Category Archives: Jason Alt

Pro Trader: Here There Be Dargons

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What a week it’s been. Fortunately for David Leavitt, someone else came along and grabbed the mantle of “Person the Magic Community is most mad at” which is probably too little too late considering even my local morning zoo radio program DJs (I don’t listen to the fart noises that pass for local radio, but a buddy with less taste does and he told me about it) was talking about his joke (which barely qualifies as a joke, not because it was offensive but because it was lazy) leaving the Magic community to focus on who we don’t like this week. And we don’t like the person who leaked pictures of the Dragons from the Commander 2017 dragon deck. At all.

I wanted to post the silly post he tried to make on twitter about how he isn’t responsible for the leaks, he just had a friend give him the pictures to share. The whole thing is really funny to me on top of how annoyed I am that some human parasite leaked a bunch of card images early and forced us to talk about them. Pasting your Instagram name on the leaks seems like a bad way to escape Wizards’ inevitable wrath coming down on you and is hilarious. Saying you’re not responsible for the leaks while being 100% responsible for the leaks is hilarious. Changing your Instagram name to “Turn 1 Thoughtseize” when there is already a Magic podcast with that name and pissing them off on top of everything else is hilarious. As much as this dude sucks for leaking the cards, at least he had the common decency to turn the entire affair into a gigantic comedy of errors for my amusement. It’s put me in such a good mood that I’m writing my article for next week super early so you can get in on this giant gamble we’re all going to be in on. Let’s look at what was leaked and what will matter.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Gone Before You Can Blink

Last week we talked about Amonkhet cards pushing older commanders to the forefront of builders’ minds and how cards we thought had settled might be shaken up again by the new activity. Sometimes one or two new cards are enough to get people excited about an old deck and people who didn’t have a deck before or are rebuilding it can be just as powerful financially as a new deck materializing. Was Anointed Procession combined with Harsh Mentor and Canyon Slough enough of an impetus for Queen Marchesa and Alesha to jump? It seems that way. Would one new card be enough of an impetus for an older deck to go up. What if it wasn’t from the latest Conspiracy set but from even farther back? Would one card be enough to get people excited about Brago? It depends. What if that card is Ancestral Recall with 0 mana buyback?

With Brago, King Eternal, we take this $0.60 uncommon from an OK card in Limited if you get enough cartouches to Power 9, letting you draw 3 cards a turn if you play your cards right. Brago was good before, was considered Tier 1 or 1.5 in French by many people (which is such a foreign concept to most EDH players that it’s barely worth mentioning) and with people starting to play 1v1 online, he could get even more popular, which could translate into paper demand. Did I say could? I mean “almost has to” because anything that is sufficiently popular will translate into being more popular anywhere no matter how much compartmentalization there is between MODO and paper and 1v1 and multiplayer. People who lose to something will imitate it.

If Brago does get a second look, cards in the Brago deck, especially ones that get better with new Amonkhet cards and are therefore even more likely to make the cut in a new deck, are worth looking at. Here’s what I think matters.

Panharmonicon

I think it’s basically time on this card. It’s recovering from a historic low and while I don’t like to “grab a falling knife” as they say on Wall Street, I don’t want to wait too long to see how high this bounces. I think this is one of the EDHiest cards to ever ED any Hs and that’s good for this card. It made a bit of a splash in Standard for a minute, hence the high price. High price for a minute up first was good because a high buylist meant a lot of them went from packs to dealers’ hands as players traded them in to the LGS for store credit to buy more packs and such. Bulk rares have a tendency to accumulate and get forgotten in boxes but $8 cards are more easily accounted for.

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There is some danger surrounding this card vis-a-vis whether or not this eats it at rotation. If you pay $2 and this becomes $0.50, that might feel bad. But even in that situation I think you are OK paying $2 and here’s why.

  1. I don’t think this gets that cheap. This is a card used in a ton of EDH decks already and that number will only grow. Players love triggers and doubling triggers is the best. Look at what EDH has made expensive that used to be a bulk rare – Parallel Lives, Doubling Season, Mana Reflection, Caged Sun. Double is good and Panharmonicon doubles stuff.
  2. I don’t think you care even if it does tank. EDH demand is robust and while it’s not quite a staple, 6200 inclusions and counting is strong and that means the card will go back up. People used to say Parallel Lives wouldn’t hit $2 because it wasn’t half as good as Doubling Season. K. This card is stupid, it’s played in as many decks as Illusionists’ Bracers and that card is $2.50 and counting. If this does dip below a buck at rotation, which I doubt, buy more. Your average cost sinks way below $2 and you profit a ton when this hits $5+.

