Category Archives: Jason Alt

Insider – From The Vault: Boats

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I think my foil spreadsheet nonsense can wait. The spreadsheet isn’t going anywhere (as always, here is the link) and there is more to be gleaned from it. For today, though, I wanted to get back in the practice of trying to make predictions based on upside to older cards based on the printing of newer ones and there was a really spicy card spoiled this week. Well, two, actually. One of them is a little harder to pin down but it probably goes in a ton of decks.

Legendary Artifact
Players can’t activate Loyalty abilities of Planeswalkers.

At the beginning of your draw step, draw an additional card.

Spells you cast cost 1 less to cast.

Creatures you control get +1/+1

This is just dumb. It’s a better* Caged Sun and for the decks that can afford it, it’s going to get a lot of value going. Shutting down their ‘walkers is just absurd value on top of everything else this card does for you. However, since this appeals so broadly, it’s going to be really tough to nail down which decks it improves on its own and therefore I’m not going to discuss it this week. There’s another card coming to town which can reinvigorate an older deck that is still very popular and give some upside to a lot of the cards in it. I’m talking, of course about one of the four other cards from Rivals that are spoiled so far. I’m talking about the good one.

So this is a card. Let’s not be hyperbolic about this card, though. People who don’t play much EDH got REAL hyperbolic about Growing Rites of Itilmoc and compared it to Gaea’s Cradle. That card is not Gaea’s Cradle. It’s much worse than Cradle. This card is much worse than Tolarian Academy but it does have one thing going for it that Academy does not – this is legal. Also, this makes treasure tokens sometimes. So two things. I’m not saying this is a better or worse cards than Academy because that’s a pointless distinction to make when we should be talking about whether this card will make people dust off or build for the first time old archetypes. Will this give anything older some upside? I think it might.

First, let’s take a token look at what we expect from a price perspective on this card. Since Growing Rites is much more playable in EDH than this is and didn’t have the benefit of a card performing poorly in front of it the way Storm the Vault has had, I think the price graph shows points above which Storm the Vault’s prices will never go.

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Unlocked Pro Trader – What Would It Take?

Welcome back, nerds.

I don’t really have anything productive to say about Unhinged. It’s cool that there will be foil tokens in every pack. It’s cool that there is a new Booster Tutor variant for cubes. I hope people think they’re cute using a Legions booster and I hope they windmill a Phage. I hope someone pulls off the Voltaic Key/Time Vault combo at your LGS with that Spike card and I hope the set sells well, I open a bunch of foil Islands and they figure out a way to make a third Conspiracy set sell better if they do one. I wish I had gotten to spoil the card Ineffable Blessing, but sometimes being Mayor of Flavortown means you have administrative duties to take care of and don’t have time to approve every flavor-related thing that comes down the pipe. Stybs wrote a great article spoiling the card and even shouted out EDHRec [sic] and that was pretty cool. It was a good day today.

It got me thinking about last week and some of the cards we took a look at. I see a lot of cards with multipliers that may be a little lower than either they can be or will be or maybe just cards with decent multipliers and low buy-in for non-foil meaning both prices are apt to move together. Whatever happens, we need to take a look at reprint risk before we start buying in all willy-nilly and I think today we should talk about a few juicy opportunities and how much risk is involved. Put simply, what would it take to give these cards a reprint?

Inspiration

I was looking at the Signets, mostly. Signets are easy as heck to reprint. They go in Commander product, duel decks, goofy stuff in the future like Invaders of Ravnica or whatever they decide to do when we inevitably return to that plane. They haven’t all been printed the same number of times (7 for Boros versus 4 for Dimir, for example) but they have been in foil the same number of times, and that’s the important part. I’m not saying let’s go in on Signets, although that may be a thing considering it might be a minute before they reprint them in foil again. It’s just that Signets were the impetus for taking a look at some stuff that I may not like now but could like later.

Targets

Beast Within

Total Printings – 6

Foil Printings – 2

Foil Multiplier – 4.0

Still hovering around $8 despite the printing in Conspiracy 2 (The Conspiracy art is terrible) and like $15 is New Phyrexia, Beast Within seems a little bit tough to re-reprint. The large disparity between the two prices shows that the more desirable art is holding a premium and if this card were printed again, it seems likely that they’d use the newer art or commission a third design.

