Category Archives: Jason Alt

What’s in a Deck?

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Time is a luxury we can rarely afford. When we do have such a luxury, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of it? The current undertaking for this column is to go through the five projected Commander 2016 decks and predict exactly what we expect to be printed in them so we can be ahead of those reprintings and also maybe pick out some cards we don’t expect to be printed that pair well with those cards that could have some upside. If we expect a lot of tokens in a deck, for example, we can reasonably expect Parallel Lives to be in the deck and maybe that will affect our buying behavior and depending on the degree of confidence in that reprinting we’ll think about selling. But in the same breath, we look at a card like Eldrazi Monument which was just reprinted and is very unlikely to be reprinted again but which will have some upside with tokens. We might want to sell Awakening Zone and buy From Beyond.

However, while it’s easy to guess the big rares that could get reprinted, it might be healthy to look at everything that goes into a deck to see what all we have to be ready for. Being able to predict a staple uncommon reprint or new art on a common may be just as instructive. For example, do you know how many rares and uncommons are in a Commander 2016 deck? Because I don’t! I’m serious – I am 250 words into the article where I’m going to discuss it and my plan is to look it up as I’m writing about it. You’re going to read the article once it’s finished and edited so you won’t know how foolhardily it was written and I’ll probably look by the end but I had a plan, but I want to let you all peek under the curtain and tell you, NOPE, I have no idea what’s actually in these decks. You probably don’t know, either, do you? Who cares? Value is in them. Staples. New goodies. You tear the deck open, you take out the chase rares and stuff you want to play with and put all the other chaff in a pile. The worse the deck is, the bigger the chaff pile is. I have busted open the Prossh deck a bunch and I have a pile of Hua Tuo, Honored Physician big enough to choke a baby to death. I mean, three copies could probably do that, though, so that’s pretty lame hyperbole. And my baby is at the stage where she tries to put everything in her mouth so if she comes across my stack of them, she’s probably going to do her level best to choke on them. Do you understand how dangerous precon deck chaff is? It’s a baby choking hazard and that’s about it.  In order to properly guage how dangerous one of these decks is to a new father like me, I’m going to have to actually look at what goes into one of these decks.

Wade Into Battle (The Boros One) 

Creature (30)
1 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
1 Taurean Mauler
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Magus of the Wheel
1 Desolation Giant
1 Fumiko the Lowblood
1 Hunted Dragon
1 Stoneshock Giant
1 Thundercloud Shaman
1 Warchief Giant
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Herald of the Host
1 Kalemne’s Captain
1 Anya, Merciless Angel
1 Sunrise Sovereign
1 Hammerfist Giant
1 Inferno Titan
1 Dawnbreak Reclaimer
1 Sun Titan
1 Hostility
1 Jareth, Leonine Titan
1 Victory’s Herald
1 Sandstone Oracle
1 Hamletback Goliath
1 Arbiter of Knollridge
1 Borderland Behemoth
1 Dream Pillager
1 Magma Giant
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Sorcery (5)
1 Breath of Darigaaz
1 Fiery Confluence
1 Disaster Radius
1 Earthquake
1 Meteor Blast
Instant (2)
1 Fall of the Hammer
1 Orim’s Thunder
Artifact (17)
1 Sol Ring
1 Blade of Selves
1 Boros Signet
1 Coldsteel Heart
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mind Stone
1 Thought Vessel
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Boros Cluestone
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Urza’s Incubator
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Seer’s Sundial
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Staff of Nin
Enchantment (5)
1 Curse of the Nightly Hunt
1 Banishing Light
1 Faith’s Fetters
1 Rite of the Raging Storm
1 Warstorm Surge
Land (39)
1 Ancient Amphitheater
1 Blasted Landscape
1 Boros Garrison
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Command Tower
1 Drifting Meadow
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Smoldering Crater
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
14 Mountain
11 Plains
Tribal instant (1)
1 Crib Swap

That looks pretty intimidating, so let’s look at just the rares first.

Taurean Mauler
Magus of the Wheel
Desolation Giant
Fumiko the Lowblood
Hunted Dragon
Kalemne’s Captain
Anya, Merciless Angel (Mythic)
Sunrise Sovereign
Hammerfist Giant
Inferno Titan (Mythic)
Dawnbreak Reclaimer
Sun Titan (Mythic)
Hostility
Jareth, Leonin Titan
Victory’s Herald
Hamletback Goliath
Arbiter of Knollridge
Borderland Behemoth
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Dream Pillager
Magma Giant
Angel of Serenity (Mythic)
Fiery Confluence
Disaster Radius
Earthquake
Blade of Selves
Loxodon Warhammer
Urza’s Incubator
Seer’s Sundial
Staff of Nin
Warstorm Surge
Ancient Amphitheater

The whole deck is $60 if you add up the values of the cards, and it’s largely carried by the $9 Blade of Selves which basically wasn’t a consideration when they built the decklist to be around $40 in cards adjusted for how they expected the reprintings to shrink values. They were guessing, but they didn’t do too badly. Incubator shrunk to $5, Gisela to $4.50 and Inferno Titan and Sun Titan were crushed, hitting $1 and $2 respectively.  Here’s another surprise –

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This card is poised for a price jump and I think we have Nekusar to blame. See that buylist price? That’s about to mess stuff up in a big way. Looking forward to it.