I think it’s time to buy this card and worry about a potential price decrease later. They change the rotation policy every year so I have no idea what effect this rotation will have on the price of a card like this but I know that it’s about as cheap as it’s going to get for now. If you’re that worried, trade all of your new stuff that you’re sure is going to go down at rotation for these and that way you don’t worry about overpaying for cash. In general, I like to find targets that will retain value and trade all of my standard stuff that I can’t sell into them. If you find yourself waiting too long, you can also ship a bunch of standard jank in to dealers with a high trade-in bonus and cash out. Finally, there’s PucaTrade, which I guess people hate now but which has been useful for trading stacks of jank into Torpor Orbs for me. I haven’t messed with that site in a minute, though.

Parallax Wave

Price correction is due here for certain. I noticed that this was $5.50 on Card Kingdom and is all but sold out elsewhere. A few shops have this at $4 or so (up from the $3 it was last time I wrote about it) but have low stock. TCG Player Market Price concurs with this at around $5.50. We have a coming price correction that needs an impetus, and I think more Brago decks could be it. There isn’t enough of a discrepancy between the new price ($6+) that will be coming and the current, low-hanging fruit price on a few loose copies for there to be an arbitrage opportunities, but I still think buying ahead of an impending correction is wise. This card is played in Atraxa and the number of Atraxa decks keeps growing, not to mention the number of Brago decks that are being built this week. I like this card a ton moving forward.

Eldrazi Displacer

While we’re talking about cards that I don’t think will dip a ton at rotation and which get played enough in EDH to justify paying around $2 for them, there’s this gem. True colorless mana is a little tricky to come by but shouldn’t be too arduous in a 2-color deck. You have Temple of the False God (a card I hate), Ash Barrens, Academy Ruins, Inventor’s Fair, Mystic Gate, Rogue’s Passage and Reliquary Tower all commonly played in Brago decks, though, so you should be good for an activation or two even without your Sol Ring.

Again, I’m not worried about too much of a dip at rotation. I think this is played enough in enough different decks and formats that you’re not going to ever eat it buying in around $2. If this does end up $0.50 by some crazy fluke, don’t you want every copy of it at $0.50? Steel of the Godhead is $2, I’m OK paying $0.50 for Eldrazi Displacer, a card that, by the way, is way harder to reprint than Steel of the Godhead.

Strionic Resonator

Anyone else notice this happening? If you thought these were still cheap, well, they ain’t. They’ve been climbing for a year and while it took two years for it to finally happen, it did. I hope you snatched an armload of these for bulk back in the day. I even had Noah Bradley sign one for me.

Something else to notice is that this peaked around $5 and is down a bit. This means $5 is a safe bet for a future price and as more copies get taken out of the marketplace, it’s even safer. Every dollar you buy below $5 is basically a dollar you’re guaranteed to make in a year or maybe less. Brago decks love this card and so do a lot of other decks, so I think this is a pretty safe pickup the closer you can buy to $3 right now. This card is 2014’s Panharmonicon and look at it grow.

Everything else in Brago is either cheap or Grim Monolith. You can probably scoop up a bunch of Mystic Remora but who knows when that will pay off? (I bought a hundred of them for a nickel each but I’ve been waiting for a long time and still no payoff. At this point I might just buylist them for $0.30) You could try and make money on Restoration Angel or one of the myriad angels in the deck. You could buy every Reality Acid on TCG Player and watch everyone wonder why. The point is, if you notice something that wasn’t really exciting (Brago decks) because suddenly very exciting, see why people are excited. In this case, they’re excited about drawing 3 cards a turn on top of the cards you’ll draw with Cloudblazer and Mulldrifter.

Thanks for reading. Next week, I’m sure there will be something else I notice, if only as a result of building more stupid EDH decks even though I already have too many. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Dawn to Dusk of a New Day’s Doings

Don’t call it a comeback, because THIS mad, murderous Monarch never left. That’s right, Queen Marchesa has clawed her way up the rankings on EDHREC, ending up the 6th most popular deck this week. This didn’t make a lot of sense to me initially, but after doing some sleuthing on EDHREC, it still doesn’t make a ton of sense.

These are the new cards. Is Canyon Slough really that exciting? It could be, because another card is making a bit of a comeback and clearly, access to a red-black cycling land is the difference-maker. Let’s take a look at the new stuff in Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

Is Harsh Mentor enough of an impetus to resurrect these decks and build them at a rate they haven’t been built since they were new? Perhaps, but it’s also worth looking at the specific cards that seem to be enabling these two decks, Anointed Procession in the case of Marchesa and Dusk//Dawn in the case of Alesha. These are basically the two decks bothering with Mentor, although Samut is giving him a try, as well.

