Category Archives: Jason Alt

Hidden Demand

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I sold my Gaea’s Cradle for $50.

I don’t list this among my biggest MTG Finance regrets or talk about it often, and the thing was pretty beat up. Besides, $50 was a good price for it back when I sold it. This was during a period where I was having a hard time justifying all of the money I had tied up in a Legacy Maverick deck (that should tell you the year) that had as many German cards in it as I could find. I didn’t want my deck to be foil so I figured German was a good way to make the deck look sexy. I was most of the way done when I sold the whole thing and one of the last English cards, a jacked up Gaea’s Cradle, wasn’t a card I cared about.

A few years later, I got into EDH. I feel like I could really use that Cradle now. Lots of decks I run could use a Cradle and I could build a few I’m holding off on building, also. I come across Cradles, occasionally but I always quick flip them, never letting myself divert that much money from my business to my personal collection just so I can make my Prossh deck a teensy bit better. If Cradle were $20, though? I’d probably buy 10 of them. Even though I won’t spend $200 on one card (let’s pretend I wouldn’t pay buylist), I’ll spend $200 on 10 cards. I realize that Magic player Jason is a poor but that’s because player Jason would have to either embezzle money from financier Jason’s business or divert money from Dad Jason’s kid’s college fund. Fortunately, she’s a year old and still doesn’t know her own name, so it’s possible that college fund could become discretionary spending in no time.

I don’t think my experience is uncommon. Could I break off two hundo and throw it at some cardboard? Sure, but I’m loath to do that, especially for a bulk rare format like EDH. For $200 I could basically build an entire new deck, and a good one. I don’t think this is uncommon for EDH players, especially those who don’t come across as many copies of cards as I do, aren’t able to pay buylist prices as often as I am and aren’t cash money dolla billionaires like me. If you have a life outside of Magic like I don’t, you may just not even consider certain cards because while they’re great, they’re probably not necessary.

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I think this is important because I think it means people can treat cards like Gaea’s Cradle like Dre and forget about them. When you neglect a card for so long that you forget about it, you’re unlikely to remember to include it in the lists you draft, even if you never intend to build those decks. Those cards end up underrepresented on sites like EDHREC and Tappedout and suddenly you have an underestimation of the demand of a card. I think there are cards that are in higher demand than some of our metrics indicate and that this could lead to them recovering faster from reprints. I think that’s worth knowing.

Some of these will be predicated on me guessing that they’re in Modern Masters 2017, but I feel like I have pretty strong justification for thinking this and I’ll support my conclusions. I also realize this is a lot of writing with no pictures, so I am going to type “hidden demand” into google and see what comes up.

Fascinating.

So before I launch into which cards I think have demand that is understated and which could recover faster than other cards, let’s look at a few cards haven’t been spoiled but which I think will be in the set.

Adam Prosak wrote a sweet article where he talks about design (and also spoils Damnation, which was all appreciated) and there is a relevant section that got me thinking a lot about what I expect to be in the set.

We have seen some of those archetypes shape up. Blink got Restoration Angel, Deadey Navigator and Snapcater Mage so far, Control has gotten Damnation, Temporal Mastery and Inquisition of Kozilek and both got Venser. Similarly the Populate decks have Seance and Thragtusk, the token decks have Goblin Assault and I think there is a creature that could go in either one of those decks. Based on them wanting a ton of small tokens and a way to make them bigger, I’m predicting the following.

Hoofy is a big card that wins games, but with that hefty pricetag, it’s tough for players to justify jamming him. Honestly, this is a contributing factor to the price of a card like Triumph of the Hordes. Wizards has also tried to give us cards like Decimator of the Provinces which is a poor facsimile for the Behoimoth but which will do in a pinch. Players jamming cheaper alternatives to the best card for the slot will cast aside their budget beaters once Craterhoof becomes affordable. There are players basically playing placeholders for this card without even knowing it. And if a player who didn’t have the money to break off to take themselves to hoof town can suddenly afford it, they might just jam both. The point is, the numbers for this card in terms of recent inclusion in decks belie the high price and I think that indicates pent-up demand.

Tarmogoyf is a bad example of a card to use as an example of what happens to prices from a Modern Masters set when there is a lot of demand because dealers manipulated what happened with Goyf by being able to buy a significant percentage of the Goyfs opened in Modern Masters total by being at GP Las Vegas twice when there was a huge Modern Masters event (something that’s not happening this year). I don’t see Goyf being in the set but Goyf did show us that pent-up demand can sometimes overwhelm supply. We saw the same thing with cards that weren’t bought quite as aggressively as was Goyf, and those graphic trends will likely be repeated with cards like Craterhoof.