OK, so we have 100 cards and of those 100, 28 are rare and 5 are mythic. That’s a lot of rares to try and get to add up to a reasonable number. Even though they expect prices to fall, they don’t want the cards in the deck to be like $100 or there will be a run on that particular deck. They have to try and balance things so they get a price aroundish MSRP for the deck, although Commander 2015 decks are all between $50 and $60 total, owing to some solid $10ish new cards like Command Beacon and Blade of Selves. I’d say Commander 2015 did exactly what they wanted, and since they did it 5/5 times, I’d predict they can expect the same level of success for Commander 2016.

That means if we look at a hypothetical UW fliers deck and assume they print a $10ish new card like Blade of Selves and a $5ish one like Magus of the Wheel (And not Fiery Confluence like a lot of people expected) we’re looking at about $30ish +/- $5ish (I feel like I’m one ish away from looking like I have no idea what I’m talking about) in value, predicated on cards losing some value from the reprinting. While we’re looking at prices, what did the reprintings do to the values of some key cards in this deck?

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a $14 card became a $6 card

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Twice.

Other interesting things happened

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Cards whose prices were stable after multiple reprintings mostly shrugged off the effect of the Commander 2015 printing. Sun Titan only fell off about $1 and some places haven’t even bothered to update their inventory to reflect the lower price on older versions because they’ll eventually sell. We saw this with multiple cards with multiple printings.

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Cards that have been printed a lot, and not always in Commander sealed product, shrug off reprints a little better and their prices are a little easier to predict.

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However, the reprintings may have been too much for cards under $2 that may have seen this mass printing as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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Relative adoption is obviously a factor – way more people play Lightning Greaves in EDH than play Seer’s Sundial, but that discrepency contributes as much to the higher place in the first place as it does the increased supply being too much for the demand to soak up. I think figuring out “tiers” of cards is fine since these factors seem to account for each other.

There aren’t too many EDH cards with multiple reprintings that are over $10, so we can expect a few things provided they don’t decide to print one of those cards. If they do, we should be able to predict that based on seeing a few cards from the decks or even doing our “What does the wiki say these colors do?” analysis like we did with Azorius last week. For now, I’m going to talk about a few general things to expect.

  • $15ish cards with a single printing that aren’t mythic are getting cut in half. This didn’t happen with Wurmcoil in Commander 2014 but we saw it across the board in Commander 2015.  There are a ton of examples – Black Market, Gisela, Eldrazi Monument – the only deck without a good example is the Izzet one and that has practically only one valuable card anyway and it’s new.
  • $5ish – $10ish cards with multiple printings are that price for a reason. The new supply didn’t pants the price completely because people just used the copies in decks right away rather than flooding the market. There are a lot of examples of this, as well. Lightning Graves, Phyrexian Arena, Solemn Simulacrum, Eternal Witness. If an uncommon is worth more than most of the rares in the deck, don’t expect the reprinting to pull the price down much.
  • Anything that starts under $3 or so is most likely going to end up around $1. A few exceptions to this were the Titans but those, despite their many printings, were printed at mythic and are very popular cards. Most cards in the lower tier, even at the top end, took hits, even really solid cards like Prime Speaker Zegana. Expect most of the rares and even mythics to end up here even if they don’t start out there.
  • New printings of popular commanders can hold a lot more value than people thought. $4.50 for Karlov and $7.50 for Meren probably surprises a lot of people. Maybe it shouldn’t. While a good commander printed in a set like Shadows over Innistrad isn’t expected to do much in non-foil, the only way to get Meren is to buy the precon for $40 or deal with someone who did. Also, not being available in foil at all means the precon version is the “best” version unless a judge foil comes later.

Wizards seems to have dialed in how to make cards for these decks that end up between $7.50 and $10. They don’t make a ton of bulk rares out of the brand new cards they print and every deck seems to have at least one new card that is in this range. There are 2 in the Golgari deck, but that is not that big a deal. They aren’t making True-Name Nemesis anymore and that’s a very good thing for players. The decks are very balanced price-wise this time around and that’s going to be good for players because they can buy the deck that fits their play style without worrying about speculators buying every copy of the deck like we did with Mind Seize. Everyone is a speculator when the value is that obvious. Barring that this next time around, if we do get some sort of fliers deck, can we try and guess specific cards based on three tiers of prices rather than just the one tier like we tried to do a year ago (trying to find that set’s “Wurmcoil Engine”)?