What Would It Take?

A third conspiracy set or a masters set. A masters set seems the most likely and with the ability to make a masters set based on any criteria they want, this card isn’t all that safe. Again, though, I think the New Phyrexia art is safe. However, I’m not advocating the safe play here – I’m advocating the risky one. The foil prices of Conspiracy 2 cards are all super low. I don’t know how well the set sold but I know that boxes are not moving for cost on eBay so either everyone got too much of it or they just don’t want to touch it. If no one is super inclined to buy up those boxes and supply doesn’t increase anymore, you’ll have a situation where the desirable cards, especially foils, dry up. Phyrexian Arena, Expropriate, Selvala’s Blessing, The-elf-who-shall-stay-on-the-shelf and others are all in this set that’s frankly really jammed full of good stuff. Barring another Conspiracy printing (doubtful; Beast Within wasn’t in the first Conspiracy set), I think this is in a Masters set or basically nothing. I like Conspiracy foils, ugly as they are. EDH players tend to buy the cheapest copy, even when they foil and if one is half price, that one likely sells a lot first. I feel similarly about Phyrexian Arena.

Rakdos Charm

Total Printings – 3

Foil Printings – 1

Foil Multiplier – 16.0

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This is like a $5 card on TCGPlayer right now having sold out of smaller vendors. I think this card is about to pop and $10 isn’t out of the question. This is useful in many formats and in EDH and it can actually just KO the tokens player. With this much utility, this charm is charming as hell.

What Would It Take?

So far they have only reprinted this in Commander sets. I could see a Masters set reprinting a whole cycle of these, but that’s 10 slots which is basically all of your gold slots for the set. An incomplete cycle seems very unlikely in a Masters set. Incomplete cycles of charms happen all the time in Commander product, but that just makes the foils seem even better to me. This is also a lowish buy-in for what could end up being a double-up. Where are more foil Rakdos Charms going to come from? Will there be an impetus to control the price when the non-foil is $0.25? I don’t think so. Reprints solely to curb costs are always aimed at the non-foil versions so in the case of a large multiplier, it’s only going to go up. Buying just after an increase is awkward, but if anything, the card just demonstrated it has chops and I think $10 is not out of the question. Buy as many as you will play with and maybe that number again to expose yourself to some upside. If these hit $10 you can always replace them for a quarter. In the mean time, your investment just grew 100%. I feel good about this and maybe I’m missing an obvious reprint avenue but I don’t see it.

Darksteel Ingot

Total Printings – 9

Foil Printings – 3 (1 promo)

Foil Multiplier – 11.4

With a lot of play in EDH, this card is very strong. The mana fixing utility you get from this card and its resilience in a field full of Banes of Progress, Sages of Reclamation and Blasts of Vandal, this card is premium mana fixing. Its EDH ubiquity is indicated by its 9 printings and promo printing. Reprinted in M14 this has been foil in sets twice, though at uncommon the second time and how likely is it to be foil again? Another promo seems very unlikely as does inclusion in a Masters set where the fixing might be a little too good, even at uncommon.

What Would It Take?

I think there’s a risk we should discuss before we discuss reprint risk and that’s obsolescence. Darksteel Ingot is already fighting for a deck slot with Chromatic Lantern and Commander’s Sphere and having a ton of 3 drop artifacts early in the game is very awkward. People play 2 mana ramp like Signets and Farseek because you want that turn 2 (or 1 off of a Sol Ring, you cheater, I’m shuffling your deck next game for sure. Yeah, I bet you always just get a t1 Sol Ring because you’re lucky, right Ben? I’m onto you.)  ramp spell to get the game going. Hitting your 3rd land drop on turn 3 and finally playing a mana rock feels bad. Lantern is great, Sphere is great, Ingot is great. You play them. But when something better comes along, it’s likely to be better than Ingot (can you imagine a 3 drop rock better than Commander’s Sphere being printed these days?) and if you happen to own a Coalition Relic, you’ve cut Ingot already.