Archmage (transiently, but still) actually exceeded its original price after its Modern Masters printing. I don’t expect that will happen with Craterhoof, necessarily, but I think it’s good to demonstrate that cards with a lot of demand (Archmage’s came from Modern) can rebound prices more than we’d expect.

An important caveat

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By all accounts, dealers are getting WAY MORE of this product than they did of Modern Masters 1 or 2. Is this in part to the fact that they’ve foolishly opted not to have a big, kickass Modern Masters tourney at GP Vegas which is a few months away? Possibly. But given how many stores there are and how many boxes they’re able to order, I’m willing to be that we’re seeing a huge growth in the print allotment due to the tentative Modern Masters printing and the slightly braver Modern Masters 2 printing not pulling a Chronicles with the game.  Either way, there are likely to be more packs of this set opened at your LGS. Recovery of cards, especially non-mythics will be tougher than before. We’re unlikely to see prices go up after this printing the way they did in the past. On the other side of the coin, it’s unlikely it will be as difficult for rares to recover from a printing in this set than, say, a set like Khans of Tarkir.

There are other cards in the set that I expect have some understated demand, and if they dip a lot, like I expect them to, I expect you’ll be competing for cheap copies with a lot of players who were excited to be able to get them cheap enough to play with.

Damnation has to have been the #1 card requested by the EDH community, which is sort of funny to me. I’d much, much rather have cheap copies of Phyrexian Altar, a card that really needed a Commander 2015 printing and didn’t get it. However, EDH players have been clamoring for this card forever. It’s just not reasonable to pay $70+ for a $5 card that happens to be a different mana color. Damnation is a card that EDH players are happy to jam in their decks in a world where price is no object but it’s so expensive money-wise that they’re going with alternatives that are expensive mana-wise. While it’s obvious that Toxic Deluge can mostly get the job done and Decree of Pain is much better, people just want to pay 4 and wipe the board. Competitive players tend to gravitate to lower-mana-cost spells as well because their games are usually tighter. This is good news because if casual players buy the copies under $30, competitive players are more likely than casual players to continue to buy copies at a higher price, ensuring the recovery goes more smoothly than people are imagining. Make no mistake, the floor is going to drop out from under this card. However, I think people are counting on it not to recover, and I’m not so sure that’s the case. Don’t count this card out because there’s hidden demand that is going to make itself known very soon.

I’m not speculating here, we know this card is in the set, but we are speculating about the percent of the demand that is from EDH and the percent that was predicated on it doing well in one deck that no one plays anymore in Modern one time. Its inclusion numbers on EDHREC look very healthy and it’s a component of a lot of devastating cheaty decks like Roon and Brago as well as some of the spikier decks like the new Teferi Chain Veil shenanigans. However, when it spiked as much as it did, and not predicated on its EDH demand at all, price memory kept the price high and it priced a lot of EDH players out of the market. There are plenty of people who would play this card if it were cheaper who are staying away. Cheaper copies would encourage them to buy in. I also think this card is being propped up by scarcity more than people are aware so we may see these two effects – artificial high from a Modern-based buyout and price memory combining with some unexpected demand from players who can’t justify playing $20 for a Remanderang with feet. This card is a little healthier than we might think.

I think as more and more cards are spoiled, we should keep an eye on cards that were very expensive and are about to not be. In particular, cards that are from the pre-mythic era that aren’t getting a rarity shift to mythic. I think there’s more value in determining which cards we want to target at their price floor. For example, I expect Voice of Resurgence to be in the set but I’m not as excited about buying those at their price floor as I would Craterhoof. I’ve made a lot of money on Craterhoof, twice and if I can do it again, I’ll be living the dream. We’ll have some more to discuss next week as reprintings make entire decks buildable that might not have been buildable before and we’ll have a lot more targets to discuss. Until next time!

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Emergence

Some cards are late bloomers and that’s fine. With Modern Masters spoilers about to start I am still trying to glean anything I can from Commander 2016. I know, right? SO last year. Still, there’s gold in them thar hills and while all of the big, obvious nuggets have been dug out by the prospectors, there’s still a lot of dust to be panned out of the river. If that sounds too time consuming, don’t worry, because in the midst of panning, I noticed a trend that is akin to finding… like a map? To a new gold mine no one noticed? No, that’s not quite right. Maybe I was panning and discovered a new vein? Look, people weren’t playing Tymna the Weaver as much before but they are playing it a lot now and somehow that fits into the whole gold rush metaphor I was making before. There’s an apt comparison in there somewhere but I’ll be damned if I’m going prospecting for it. I’d rather talk about all the money we’re about to make.