The amount of times they’ve reprinted cards like Solemn Simulacrum makes me think that cards we considered unreprintable before may not be the sacred cows we once thought. If we do get a fliers theme and a flicker subtheme like I’m not even super convinced we will (although birds sounds a bit boring) I think we  can take a whack at some of the cards.

Mythics

New $10 mythic commander
New $1 mythic commander
Reprint $1 mythic commander (Brago? Lavinia? Some bird guy?)
Frost Titan ($1 -> bulk)
Sphinx’s Revelation at mythic? ($7 -> $4ish)

Rares or Expensive Uncommons

Aven Mimeomancer (bulk)
Emeria Angel ($2 ->$1)
Aven Mindcenser ($12-> $8ish, hopefully)
OR, probably not AND
Restoration Angel ($15 ->$8-$10ish, hopefully)
Duplicant ($9 -> $6ish)
Knight-Captain of Eos (bulk)
Gravitational Shift (bulk)
Glarecaster (bulk)
Windreader Sphinx (at rare, not mythic)
Adaptive Automaton ($5 -> $2)
Cyclonic Rift ($7 -> $4)
Stormtide Leviathan (bulk)
Archon of the Triumvirate (bulk)
Reveillark ($7 ->$4ish)
Azor’s Elocutors (bulk)
Peregrine Drake ($4 -> $2, up to $3.50 in a year)

You get the idea. Most of those cards mesh well with whatever strategy ends up being employed and they won’t upset too many things in terms of prices. It’s interesting to try and pick out how you would construct an entire deck worth of rares and saucy uncommons (I gave up and didn’t do all 28 rares, but I put the important ones) rather than just try and guess one big mythic or rare. This way we can look at cards less likely to get reprinted and evaluate their upside. Eldrazi Displacer is pretty new to be in a flicker deck and Great Whale is on the Reserved List but those could both have some upside, for example. Predicting they might put Deadeye Navigator (I don’t think they would because people complain about it too much) is cool, but predicting Eldrazi Displacer has upside if they do is cooler. Next week I’ll take everything we came up with today into account when I look at the next color combination on the wiki. Until then!

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Azorius Basterds

I told you last week I was going to write about the cards likely to be in the Azorius deck so we could sell them if necessary or at least be thinking about cards likely to pair with them that have low reprint risks. The good thing about this is that it’s essentially a thought exercise to move the really obvious stuff. Anything subtle won’t matter as much because the prices won’t likely move that much and selling and rebuying usually isn’t all that worth it unless the price is going to move a lot. Basically what we’re doing is preparing for the decks to come out and recalibrating our expectations based on what we saw with Commander 2015 since I expect Commander 2016 to be a lot more similar to that than it will be to Commander 2014.

I was thinking “Why did I commit to write this stupid article in May when the set won’t be out until October? What was I thinking?” and I almost concocted some excuse to get out of writing it this week. Isn’t it way too early to be thinking about this stuff now? It took me about an hour of procrastinating coming up with a new topic to realize that there is no such thing as too early. We’re predicting based off of no information, remember? We don’t even have the spoiled Kalemne like we did last time to tell us that there were going to be things called “Experience Counters” and also that Boros was going to be hot garbage because Boros is always hot garbage.

Seriously, why does Boros always suck? It doesn’t even make sense flavor-wise. Gruul is the knuckle-dragging, cave-painting, feces-throwing throwback group and their slogan is “Not Gruul? Die!” but when you ask them “Hey, what do you as a clan do?” they have a good answer. “Me am so glad ask. Gruul smash monster with big club and make die. Gruul am also big mana rampy big monster time. Gruul am best clan landfall and burny face and Gruul monster am has best power and toughness to casting cost ratio for big smashy smashy. Mostest trample. Bestest haste. Most spell punish with Ruric Thar and Vexing Shusher. Not Gruul? Eat a $^%” If you ask Boros the same question, the answer is something like “We at Boros like to either attack with soldiers or put equipment on our soldiers before we attack with them. Either way, really. Sometimes we attack with angels and soldiers.” Boros sucks. “Am carry tree branch for use as wand. Am important to keep it touch with deep Gruul Shamanic tradition pass down 100 generations. Why Boros no have Shamans?”

Barring any sweet spoilers (If someone else spoils it, it’s a spoiler. If you get it early and you’re asked to be the one to reveal it, it’s called a preview. Brainstorm Brewery got to preview Fevered Visions. It was a way better preview card than most of the other spoilers) we don’t know much about Commander 2016 except what we know that the last few weeks I’ve assumed we’re getting the ally-colored decks and we’re operating under that assumption. So yeah, Gruul are the stupid cavemen of the Magic world but they’re still richer and more interesting than Boros. But let’s spend the rest of our limited time together for the week talking about Azorius because I said we would do that last week and I made a really lazy pun for a title but if I change it I’ll have to come up with another lazy pun and just because it’s lazy doesn’t always mean it’s easy. I can’t be making up all kinds of pun titles all day willy nilly. I’m sticking with the pun which means I’m sticking with the title and that means sticking with the indicated subject matter.

