Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Your Kess is as Good as Mine

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We have EDHREC data, finally!

People are building their decks, they’re putting them online to be scraped and they’re being scraped.

 

Having that sweet, sweet data means I don’t have to pull an article topic out of my ass this week and it also means that we’re going to make. Every. Money. Immediately.

The Wizards cards all seem like they are doing nutty things, as predicted. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist is causing people to take a long, hard look at Wanderwine Prophets, for example.

This was honestly the largest pic of this card I could find that didn’t look like it was photographed with the Camera from a Game Boy Color. If I had a dollar for every pixel on the picture on MythicSpoiler.com I’d have enough money to sleeve my copy of Inalla when I get it. Hopefully you can read that Eminence ability and hopefully you can figure out that copying Wanderwine Prophets means you always have a Merfolk to sac because the token Champions the original Merfolk, blah blah blah. Taking infinite turns is always a good thing. What’s Wanderwine Prophets look like right now?

There are still copies under $1 but I don’t expect them to last long. You’re basically not getting it on the ground floor at this point unless you’re reading Twitter early in the day or this article the minute it’s published. Should you chase this? If you buy at $3 or $5 it will still be fine when the card hits $10, right?

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Let’s see if we can remember whether there was another blue creature that gave you infinite turns with a new Commander and look at the price trajectory of that card.

Remember us? The neato interaction between Ezuri and Sage was enough for the price of Sage of Hours to skyrocket from $2 to $3, a price it didn’t manage to maintain. Soooooo go to town and buy those Wanderwine Prophets so you have a combo that’s more confusing and worse than this one since you have to manage to deal them damage with a creature for it to work. I’m going to stay pat, frankly. I’m sure everyone will make Prophets a $30 card just to make me look like an idiot. This is a time when Stone Calendar is $25 so I guess what do I know about MTG Finance? I guess nothing. Buy those Martyr’s Cry while they’re hot, I guess. Is Inalla a a better commander than Ezuri? Yes, probably. But the combo is worse and there is still a non-zero chance Prophets gets blown out by a reprinting in Monkeys versus Merfolk or whichever deck is coming out soon. Donald Trump is President, I saw Zima at a grocery store the other day and Sigil Tracer is a $4 card, now. Nothing has to make sense anymore. Go buy Wanderwine Prophets, I guess.

Kess is the card I wanted to talk about today and with limited EDHREC data, I’m not able to really talk about which cards are in a high percentage of decks played. However, if they’re registering at all, that means there is at least a degree of synergy between Kess and that card which makes it worth mentioning. Early adopters aren’t usually super wrong about cards and even if they are, the cards they register are seen by people who build decks subsequently which means they are more likely to get included than cards that are just in a vacuum and take some work for someone to find. That’s not right or wrong, it’s just how it is in the internet age. Let’s look at what Kess players are registering so far and see if anything emerges as a good target.

River Kelpie

Here’s a card that’s growing in price by quite a bit lately. This isn’t that great a reprint target, frankly given its limited applicability (As opposed to Limited applicability. Good luck finding enough people who want to pay $60 a person to draft Shadowmoor) and set-specific keyword ability. You can reprint Persist cards, but Persist cards that are only good if you have Flashback spells? Good luck. Despite clunky ability synergy, this card is a shoo-in in Kess decks and I expect the new attention it gets to put a little more pressure on the price. Remember, it doesn’t need to go up THAT much for you to make some money. It can stay around $3 and if you snag all the $ copies that are out there, loose, you can make money trading them out at $3 or outing them at retail. If the price doesn’t move but the new attention causes the copies below market price to dry up, we still did fine. That’s not a great finance plan but it’s a worst case scenario I can live with. I expect Kelpie to get a bump and I don’t expect a reprint. If you agree with both of those things, be a buddy and snag those last 3 copies on Troll and Toad.

Gamble

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No Gamble, no future, I always say (I never say that). Gamble is a card that is perfect for Kess decks. Sometimes you want to play this with an empty hand, making it an Emtomb for spells, but even if you discard the “wrong” card with a full grip, you can usually end up having it be a spell you can play. Getting another crack at your Gamble and tutoring for a spell you can play once or twice means Kess decks and Gamble go together like anime wall scrolls and virginity. When there are more data points to sift through, I actually see the synergy percentage increasing. Most decks that run Gamble are decks that use it as a “better than nothing” tutor because they’re mostly red, but the card is insanely good in a Kess deck and people are going to very quickly figure that out. At its current price, it’s a little above its floor but since Eternal Masters didn’t give us that many copies in the grand scheme of things, the price drop was largely predicated on a very modest demand for the very limited number of Saga copies being satiated very easily. Its current price can’t satisfy increased demand and I think now’s a great time to buy what could easily end up $10 or $12 very soon. This card’s exactly what I was hoping to find when I started probing these lists.

