Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Price Surprises (pt. 1)

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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)

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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!

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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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Overcoming Disappointment

By: Cliff Daigle

Really, I should have known.

Oh, Wizards teased us and they did it well. A glimpse here, a tantalizing hint there, and then they let our imaginations do the work.

So the full Commander 2014 decks are now on sale, with the contents known to us all. I’m very sad that we didn’t get Iona or Avacyn or even Radiant, Archangel! We got a deck that is half casual Angels and half Equipment theme. I feel like this is a big miss.

Teferi made me think that we would be getting all colors of iconic characters from the past, but instead, we only got him and Freyalise. Perhaps there will be another chance in the future, but this is a missed opportunity.

I’m not saying that Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Iona, Shield of Emeria are safe long-term investments (foils are more likely to retain their value, but at this point, nothing is reprint-proof besides the Reserved List) but those will be harder to print going forward. Perhaps in Modern Masters 2? Conspiracy 2? A Duel Deck?

I want to look at a few more cards this week, but I’m not expecting anything major out of most of this release. Look at the prices for Commander 2011 and Commander 2013 to see how in the long-term, these prices are mostly going to stay low.

Looking at the C13 prices again, maybe Wizards didn’t want to tank the prices of these amazing Angels. I expect that C14 will be printed about as much as C13 was, perhaps a little less, depending on which cards are the high-demand Legacy cards.

Speaking of which…

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Containment Priest – This is a remarkably effective card against Dredge strategies, Reanimation strategies, and especially Sneak and Show decks. It doesn’t work if they Show and Tell Omniscience into play, but the presence of this card might be very warping to the Legacy metagame. I expect this to increase in the near term (say $25, especially with the Legacy GP being so near) but settle quickly into the $10-$15 range.

My inclination is to say that this and Dualcaster are going to be the major Legacy players.

 

Malicious Affliction – It’s true that this is a bit difficult to cast at BB. However, it’s also the casting cost of Hymn to Tourach and that’s a card that sees some play. It won’t kill a Deathrite Shaman or a Tombstalker, but there’s tremendous upside against decks that are heavy on counterspells. You get the copy when you cast this spell, so they have to be able to counter both. On the downside, you’ll have to target both copies at the same creature if you’re concerned about counterspells. An interesting card that I think will end up around $3.

 

Song of the Dryads – I don’t see this getting much Legacy play. There’s cheaper ways to deal with creatures (Lignify, Swords to Plowshares) or lands (Phantasmal Terrain, Spreading Seas). It’s unlikely that this keeps much of a price.

 

Titania, Protector of Argoth – This has Legacy potential. I like the thought of playing her, getting a fetchland back, and cracking that land to gain a 5/3 creature for free. It’s for certain that she would be more feared in Modern, but costing five may price her out of Legacy.

I want to reiterate that this set is going to see some widespread printing. Wurmcoil Engine is down $5 since it was spoiled and it’s not done dropping. Goblin Welder has lost about 25% of its value. Thran Dynamo is down $3. There are going to be a lot of cards that take a hit and never get up again.

If you can get a deck or two today, and trade its components immediately, there is value to be had. There will not be value for long. Wizards is using this set, and others like it, to take cards that are fun from being rare (due to printing/age) to being common enough that anyone can get one with minimal expense.

Here’s an example: Adarkar Valkryie

Capture

Look at the drop last summer when it was in Modern Masters.

Have another one: Avenger of Zendikar

Capture

Commander 2013 was spoiled in mid-October, and the price was high for a couple of weeks, then began to fall. That’s the pattern I expect, and that’s the pattern you should be working from if you’re trying to extract value. Go ahead and try, but don’t build up a big inventory. Speed is going to be everything.

If you’re dying to grab a deck and try to trade/sell for the value, I don’t think that’s a winning play but the red deck has three big cards in it: Wurmcoil, Dualcaster, and Daretti. This does not bode well for the prices of the other cards in the red deck.

Personally, I’m going to sort through the new cards and slowly trade for what I want. I’m going to figure out what I would take out of decks first, because if I can’t decide what to cut, I’m not going to waste time and value trading for a card I won’t use.

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Commander 2014 Previews

By: Cliff Daigle

UPDATE: Complete C14 decklists are here: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/arcana/commander-2014-edition-decklists-2014-10-31

It’s here! It’s here! I’m terribly excited to say that a week from today, Commander 2014 is for sale.