That said, Ingot is cheap, ubiquitous, indestructible and it comes in precons so people tend to just leave it in. I think this is tough to reprint in a set that has foils in it and with the price of the foils going up recently, I really like the promo at around $4. I think it’s got more upside than the others on account of how shiny it looks. It’s roughly the same price now but it’s the easiest for a buyout to trigger and it’s going to be the first one to increase.  I think obsolescence is more likely than a reprint, but for now, I think those promo Ingots are really tasty at $4 per.

That’s all for this week. I might go a little deeper on that list (linked here for your perusal) of the Top 100 EDH cards with their foil prices and multipliers next week or we may have something tastier to talk about. The effect of Unstable on the price of Legions packs, maybe? Who know? The important thing is that it’s been another great week writing for MTG Price. Until next time, I’m Jason Alt and you’re not.

 

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Unlocked Pro Trader: What I Learned By Acting Like A Desk Jockey

So, I do stuff.

I write articles, I podcast, I perform in and host comedy shows, I’m a content manager for a website you may have heard me shill for and I have the most difficult and important job of all according to Oprah Winfrey – I’m a mother a Dad. Most of these things pay me money so that I can afford to stay home and not have to be a real adult. The result is that my “real adult job” skills have atrophied slightly. I was never much of a desk jockey to begin with since I mostly worked in laboratory settings but it’s safe to say that the last 5 years being an indoor cat have made things feel a little rusty. Today I decided to see if I could make myself enter a bunch of data into excel. I filled out 200 fields and wrote one formula and that was about the most I could manage without blasting a few fat rails of Adderall. Also, if you don’t have an Adderall perscription, don’t do fat rails of Adderall, it’s illegal. Also, if you do have an Adderall perscription, don’t do fat rails of Adderall, you’re not supposed to take it that way. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I slaved to get this data done and it took way longer than it should have and now I get to analyze it finally, which is the fun part. I found some stuff. You know, the good stuff. $tuff.

What Did You Say You Were Going To Do Last Week?

I don’t remember.

What? I don’t. If you remember, tell me. Otherwise, let’s both refresh our memories. Basically, I thought about foil multipliers on the Top 100 EDHREC staples and whether we’d see any trends emerge if we calculated them for each card. Would artifacts in general have the highest? Would we see any trends within colors? I didn’t really find what I expected to find. What I found instead were much more specific findings (I found findings? Gross; nice prose, idiot.) that I think can be either extrapolated to predict things in the future (we like when this happens) and there are some discrepancies that we can exploit immediately (this is less valuable but we like it more when this happens despite it being less valuable. Go figure.) First up, let’s link the data.

 

It’s a google doc. I hope that’s acceptable.

I expected to find some trends in the prices based on color or some other classification, but there are way too many variables. Number of printings, what kind of set the printings were in, foil printings to non-foil printings ratio, whether the foil was a promo or a set inclusion; just about everything was a factor and it’s impossible to make any macro conclusions. On a micro level, though, we can kind of see a few things emerge that we may be able to work with. While I can’t say “Green cards will have higher foil mutlipliers than Red cards” or anything categorically like I was hoping, being forced to drill down into specifics means I am looking more at individual cards and individual sets rather than colors or card types. Here’s what I found.

The Top 100 Is Popular Everywhere

These are the Top 100 cards used in EDH but, not all that surprisingly, not many of the cards are EDH-specific. Sure, there are format-specific staples like Rhytic Study and Chromatic Lantern and Commander’s Sphere but there are also a lot of cards like Brainstorm and Swords to Plowshares that are just good cards and get play in the formats where they’re legal.

Cards that are popular outside of EDH get extra chances to get foils. That’s why out of the (why 4?) tutor cycle of Vampiric, Mystical, Enlightened and Worldly Tutor, Worldly doesn’t have a foil version because it’s only played in EDH, really whereas the others see enough Legacy and Vintage play to justify their inclusion there.