Blink and you’ll miss the amount Tymna was built this month. Occupying the last spot of decks built this month, and only because of one strong week, Tymna wasn’t even on the list a few weeks ago. This means all of the hype is recent, many weeks after the precon containing Tymna came out.

While Tymna was buried underneath old commanders like Animar and Brago for monthly totals, Tymna is right up there with the new commanders for the week in sixth place (Breya and Atraxa aren’t pictured but the go without saying) and Tymna is starting to get built as much as the very popular Yidris. What does Tymna have to offer that can compare to sexy, new decks like Vial Smasher and Yidris? How did Tymna manage to eclipse Kydele this week? It’s true that EDHREC skews casual a bit, but it’s been a very good model and we’ve made a lot of money using it to predict things.

Late surges like this are usually predicated on some sort of event, but Aether Revolt doesn’t hold many clues. The new cards section for Tymna brings up more questions than it answers but it does have a few breadcrumbs to follow, which is better than nothing.

One of them isn’t in Tymna’s color identity which means a lot of the new decks are being built with either Iqra Shiddiqi or Reyhan or Kydele or Thraisos as the partner, otherwise a green card wouldn’t show up, although it’s only in 15% of the decks (1 in 7) so it’s not clear that there is much of a consensus here. Felidar Guardian doesn’t really seem to synergize with Tymna all that well. If you’re up to it, using advanced filters you can see which decks are running these two cards (Tymna and Guardian) and see what other cards they run to see how, if at all, they synergize (it likely has something to do with the commander partnered with Tymna) but only 1 in 8 new Tymna decks are jamming Guardian. Both of these cards seem to be trying to squeeze value out of cards like Eternal Witness and both seem to play nice with Ravos.

I ran the report, which you can view here and got a lot of blue cards but also some combo cards like Boomweaver Giant, Pattern of Rebirth and Saffi. This lets me know that since a large percentage of the decks running Tymna and Guardian are built very differently than the typical decks you get when you search for just Tymna, you might feel forced to conclude the surge is predicated on a new way to build the deck. However, realistically, even though Boomweaver and Saffi and Pattern have a 60% adoption rate, we’re basically talking about 5 decks and 3 people building a certain way just isn’t enough data to establish a trend. I’ll keep an eye out for this new way to build Tymna (or people wedging Tymna in Karador, which is kind of what this looks like) but for now, let’s look at the real nuts and bolts cards that have a high correlation with Tymna as a commander.

One brief post script before we close this chapter – the report I generated for Tymna plus Renegade Rallier is available at this link and also looks like Karador fare. If you’ve never used the advanced filters, all I did was click “Advanced filters” and type in the name of the card I wanted cross-referenced with Tymna (I did this from Tymna’s page – that is important to note).

This has gone up a buck since I last mentioned it and what’s more, the buy price is starting to move. This managed to avoid being flashy enough back in the day to end up on the Reserved List but it’s still an old card that has a very unique and powerful effect and is part of a few combos. If this card suddenly went to $10, no one would be all that surprised. I think with a push, this could be a $10 card and you’ll end up glad you had a bunch. I think you try and get these out of binders and if anyone will sell them to you for the buylist price of $3.50ish, you jump at it. This is a staple in Saffi and Karador decks and as we mentioned above these decks, Saffi especially, just got Renegade Rallier. I think this card is going to get a lot more attention soon.

History shows that there was a good time to pick this up and if we didn’t, we’re overpaying, now. I feel like I’ve talked about this card before and probably will again. This is a creature that can be a sac outlet, tutor, body and even your commander all in one card. That’s potent. You’re overpaying a little for a Diabolic Tutor but being able to repeatably cast it from the command zone more than offsets that if you want this as your commander. This is also easier to loop than most tutors since it’s a creature. I like this less than I like it under 2 bucks but if you didn’t buy a ton, get on board now. With a sub-4x multiplier, I don’t hate foils, either. I packed one at the prerelease and couldn’t bring myself to sell it. What have I become? I play Magic with Magic cards. I know, I’m doing it wrong. Let’s move on.

