Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Commander 2013

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It’s finally here; what was promised to us way back in 2011. A new set of Commander decks has arrived, complete with new toys to play with and to spend a lot more money on.

Commander has really taken off, enjoying a growth period that Wizards really wants to encourage. They’ve shown their eagerness to push Commander by releasing cards in each expansion, such as Theros, that are perfect for the format. If you’re new to 100-card decks, buy any of these new product and have a blast.

For more experienced players, the retail price of $150 for all five decks is a big cost. Is it worth it?

Before I get to the discussion, let’s see if I did well in some of my predictions a few weeks back.

I never would have thought Sol Ring would come around again, but I’m strongly in favor of Swiftfoot Boots being reprinted over and over. I’m impressed that they gave us new Zombie and Bird legends, and enable new strategies using the Command Zone. Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

I was right about a Naya beast legend, wrong about Angels and Sphinxes (ugh, Sharuum *again*?) and totally wrong about fetchlands. C’est la vie.

Perhaps the big surprise is the Portal:Three Kingdoms reprints. These cards have popped up before: Cao Cao and Sun Quan in FTV: Legends, Xiahou Dun as a judge foil, Loyal Retainers and Diaochan, Artful Beauty in Commander’s Arsenal, and now three legends (Hua Tuo, Honored Physician, Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”, and Lu Xun, Scholar General) plus three spells (Spoils of Victory, Strategic Planning, Borrowing 100,000 Arrows). None of these are overpowered legends, though I can easily see someone building a control deck around Lu Xun.

I would expect the prices of these reprints to stay reasonably low. Their original incarnations won’t budge much (see Loyal Retainers,) but these will be available.

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As I mentioned last time, the price spikes in the sealed Commander sets from 2011 is due to both the Legacy playability of the cards as well as the sheer value of the rest of the cards. For example, in the 2011 Heavenly Inferno deck, Kaalia of the Vast, Sol Ring, and the Command Tower make up the MSRP, while everything else is a bonus. True-Name Nemesis

There is a lot of value in the five 2013 decks, and the flag bearer is the Grixis deck, since True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix are in there. Those, plus Thraximundar and Sol Ring, easily put you over MSRP.

True-Name Nemesis alone is pre-ordering for around $40. That is more than the MSRP. More than any other card in this set. I can’t see it holding this price for long, not when big box stores like Target get product. Scavenging Ooze is the historical example, and that hit a high around $40 before tapering off and getting reprinted.

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It doesn’t seem like you can go wrong buying the Grixis deck and moving the singles, especially while the hype and demand is at its peak. With the price of Nemesis and Strix being so high, this looks to be the chase deck and might well depress the price of everything else inside. I’d get rid of everything I could immediately. Sell into the hype, as Jason Alt likes to say.

Again, everything is gravy… if you can move it.

As someone who bought eight of the first decks, allow me to toss this stone from my glass house: I will be trading for specific singles this time around, not buying complete decks. The reason is because aside from some of the brand new cards, I don’t need anything from these sets. I’ve still got most of those cards sitting in a box.

I know, I know. I could buy the deck that has what I want and trade away everything else.

The problem is that it took me 18 months to find someone who wanted to trade for my Commander Sol Ring. It sat in my binder forever! I preach patience but really, that drove me crazy. It is possible to extract the value from the decks, but the process is not a fast one. Keep in mind that lots of other people will be trying to do the exact same thing, and Wizards has indicated that they will reprint these decks if the demand is there. Unexpectedly Absent

So this weekend I’m going to start trying to trade for a few select cards. I suspect that the Legacy chase cards will be True-Name Nemesis, Unexpectedly Absent, and Sudden Demise. Unexpectedly Absent is fantastic if you have WW open and they use a shuffle effect; cast it for zero in response and put whatever on top of their library, which results in them being forced to shuffle it away. Keep an eye on Angel of Finality, because it’s cheaply costed, an effective beater, and has a very relevant ability. You’re paying two colorless more than Rest In Peace and getting a 3/4 flyer!