In fact, besides Worldly Tutor, there are only two other cards in the Top 100 EDH cards (per EDHREC, but who else is even tracking that?) that don’t have foil versions – Commander’s Sphere and Propaganda. I’m not sure what they can do for Propaganda, but Sphere can surely be jammed somewhere, even if it’s just a judge foil. “Just” a judge foil. I think Teferi’s Protection is a good choice for that sort of thing as well, meaning Sphere might end up in Limbo. It’s a good mana rock and it’s fairly ubiquitous, so finding a way to get us a foil would be ideal. I’d like to see another Commander’s Arsenal, but with only 3 of the format’s true staples left without foils, it’s probably not something that needs to be done right away. They did Commander’s Anthology instead and that worked out OK for everyone.

Creatures Seem Less “Safe”

A lot of things run the risk of reprinting, but not all reprints are created equal. A reprint in some sort of  product with foils can bring down the foil multiplier a bit, but other things can obliterate it. When Rhystic Study ended up in Commander’s Arsenal, the Commander’s Arsenal version ended up about $10 cheaper than the set foil version and the multiplier is at 2.1. It’s not terrible but it’s not great, either. Being a common certainly hurts the ability to be super crazy and not being also a Legacy and Vintage card like Brainstorm (foil multiplier of 18.2) hurts it since only EDH players are using Rhystic Study. But while 2.1 doesn’t seem astronomical, check out the two cards I highlighted in red because they have a multiplier of 0.9. That means the cheapest foil version (I went with the cheapest foil version for the calculations) is cheaper than the non-foil. This is a combination of a lack of desirability of the foil and the glut of copies on the market. Those two cards? Avenger of Zendikar and Sun Titan. Can you guess what links those two cards?

That’s right. These duel decks farted out so many copies that the foil is actually cheaper than the non-foil for these two cards. That’s not to say they’re cheap – Avenger still goes for $6 for the duel deck version and $7 for the non-foil somehow. A few other duel deck cards like Elspeth Sun’s Champion are at a 1.0 multiplier. Not every card can be the marquee card of a duel deck but the ones that are see their foil prices crushed, at least for that version. It has a deleterious effect on the prices of the other foil versions but not to the extent that they’re all sub-1.0. Still, it’s something to watch out for. Spells seem like a safer bet since creatures, and I guess walkers, can end up in products like this. With Explorers of Ixalan coming out, it’s hard to predict what sort of product they’ll invent to give us reprints. Is Eternal Witness at risk of a reprint in a deck like this in foil? Not likely, but who knows what’s next?

Speaking of Green Creatures

Holy Mackerel were there strong metrics for Green creatures. I kind of expected big things from Green since it’s the best EDH color but I didn’t expect parity with Blue. This is where using multiplier as a metric can get kind of sticky so we’re just looking at numbers, we’re not drawing a ton of conclusions. Green has a lot of “I have been in every EDH set and a ton of products so I’m like $0.25 but I only have one foil printing that’s like $20” creatures like Wood Elves and that makes the multiplier a little ridiculous. Still, it’s worth knowing that cards that have been printed a ton can still be valuable if there weren’t a lot of foil printings. Wood Elves has more than one foil printing, curiously enough, but they’re all pretty valuable. Green creatures and Blue spells topped our list, not surprisingly. Also not surprisingly, the three Mono-Red cards in the Top 100 (Vandalblast, Chaos Warp and Blasphemous Act) all had one foil printing only and had multipliers of around 3, which is pretty low. I was hoping to learn some things about color groupings but this mostly just reinforced what we expected to find going in.

What I Found That Could Be Money

For whatever reason, Orzhov is not getting any respect. There were 5 Orzhov cards in the Top 10, which is an over-representation, really. No other guild really represented like that, and not surprisingly, they were good removal plus  Orzhov Signet. Anguished Unmaking is a great removal spell that Wizards had enough faith in to make a full art promo version of and the multiplier is 2.0. Utter End is similar. Even Mortify has $2 full art Player Rewards promos running around. These all seem too cheap and with as much as these cards get played coupled with the popularity of commanders like Edgar Markov and Wizards recent willingness to give us great Orzhov, Esper and Mardu commanders, the demand for these cards will only grow. You’re not getting cross-format demand for them, but they have sub-4.0 multipliers on 1st-class removal and they’re in popular colors. The Anguished Unmaking and Utter End promos and the Mortify promo are all buys as far as I am concerned. While the foil mutliplier data didn’t tell us as much as I had maybe hoped, it did help isolate some odd cards like this.