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This rotated out of Standard in September 2016 and didn’t really tank like I thought it might. It’s climbed since then meaning we really missed the boat on this card. Standard never really took advantage of this meaning EDH was free to dictate its price, and in a world where Venser’s Journal was surprisingly expensive, it’s no surprise that this card that does a bunch of EDH stuff is going up. I don’t think this is ever coming down, the name on it (Alhammarret) means this doesn’t get printed in a regular set but is relegated to supplementary product. Low reprint risk, high upside and a powerful effect is a nice cocktail. This card has only just begun to climb and now’s as good a time as any to buy in.

Hear me out.

This is in what could be a dead cat bounce or it could be people realizing that a card banned in Modern is not very likely to get reprinted and we could be at peak supply. A card with this many useful modes, a relevant trial affiliation (2 of them) play in Legacy and with EDH applicability shouldn’t be $3. There is a very small spread on this card meaning dealers aren’t as wary as you might think. Oh, and if this gets unbanned in Modern (it won’t, ever, but if it does) you’ll look like a genius. This is paired with Tymna a lot by virtue of people seeming to pair it a lot with green (I think Ikra Shidiqi is a good pair since it helps you gain even more life) but I also think Kydele is a decent pairing with a card that draws you three cards, though you have a very small window to use the mana. (The Kydele and Tymna report isn’t all that exciting, it turns out.)

Shaman is basically just a good card that is going to go up in price barring a lot of things that seem unlikely and which goes up a LOT if something equally unlikely happens. I like those odds, frankly. The scenario where you win huge is equal to the scenario where you lose a little and you’re almost guaranteed to gain a bit. Plus, it’s always good to have these in binders. The Eternal Masters printing hurt and seems really odd in retrospect but this card should recover. It’s Deathrite Shaman.

So this has been lowkey creeping up in price since it was released. It’s in the Saskia deck which has a lot of big, durdle cards that likely don’t recover in price from their reprinting, forcing this to soak up some of the value of the deck. It isn’t an ideal time to buy in, now, but this is very good in a deck where you draw cards based on your ability to deal them combat damage, meaning you have to serve with stuff. I like cards like Ohran Viper with this, making them just let you hit them and letting you draw lots of cards. A few of these cards we seem to have missed the best buying opportunity on, but it’s better to buy late than never and recognizing trends is a lot of what we do.

This seems to be recovering from its latest (though unfortunately, probably not its last) reprinting. You gain some life with Tymna decks, so why not ping them with life loss since you’re gong to lose life paying it to draw cards? Why not weaponize your lifelink? Why not run both halves of this stupid “I’m so smrt at Majic” combo?

Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to check the same things regularly. I checked the price of Stonehoof Chieftain early but not often. That resulted in me having to pay more, now. If I hadn’t checked the trends on most played commanders often, we might have missed Tymna coming into the spotlight and slept on a bunch of decent opportunities. Check and recheck everything you can think of. It’s sometimes tough to stay on top of these trends, especially with some algorithms that can check for you. The problem is I feel like they don’t warn you until it’s too late and there is no substitute for doing a little legwork yourself.

While you’re at it, play around with the advanced filters on EDHREC a little bit. You can get a lot of information about how certain builds are constructed, and even if those specific builds are only 20% of Tymna decks, a card played in all of them is in 20% of Tymna decks but is also in 100% of the decks that the people who build that way care about. Any interest on an older card like Pattern of Rebirth gives it the nudge it needs to get going for real.

That does it for me next week. I’m sure we’ll have some Modern Masters 2017 cards to discuss in the mean time, so stay tuned. Until next time!

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The 10 Most Expensive EDH Staples

I would apologize for the clickbait title but it clearly worked, didn’t it? You clicked after all and now you’re reading the article. Besides, is there any clickbait title that can rival the irresistability of the phrase “Written by Jason Alt”? I maintain that, no, there is not. The reason for the title and for the departure from my typical format is that I was pitched this idea from management and I liked it enough to write it. I don’t know if we’re going to uncover any hidden gems here, but I do feel like there is value in looking at an albeit subjective list of must-have EDH cards that are getting up there in price (or which are already there, in a few cases).

To determine what I feel are considered “must-have” cards, I’m using a combination of EDHREC analytics and personal experience. I’m trying to make this as objective as possible but there maybe choices you don’t agree with or which you feel have been omitted in error. Feel free to make the case for your picks in the comments.