Who’s Your Azorius and What Does He Do?

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That’s sort of legible, right? If not, here’s the wiki page I got it from. You may recognize it from being linked by me on a weekly basis.

Azorius has fliers, things with flash and like, birds and wizards and shit. It’s pretty cool, I guess.

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Before I go into what I think is going to be in the decks, a brief aside. I’m up at like 6 AM EST, usually writing this article and that means it’s like noon or something in the Netherlands so Sander Van Der Zee is always tweeting at me while I’m writing. He mentioned that it was possible we’d see either a flicker theme or subtheme. I didn’t really think that was the case and I’ll get into why in the next paragraph. For now, though, let’s stick to what I was talking about.

You know what, no. Let’s start that next paragraph right now and address why I don’t think we’ll see too much flicker. First of all, they did it already. The Evasive Maneuvers precon featured Roon, Derevi and probably some terrible dragon (I don’t remember and I don’t care enough to google it. I spent over a minute trying to find the name “Evasive Maneuvers” because when I google “Derevi precon” the results that come up are other people calling it the Derevi precon because that’s how few shits anyone gives about the name of a precon) whose name I don’t remember because all I can remember is the name Arcades Sabboth but I know that’s not right. Arcades Sabboth was terrible. Nicol Bolas and four turds, that’s what that cycle was. Anyway, they already did a pretty heavy flicker theme there. There were great cards for it and Derevi has been terrorizing people since, although he got banned in French because he’s just that annoying and linear.

I think a subtheme is pretty unlikely because Azorius has unique attributes and it can stake a claim separate from what Bant was up to by emphasizing some of its core strengths like flying creatures and really stupid, clunky counterspells like Overrule. Some of the best creatures to flicker are green, although Brago is a fine commander in his own right. If there is a flicker theme or subtheme like Sander thinks, I expect Brago to be the third commander.

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I’m graphing the $14 foil here because the $1 non-foil is boned if it’s reprinted but the foil could have upside if people play it more. Brago is shown in the literature for Conspiracy 2 getting shanked in the neck, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in the set which means there is a slight reprint risk for the foils if you ask me. This is basically an all-downside scenario. If Brago isn’t in Conspiracy 2: foil hat boogaloo, the foil could have upside but only if Brago is in Commander 2016. I think that is an unlikely convergence of realities.

Sander could be right and there could be flicker in the deck, but I’m banking on Azorius doing something new which means we have to look at what it actually does.

Flash and Flying

Luckily I think there is a card in real need of a reprint which is decent in EDH, fits the theme of a deck like this and which would be a good candidate for the new price-point for reprints, which is quite a bit lower than the $47 or whatever Wurmcoil was at when it was reprinted in Commander 2014. They’re not doing one big, huge reprint like that, or at least they didn’t in Commander 2015, preferring a lot of $8ish cards. That being the case, there is still a card that needs more printings and is afforded the perfect opportunity by an Azorius deck in Commander 2016.

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Bliggedy BLAM. This seems like a slam dunk reprint. The price isn’t quite out  of control like it was during its $15 days, but then you need to try and remind yourself that this is a freaking uncommon. Are there even loose boxes of this set laying around anymore or is everyone playing the foil ‘Goyf lottery? I remember being upset I had to pay $4 for one of these at a GP. It’s an uncommon. But “It’s an uncommon” isn’t a good defense for Modern cards anymore. Inquisition of Kozilek is uncommon, too. Uncommon is the new chase mythic. Or something. Look, this is an $11 card and it would be a good inclusion in the precon if there is a flash/flying theme or subtheme. Azorius likes making them not able to do stuff and this stops stuff. The only issue I worry about is that it may seem slightly dead in a precon-on-precon matchup since they likely don’t have a ton of ways to search the deck so that may disqualify this. It feels a little “off” in that respect, but diminishing demand coupled with any amount of reprint risk makes me think you might want to look at offloading these if you have any, no matter how slight you think the reprint risk may be.

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This guy has mostly recovered from the Modern Masters reprinting and is at or around the right price point for inclusion in the deck. This is a staple in Brago decks if you believe that subtheme is possible, but this is also a decent flier that rounds up other fliers in its own right. This is a possibility whether or not flicker is a factor.

If they go deep on fliers and put a ton of birds and Kangee, Aerie Keeper in, we don’t have to look at lists very hard to see it won’t matter much. The new cards will matter financially, but there is basically nothing in the current Kangee builds of consequence. Like, the most expensive card outside the mana base is Battle Screech from Judgment which got popular during Legacy Masters drafts online and people wedged it in the cube (I guess?). Like, Adaptive Automaton is expensive and that’s basically it. I am not even graphing anything from this contingency, that’s how little it matters. I mean…

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This, maybe. Did you ever in a hundred years imagine this was more than like a buck? I get these in bulk rares all the time. If there is a flying theme or subtheme, this seems likely to be in there. It’s slow but it scales nicely with you slowly amassing a ton of flying dudes and just smish smashing their face with a flyin’ lion. Seriously, they’re the pride of the clouds because they’re a pride of lions. In the clouds. They’re elementals. Some elemental zephyr wanted to manifest itself as something fierce so it chose something that doesn’t even fly because that’s how lame most sky creatures are. There are more geese featured on Magic cards than Tarmogoyfs. Let that sink in.