These decks are going to retail for $35, and will likely sell out in the initial wave. These decks are mono-colored, and that makes three sets now in which Wizards hasn’t given us the four-color legends that Commander diehards have been waiting for.

Mono-color is a wrinkle, but there’s some bigger issues to talk about.

First of all, the Planeswalkers. Each deck has a Planeswalker commander. These cards explicitly say “This can be your Commander.” How long until that text is present on other cards? It’s design space that has been toyed with before casually. I’ve seen games played this way, and depending on the ‘walker used, it can be a big deal or not a big deal. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is not a big deal since it’s an 8-drop, Jace Beleren was pretty damn annoying over and over. I’ve also seen a Genju of the Realm deck, and that was actually pretty cool.

Lieutenant is a mechanic that I love love love love. I have decks that focus on the commander, and decks that sort of care, and decks which don’t need it at all.

Before I talk about specific cards, I want to reiterate some points about C14’s financial outlook:

  1. The upper limit is about $40, barring something truly amazing. True-Name Nemesis is the outlier, and even its price has gotten to a reasonable level. There might be some cards that are crazy-hot immediately, and you should sell into that immediate hype.
  2. The prices of all the C14 cards will drop over time. Wizards has no interest in having these boxes be hoarded and saved and chased. These are wide-release, casual-targeted printings and Wizards showed us last year that they will print more and more to meet need.
  3. These five decks are being released during the time that holiday gifts are given. This is also taking place right before Fate Reforged. How many dollars can you spare for Magic?
  4. I do not think that keeping sealed product is going to be a winning play. The 2011 Commander products had a much smaller print run and a smaller player base. It’s true that Heavenly Inferno sealed goes for four to five times its retail price, but the cards inside it are worth about half that…if you can find someone to give you full retail for Mana-Charged Dragon and its kin. If you’re looking for long-term (and in this case, several years!) investments, pick less-bulky singles over sealed boxes.
  5. Here’s a dirty little secret: For a lot of people, buying the decks will not make sense. If you’re into building and rebuilding decks, then go ahead and buy the decks. But just as I did last year, I’m going to be selectively getting singles, either through purchase or trade. Keep in mind that only fifteen cards per deck are going to be new–everything else has been printed before.
  6. Speaking of reprints: Expect that there will be some sort of foil promo of some of these cards within a year or two. Commander’s Arsenal was a one-time thing, they say, but FTV: Legends 2 is probably not far off, plus judge foils, plus special promos (Force of Will, judge lands, PTQ Liliana), etc. When those foils land, it will depress the price of the nonfoils.

With all these things in mind, let’s look at some of the spoiled cards. I’m going to make some predictions. Remember, nearly everything is going to go down in price, except for one or two that tick upward.

freyalisellanowarsfury

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury – I love everything about this card. I love that it makes mana dorks. I love repeated Naturalize. I love an ultimate that just grants gas, especially now that you’ve made some green creatures that tap for mana! I also appreciate the subtlety of her starting at an odd loyalty and all of her abilities being even. She will always have a leftover point, or you can’t do her thing.

Initial: $20
February 1st: $15

 

obnixilisoftheblackoath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath – Well, I thought this would be Leshrac, but here we are. The plus ability is great for reminding people that you need to die, and the minus helps you return such favors. The ultimate is interesting, but the card draw is far more relevant than the gained life. Remember that you’re unlikely to sacrifice the biggest creatures, you’re just attacking with them!

This is another odd-starting, abilities-are-all-even loyalty planeswalker.

Initial: $15
February 1st: $12

 

teferitemporalarchmage

 

Teferi, Temporal Adept – The first card spoiled, people have had a long time to think about him in their decks. I doubt he’ll actually see much Legacy play, but most people with a ‘superfriends’ deck will want this. The issue for me is that with Teferi being the early spoiled card, it made us think we were getting lots of iconic characters from the past…and then we didn’t.

Initial: $10
February 1st: $10

 

darettiscrapsavant

Daretti, Scrap Savant – We get a goblin planeswalker, perfect for red’s subtheme of “I love to build and I love to break!” Sure, it’s Goblin Welder for free, but it’s really unexciting as a card. Nothing on this card gets you ahead, it’s all even exchanges.