Beacon of Unrest

Beacon has been pretty stable for the last few months and I think while Commander 2016 gave us a lot of copies, what black EDH doesn’t want to run it? EDHREC has it listed in nearly 7,000 decks currently and at a little over a buck, this seems like a great candidate for “Going way up in price as people start to pay attention to it”. The best part about Beacons is if they get countered, discarded, pitched to gamble, pitched to… Sickening Shoal? Look, if they end up in the yard, you can play them with Kess then shuffle them back into the deck since Kess isn’t true flashback but rather says if the card would go to the graveyard, exile it, which means the replacement effect on the Beacon precedes that. I’m not a judge but I’m pretty sure that’s how that works. If not, ummm, at least Beacon lets you get a free shuffle, so that’s cool. Check the comments section where some nerd will confirm how Beacons work with Kess.

This card is basically at its floor. Commander 2017 coming out means it’s time to celebrate the one year anniversary of this latest Beacon reprinting and I want to celebrate by snagging the sexy new copies with the foil dot and the good art. I bet all that purple looks great in foil. This gets reprinted in a lot of supplementary product but it recovered before and it will recover again.

The Locust God Stuff

Kess is great because I like the ability, it could impact Legacy or Vintage (could, I didn’t originate that thought, so if you’re planning to write “ZOMG LURN HOW TO PLAY VINTIGE” instead use that energy to cram impulses like that deep down until you unleash them on the umpire at your kid’s Tee Ball game like the rest of us) and because it makes you able to play your Locust God deck with a new commander and black cards. You won’t port the whole deck over and I still recommend building and playing a The Locust God deck with wheels and everything separately, but a lot of the same cards including the Locust God itself go nicely in Kess. Let those Tolarian Winds blow – you just doubled your hand size. Don’t give your opponents the benefit of a wheel so keep those Puzzle Boxes in their… larger box? What do you store a Puzzle Box in? What do I look like, pinhead? Keep them in whatever you keep them in because you don’t want them wheeling, just you. As long as they aren’t removing your yard from the game, a wheel means you have access to a grip full of new hotness plus you can play spells from the grave with flashback like a boss.

I think there’s enough money to be made here. I might even talk about Innala next week- who knows? I don’t! A lot can happen between now and then, so in the mean time, read my tweets, listen to my podcasts and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Until next time!

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All of My C17 Thoughts Fit to Print

Commander 2017 has mostly shown us the cards we’re getting. I figured I’d write my article on Thursday this week because by then we will have had the full spoilers, my logic being that Monday showing us all of the cats meant that the rest of the week would progress with a deck a day until everything was fully revealed today. I’m not sure that happened. This set is mostly reprints but there are supposed to be 56 new cards and there are only 50 revealed. I could be misunderstanding the phrase “56 cards across 4 decks” and Path of Ancestry being in every deck plus Herald’s Horn and Heirloom Blade being in multiple decks could account for it, but I think we’re short a few Wizards and they may be saving stuff for tomorrow. If they do spoil anything worth talking about tomorrow, check back because I’ll likely do an addendum to this piece.

I don’t know how to organize this other than to just have it be a list of my thoughts, so here goes.

1) The Wizards Deck Is the New Breed Lethality

Based solely on the new cards and not the reprints, the deck with the Wizards in it is the deck that has the most exciting commanders and it’s the one I expect to get bought more predominantly. It could be they struck a nice balance and all of the decks sell roughly equally, but I don’t know if that’s the case. It’s possible people are nerdy enough to go for Dargons or lonely enough to go for Kittycats or Hot Topic goth enough to go for Vampires (a deck with 3 terrible commanders), but I have a feeling Wizards will outsell the rest. It has not one but three good commanders, four if you count the Marchesa reprint as a potential commander. Barring some very spicy reprints in the other decks, something we won’t know for a minute, the Wizards deck is the one I expect to be hot. That said, I didn’t think Atraxa was that compelling last time so it’s anyone’s guess, technically.