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I don’t know at what point this stops being speculation and starts being a wishlist, but this is a great inclusion in a deck with fliers. It’s a little harsh, but it’s also pretty easy to deal with, even by precon deck standards. Not only that, there is precedent for reprinting Magi in the Commander decks with Magus of the Wheel, Arena, Vineyard and Coffers already seeing print in Commander precon sets. I’d like Magus of the Tabernacle but this will do fine. It’s cheaper than a real Moat although not as good. Oh well, this has a shot at being in the precon and at $6ish currently, players won’t mind the price relief. Solid inclusion, should they actually include it.

There are some fringe possibilities like a heavy artifact/enchantment theme but recent Daretti and Daxos decks sort of lean toward ruling that out. This deck likely carves out a unique niche and gives us some new toys that play well with old toys. There isn’t much money to be made an lost if it’s a deck where they reprint Hanna, Ship’s Navigator (which isn’t on the reserved list though Orim and Eladamri are) and there is some sort of theme there since they can’t reprint Replenish, etc. All the cards we really want to see like Venser the Soujourner are too clunky to print. Most likely, we’re getting a sweet deck with lots of flying creatures and some new cards that will be very good commanders to build around and include that theme. It’s not the only possible outcome but it seems like the most likely. We’ll know more when cards are spoiled but for now, consider getting out of the riskier stuff and think about what pairs with it. Once it’s ruled out as a reprint, you’ll be ready to buy while others are still discovering the synergy.

Next week we’ll talk about some other color combination. Probably Dimir, I guess. Do you think it won’t be a ninjas/unblockable thing? Do you think it will be mill? Got any other wacky ideas? Bounce them off of me and we’ll see what we come up with next week. Until then!

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Dual Colored Decks)

I’m operating under the assumption that Commander 2016 will be a series of ally-dual-color decks, which I think we established last week is a very fair assumption and is well supported by logic and evidence. Instead of waiting around for them to confirm, something that may take a pretty long time, I decided to get a jump on the “What’s likely to get reprinted” articles because by the time we know anything about Commander 2016, they’ll be previewing cards and we’ll have to deal with that. Being proactive means we can ship or at least take a second look at stuff likely to be reprinted and use reprint risk to gauge whether we should hold off on certain pickups. This worked pretty well last time and we made a lot of bold predictions like Phyrexian Arena, Urza’s Incubator and Black Market that ended up coming true.

I decided to go back to the wiki article that lays out what they expect the different two-color guilds to be good at because they love the color wheel over at WotC and they’re likely to stick to it. We have evidence of that in Commander 2015 – the Golgari graveyard, Izzet instants/sorceries, Boros beatdown, Simic counters/growth and Orzhov enchantments decks all were predictable just based on looking at the wikipedia article last time around. Let’s try our hand this time around and see if we can’t figure a few things out. Once we can guess what’s in the decks, knowing what isn’t in the decks but could be will tell us where to invest our money.

What We Want to Know

We’re at an advantage this time around. Last time my hypothesis was that they were going to try to do a Wurmcoil-esque card in each deck or at least that they could since it was not their intention to have another True-Name Nemesis scenario where one deck sold much, much better than the others. This time we know approximately the value of cards we expect to be in the deck, roughly how strong to expect the new cards to be and what kind of reprints we saw last time. I’m going to look at whether we can pair up the color combinations and try to look at whether we can (or can’t, more likely, but you never know) glean anything. This is half science half art but we’re just getting a feel for the kind of decks we expect and that can usually gives us some clues about what to buy.

What We Learned Last Time

We can extrapolate roughly how the deck will be composed based on a little analysis of the decks from last time and that’s what we will handle this week. I will go into specific color combinations next time, but this week we will look at what we expect based on the decks from last time. Extrapolating that each deck would have roughly a $15 card in it based on the Wurmcoil in the red Commander 2014 deck wasn’t too bad a guess. We got a few cards like Blade of Selves and Mystic Confluence, but there was value in reprints. Observe.

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The reprinting tanked a lot of the prices, some more than we’d expected, but the MSRP was mostly made up of reprints before and the new cards surged to make up the values. We expect the same value flip-flops this time around so we know how much we expect cards to tank. That’s pretty important.

Based on Commander 2015, we know a few things that are likely to be true of Commander 2016 as well.