One more thing I will mention is this card.

This has a healthy 6.0 multiplier. I checked Star City for some of my prices for two reasons. One is that they have a lot in stock and don’t tend to list foils of good cards for really cheap and then run out of stock, meaning their numbers were more robust than most stores. Another reason is that when they sell out of stock, they leave the price it was when it sold out, meaning we know that this was very recently $8. It’s got a great trajectory and it’s hard to reprint. I like it less than I did last year but I feel the same way about my marriage so I can live with buying in now.

Foil Mulitiplier Can Be Like Spread

The lower it is, the more I like it as a buy (though not always, and less often with foil multiplier). Some of the cards are not a great buy because of where they were reprinted, but something like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion seems pretty strong to me. There are a ton of copies, but with a 1.0 multiplier, the foil is the cheapest copy available and has more upside since foils tend to grow exponentially (when the multiplier isn’t 1.0, anyway) if the growth is organic. Organic demand should theoretically push all copies at the same rate meaning the price will grow at the same time for foil and non-foil and therefore the foils have more upside. A lot of the cards with multipliers below 2.0 were in duel or Planeswalker decks as the marquee card and with those in every Walmart in North America, copies abound. Still, they are foils and people buying the best version and people buying the cheapest version are vying for the same copies in this instance only, which is curious. I think they have a good shot at recovering and being exposed to some upside. Not as much as regular foils, mind you, but with a lower upside exponent comes lower risk. I like Venser, the Sojourner, Utter End, Sylvan Library, Phyrexian Metamorph and Gilded Lotus of all the cards with multipliers below 2.0. The odds of another reprinting in foil seem very low and the odds of the cards growing in price because they’re the best at what they do is very high.

I didn’t find out as much as I wanted to by doing this exercise but since I spent all day on it, I figured at least publishing my findings was better than just not giving you an article. Besides, I found some stuff I like, and I linked the google doc with my numbers so you can read through and look for yourself. Do you  see anything in the tea leaves? Leave (heh) it in the comments and we’ll talk about it next week. Until then!

 

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Curses! Foiled Again!

Last week I amped up my normal rhetoric and went pretty hard against what I think is intellectual laziness from content creators when it comes to recommending that thousands of people go in on tens of copies of a card and then sit back like “Are you not entertained?” when lo and behold, the price goes up. I’m sure I used to do that. The Dunning Kruger effect basically guarantees I used to do easy, low-value stuff like that and probably thought “Man, I’m good at this.” and it’s possible that 5 years ago, that’s what all of us did. But MtG Finance has come a long way in the last decade. Binder grinders are an endangered species. Watching coverage and writing an article Monday morning to be published Tuesday morning about what to buy based on weekend results is a thing of the past. Looking back, I can’t even believe that ever worked. Since Theros, people have been buying cards on Friday before they even put up results and stores are cancelling the orders on Sunday.

We’ve had to get better at this and that’s a good thing. You’re getting more value for your money if you’re paying for non-obvious advice. I’ve been writing since April 2012 (I looked it up yesterday) so I basically have a Bachelor’s Degree in MtG Finance at this point and I’d hope I can have some non-trivial insight. To whit, let’s delve into a topic I brought up last week about stuff “trapped” below that invisible barrier of $2 on TCG Player.

 

What Is The Thing?

TCG Player has a policy that requires you to spend $2 from each seller even though they can combine orders from different sellers and fulfill the orders themselves. It’s fine, who wants to go to the post office for a $0.75 sale? Who wants to process an order that consists of 1 rat token? This is a decent thing to keep sellers from being annoyed. Instead it passes the annoyance on to the buyer.

If a card is being bought out, people will find an excuse to grab another card from a seller to hit the $2 mark (I could have sworn it used to be $5. $2 is a lot less annoying) so they can grab a played copy of a foil that’s going to be like $8 soon. The damaged copy will still be like $5 and you doubled up, but fees squeeze you so make sure you grab other worthwhile cards to mitigate the shipping. But what do I know? I buy specs from Cardshark.