2) Mirri is Possibly the Best Non-Wizard Card in the Set

Mirri is very good. At a $4 preorder, I think it’s possible that you could make some money pre-ordering. However, $4 feels about right since she won’t be good in every deck with access to Green and White. However, in the decks that play her, she’s going to do WORK. Good as a commander in her own right as well as a part of the 99, Mirri is actually more unfair than she might look at first blush. First of all, if you come through with a swarm, they can’t effectively block and you’ll end up forcing them to try and block and kill Mirri, letting you dome them for a ton of damage. Also, if Mirri survives combat, you don’t even have to worry about a swing-back. Green-White decks are the best at generating tokens so you can see where I’m going here. Even if Mirri isn’t the best card in the set, she’s currently cheaper than this list of cards from Commander 2016, and I think she could go up, based on that.

3) Path of Ancestry is Too Good

Path of Ancestry is a $3 preorder despite being in every deck. Why? This card is bugnutty. Additionally, there is net demand for this card that supply can’t touch initially. Not only will this never get taken out of any precon deck that’s purchased with the intention of making it into a deck based around its contents, anyone with a tribal deck built already would be crazy not to include this so there will be demand right out of the gate for just the single card. With the high demand profile, inclusion in all four decks is almost irrelevant.

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Coupled with that, this card isn’t all that easy for them to reprint in future Commander product if it’s not tribal-themed meaning it’s unlikely to get a Commander 2018 printing. That gives us 2 years minimum of growth. I expect these to be below $3 at peak supply and I am buying in, then. Take a look at some other graphs of more reprintable cards for reference.

Myriad Landscape was done in by a reprinting and subsequent obsolescence as Wizards shifted away from monochromatic Commander supplements for the forseeable future but there was still plenty of opportunity to make plenty of money. The lands in these decks are good, they’re not easy to reprint anywhere else, and in the case of Path of Ancestry, they’re almost impossible to reprint easily. This is a no-brainer scoop-up. These will trade out like crazy and players will likely need more than one. Do you see someone buying a deck just for this card? Likely they’re buying the deck to build around it meaning that copy is spoken for and doesn’t help them with the tribal decks they already have. This card is money, plain and simple – there won’t ever be enough supply.

4) Chances Are Bad Interactions Won’t Matter

Divinity counters? You know what else have Divinity counters? Myojin! Buy all of the Myojin!!!!!!!11onehundredandeleven

I think we can all calm down a bit. Yes, you’re very clever for having seen the name of a counter on a card and remembered seeing it somewhere before. No, I don’t think Mathas, Fiend Seeker is going to spike the price of the Tempest card Bounty Hunter. I don’t even think a dedicated cat deck being printed is going to raise the price on cards like Fleecemane Lion, so I certainly don’t think bad interactions are going to spike bad cards. Not all interactions are created equal, after all. The printing of a durdly enchantment to make your Myojin of Night’s Reach a little better isn’t exactly the printing of Nekusar to make Forced Fruition a game-ending card. The Myojin barely get EDH play right now for a reason, this isn’t a reason for them to start and not all of the Myojin are even good with this. Bad interactions aren’t going to drive prices of old, bad cards up. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean people will. Take those Bounty Hunters out of your shopping cart and spend that money better elsewhere.

5) Did I Mention the Wizards Deck is Stupid Good?

I’m trying to keep up with the fact that cards are being spoiled as I write this, so when I got halfway through this article, I noticed that they spoiled the final Wizard commander and I had to go edit a few of the earlier paragraphs referencing how many cards were spoiled and how many Wizard commanders were good (all of them, it’s ridiculous).

Now I don’t know if this card is Legacy-playable but if it is, good job making this deck Grixis colors, Wizards, because you got yourself Mind Seize 2.0. It was already the best deck before all of the hype surrounding these ridiculous Wizards started. All of Twitter is talking about today is which cards to clone with Mairsil the Pretender, what to do if you have multiple copies of Magus of the Mind and Shallow Grave in your deck, whether Kess is playable in Legacy. As excited as people pretended they were for Kittycats, the hype around Wizards is real and when it spills out of EDH into competitive formats, the hype translates to real money.

This card is money either way, frankly, if it ends up being this set’s Atraxa. The trick here is that all of the commanders are going to be good so there won’t be one, monolithic, “obvious” card like Atraxa to be the deck’s value lightning rod and to be the reason the deck is impossible to find for under $80 on eBay like the Atraxa deck. This may or may not be $25 like Atraxa, but even if the 3 Wizard commanders are $30 between the three of them, the deck is still going to be in high demand.