Some interesting things happened when I tried two different approaches and tried to reconcile them. The first thing I did was search for all of the most expensive cards that see EDH play at all and look at the number of decks they were played in (per EDHREC). EDHREC isn’t a perfect model for adoption but I use it because it’s as good a model as we have, it’s comprehensive and it’s a collection of lists from people who are registering both decks they have and decks they’d like to have. It seems like there would be danger in using a model like that because anyone can just register a $4,000 deck they’ll never afford and never build on TappedOut like a lunatic and if enough people do that, it will throw off the model. However, it’s not like those cards are expensive because a lot of people are pretending they’re in decks they’re not in – the cards are expensive because they’re old, rare and/or people are buying them and playing with them. You might expect the “money is no object!” fake deck crowd to juice the stats on expensive Legends, Arabian Nights and Antiquities cards but the opposite is happening. Players who can’t afford to drop $150 on a Forcefield don’t even seem to be aware it exists, or at least they aren’t making a decklist that EDHREC scrapes that claims they run Forcefield – its $150 price tag might make it a good candidate for this article but it’s in fewer than 250 decks.

Going the other way and looking at cards that were in a ton of decks yielded equally disappointing but less surprising results. Obviously we’re not paying Mana Drain money for Sol Ring because it’s been printed more times than basic Mountain at this point. The trick is finding cards that tick both boxes – they’re expensive but they also get played in a decent number of decks.

First, a few notable cards excluded from the list.

At a whopping 17,563 inclusions, this was included in a ton of decks. However, it was excluded because while it was the most expensive card in more than 10,000 decks, it pales in comparison price-wise to the other cards in the list. It’s surely a must-play card but it’s hardly the most expensive and thus didn’t make the cut.

This is a card with a lot of potential and with no reprint last year when it would have done a lot of good, the card surged, gaining 50% of its value in a year. This isn’t in enough decks to crack the list, but it’s in quite a few and it’s going to be expensive enough to be a contender, soon. I really liked this as a pickup around $20 when it wasn’t reprinted in Commander 2015 but I think there is still money to be made here, given their apparent reluctance to give this a reprint. This didn’t make the list but bore mentioning.

Included in about 20,000 decks, this is the definition of “must-play” but with so many cards worth much more in the $100+ range, I had to cut cards worth less than $40. If I balanced the list to favor inclusion rather than price, this likely would have made the cut.

Without further equivocation, here is the list.

#10 – Mana Drain

At 2,873 inclusions, this is the lowest-played card on the list and basically established the cut-off for “must-play” cards. If you look at inclusion, you have cards like Sol Ring in 88,000 decks and see a big drop-off right after with cards like Demonic Tutor, Counterspell, Brainstorm, Rhystic Study, Sylvan Library, Swords to Plowshares and Solemn Simulacrum all hovering between 40,000 and 10,000 inclusions. After that there is an even bigger drop-off and if you insist the cards in this list be worth at least $20, you have to include some cards that aren’t in quite as many decks. I think the amount Mana Drain gets played is adequate for our purposes and the price justifies its inclusion, here.

#9 Wheel of Fortune

at 4,581 inclusions, and likely growing the more people build Nekusar and Yidris decks, this is an old card with a lot of printings but a lot of demand that has soaked up all of the copies under $50 in most places. Wheel effects are strong and this is the alpha wheel, the one that got us all started.  This is a Reserved List card with a lot of applications and it’s only going to get less and less affordable as more people play EDH and build decks.

#8 Survival of the Fittest

At 3,635 inclusions, this card is no slouch and has a lot of utility in a lot of decks. Legacy gave this price a lot of help and its Reserved List status helped keep the price high as well as its applicability in EDH. A Legacy unbanning would do ridiculous things to this price, but it’s pretty good right where it is, frankly. This card is going to hold its value quite well and is a mainstay in toolbox decks.

#7 Grim Monolith

In 3,719 decks and counting, this is an allstar in decks that are greedy and want artifact mana early and don’t care about the consequences later. This is a mana rock that doesn’t deal you any damage (not that we care that much about a point or two of pain in a 40 life format, making Mana Vault much better) and while older formats give the price a boost, EDH still loves to use this card and it shows.

#6 Cavern of Souls

7,984 people jam this tribal favorite in EDH and that has helped the price ascend. If we’re very lucky, we’ll see a Modern Masters 2017 reprinting of this card to get a few more copies into the sweaty mitts of a few more tribal players (Legacy players can fend for themselves). This card might even get jammed more if it were more affordable. I still remember being laughed at for buying these at retail when Avacyn Restored came out because I thought Legacy and EDH could push them to $50. In general, if you bet on tribal cards, you get the last laugh often.