Is a card like Harsh Mentor enough of an impetus to submit an updated version of your deck so it can get scraped by EDHREC? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s actually a good thing – I think the inertia surrounding what a pain it is to submit a new deck based on one or two new cards is actually a useful analytical tool if we can harness it properly. I’ll explain.

If a card is exciting enough for a measurable number of people to either build a new deck or submit an updated version of their deck, that is indicative of a larger phenomenon going on. If only 5% of people will build a new deck or update their deck as a result of a new card, usually that signal will get lost in the noise. We could, I guess, physically write down the number of decks and check them every week, but EDHREC graphs these trends automatically and by virtue of the changes with the largest magnitude being even picked up by the graph algorithm, we’re automatically filtering out only the information that matters. If 5% of people update their decks and a deck shoots up to the 6th-most-built deck when people are still building with Commander 2016 commanders and the new commanders from Amonkhet and no one is really buying Conspiracy 2, that’s a big effect. If we’re graphing it at all, it’s worth noting, right?

With Conspiracy 2 being basically unsellable at dealer cost, boxes aren’t really getting popped and the singles aren’t getting any more plentiful. Add to that the fact that Leovold was banned in EDH and therefore for the set to maintain even its current value, something else will have to grow and some of the cards are taking a lot longer than expected to move at all, or even become adopted (I’m looking at you, Regal Behemoth).

I don’t want to just rehash my article about Marchesa from the first time around but it’s worth re-reading now to see which of the cards have doubled since it was written. I do think there are some cards to look at, though, in the context of the deck being made by people who have access to Kaladesh and Amonkhet block cards. I think the cards I liked in Marchesa are the same as before, but there are new ones to like now.

If it’s Anointed Procession that has given us a second look at Marchesa, I think there are some cards you might want to take a second look at.

Assemble the Legion

This is down from its historic high which is good because the buylist price isn’t budging. A shrinking spread can only indicate that movement is coming. There is moderate reprint risk for this card, especially since there is a tribal EDH theme for Commander 2017 and red-white soldiers is a real possibility (though how boring would that be?) and this likely gets wedged into that deck. However, I think the reprint would be shrugged off eventually and the risk is low since the buy-in is low. This card is about to do something and I think you want to be holding copies when it does.

Marchesa decks are already toying with Anointed Procession because you can get double assassin tokens when you’re not the Monarch and white is probably the second best color for tokens, letting you generate a ton of blockers with cards like Martial Coup so you maintain your Monarch status and get a free Phyrexian Arena.

Purphoros, God of the Forge

This is one of the best gods and with decks that didn’t have access to Parallel Lives before now beginning to flirt with jamming this guy into decks with Anointed Procession. That’s a pretty good idea, you ask me. The foils are also starting to disappear on TCG Player and with the reprint risk for foils being much lower, that seems like a good bet, especially with the foil multiplier being under 2x. If Procession opens up a few more red-white decks to taking tokens seriously, Purphoros can ride that wave to money town. Graphically, Purphoros looks pretty good and although the buy price appears to be backing off a bit, overall it’s trending toward a lower spread which usually means a retail price correction is incoming. The foils selling out could be what triggers the market, increase in play as a result of Amonkhet making decks that use Purphoros could be a factor, also. All we know for sure is that a god was printed in a Commander precon and all bets are off, making foils seem even safer.

It’s not just Marchesa getting more love, either, like I said before, Alesha is getting a second look. Harsh Mentor is much better in the Alesha deck and that’s likely  factor for the renewed interest but I think Dusk//Dawn plays a role as well. There have been cards printed since Alesha was new that could get a second look now since people are building or at least updating enough Alesha decks that it caused a blip, so let’s take a look and see if there is anything there.

Gamble

Gamble seems like it was custom made for Alesha decks and the Eternal Masters reprinting has largely done its work. I talk a lot about how I love the look of a reverse-J-shaped graph because you can tell it’s the first half of a U-shaped graph that indicates a price fully recovered. The first half of that graph is great because you can watch the price decline until it’s time to buy in. I think Gamble will recover to roughly half to 3/4 of its peak so buying at the floor, even at $5-$6, seems reasonable. Gamble is no slouch in EDH.

This is a card that’s pretty good in some pretty popular decks and gets non-zero amount of eternal play as well. Gamble was a $40 card in a set where cards like Gilded Drake and Phyrexian Tower are only $30, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that a $5 buy-in is pretty safe.