What do we exile with this? It hardly matters – this is a card that doesn’t need to “remember” which card it exiled meaning you can cast and recast this and still keep all of the benefit of exiling cards, building a big, stupid monster of a card with a ton of useful abilities. That’s the kind of stuff EDH players want to be doing. If this were the only good Wizard in the deck, I’d be inclined to say this was money but it’s not, they’re all good. I recommend hitting Walmart stores the night before these decks go on sale. Sometimes they stock these overnight since they’re Walmart and they don’t give a hot fart in a pair of too-tight Victoria’s Secret pink sweatpants that say “juicy” on them with the fabric stretched so tight that you can see the slogan on the camo thong underneath about the street date, they’re open all night and you can hit a half dozen stores in an hour or two if you plan your route and/or don’t live in the middle of nowhere.

6) Redundancy Matters

I think we may spend a little too much time talking about the raw power of cards and we miss the bigger picture. Take Traverse the Outlands for example.

This is a great card in decks like Angry Omnath. You have a 5/5 commander and it makes angry elemental tokens meaning you’ll have a pretty good chance of getting X=5 or more when you cast this. If X is “only 5 then you played the best Cultivate ever printed for 5 mana. You got 5 Omnath triggers, thinned your deck out to give you better draws, gave you better mana to play your spells and you did it all for one card. Boundless Realms gets you more lands and it’s not dependent on you having any creatures, though. It costs more mana, but the effect is so much more powerful. While you’re debating the pros and cons between Traverse and Boundless Realms, the Angry Omnath player has already decided to buy a copy of Traverse because he’s going to play both because why wouldn’t you play both? If two cards, an old one and a new one, usually, both give you the same effect, it’s usually not important to play the better one. If a card warrants a spot in your 99 it stands to reason that a very similar card also warrants inclusion. If the effect is important, it’s worth having redundancy. Don’t waste analysis time worrying about whether a new card with an effect is the best one ever, worry about how many decks could play it. Boundless Realms is in over 5,500 decks and it’s above $3, now. Traverse isn’t a card to replace Boundless Realms, it’s a card to supplement it and there are over 5,500 people with registered decks on EDHREC who are going to take a look at Traverse and try to find a slot for it. Which card is better is largely irrelevant when it’s close because close means you play both.

7) Here’s a List of Cards I Like For the Current Presale Price

These could go down but I think it’s low risk enough that you just buy more if they do and then your average cost is very reasonable and you make money when they go up. Nothing is jumping out at me like Deepglow Skate and Curtains’ Call did before but once we have some data that shows how people are building, we’ll know more. I generally shy away from preordering unless we’re talking Blade of Selves for $1 like we were a couple of years ago.

One card that I think is too expensive but which might go up in the short term before it goes down is this one.

This is getting a lot of hype because you can make your whole library disappear with The Locust God, a card that’s already hot right now. I think the hype around this is unsustainable but I think it could lead to a run on this card. Remember, presale prices are guesses and while they usually skew high, sometimes they misprice something. I have a feeling the mispriced card will be a Wizard that is “only” pre-selling for $8 rather than a card that shouldn’t be $1 like usual.

That does it for me this week. I’ll be back on my normal day next week with lots to talk about. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Check. The. Rec.

It happened! Some wacky Japanese magazine article confirmed the colors and tribal affiliations of the Commander 2017 decks.

The internet responded by going kittycat 2.0. That was to be expected, but not admired or replicated. Make no mistake, buying anything right now is a mistake outside of a few reprint-proof cards but that’s not what I see happening. It’s a feeding frenzy out there and the people who get blown out by reprints will lose and probably learn nothing but the real losers are EDH players who will pay more for bad cards in the future. EDH players who can’t navigate the finance markets and financiers who don’t understand EDH? Sounds like a bad time for everyone involved.

It’s not all bleak and hopeless, though, because there is money to be made and more importantly, savvy EDH players can avoid a blowout by knowing when to buy at the right time. Luckily, knowing when to buy is the easy part of MTG Finance (I still feel like I don’t know when to sell cards and I’ve been at this for like 6 years) and that’s what I want to talk about today.

I have seen a lot of posts on places like the MTG Finance subreddit and Twitter just lousy with people guessing. They’re guessing. What are they guessing about? Well, they want to try and figure out which Wizards they should buy to sell to EDH players who are going to buy the Grixis Wizards deck and try to build Wizard tribal. Why are they guessing? That’s a good question. Literally why guess when you already know what people are playing in Wizard decks?