#5 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

At 4,967 copies, this exceeded my expectations for how much play it would see in EDH. People love the idea of having a card like this in play and straight decking someone out of the game or just smoothing out every draw with the option of bouncing a troublesome creature. Even the Brainstorm function is useful, putting lots of counters on Lorescale Coatl or making Thought Reflection really good. Jace is this expensive with a Modern banning, so imagine what an unbanning could do to his price. The result is likely that it prices Jace out of a lot of EDH decks, which would be too bad.

#4 – Force of Will

There sure are a lot of blue cards on this list. 4,696 players agree with the assessment that blue is one of the best or the best color in EDH by jamming this clunky, 5 mana spell that is card disadvantage. At least the art is cool, I guess. In all seriousness, some decks can’t sit back and watch their opponent play a turn 3 Kozilek and they have to have something to say about it because that’s what blue players do. This card is one of the most iconic Magic cards ever and it’s not going to go away. Be prepared to be blown out by this card that, despite its high price, is still an EDH windmill auto-include for a lot of people.

#3 Mana Crypt

I can’t say I consider this card 100% necessary, but 8,896 deck builders disagree, opting to jam this in their list. And why not? This is better than Sol Ring on turn 1 and competitive players are all about good turn 1 plays and they’re also fine spending the money to win. You can’t say they aren’t real EDH players and if they’re voting with their wallets to play with this card, we should pay attention. Eternal Masters and Masterpieces  got more copies in more players’ hands and that is a good thing. If we see this printed some more, I think the price can withstand the extra supply because the demand is quite high. There’s a reason this was so close to the top spot.

#2 Doubling Season

This used to be a bulk rare, as hard as that is to believe. EDH is the bulk rare format and the only problem with that is that players don’t tend to let things stay a bulk rare if they really want them. This is perhaps the card that best encapsulates what EDH is all about. It’s expensive, powerful, a good build-around and it was a stupid green bulk rare before this format came along. Casual players took notice before EDH was even official and the price began to creep up. This shook off a Modern Masters reprinting and really got nutty when Atraxa came along and captured the imagination of every EDH player on earth, though I’d argue if you build Atraxa you probably didn’t have much of one to begin with. This is good in nearly every deck that runs green because it’s bound to help you do something you’re doing twice as well. This card IS EDH as far as I’m concerned.

#1 Gaea’s Cradle

I was hesitant to rank the cards but even when I didn’t want to, I knew I wanted this card to be #1. This is pure EDH – rewarding you for filling up the board. While this is useful in Legacy to the extent that its largest price increase was predicated on the Legend rule change (and justified cum eo by its Reserved List status) this is still an EDH staple and gets jammed in lots of decks that go wide. It creates a feedback loop with cards that let you pay mana to put out creature tokens and casual players and competitive players alike have sworn by this card for over a decade.

I’m looking forward to all the comments on reddit saying “This lst iz trash he didnt even enclude ne white cardz this site sucks anywayz” and some more constructive comments in the comments section below. I really wrestled with these rankings and even with the 10 cards I included. How do you really objectively decide something like that? Do you weight it in favor or how expensive they are or how much they’re played? Is it fair to leave off cards in 10 times as many decks as some on this list just because they’re under $20? It’s hard to know. I’m happy with how this turned out and I got a few surprises looking through all of the data. I hope you found this valuable and if not, I’ll be back to my old tricks next week. We might even have some Modern Masters spoilers to look at. Until next time!

 

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Untap Tribal

Tap abilities are pretty common on cards. A gatherer search for cards with tap abilities annoys the actual bejesus out of gatherer and it sends you a bunch of viruses instead of your search results because go $^%& yourself trying to search for every card with a tap ability, you nerd. There are 16,505 unique Magic cards and probably a third of them are permanents with tap abilities. That seems high. Even if it’s a fifth, that’s still 3,300 cards with tap abilities and searching through all of them would be super annoying. Why are we even bothering to think about doing that, anyway?

Well, Wizards went and printed a card that makes you take a second look at cards that tap because it untaps them. It untaps them well, and it untaps them often. What’s that? Do I mean Prophet of Kruphix? No, suckers. I mean a card that untaps all of your non-land cards way more often. Try every time you play a spell.  You all know the card I mean. A few weeks I said I didn’t think it was bannable but now I’m not so sure. Have you played with this card? You know the one I mean.

This sucker.

I didn’t think Standard would be as keen on this card as they were Panharmonicon and I think I may have underestimated how much Standard seems to love jamming seemingly EDH cards. You may have to wait longer than we’d anticipated for these to get cheaper (they almost assuredly will and they will almost assuredly go back up, also) but that’s OK because speculating on the price of Paradox Engine isn’t really what we do here. I’m way more interested in what it’s going to do to the price of other cards and I think I have a few excellent candidates.