Knight of the White Orchid

This is a mainstay in Alesha and it’s basically at its floor. We’re not likely to get another bout of inclusion in Standard to make this an $8 card again and if we do it will be accompanied by a reprinting, but this has upside and it shrugs off Dusk//Dawn so already it’s worth looking at.

Every time a new set is printed, check out EDHREC to see what older decks are impacted by new cards, and keep checking back. It took a few weeks for the trend of an increasing number of Marchesa and Alesha decks to emerge but once I caught, I found quite a few cards I really liked in the context of this new trend. If a deck is being rebuilt and resubmitted often enough to show up as much as new commanders in new decks, it’s definitely worth seeing if you can figure out why and what comes up along with it. $4 Phyrexian Arena? Could be. Maybe not. The important thing is to realize that the data is speaking to us and it is important that we listen. That will do it for me this week. Join me next week where I’ll almost certainly have some more money-making picks for you. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The Next Shoe To Drop

Commander 2016 commanders are selling out like they’re made out of heroin and taste like Nutella. With the set being officially declared out of print and big box retailers no longer restocking shelves with C16 product (or if they do, replacing it with something that’s not quite as good, though some people think it is better), people are finally taking a look at TCG Player stock of the commanders and realizing how easy it is to buy them out. The rest of the Magic community, unaware that a card being sold out on TCG Player doesn’t mean the price automatically has to go up 200%, buys out the rest of the internet because “OMG Breya is $60 on TCGPlayer but I found 10 copies on Card Kingdom for $5! I’m rich!”

PSA – you better want all of these singles for yourself because they will not sell

Magic Finance is weird sometimes. However, while it’s too late to get in on Tymna, Breya and Thraisos, all of which popped this week, there’s still time to get ahead of the other cards that are good buys for the same reasons that people think the other cards were good buys. C16 is going to be harder to get, partner commanders are likely to be unique and therefore if you want the partner commanders, now is the time to buy and it will be a long, long time before we get more 4-color commanders. There are cards that haven’t popped yet and I think there are some opportunities to make some money. Let’s explore.

 

Ash Barrens

I’m not convinced the window is closed on this. It’s pretty solidly a few bucks on a lot of sites, up from about 50 cents, but there are a lot of copies available for around a buck. I think EDH demand coupled with a modicum of Pauper demand (which is a real thing, but not really enough to move a card on its own, though I think it’s a non-zero factor for cards relevant in other formats) could see this hit $3 and a reprinting might not move the price down as much as you might expect. Myriad Landscape maintained $3 after a reprinting, though that’s uncommon and therefore in fewer of the decks than Ash Barrens. Barrens triggers cycling and discard stuff which is relevant with Amonkhet cards so it’s getting even more scrutiny as people try to figure out if it’s worth it to play stuff like Archfiend of Ifnir in EDH (I think it is because of cards like Windfall, personally). This has room to grow and the Magic Community is split between people who bought this under $2 hoping it hits $5 and people who think this is bulk and will sell it to you as such.

Lurking Predators

Down from $7, this card took a real hit. The question is what will happen to the cards in Stalwart Unity once MSRP is no longer enforcing the price of the total deck. Stalwart Unity has the most value in cards that were not new in Commander 2016 so while the demand for the cards in the Atraxa deck are in a tug of war between the competing forces of the fact that a $20 Atraxa is in the deck and that the sealed decks sell for like $70 or more on eBay, things are more cut-and-dried for the cards in Stalwart Unity. That deck was the worst-selling deck which means there will be loose copies of the deck on shelves (or on sale to make room for new inventory, which is a great opportunity) but once even that supply is gone, MSRP no longer determines the prices of the cards in the deck. Demand takes over and demand is weird for the deck. It has a lot of durdly cards in it, but those durdly cards are casual favorites. If Prismatic Geoscope doesn’t go anywhere, this deck has the worst Commander 2016 cards of all of the decks, also. Kraum , Ludevic and Sidar Kondo are all pretty bad. Benefactor’s Draught could get there, conceivably, as could Seeds of Renewal, but more likely is that the Commander 2016 cards in the deck all sort of peter out. Should that happen, there is nothing new to soak up value meaning the old cards have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Will the value spread equally or will it be weighted somehow? I think that’s more likely and while we can’t know exactly, we can sort of eyeball how the value will be weighted (this won’t be 100% accurate because the number of copies matters, also). Using this metric, Lurking Predators isn’t the strongest pick in the deck, however. Lurking Predators has some upside for sure, and under $2, this is a no-brainer given how good it is and how $7 it used to be. I bought in at $1 like I said I would when this card was first spoiled, but I don’t think this is going to see $1 again.