I’m not suggesting we use EDHREC to find a bunch of Wizards cards and buy them before we see a full decklist, I think that’s moronic. Besides, that’s level one thinking and we need to be thinking a few levels above that if we’re going to avoid the goat rodeo of a bunch of dumbdumbs buying foil Riptide Directors and selling them to each other for the next two weeks. You want to avoid chasing your tail? Come along with me and let’s think a few levels above whether you want to buy Patron Wizard or Ertai. Let’s make some money.

First Stop – Azami

Azami, Lady of Scrolls is not a very popular commander on EDHREC, probably because it’s boring and linear to play “Draw my whole deck then win with Lab Maniac.dec” and as a result, we have a sample size of 736 decks, which isn’t enormous.

Azami suffers from being mono-blue which means there are two other colors in the Grixis Wizards deck that aren’t represented here but since we’re not trying to pick out Wizards to buy that may or may not be reprinted but rather look at the kinds of things Wizards players are doing to win and what they need to do that, I’m not worried about it.

Azami decks mostly seem to win by decking, which is boring. I don’t know how inclined Grixis Wizards builders will be to win the same way, but it’s worth talking about what that shows us regardless.

Laboratory Maniac

I’ve been about this card for a while and its growth chart should show you why. I think a non-zero number of new Wizards decks will include the Lab Man and it seems fairly obvious that new upside gives us new chances for this to continue its growth. Also, cards that say “You win the game” don’t tend to make it into pre-constructed decks, forcing me to peg the reprint risk of this card pretty low. I have thought this was going to go up anyway and new attention from Wizard builders won’t suck. I’m paying cash on these at this point.

Mind Over Matter

This may be the best Azami enabler card ever printed but it’s also super narrow, relegated almost entirely to Azami decks. It’s on the Reserved List but is that enough to balance out how narrow it is? If Wizards is the best deck in Commander 2017 and that translates into it being the most built deck like Atraxa is and that translates to people winning with Azami and using other Wizards with tap abilities so much that they jam a spell with 4 blue pips into a Grixis-colored deck (or just buy the deck for the blue Wizards and throw the rest out), then I guess this card gets there. However, that’s a lot of ifs. Right now there are about 750 Azami decks versus 3,300 Atraxa decks, so a 5-fold spike in popularity does big things for a Reserved List card like Mind Over Matter if the conditions are exactly right. But is anything guaranteed? And if we don’t feel all that confident about a card like this, which is basically uniquely poised to benefit from Wizards being built a ton in the months to come, what DOES have upside?

Maybe we need to look at another Wizards build to see what people are playing in EDH since Azami is mono-blue and not that popular.

Luckily, EDHREC has a new feature that I can show you. No, this is not a commercial for EDHREC. I actually hope you don’t use EDHREC as financiers. It reduces the chances of one of you getting good enough at this to write your own competing article series. In an ideal Universe, I have a small number of readers and they and I laugh and laugh at the people blindly fumbling around buying foil Sage of Fables and Stonybrook Bannerets. But since I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you how to do some basic research, let’s just get on with it.

The new feature basically replaces the advanced filters and instead presupposes that we can predict what you wanted to search for.

Check out the “themes” dropdown in the top bar. Click on it to open the dropdown menu. A list will pop up and you will click “more tribes” to bring up a screen with all of the tribes listed and then you’ll click on Wizards. It will take you to this screen, should that explanation have proven too complicated.  You will see the Wizard tribal commanders arranged by popularity as well as the cards played in those decks, arranged in the same way. If 75% of the creatures in a deck are the same tribe, we consider it tribal, which we (Don did all the work, let’s be honest, I literally wasn’t even consulted on this so I’m going to stop saying “we”) think is a fair way to determine someone’s intention to build a tribal deck. Before, there were some pretty complicated steps using the advanced filters which have been eliminated and appear more as pages than reports. That’s better for everyone, especially if all we want to do is see how many Wizard tribal decks there are and how they’re being built.

There are a lot more commanders for these decks than I had anticipated, but the common cards seem to be mostly the same. You play card, counters and then do some commander-specific stuff like kill them with Niv-Mizzet and Curiosity or Azami and Lab Maniac. Boring. But winning isn’t boring and that seems like a pretty good way to win a lot, so maybe they’re on to something.