We’ll Have 3 Commanders

Any of these three cards could be the Commander of the deck. The “main” one listed prominently on the packaging will have the mechanics that are unique or peculiar to this set and there will be a “backup” new commander that fits the theme of the deck and also a reprinted creature that does the same. It would be good to be able to guess the reprint based on what we expect the deck to be. Off the top of my head, I’m expecting Trostani in the Selesnya deck, for example since I expect GW tokens and also expect that Rhys would be too expensive. The reprint commanders from Commander 2015 were Teysa, Melek, Jarad, Gisela and Zegana. Of those, only Gisela was really worth anything and it was included because it needed a reprint and the rest of the deck sucked. There will be no shortage of places to jam value in the GW deck this time around so I don’t expect an expensive reprint.

The Mana Base Will Be Mediocre

The manabases are pretty average. I thought we might see some two-color utility lands like Alchemists’ Refuge and instead we got the uncommon cycle last time and for the most part, the mana bases sucked. One deck got both High Market and Command Beacon making it the most expensive mana base by far but for the most part, there isn’t much to write home about. I don’t expect Commander 2015 to buck this trend. I expect a bounceland, a guildgate, 2 vivids, a Command Tower, a Reliquary Tower in a few decks and a lot of basics. It will be hard to predict if we’ll see something like Command Beacon or Homeward Path but it won’t be hard to predict something like Boseiju is somewhat unlikely, although not out of the question. I expected something like Miren the Moaning Well in Commander 2015 more than I do now, for example. It would still be nice, so let’s not rule anything out.

The Theme Will be Predictable

Last time we predicted the theme would be predictable and now we know for sure. That’s an advantage, although last time I was pretty cocksure and just charged ahead with the assumptions mostly because we couldn’t do much else. Now that we have a lot more reason to be sure, we can be a little ballsier with our predictions.

Last week I guessed at the themes:

  • Azorius fliers
  • Rakdos hellbent
  • Gruul fatty ramp
  • Selesnya tokens
  • Dimir Unblockability/ninjas/maybe mill?

We could be looking at subthemes on a few of these, though. Azorious, for example, could be a sort of lockdown deck with Lavinia of the tenth as the reprint Commander and whose fliers include Archon of the Triumvirate and Lyev Skyknight. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV could be the reprint commander of a pillowfort deck with fliers in the deck just because that’s sort of what blue/white does. There could be a bird subtheme with Kangee, Aerie Keeper as the reprint. We don’t have to nail it exactly to know that Pride of the Clouds is likely in any of those decks and that Intangible Virtue could have some upside. Getting close on the themes can tell us a lot, and for the decks that don’t have as many options we can already pick out a few individual cards to take a look at.

Some Stuff is Safe

By virtue of the decks being likely to be two-color, there are a lot of cards we can rule out. While being able to rule out tens of thousands of cards looks fairly useless, it becomes a little more useful when you look at certain cards that are going to grow steadily absent a reprinting and which are cards that are somewhat clunky to reprint outside of Commander sealed product.

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Look at this $10 beauty that doesn’t belong in a two-color deck. When’s this getting reprinted? If they do 4 color decks next year? Will it be in every deck or just one or two? Could this end up in Conspiracy? There is a lot of uncertainty around this card but there is also some certainty. Is this going to be in Commander 2016? Certainly not. The removal of reprint risk gives it some upside if that fact occurs to people and it could give you some time to get ready to unload yours when we’re more certain a reprint is coming, because a $10 mana rock from a recent set is sort of untenable considering how important this card is and how easy to reprint this somewhere it would be. Being able to rule it out and cards like it means we have some more time to experience some growth before we get wiped out, and this gives you ample time to divest yourself if that’s your aim.

Not All Reprints Are Created Equal

Something happened in Commander 2015 that I hadn’t really taken into account when we guessed at which cards would get reprinted. It seemed fairly obvious that High Market was a great choice for a reprinting. It fit in very well with the Golgari theme and seemed like a shoo-in for that deck. That is why I was very surprised to see High Market in the list for the Simic deck. What gives? I realize it’s not totally off-theme to grow a Simic creature very large by granting it a ton of counters and then sacraficing it for enough life to keep us alive, so I guess it made some sense. I was still a little confused. Why wasn’t it in the Golgari deck? It wasn’t until I checked again that I realized – it was in the Golgari deck. It was in both.

Some of the reprints in Commander 2015 were in multiple decks, which doubles the effect of the new copies on the price. This isn’t always super relevant information because we’re trying to figure out what’s going to get reprinted so we can sell ahead of it or make plans to buy when it bottoms out, but knowing how slowly it is going to recover based on how many copies were injected is useful if we plan to buy back in later. A card like Phyrexian Arena wasn’t going to be in multiple decks. Lightning Greaves? Reliquary Tower? Solemn Simulacrum? More likely, right? We need to remember to calibrate our expectations based on how many decks the cards we expect to be reprinted can be in. High Market taught me it’s not always the most obvious deck, at least it’s not always just the most obvious deck.