Initial: $9
February 1st: $5

 

nahirithelithomancer

Nahiri, the Lithomancer – For me, this is the biggest miss of the set. This should be Serra. This should be an angel-oriented planeswalker like Nissa Revane is for the elves. I’m hoping they were just saving her for the next time they do this…in a few years. Alas. I honestly see Nahiri as an excellent tool in a Kemba, Kha Regent deck. As a commander, getting just one token a turn is kind of sad. An ultimate this this is awesome for the unique flavor, but I’m too hung up on what could have been.

Initial: $15
February 1st: $10

 

jazalgoldmane1

Jazal Goldmane – 4/4 first striker for 2WW is some outstanding base stats. The ‘attack with a bunch of creatures and pump them all up’ is awesome too, but it’s very much a ‘win more’ card.

Initial: $8
February 1st: $4

Gravesifter – While it’s fun to get a lot of creatures back, in most games, this isn’t going to do as much as you want.

Initial: $3
February 1st: $1

 

dualcastermage

Dualcaster Mage – So far, this is my pick to be the riser, the Legacy breakout card. Key to this card is that it answers counterspells, as well as copying anything worth copying and leaving behind a 2/2 body. I can see this getting play in Delver decks as well as burn decks. Can you imagine this in Delver decks running Treasure Cruise? 1RRU: Draw six cards. Put a 2/2 into play. Another fun interaction is how you can copy their spell, let the copy resolve, and then counter the original. There’s a lot to do here, and I think the price will reflect it.

Inital: $20
February 1: $30

Myriad Landscape – A neat mana accelerator, built into your lands. Certainly an upgrade over Terminal Moraine.

Initial: $2
February 1: $1

 

reefworm

Reef Worm – I don’t know how many of you played with Mitotic Slime way back in Magic 2011. It was fun to be so resistant to sweepers, and especially so with something like Parallel Lives or Doubling Season. This is just a fun design, and one that players will want.

Initial: $7
February 1: $5

 

angelicfieldmarshal

Angelic Field Marshal – Love it lots, as a 5/5 vigilance flying when your commander is out. It’s a fun addition but it’s not going to break the format.

Initial: $5
February 1: $3

 

feldonofthethirdpath

Feldon of the Third PathThe Brothers’ War is one of the best magic novels. You might also enjoy The Thran. It is a true delight to old people like me to see Feldon get his own card, and it is a very strong card. Reread the card–the creature you targeted does not get exiled. All that happens is that you can re-target it again. You can do this as an instant. Add some method of untapping if you want real shenanigans (Add Prophet of Kruphix in a Temur shell, perhaps) or whatever crazy combo you want. This is going to have some long-term growth potential.

Initial: $10
February 1: $7

 

stitchergeralf2

Stitcher Geralf – Speaking of shenanigans, I love what this offers. Specifically, you can mill out Eldrazi or Blightsteel Colossus with this. Their abilities are triggered when they hit the graveyard, but Geralf’s ability has to finish before those triggers go on the stack. You will indeed be exiling their mega-threat and putting one into play of your own. Sneaky-good.

Initial: $8
February 1: $4

 

ghoulcallergisa

Ghoulcaller Gisa – I’m trying to decide if she’s good enough to go into my tribal Zombie deck. She’s flavorful, and powerful, and the ‘dark bride’ art is fantastic. I’ll likely add her to most Black decks.

Initial: $10
February 1: $8

More previews and more cards are being revealed daily. I’m going to stop here, and next week I’ll have some thoughts on the rest. See you then!


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M15 Feedback

By: Cliff Daigle

So when Magic 2015 was spoiled, I told you all some longterm price behaviors that I expected to see over time. A week after that, I checked in with those cards. With Khans having been out for a month and M15 being a format that almost no one is drafting, let’s see where these cards are at.

I like to check in with how those predictions are going, and evaluate what’s been good and bad. This is the process: No one is right 100% of the time, but there’s lessons to be learned from the successes and the failures.

Ajani Steadfast – I said to pick up at $5 or less, and he’s at $13 after a high of $20. He’s on the trajectory. I do like him as a casual pickup for the decks with lots of planeswalkers…once he gets to a low enough point. He has seen a little Standard play, and that might be enough to keep him near $10.