I expected Wizards to be one of the least popular tribal decks given how few Azami decks there were but actually only six tribes were more popular. Let’s ignore the fact that two of the six are Dragons and Vampires, decks we have known about for longer but which haven’t ignited the same dumbdumb fever as Cats and Wizards seem to have and let’s focus on how popularish Wizards are as a tribe and how new cards in these colors can make the other existing decks better. I can’t say exactly how because we haven’t seen a single card from the Wizards deck. What else do we like the look of based on what people are playing right now? What does the Wizards page tell us?

Where’s Riptide Laboratory?

You look at the top 21 lands played in all Wizards decks and Riptide Laboratory is not among them. It’s in about 3,600 decks, spread out among various Wizards, but cards like Minamo and Nykthos show up on the report. The report isn’t perfect, so don’t let it be your be-all, end-all, but it’s still useful. Riptide Lab seems like a pretty obvious Wizards inclusion and could be in the deck so a lot of people are targeting foils and I’m not about gambling that people who build a Wizards deck because of a precon but who don’t have the deck already are going to foil the deck. I don’t like Riptide Lab as a spec not knowing whether it’s getting reprinted so mentioning its exclusion is more of a “watch out, this report could miss some stuff” than a “oh noes muh spex” sort of a comment. I would wager both that Riptide Laboratory is reprinted in the Wizards deck and also that you’re going to end up selling the foils to other speculators. They’re mostly gone anyway and there’s so much money elsewhere, why chase it?

This report is literally just blue cards 

While other colors are represented in the commanders for Wizards tribal decks, the common theme is blue and that means most of the cards that overlap (or all in this case) are blue. The other decks are just different flavors of the same core kind of deck and since no one is trying to get there with Wizard beatdown (except the guy who I profiled last week on Gathering Magic, I guess) most of the cards will overlap a lot. This tells us what people are building now but can’t really help us predict what they will be doing when they have new cards.

That said, there are a few cards I like that are general Wizards-adjacent cards that will likely be useful no matter what Commander 2017 gives us.

Training Grounds

File this under “If this isn’t reprinted, you know what to do” because at $12, this is teetering right on the precipice of unreprintability. If it’s not reprinted, Wizards decks could easily start jamming this and then this is $20. The harder this gets to reprint, the more ridiculous its price will be. This ability is so niche that it’s hard to jam in a set where there will be a Limited format, so this seems pretty safe and dangerous to me. If this isn’t in Commander 2017, this needs a look right away.

Leyline of Anticipation

The return of Core Sets makes this card a little tough to judge. Will this get a reprint in a Core Set? Iconic Masters? Where’s the best place to reprint this? I don’t know, but I do know that this is growing steadily and it’s not going to be something we can include in a Commander deck pretty soon. I think this is worth keeping an eye on, although Core Sets coming back makes me a little nervous. I am watching this card but I am not necessarily going all in.

Overburden

This is a bit of a weird one, but this card has plateaued a bit lately and I think that if there is a Wizards deck that returns creatures to your opponents’ hands like I imagine there will be, Overburden is a card that’s going to pull their pants down a little bit. If I have to write about this card on Gathering Magic to make people play it, I will, but they shouldn’t need much coaxing, this card is ridiculous.

I still think you wait and see a full list because inevitably there will be cards among the brand new ones they’re including that enable new archetypes and make old cards better in the new context. Instead of buying based on the word “Wizards” we’ll have a ton more information in a few weeks, so let’s not jump the gun. Let everyone else buy foil Diviner’s Wands. When we’re ready to start buying, I’ll let you know. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: 5 Things I Learned Sorting By Color – Red

Image by Cameron Gray

Previous Installments:

Green

I’m back and despite thinking I’d have some sweet Commander 2017 leaks to discuss, I am sort of without anything to talk about and thought it was the perfect time to pick up the “Things I learned sorting by color” subseries that I’ve done exactly one other installment of.  I actually managed to get some insight into what EDH players want and need when it comes to the color green merely by looking at the top cards from that color.

I think there is stuff to be learned from looking at the other colors, also, so I’m going to… you know, do that.

Here’s a refresher of what I did so you can do it yourself.

Click the “cards” button on any page to open the dropdown menu.

Navigate to “color” to pick a color and then see the top cards in that color. It’s easy, but I still felt like showing you what I did so we’re on the same page, literally and figuratively. Are we good? OK, then. Let’s dive into Red because I’m sure we can learn a few things, hopefully things that we can use to predict which cards from new sets will catch on so we can buy those Magi of the Wheel when they’re $2 because that’s what we’re all about.