The Plan for Next Week

Next week I’ll be diving into the colors specificially, starting with Azorius. I have some ideas about what the deck could look like and what we expect to see reprinted and what we don’t necessarily think will be in the deck and which could see some upside when people want copies later. If you have any specific cards you think might be in an Azorius deck and you want a second opinion about reprint risk or want to bounce ideas about what to do with the cards off of me, hit me up in the comments.

Final Thoughts

Every time someone builds a new deck, they build a new manabase. There are a few lands that could see some upside based on the time elapsed since anyone thought about them and some additional upside.

Some cycles I kind of like.

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These are never getting cheaper. I’m not suggesting drop $500 to buy out TCG Player, but I am saying these should go in almost every two color or three color deck you build and with them costing barely more than a Ravnica bounceland, you’re going to be glad you got this utility in your deck, and if you buy twice as many as you need, you’ll likely end up profiting in the end and getting free land. These have to head up eventually.

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I’ll bet you had no idea these were trending up. I didn’t either. Low supply, long time since printing, good utility in a two-color deck – these do everything but tap for true colorless, which sucks, but no land is perfect. With the much better filter lands from Lorwyn overshadowing them, these have just chugged upward, undaunted.

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Some cards in this cycle, particularly Underground River, spiked for no reason other than speculation that maybe some weird Eldrazi combination would play these. This can work to our advantage. A lot of these copies are now concentrated in the hands of dealers. If they come down, which I expect now that Eldrazi are significantly attenuated in Modern, they will spike much faster because the effect won’t be attenuated by people discovering cached copies instead of buying them from the relatively small number of retail sites which will have them in stock. Watch these. The ally-colored ones have more printings, they’re good in EDH and people will be looking to off-load them.

I feel like I already wrote a conclusion paragraph and a bonus section doesn’t warrant a second one.

 

 

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The Gods Must be (About to go) Crazy

I am basically sick of waiting to know more about Commander 2016. At this point, we should have heard something, anything. Sure, last time some dingleberry snapped a picture of the RW deck and posted a pic online which let us know quite a lot of information. We learned that the deck was only Boros meaning we’d be getting the 5 “enemy” color pairings. Kalemne himself told us we’d see the experience counter on that card at the very least and likely at least one commander per deck. It also told us that Wizards hadn’t figure out how to make Boros not boring.

I want to get a real jump on Commander 2016 since we should be able to reasonably work some things out based on what we’ve seen in the past and the success we had working things out beforehand for Commander 2015. We basically proved last year if we approach things logically we can have a relatively high degree of success in predicting what will happen (broad strokes – we’re not going to guess the abilities of the new creatures in the decks but we may be able to guess at the sorts of strategies they will employ). Using the themes for each 2-color combination that Wizards likes to use from a Magic wiki article we correctly guessed that the Golgari deck would deal with the graveyard, the Orzhov deck would deal with enchantments, the Simic deck would deal with +1/+1 counters and the Izzet deck would deal with Instants/Sorceries. If that sounds pretty obvious, you’ve never been on any forum where EDH players discuss their predictions. They were sure the Izzet deck was going to be artifact-based. Why did they think that? Because they assumed Wizards would give them what they have been missing, not what they’re going to do predictably.

I’ve been looking at a different wiki page these days and I think there’s some information we can glean from it. First, though, I should deal with how I came to the conclusion that we’re on the right track.

Why Allied 2-Color Decks?

How many different combinations of 5 decks can they even do?

  • Between 1 and 5 five-color decks
  • 5 four-color decks
  • 10 three-color decks
  • 10 two-color decks
  • 5 one-color decks

So far they have done Commander sealed product a few times

  • 2011 – “Khans block” three-color decks
  • 2013 – “Shards of Alara block” three-color decks
  • 2014 – One-color decks
  • 2015 – “Enemy color” two-color decks

It seems pretty obvious based on 2011 and 2013 being the three-color decks back-to-back and how reluctant Wizards has been to tackle the four-color decks that we’re going to get “allied-color” two-color decks. This fits their pattern of doing the batches of five back-to-back and it leaves the four-color decks for 2017. Again, I have no confirmation but I’m very confident that we’re going to get the “allied-color” decks this time around. Confident enough to see if there is any loose money to be scooped up before the people who are waiting for confirmation get wise.

Operating under this assumption, I’m going to do what I did last year, writing an article for each of the five entries into the wiki article regarding the different themes of each deck and which cards are likely to be reprinted giving us ample time to dump the copies or otherwise prepare ourselves. Not all reprintings are created equal, though and sometimes knowing what’s likely to be reprinted could help us figure out which cards pair well with those likely reprint targets but are unlikely reprint targets themselves and are therefore good pickups. It sounds more exhausting than it is. We went through this last year and we nailed quite a few cards simply on the basis of their price and a vague correlation between their effect and the themes of the two-color guilds represented by each deck.