While Prophet of Kruphix annoyed people by letting us take every turn by virtue of untapping our mana and letting us play spells as though they had flash, Engine doesn’t aim to stick around, necessarily. Prophet was a card you played, fought over and hoped to stick so you could get a small advantage on their turns. Engine plays a lot differently. You almost never play it until you’re ready to go off and when you do, you win on the spot, usually. If you don’t, you aim to cripple their resources so badly that they never recover. There are a lot of ways to win with Paradox Engine, and they’re all going to get a boost if Engine isn’t banned.

I don’t see this as super reprintable for whatever reason. I feel like we discussed this before Commander 2016 and it didn’t get reprinted in C16 so we have AT LEAST another year on this. I am bullish on this going without reprint for quite a while and if it does, it’s going to continue going up a few bucks a year, possibly at an accelerating rate. This card wins the game with infinite mana, something that we can easily achieve with Kydele. Did we discuss this when Kydele was spoiled? Well, I still like it at its current price. Let’s move on to some less obvious cards in the same vein, possibly ones that don’t require infinite mana.

Do you remember why this hit $30? I consider myself a pretty decent MTG Finance historian but for the life of me I can’t remember what happened here. That goofy spike makes it pretty tough to see what’s up lately.

That is clearer, but it’s also a little disappointing. Whatever made the card spike, it’s clearly done happening. The card is going lower and lower as dealers left holding the bag try to sell out. The good news is that Paradox Engine lets you steal everyone at the table’s lands which is hilarious. Druid decks aren’t that bad considering a lot of good elves are both elves and druids, meaning you can basically be an elf deck that randomly takes all of their lands. You’re mana ramping a ton with all of your elf druid mana dorks and you can generate a lot of mana, meaning you will be able to play spell after spell. With all of their lands under your control, you can either sac them or use them for mana – it’s up to you. The important thing is that supply of this card is beginning to wiggle and after the wiggle comes the waggle and after that comes the “When did this become $7?” which is where this could easily go.

Remember, this is a second spike on a card that people convinced themselves they could buy at $15 and still profit. When a card spikes this profoundly, lots of people notice and lots of people noticing means lots of people root the loose copies out of their hiding places. They cruise by a ton of LGSs and find them in binders and boxes and flip them to a buylist for $8 or whatever which is fine since they paid $2 each. Dealers who paid $8 each gradually lower the price when they can’t even out them at retail for a profit. If this card does get renewed interest off of Paradox Engine toomfoolery, a second spike will be harder and faster and you’ll have less time to react. I recommend being proactive, here. I think this could end up being a real mover based on Engine decks and elves being nutty in general. There is another factor to the rise of mono green, if you ask me.

This is giving a lot of decks that were a little inconsistent a second look because this smooths a lot of draws out and gets you a lot of extra cards. If you’re dumping your hand and untapping all of your mana dorks, this keeps the party going. This pairs very nicely with Paradox Engine and I think this is one of the best ways to spend $1 right now. I want roughly 1,000 of these so I can throw them at buylists when this is suddenly $6 in a year or two because of how stupid it is. I don’t know how likely a reprint is, so this seems like a great card to trade for. I’m not inclined to pay cash, yet, but I feel like if you can out a Standard card  that’s like $4 and bound to go down for a set of these, these can retain value better and if they really go up quickly, you quadruple your gains because you have four times the exposure to upside.  I’m sure I recommend this course of action a lot. There’s a reason for it. It makes money. Bestiary is a good card in its own right, but with green having the most mana dorks, I feel like it also has the best Paradox Engine synergy. Other colors surely do, also, but this has the best if you ask me. It’s good since other colors get buyback spells and all green has is Wurmcalling.

Speaking of which, here’s another potential second spike.  Buyback spells are very good with Engine and this is probably the best of them. It’s something non-green. If I am recommending other colors, blue has a $12 DCI foil Capsize and a $6 foil Timeshifted Whispers of the Muse to pair with Paradox Engine. White has… Evangelize? Also, like no mana dorks, so good luck going off with Evangelize and, like, Marble Diamond. I built a Kydele and Thraisos deck with Paradox Engine and Capsize is the dirtiest way to go off, ever. If they can’t stop you, you bounce them back to the stone age. Whispers lets you draw your whole deck and win with Laboratory Maniac. It’s kind of boring in how consistent it is.