Garruk, Apex Predator – My goal is going to be to pick him up at $10, but he’s currently at $15. I think I’m going to revise this a bit: I like picking him up at $15, because he seems like something to evaluate in Abzan decks. He’ll never be a four-of, but showing up in a few sideboards might nudge his price back north of $20. If that happens, the spike might be big, because casual players have already taken a lot of these out of rotation.

Jace, the Living Guildpact – Sultai is not a popular enough clan to warrant playing him. His price looks like it will continue to drop, despite a ‘discard opponent’s hand while you draw seven’ ultimate. We’re seeing lots of Murderous Cut and Dig Through Time, but the one card is just too slow. I had higher hopes for him.

Liliana Vess – Current card seeing a little play, with lots and lots of printings behind her. I’d be surprised if she fell much further (She is a 1-2 of even when played) or rose much higher (There’s a ton of back product, all the way back to being a Lorwyn rare) so there’s little value to be gained here currently. Totally in line with expectations.

Nissa, Worldwaker – Well, I was wrong. Very wrong. I said “I do not expect big things out of her price” and it turns out she’s the heavy hitter of the set. She’s more than twice the price of her nearest competition! This is because she was the most popular upon release, combined with a never-very-large inventory. Her price is going to stay high for the duration of her time in Standard, because of the high initial price and the memory of that. I would be surprised if her price went below $25 before the end of next summer.

Perilous Vault – I said I’d like this card below $10, and here it is. It’s been all the way down to $4, before seeing play at the PT and the GP. I maintain that it is an excellent casual card, but seeing the level it can get to, I think I’m going to be very patient and wait till rotation, picking these up under $5.

Sliver Hivelord – I said it would get to about $7 as people got their single copy for Sliver EDH decks, and here we are at $7 and change. It had a chance to be a player in Standard over the summer, but with rotation, it’s a casual-only card and one that won’t go up for a while.

The Soul CycleSoul of New Phyrexia is indeed about double the others, and has gotten to half its previous price of $10. The benefit to this Soul is that it’ll go into any casual deck. I feel it’s even good enough for Cube, as untapping with it invalidates so many strategies! Soul of Innistrad has a chance to go up, as a millable source of card advantage, but the rest seem destined to fall to near-bulk prices.

The Chain Veil – I was too optimistic. I knew it wouldn’t be much, but while I said it would be closer to $4 than $10, I didn’t see it being a buck. Just too specialized. Notable, though, that the foils are all the way at $11, a classic indicator of a card’s casual appeal.

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled – I said it would never be more than a couple of dollars, and here it is at $1.50. I do have to report that it’s just as good in Commander as I had hoped!

Scuttling Doom Engine – This is interesting. It’s $4 despite getting no publicized play. Maybe it’s a big card in rogue brews. Maybe it’s an easy addition to all sorts of casual artifact decks. Maybe someone is stockpiling them in anticipation of the world figuring out that this was printed as the anti-Elspeth card. I thought it would be lower than it is, so I haven’t tried to trade for any yet.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth – It’s seeing professional-level play, so the power is there. The Abzan decks especially like it, allowing fetchlands and Temple of Plenty to tap for black. Not to be overlooked is the damage it saves from painlands as well. It’s going to hold at $5 for a while and start creeping upwards over time. I plan on trading for some of these and just setting them aside for a long while.

Waste Not – I told you to dump it at $7, saying it was a $2 card. I was dead on, as it’s at $2.32. It will take a powerhouse discard spell to bring it into Standard play, and if the card is good enough for Standard, it won’t need this to help it out.

Hushwing Gryff – It hasn’t really moved from being $3. Siege Rhino only sort of cares if someone played this against you on turn four. Satyr Wayfinder gets in play before the Gryff. There are some neat abilities to counter, but this is more a Commander card.

What was I most wrong about? Nissa. I underestimated her immediate effect on Standard. I overestimated the supply. She will be a somewhat-played card for her duration. Never too heavily, mind you, but she will show up. There is a case to be made that the more Siege Rhino is played, the worse a 4/4 trample land looks. Time will tell!

The other thing to note is that M15 has very low-value cards. It’s not as bad as Dragon’s Maze, with one big find and everything else just sort of there, but with only four cards over $10, one of the best values in M15 will be Stoke the Flames, a surprise uncommon. The lesson there is that four damage is good, especially when your creatures help you pay for it.

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