If you don’t want to spend the cash on the decks, you’ll be fine. If you’re a Curse player, you’ll be able to trade for the new ones cheaply. If you want one of the new legends, you’ll found one before too long. If it’s the last two 8-drop forces you crave, they won’t be difficult to find.

Before you run out and spend your cash for the value stuffed into these decks (and there’s good value!), do yourself a favor and evaluate which cards you want. Singles may be the better path for you.

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Trades from the Time Capsule

I have espoused my love of deckbox.org in a previous article, and today I want to share some trades I’ve made in the past nine months. These are trades I either made for a card to go into an EDH deck, or trades I made in order to buy low and/or sell high.

I show these to you in order to demonstrate how a little time can drastically change values, especially when rotating sets are involved. Trades such as these are why you want to trade into the hype, and not worry too much about extracting every possible dollar.

All trades were equal value at the time of completion. Deckbox’s trade screen makes it hard to lose much value, based off of TCG mid.

Let’s start with my first trade ever on Deckbox.

 

Master Biomancer

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Feb. 12, 2013
My: Garruk Relentless & Restoration Angel
Their: Master Biomancer (Foil) & Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Today: about $13 each side.
Explanation:  My Experiment Kraj EDH deck loves having a foil Biomancer. The Ajani was just to even out the value. Garruk and the Angel were both higher than they were now, but their value had already started to taper downwards.

 

domri

Feb 22, 2013
My: 2x Hellrider, 2x Frontline Medic
Their: Domri Rade (Foil)
Today:$10 vs. $40.
Explanation: I aggressively traded away Hellrider at its peak. Small set or not, I knew that price was unsustainable in the long term and I never wanted to hold onto these for long.  Foil Domri was about where he is now: $35-$40 or so.  Hellrider was in the $12-15 range, about to hit his peak, and Frontline was in the $3-$5 range. Meanwhile, I have a Jund EDH deck with 60 creatures that Domri is perfect for.

I bought the Boros event deck and immediately shipped everything in there, as all the rares were, pardon the pun, red-hot.

 

Cavern of Souls

March 4, 2013
My: Morningtide Mutavaut
Their: Cavern of Souls (foil)
Today: About $20 for the Mutavault, $30 for the Cavern.
Explanation: Around $40 each, this was a trade I hemmed and hawed over for a week. I needed the foil cavern for an EDH deck, so I gave in. A month later, the price for Mutavaults tanked when it was spoiled.

 

Domri Rade

March 7, 2013
My: Falkenrath Aristocrat, 2x Knight of Infamy, Slaughter Games
Their: Domri Rade
Now: $7 vs. $26
Explanation: Domri had dropped quite a bit, but was just starting to rebound.  I knew I wanted to get rid of Aristocrats ahead of the curve, so I grabbed the Planeswalker. As of late, Domri has made this look even better.

 

Vraska the Unseen

April 2, 2013
My: Bonfire of the Damned x2
Their: 2x Domri Rade, Vraska the Unseen, 3x Thespian’s Stage
Now: $18 vs. $65
Explanation: I had acquired a set of Bonfires for a Rakdos control deck that wasn’t working out.  So I moved on.  I didn’t let them go at quite their peak but I still got good long-term value.

 

Jace, Architect of Thought

April 22, 2013
My: 2x Sunpetal Grove
Their: Jace, Architect of Thought
Now: $6 vs. $26
Explanation: I was looking for Jaces around $10 and I found one for trade.  Simple enough.

 

ipad4_2

(Perhaps my favorite trade ever)
July 29, 2013
My: 4x Deathrite Shaman, 4x Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique (Morningtide), Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, 2x Badlands, Scrubland, Plateau (all duals were Revised, NM-)
Their: Factory sealed 16GB iPad 4
Explanation: Believe it or not, this was the third iPad this person has traded through Deckbox. I missed out the first two times, but grabbed him for the third. I’d been looking for an iPad for a while, and was prepared to go through Craigslist or perhaps purchase a refurbished one, so to get full retail value on my cards for something that I wanted–badly–was a real winner. I wasn’t happy about ripping out the best part of my Kaalia deck’s mana base, but that gives me something to work on now.