With Paradox Engine, it basically doesn’t matter what you put on this, you can go off with 2 colorless from non-land sources and Engine. Lightning Bolt, Brainstorm; even Healing Salve is a winner when you combo like that. I prefer to kill them, but even if you’re just playing a spell for the untap trigger you can go off with Aetherflux Reservoir. Scepter is a must-have in Engine decks. I even run Dramatic Reversal (a steal at $1 for foils considering how much competitive EDH players love this combo) in case I need to go off without Paradox Engine.

Scepter was in the Izzet v. Golgari decks that were popped aggressively for a minute to get out the sweet, sweet Golgari Grave-Troll. With its banning, the EV of the decks either drops a lot or the value gets shifted to other cards. There is a Scetper, a Life from the Loam, a few signets, a Brainstorm, a Putrefy – even a Sadistic Hypnotist which as enjoyed a resurgence after people realized it was nuts with Nath. With Grave-Troll’s banning, Scepter could see a bit of a price raise as there is less impetus to pop the decks and free up loose copies and with Modern shenanigans conspiring with The Gitrog Monster to make Life From the Loam expensive again, Scepter could see some upshot despite its many printings. I like Scepter paired with Engine a lot.

OK, so two things here. First of all, wow, a common (meaning in multiple decks) from Commander 2015 got up to $3. Secondly, wow, this is so reprintable it makes my teeth itch. This just seems like a teetering house of cards of a price, but it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. I don’t think Commander Anthology is going to free up that many copies of anything (who’s paying that much money to bust it for singles and sell them off?) so this probably has a while to grow. This isn’t THAT good with Engine since it only taps for 1 mana, but it does untap every iteration (unlike lands) and it lets you draw very aggressively and keep a fat mitt full of goods. I like this card a lot but even I didn’t anticipate this doubling in a year. Good for it. Dealers finally seem on-board with the price – it spiked to $3 before and came back down and the buy price didn’t even move. Well, it’s moving now. This card is the real deal. I hate how badly a reprinting would blow it out and I’m loathe to pay $3 for something that will get super cheap if it’s in Commander 2017, but this is a card, that’s for sure.

This is what a Commander 2014 followed by a Commander 2016 printing looks like, graphically. I anticipate a similar shape of a Commander 2015 and subsequent Commander 2017 printing on Vessel.

Look at this tank. This keeps shrugging reprints off. I love this card and it taps for SO MUCH mana. It’s just as good as Gilded Lotus in my limited experience going off with Paradox Engine in a 2-color deck (which you wouldn’t think, but it’s true. You need very little colored mana to keep going and ultimately win) and with it being cheaper to buy and cheaper to play, I think this could have some real upside. I wish Gilded Lotus would get a reprint because I don’t like buying it at its current price. A reprinting would knock it down to a buyable level and since we all know the price would recover, make us all a lot of money. Or would it? Dynamo isn’t very impressed with reprints, is it? It dipped about $2, though, and if you bought at the cheaper price, you had some room to make money in the recovery (which isn’t over, and with Breya running around, isn’t all that likely to end soon).

This is what happens when people basically don’t really open boosters. I anticipated the price of this card would go down as more packs were opened, but basically day 1 was peak supply. People drafted this for like 2 weeks and then boxes began to rot. People bought some around $70ish which is pretty good considering the high EV and the high price of some foils – a foil Leovold pays for like half a case, for example. Foil Selvala pays for a whole $70 box. There are a lot of $20 boxes of Conspiracy, 2, I am sure, but I could see a lot of $100+ as well considering the Legacy reprints mixed with Commander goodies. What makes the price of this card go down? How likely is a reprint? Where would it happen? I think this is powerful, expensive and safe. My kind of card.

This card only gets better in a world with Paradox Engine. I realize I have a lot of mono-green in this article but that’s because green is very good at having stuff to untap with Paradox Engine.

I hope I didn’t talk about too many cards I’ve talked about before. Paradox Engine has so many implications that even cards I consider a bad buy-in at their current price (Bloom Tender, anyone?) will likely experience some upside.

Is Engine bannable? I am changing my answer from “no” to “maybe” but I still think the card can be dealt with. You have to be very careful not to play it until you go off because it will get killed on sight otherwise, meaning it won’t help make every turn good like Prophet of Kruphix did. It’s a combo piece – a powerful one, but still a combo piece. We’ll see what the committee thinks. Until then, brew with this, buy double orders on anything you want to use with it so your cards are free if they go up and watch EDHREC to see what’s popping up. If you can’t win fairly, remember to play elves and steal all of their lands. Until next week!

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