I think this invisible barrier tends to obscure slow, organic buyouts but not calculated, panic “someone on YouTube made a video about this card” buyouts.  Obscuring the organic ones is actually probably a good thing since it gives us time to slowly acquire our copies at the same price from other sites. Card Shark running out of foil Temur Ascendancy foils (don’t bother looking, someone already bought them all, or just never listed them because who sells on Cardshark at this point?) isn’t going to trigger people to notice, but TCG Player doing so is.

I think sub- $2 cards that get a lot of play in EDH have a lot of growth potential, especially when they’re foil which makes them tougher to reprint. Since these are good opportunities, TCG Player is doing us a favor by making it a little tougher for people to signal that copies are drying up because a few played copies are going to sit on TCG Player forever, and sometimes the damaged copies are the entire front page of foils prices, meaning people see the price is like $1.75. Canny financiers will head to the next page to see the lowest price for a NM copy, but not everyone is canny. Hell, not every seller is canny enough to check the lowest NM price rather than lowest absolute price when they list cards. This effect is worth being aware of and it’s worth buying around. TCG Player prices are a house of cards sometimes, and a small amount of copies selling out on one website can make a lot of copies sell out on a lot of websites as people chase the “spike” or “buyout” or whichever mis-applied term ends up festooning the Reddit post.

Speaking of foils, I have a few more picks that I think you might want to take a look at.

Buy But Don’t Buy-Out

Phyrexian Arena

Mutliplier – 4x

A $90 Apocalypse foil (scarcity sucks) hasn’t really stopped the Conspiracy foil from being a fraction of that and having a very low multiplier. No one is buying Conspiracy 2 packs and the chance to get one of Magic’s best Black cards for this cheap will eventually appeal to people and there won’t be much supply to step up and fill in. The art is different and while the Apocalpyse art is better, this art is better than the 8th edition art, objectively. Subjectivity matters were wallets are concerned, but the chance to get a foil Phyrexian Arena for closer to $10 than $20 should perk people up. These are starting to disappear and it wasn’t too long ago you were paying $13 for a non-foil. Remember that? It wasn’t that long ago.

Blasphemous Act

Multiplier – 2x

This is the best red mass removal spell that doesn’t blow your lands and stuff up in EDH and that’s pretty useful. It’s also very reprintable in non-foil and has shrugged those reprints off. This is a card that appeals to red players and red players are the most durdly and least likely to want to foil their decks out. I think next week I will take all 100 Top cards on EDHREC, or maybe the top 10 by color or something and look at the average foil multiplier by color and see if anything emerges. Data is beautiful, after all. For now, look at a card that’s $3.99 a year after being reprinted in a popular deck and notice its one foil printing is at a 2x multiplier. Maybe this card proves that durdly red EDH players aren’t foiling out their durdly red decks, Or maybe this is about to pop and you’re lucky I noticed.

Crackling Doom

Multiplier – 8x

What’s true for Red in EDH might be doubly true for Mardu. This graph looks really funky. Modern or dare I say Legacy demand could case a third peak. For now, this is an 8x multiplier on the strength of the non-foil being printed into powder and the foil being not powder. This is making me really want to look more into the average multiplier by color, wedge, shard and… whatever Commander 2016 was. Is Crackling Doom due for a third spike? We know what happens with second (and third, by extension) spikes, so I imagine this is a card with a lot of built up potential energy and all it needs it a push. I’m hoping this article isn’t the push. Being the 65th-most-played card on EDHREC does’t hurt. Are you foiling your Mardu deck? You might if every card in there is like $0.50 non-foil and $2 foil. Alesha, anyone?

I’ll Be Back

With more data. This article inspired me to spend a lot of time researching so I have some numbers to crunch. In the mean time, if you want to scour this page on EDHREC and then look at foil and non-foil prices and maybe even check the top 100 cards by each color if you remember how to do that (it’s really intuitive)

then that’s not a terrible idea. Next week I’ll be armed with some hard numbers we can use to see if certain colors, wedges, shards, guilds or other configurations are foiled less than others. If I’m guessing, red has the lowest multipliers and blue has the highest. We’ll see for sure next time. Until then!

 

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