(Just for fun, read this article from two years ago, about trading for retail items at buylist prices: http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/finance/22886-Going-Infinite-An-Epic-Trade.html)

 

Abrupt Decay

Here’s a recent trade of mine, made with this same eye on what’s hot vs. long-term stability.

October 1, 2013
My: 4x Jace, Architect of Thought
Their: 4x Cavern of Souls, 4x Abrupt Decay, Deathrite Shaman
Explanation: With this trade, I’m cashing in on Jace’s rising price and getting things which I feel will go up.  I’ve spoken of my love for Cavern, and if $13 is the floor, so be it. I’ve been patiently waiting for Cavern to hit bottom so I can put it into my EDH decks, and now I’m finally moving in. This trade proved quite amusing to me, as we finalized it on a Friday when Jace was at $22, and then by Monday he was up to $30. I’m behind right now, but in a year (the Caverns are going into EDH decks, the Decays into my long-term binder) I expect to be far ahead.

I hope you’re able to make some similar trades for their long-term value. I’m not sure exactly what those cards are yet, so stay tuned!

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Being a Casual Financier

I’ve spoken before about my perspective on Magic finance, and it boils down to this: I do not want to spend cash on cards. I want to have a trade binder full of things people want to get from me so that when I see a card I want or need, then I can get it from them. sol ring

We use stock market terms all the times in Magic finance. One that I like is use of “frozen” and “liquid” assets. My EDH decks are frozen assets: I am not getting rid of them, short of a dire occurrence. I have got multiple $100+ cards in those decks, and they would make fantastic trade bait. But what could I want more than those?

My trade binder is liquid assets. Everything in there is fungible, though I admit that it is a little bare at the moment. I moved a lot of product for shocklands and I’m just starting to trade those away now that they are at $10-$15, since I do not think they will make it much higher. But when the cupboard is bare, what is a casual trader to do?

Since I despise buying cards and I refuse to buy packs just to crack them, I am limited to these two paths:

  • Limited events. I love drafting and I enjoy Sealed tournaments as well. Packs are still expensive but there are prizes and skill involved. I may not be going infinite on Magic Online, but I’m a pretty good drafter, mainly because I’ve been doing it for years and years. Drafting is also a way for me to increase my take-home of cards without spending additional money on more packs. I’m not above picking up a $3 card with my 6th pick.
  • Strategic trading. I’m all for planning ahead; I have posted the list of cards I’ve targeted for guaranteed growth down the road. I am not skilled at predicting what will be good in Standard in three months, but I can feel pretty good about forecasting long-term prices on more casual-oriented cards. I made a ton on Darksteel Plate and Asceticism; I got them both for $1 or less in trade all over the place, and within a couple of years, I traded them away for $5.

I’m never going to be a high-volume speculator. I’m married with an infant daughter, and I’m a high school teacher. I simply don’t have the time or spare funds for speculating on cards.

dark plate

 

Perhaps you’re in the same boat, or perhaps you have the time, energy, and money for
buying and selling lots of cards. Either way, I’m here to help you capitalize on the casual market. There is far lower volatility, but it does require more patience. I’ve traded for 25 Thespian’s Stage since Gatecrash came out, and I’m still snapping them up when I find them in binders. It seems like easy money that these will be $5 lands before long, entirely because they are the best utility land you can be playing in Commander.

My tip for this week is to stay patient on Theros cards. Lots of them are still coming down in price as more and more get opened. If you have to have it right away for a deck, so be it, but remember that feeling of “I MUST HAVE THIS” when it’s worth 50% of the current sticker price in a couple of weeks.

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