Tempt With Discovery

Everything I said about Lurking Predators is true of this card, except in checking out which cards were played the most per EDHREC, this is played twice as much as Lurking Predators. This isn’t as “splashy” and obvious but this is a bit of a secret staple of the format, impacting a ton of decks. It’s gotten cheap due to the reprinting and another one is plausible but for now, this seems like a low-risk spec and likely grows as much as if not more than Lurking Predators. There were way more copies of a C13 card than an M10 card but this is played twice as much so those factors might cancel each other out meaning if one of these hits, they both should. But you know what’s in twice as many decks as Tempt with Discovery and four times as many decks as Lurking Predators?

Propaganda

This gets printed every couple of years in a Commander deck and it still maintains a decent price. I think this could eat up some of the growth the cards in the deck experience. This is played in so many decks that it’s bound to recover better than cards with fewer copies and that’s why I’m lumping it in with a bunch of other $2 cards that used to be $7 and will probably be $5 from the same deck. That’s all predicated on none of the Commander 2016 cards in that deck really growing but that seems like a fair assessment. Obviously, Kynaios and Tiro are the exception since that’s a very popular deck lately, but the rest of the cards look sort of lethargic.

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder

This guy hasn’t popped, yet and it kind of makes sense. Boros is pretty bad in EDH and what Bruse does, there are angels who do it. Still, Bruse can partner and that’s the best thing about him. Partner commanders are unique and this makes him have more upside than other boring Boros commanders because at least you can have access to other colors. If you can get in under $2, I think the reprint risk is low enough that this is a nice medium-to-long-term gainer and it’s worth picking these up since other people don’t seem to be paying attention to him. Right now, EDHREC has this in as many decks as Tymna, a card that is disappearing everywhere.

Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix

Kydele makes infinite mana and can be partnered which can put you into up to two other colors, or 0 if you want to partner Kydele with Thraisos and win every game. If you can get a creature that creates colorless mana and can go infinite with as little as an Umbral Mantle and a Brainstorm, look no further. This is even a useful inclusion in the 99 of decks like Kruphix (should be mandatory, really) and while some of the sexier targets are being gobbled up, this is in more decks than Tymna and should be looked at accordingly.

Looking at the cards in the Kynaios and Tiro deck made me think about targeting other decks where the balance of the value wouldn’t be soaked up by new cards and would therefore likely lead to older cards to regain some of their value (barring a subsequent reprinting, if you want to see what repeated reprintings does to promising specs, look no farther than Mycoloth or Windborn Muse) so I took a look at Open Hostility, also (the Saskia deck).

Of the new stuff in Open Hostility, Stonehoof Chieftain and Tymna and one other card look promising but the rest of the new cards don’t look that good. That said, the old cards don’t look that good, either. Without MSRP to enforce some modicum of a price, the market is going to do whatever it will with these prices and I think some of the cards will rebound absent anything holding them back. Buying this deck is a losing proposition but clearly people were doing it and the singles are out there. But what has upside?

Conqueror’s Flail 

Even at its current $4ish, I think this has legs. It’s not quite Blade of Selves but it’s still very useful and as long as players are going to be aggressive with their creatures, this has a home. Equipment is a bit of a tough sell unless you are building around it, though, and most of the time the only equipment that makes a deck is Lightning Greaves and/or Swiftfoot Boots. Still, this shuts down annoying spells from other decks and can give a creature a significant boost in its power for a small mana investment and that’s got to appeal to people. I think with the narrowing spread on this card, we’re in good shape.

Is that enough value for you? It should be. There are some cards that haven’t popped yet but likely will in the coming months. A lot of these cards are good investments if their reprint risk is low and there are some factors I want to talk about that we should look at. If we want two years of growth, which should be enough to get in, profit and get out, we need to avoid stuff that will be in Commander 2017. What do we know about that stuff?

  • 4 Decks instead of 5. With 56 new cards promised, we’ll see fewer reprints than normal since there will be more new cards per deck.
  • The decks will be tribal. Stuff like Urza’s Incubator seems bad. Stuff that’s a-tribal seems safer. Still, being tribal indicates risk while not being strictly tribal doesn’t indicate a lack of risk. Use cards’ tribal affiliation as a means of disqualifying them as a spec but not as a means of qualifying them.
  • How many colors are these tribal decks likely to be? And in what combinations? If you don’t think there will be a Hydra deck, maybe Managorger is a good pickup. Maybe lay off of Mirror Entity.

That’s it for me this week. Next week there will be another topic, probably some Commander 2017 speculation. If you want me to address a certain topic, hit me up in the comments. Until next time!

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