1. Removal Matters 

The top 3 most played red cards are removal, that sticks out a little bit.

Removal, especially good removal, is at a premium in any color but in red, it seems like players are shoehorned a little bit more. Despite being pretty bad as a color, Mono-Red is fun to play and popular and that’s not going to change. When you elect to play Mono-Red, you accept certain realities and one of those realities is that you’re going to have a hell of a time dealing with Enchantments. Chaos Warp has become a red staple in part because it does something that red basically can’t do otherwise (and it used to be able to tuck a commander so a portion of its play is an artifact of that. It’s good enough not to take out of the deck even though its role is diminished and then  a reprinting helped keep it accessible so more people can add it to new decks. That was a long aside. Any longer and I’m going to start putting numbered links to endnotes like I’m David Foster Wallace over here. Let’s get back to the previous sentence, already in progress) and that’s removing problem permanents like enchantments.

One of the Top 3 cards helps red shore up something it does badly, but the other 2 are cards that help red do what it does well – dish out a ton of punishment and destroy artifacts. Both mechanics – Blasphemous Act’s precursor to “Undaunted” and Overload, are very good mechanics and similar mechanics on future cards will get a long look, especially if they do the things these cards do, but maybe better. I mean, you don’t need an article to tell you a Blasphemous Act that does 15 damage for 9R is better, I’m just saying. People knew Blasphemous Act wasn’t a 9 drop but they still acted like Curtain’s Call was too expensive. That card was like $0.50 for a minute, so I appreciate a lack of imagination from the community sometimes since that was a nice quintuple up for me.  Red even plays removal like Lightning Bolt which I think scales horribly in EDH but which is still in 6% of all 72,000 decks with access to red mana. Red does removal and red does it well, so when I saw a card like “By Force” I was pretty sure it was going to see play.  It’s getting there slowly, seeing play in 256 decks so far. It’s no Vandalblast but it may make you more friends if you can leave some people alone.

Expect any future red card that can deal with Enchantments to get a real long look from EDH players and potentially become a staple, quintuply so if it’s Legacy-playable.

2. Can I Borrow That A Second?

It’s taking a minute, but I think Mob Rule, barring a reprinting, has legs. It has a few knocks against it. It’s not Insurrection for example, it’s a recent non-mythic, it can’t always go wide enough to get around big creatures or go big enough to get past an army of chump blockers (giving all of your creatures trample helps, but that’s a 2-card combo to build a bad Insurrection) and even so, Mob Rule is in 2% of the 72,000 eligible decks – that as much usage as Jokulhaups, Fiery Confluence, Warp World and Bonfire of the Damned.

Mob Rule

At sub-$1 foils like this seem pretty good and they’re not as easy to reprint, which is double plus good for this card. It’s not just big, massive swipin’ spells that red loves, though. Zealous Conscripts is a big card and it’s bigger because it combos infinitely with Kiki-Jiki. Molten Primordial gets a ton of play, also, so the combo potential is potentially an afterthought (I still see Maelstrom Wanderer decks run Pestermite, a basically useless card, when they could run Zealous Conscripts to Tooth and Nail for like I do) in the grand scheme of things. Conscripts is stupid and it’s better with cards like Deadeye Navigator or sac outlets so you never give the creatures back.

Threaten effects are over-represented in the Top 100 and I think that’s telling. When they’re printed, they tend to look like Limited chaff sometimes, but Threaten effects really get there. Pay special attention to those printed at rare because those have financial upside, especially in reprint-dodging foil.

Word of Seizing (Foil)

Rare Threaten effects are worth looking at, especially if they print new, very good ones. I don’t know how relevant financially this is but I do know that a significant portion of the Top 100 cards fit this bill and I’m not discriminating between things worth knowing and things worth knowing that may not make us money in the immediate future, here.

3. Always Be Combat

It may be all Narset’s fault, but extra attack phase cards are creeping up a lot. Taking extra attack phases is a great way to squeeze in a ton of extra damage and if you have cards to double damage or give creatures double strike, you’ve got a double double situation and that makes me want to get In ‘n’ Out burger but they don’t have those around here and the last time I went to In ‘n’ Out burger, it was in Vegas and the food was super terrible so I don’t even know, some people who have access to both In ‘n’ Out and 5 Guys says 5 Guys is better so I don’t know what to think.

