade Mage fill the board up after the third token.

Blatant Thievery, along with Insurrection, is the card I love most about Commander.

Legions: Toxin Sliver, Magma Sliver, Synapse Sliver

Slivers are going to show up several times on this list, and that’s because they are awesome and terrifying. If you built a Sliver deck back in the day (or several different days) and put it on a shelf, take a look at what it’s worth and have a gasp.

Scourge: Dragonspeaker Shaman

While reprints are a factor in most cards, I don’t think new-frame versions of this card are going to hit this too hard. Either Fate Reforged or Dragons of Tarkir seems likely to have this card.

Mirrodin: Extraplanar Lens, Solemn Simulacrum, Gilded Lotus

The Commander combo with the Lens involves Snow-Covered lands. This lets you have the bonus be one-sided, which is handy considering that you’re down a card. Blowing this up feels so good, but bouncing their Lens feels even better!

Solemn’s art dictates a price swing. This version, showing Jens Thoren, is worth more, as is the Commander 2011 version. I miss the Invitational winners getting their own cards! Gilded Lotus has had two set printings plus an FTV version, and is still going strong. The fact that you can tap it immediately and play a three-drop makes it so that you don’t lose much tempo.

Darksteel: Sundering Titan, Skullclamp

The Titan is another card with several printings that hasn’t impacted his price too much. He’s sometimes a Reanimator target, and is one of the most unfair things to Tinker up. Skullclamp really surprised me, I’d thought that its printings would have tanked the value further. The new-art version in Commander 2014 is at $2, which was my expectation.

Fifth dawn: Doubling Cube

What’s the only thing better than lots of mana? Lots of mana times two! This is a hilarious card, as it’s only good when you have seven or more mana. Most Magic cards are good at that point. Its interaction with the God Kruphix is pretty darn hilarious.

Champions of Kamigawa: Marrow-Gnawer, Legendary lands

Marrow-Gnawer fits like a glove into that Relentless Rats deck you love. He needs lots and lots of Rats. Magic has given us lots of rats, but you can’t add Marrow-Gnawer to just any token theme deck like you could a card like Krenko, Mob Boss.

The legendary lands from Champions are a real surprise to me. They don’t enter tapped and give one color of mana, so they are an upgrade over a basic land. Untapping and granting fear are neat abilities, preventing two damage is okay, granting first strike or +1/+1 is a yawn. I wouldn’t have thought the price difference would be so stark, though!

Betrayers of Kamigawa: Mirror Gallery, Ink-Eyes, Flames of the Blood Hand

Mirror Gallery. How fun…and this card was printed around the dawn of EDH as a format. Despite Commander players not needing this card, other casual formats keep the interest and the price high. Flames of the Blood Hand is at this price despite being in the Fire and Lightning deck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in Modern Masters 2. Burn players mostly opt for this over Skullcrack, but having both is not a bad choice.

Ink-Eyes has a Planechase printing that’s $3 less, and was the prerelease promo. A great pickup for less than $5.

Saviors of Kamigawa: The most expensive seven cards

First of all, understand that Champions and Betrayers were underpowered sets, Saviors just doesn’t have a lot of product out there. That adds upwards pressure on the prices.

Mikokoro is popping up in some Death and Taxes list, as a pretty hilarious addition. Giving the other person cards is not a drawback if they are not usable. Erayo is banned in Commander but is pretty amazing in an Affinity list. Sakashima is an awesome and abusable cloning legend.

Oboro is a one-of in Modern Tron to help turn colorless mana blue. Play it, tap it, pay to bounce, play it again, tap again. Miren is a ‘fixed’ Diamond Valley, giving you an indication of its power level. Michiko is just mean, the most rattlesnake of cards. Kami of the Crescent Moon is a legend but is used in decks seeking to abuse those draws, and was a big part of the old Owling Mine decks. (Look at this Pro Tour Top 8 deck! You gave them cards faster than they could use them! The format was just silly.)

Next week, we make it to Ravnica block, when Magic’s renaissance began.


 

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Price Surprises (pt. 1)

By: Cliff Daigle

I’ve been playing Magic on and off since 1994. I’d sold out and walked away, came back, repeated the process. I spent a couple of years only playing MTGO, but paper is where I’m happiest.

Every so often, I have had double-takes and spit-takes when I see what a card has gotten up to. I think that the biggest one for me was when I got rid of more than 100 Hymn to Tourach, which were buylisting for $1 at a GP. Fallen Empires cards that were worth something?!

I’ve gone through the sets and I’ll be presenting some casual cards to you, along with their surprising price of $5 or more. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but intended to help you sort out your bulk rares or assist with pricing cards better.

Keep in mind that Reserved List cards will not be reprinted and have often been looked at as ‘safe’ investments. I’ll let you decide how safe cardboard is.

Legends: Pretty much everything.

I’m not even kidding. This set is from so long ago, and so rare, and so iconic, that lots and lots of the cards are worth more than you think they are. Willow Satyr is $15. Thunder Spirit is $18. Angus Mackenzie is $73. These aren’t being played in Legacy or Vintage, or even many Cubes. This is collectors, this is Commander, this is the casual market at work for most of this set.

The Dark: City of Shadows (RL)

I can’t tell you how many times this card pops up on ‘worst card’ lists. It’s slow and clunky and sort of terrible unless you have lots of crappy creatures laying around. Tokens, in other words. Being on the Reserved List means that this won’t get more copies lowering the price, and that’s fine. Not many people actually want this…but just enough do, to get this price.

Mirage: Shallow Grave (RL)

It’s instant-speed reanimation, which is very important for getting around those pesky ‘shuffle me into your library’ triggers. It’s a 4-of in Tin Fin Legacy decks, and is on the list. $8 is almost low for this card.

Visions: Undiscovered Paradise (RL)

This gets played in Dredge decks, as it can be used for any color of mana and then discarded to Putrid Imp or the like, hastening Threshold. I’ve seen it used to good effect with Exploration or Azusa, Lost but Seeking.

Weatherlight: Lotus Vale, Winding Canyons (both RL)

Lotus Vale is kind of amazing. It’s acceleration and fixing all at once, for the low cost of putting two untapped lands into the bin. It’s terrifying to play if there’s any bouncing going on, or nonbasic lands getting destroyed. Winding Canyons needs to be in more players’ hands, but more copies wimply will not be entering circulation.

Tempest: Mirri’s Guile, Coffin Queen (RL)

I had no idea Mirri’s Guile was so expensive. It’s not on the list, though Coffin Queen is. Guile isn’t in any top decks that I can find. It’s all about cheap card selection for green decks. It’s not as good as Sylvan Library, but it’s half the price in mana and in dollars.

Coffin Queen is a Zombie! I have four of her in an old casual deck built around the Visions Chimera cards. She’s not on the list, so maybe one day I’ll have her in foil. She’s another instant-speed reanimation method, but is more fragile than Shallow Grave. She’s pretty amazing for what she can do repeatedly, especially in EDH and its legions of enter-the-battlefield abilities, and I wouldn’t mind picking up a few spares for the long haul.

Honorable mention to the uncommon that is Horned Sliver at $3.50, two and a green to give trample is just silly. We love our casual Sliver decks!

Stronghold: Grave Pact, Mogg Infestation

Grave Pact has seen six printings, three of them in foil. All of the nonfoils are $10 or so, and the foils range in price depending on the art. This is pretty crazy, and if I ever have time, I’ll look up and see if there are other cards that come near to this number of printings while maintaining a price. Mogg Infestation is a two-way card, for doubling yourself up or for turning someone else’s board from value plays to a token horde.

Exodus: Hatred (RL)

I played Standard in the days of “No blocks? Tapped out? Ritual-Ritual-Hatred.” Pretty fun, especially when this was the same block as Shadow creatures. It’s a tough card to use in Commander, and that’s the primary consideration for its casual price.

Urza’s Saga: Contamination

This makes waves occasionally as a sideboard card in Legacy. It’s very good at locking someone out once it lands and stays, but it’s not hard to tap for mana in response and have it dealt with that way. Having a creature per turn is a big drawback in Constructed play.

Urza’s Legacy: No Mercy

Twelve dollars! For a card not on the list, seeing zero tournament play, and allowing something to hit you, it’s not a good deal for me. Interesting that this wasn’t used as a way to deal with True-Name Nemesis, since it gets around the protection by not targeting.

Urza’s Destiny: Yavimaya Hollow (RL)

Regeneration is a great ability to have, even with high-powered casual sweepers like Terminus or Toxic Deluge around. This is a sweet pickup for any green Commander deck, and you know that it’ll never be reprinted. Looking at this graph, I wouldn’t be surprised if it continued a slow upwards trend in price.

That’s part 1, to be finished next week.

For those of you attending GP Jersey this weekend: Stock up on worn dual lands. Get that MP Plateau and bring it back to your FNM, and watch as casual players feast their eyes. A surprising amount of Cube/Commander/Casual players could not care less about the condition of a card, as long as it’s sleeve playable. Trade/buy accordingly.

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