Aggravated Assault

I talked a lot about how Mana Echoes is a “print or die” card that could get a ton of attention after people start building tribal decks and barring a reprint in Commander 2017 it could become $30 and basically unreprintable? Well, imagine all of that stuff but applied to this bad boy.  They have a lot of choices for Relentless Assault effects to reprint if they’re inclined to do one in, what, Commander 2018? The reprint risk is mitigated by the plethora of equivalent, more reprintable targets leaving us with a $14 card that has no reason to come down, really.  This ticks up slower but I think has the same “reprint or die” tipping point that some of the other cards I’ve highlighted have had. Just watch what happens with Patriarch’s Bidding. If it pulls a Phyrexian Altar, take a look at Aggravated Assault. They print another “triggers on swinging” card like Narset and this is $30, bank on it.

4. Chaos Reigns Supreme

Cards like Warp World, Gamble, Grip of Chaos etc. don’t seem terribly good, but that’s OK by Red players. Red isn’t terribly good and they’re not in it for the guaranteed win, they’re in it to mess things up. I play Warp World in my Prossh deck because I firmly believe in screwing with the game and, besides, if you don’t have a Food Chain out when you cast Warp World with 30 kobolds, your odds just went way up. I have had 50 Kobolds out and Warped right into Food Chain, Prossh and Goblin Bombardment. It’s hard to lose the game when you do that. It went from “Hahahaha guise wut if i casted warp wurld rn wuldnt that be lulz” to “I ween!” in under a minute. That’s the secret charm to these cards – you look like you don’t have a plan until it comes together. It’s the drunken boxing of EDH. Add to that the number of times a spell about to blow up one of your permanents gets something else instead or you force two people to hit each other who were leaving each other alone and you can break the game wide open. If you attack one person three times in a row, they’ll resent it, but if you randomly roll a die and get them three times in a row, they’re mad at the die. That’s politics, baby.

As much fun as those cards are and as many decks as they appear in (and in as many decks as they appear?  And with as many decks in which they appear? How do I not end that with a preposition?) there isn’t a whole lot of financial upside to them since they’re pretty reprintable and they need to be like Gamble, old enough to drive, to drive their own price up. As much as chaos effects are cool, they might be bulk rares. That is, unless, you stop them from doing something at the same time.

Stranglehold

Also the name of a decent song by a terrible musician and worse person, Stranglehold is the kind of card that might need a reprint and might not get it. A Commander original, the reprint venues for a card like this are pretty few. Cheating a bunch of stuff into play with Warp World is one way to cheat, but being the only one whose cheaty stuff works is another. If you’re untapping all of your creatures with Relentless Assault anyway, why not play Smoke to lock them down? If you can’t take extra turns because why would you play Final Fortune (503 decks do, by the way, a lot of them Krenko because Krenko is a YOLO deck that plays Warp World and kills people with Purphoros. Wait, why don’t I like Mono-Red?), you can always put them in a Stranglehold. Then you can say “You best get out of the way” but they can’t get out of the way, you’ve got them in a Stranglehold, they’re basically stuck like right in front of you. Let their neck go, Ted. Idiot.

Prices aren’t going up a ton, but supply is dwindling. This is a card that people can take or leave but scarcity, modest demand, time elapsed since OG Commander and new decks being built by people who aren’t taking apart their old decks all conspire to push this price toward a tipping point. They don’t want to reprint a $13 Stranglehold but they basically can’t reprint a $22 Stranglehold. I’m finding some pretty juicy “Reprint or Die” cards I didn’t expect to find in Red.

5. Maybe Red Doesn’t Suck After All

Purphoros, God of the Forge

This card is reprintable. I mean, maybe. They reprinted Iroas, but that was in a boring deck and they haven’t really shown any indication of reprinting Gods recently. I think a lot of people are worried about this getting reprinted. I know I am – I have a lot of copies I am sitting on, although I sold enough when it first crested to have broken even so they’re all free copies, which I appreciate.  Could we get hosed on a reprint, here? Yes, but this card is also so stupid that it could easily be $25 in a year or two, especially since it’s the 4th-most played card in decks with access to Red. Winning with this and a flood of tokens feels good.

That does it for me this week. I think there is some actionable stuff here and I think we should keep an eye out for cards that resemble cards in Red’s Top 100. Any upgrade on an existing card has a ton of applicability and demonstrated demand, and sometimes EDH can make stuff happen, especially on foils and mythics and older cards. Until next week!

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