I’m going to go much more in depth for each of the five themes much like I did last year, giving each of the five decks a deep look to see if we can’t figure out cards likely to be reprinted, which doesn’t make us a ton of money. I would like to try and make some money at some point, so this week I am going to just poke around a little bit and see if there are any safe cards that are likely to experience upside on the vague basis of the color wheel. I think there is a non-zero amount of opportunity and I think applying the same logical approach we’ve adopted up to this point is going to serve us well.

Opportunity

The wiki about allied-color guilds is a little vague for some of the combinations. Nearly all it said about Boros was “combat” which doesn’t seem like something that’s exclusive to Boros, but what do I know? I’m a Simic guy. That said, I suppose I know a few things since we were able to make the very simple leaps in logic to predict that we’d get a Golgari graveyard deck, an Izzet spells deck, an Orzhov enchantments deck, a Boros beatdown deck and a Simic +1/+1 counters deck. If we have to guess what we’ll get this time around, the wiki page actually isn’t that bad. My guesses?

  • Azorius fliers
  • Rakdos hellbent
  • Gruul fatty ramp
  • Selesnya tokens

Finally, my “safe” pick for Dimir is that we’ll get some sort of “unblockable” creature deck, potentially with ninjas if we’re super lucky. My ballsy pick is mill, but mill is pretty terrible in EDH, not because it doesn’t work very well since your opponent’s starting life total is 92, lots of people run Eldrazi and you have to concentrate on milling one person while the rest of the table just kills you. Wait, did I say not for those reasons? Well, I meant for those reasons, but also because every card in the deck will need to be devoted to the strategy and that seems unlikely.  People like mill, so I can’t rule it out given the fact that we could get some cards like Nemesis of Reason and Consuming Aberration which technically get better with mill but can actually do some damage.

If you look at the relevant planechase decks for guidance, we see what could be. The Selesnya deck was voltron last time, but the Dimir one was ninjas which I see coming back and the Gruul one was devour-based. I don’t see the decks being built around mechanics like the planechase decks were (cascade, devour, totem armor, ninjitsu) and instead being built around the things those colors do vaguely well. The Dimir one could very well give us some sweet new ninjas although Planechase makes that seem sort of unlikely.  Can the Dimir deck really ignore mill entirely?

Can the way the Born of the Gods gods fit thematically in with how we suppose the color wheel is supposed to work at the intersections of these two color combinations tell us anything about future upside?

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Near its very bottom, Phenax can only benefit from basically any card that makes mill more viable in EDH. That’s trickier than we may think because making mill viable in EDH means giving us more creatures like Consuming Aberration that get bigger the more you mill them which in turn lets you fuel Phenax, or Eater of the Dead which goes infinite. Speaking of which –

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Those spikes and subsequent declines are copies getting concentrated in the hands of dealers. People who had tons of boxes of old The Dark lying around suddenly felt like rummaging through them during that brief few days when this card hit $10 on the strength of the very few copies that were lying around. People finally figured out this card was dumb with Phenax and people bought out the internet – very slowly. Remember the piece I wrote last week about how EDH players give us approximately a million years to pick up the cards they’ll want before they spike? I’m going to put an arrow on the graph that indicates when Phenax was released.

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Talk about ample time to get one’s act together. This was a weird tangent to get onto, but I can’t tell which of my thoughts deserve a paragraph and which are only funny to me at this point. EDH finance really is too easy sometimes, but it’s only because it’s so much harder to figure out card interactions sometimes and almost no one is publishing “tech” articles or tournament reports for EDH and there is no urgency like there is with standard. This is good as far as I’m concerned. The more gradually a card spikes, the more likely it is to find price equilibrium sooner.

If we get anything that benefits a mill deck in the Dimir deck, even a card that is seemingly agnostic to the concept and only accidentally good in mill or specifically in how it ineracts with Phenax (basically the only viable EDH general where milling them is your win con rather than doing something like Lazav or Szadek shenanigans or the Mimeoplasm or Sidisi where you mill yourself. Hell, even Bruna is a “mill” deck if you think Traumatizing yourself to find goodies to strap onto your beatface angel is a “mill” deck.) we could see some real upside for the cards in the deck, but Phenax specifically. I’ll address the other cards more specifically later.

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Karametra doesn’t seem like she has as much upside at the helm of a deck based on getting new tokeny cards from Commander 2016 since she triggers on casting but she has always been a strong albeit inexpensive commander. She has a lot of upside, but I feel like others do as well and it may take a lot of nudging to get her to go up. I’m not super excited about anything to do with her, but that obviously could change. She sure is good in a Trostani deck and I expect Trostani to go up and also the cards in her deck, provided Trostani herself isn’t reprinted. I’m betting heavily we get a token theme or subtheme. Trostani encompasses two of Selesnya’s key abilities – tokens and lifegain so I think there is a strong possibility we’ll see her reprinted in the deck but the cards in her deck like Parallel Lives and Giant Adephage could experience some upside. I’d say pass on Karametra potentially.

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The sentient Blood Clock has mostly defied my expectations. It’s been flat for so long you have to wonder why the distance from its printing hasn’t put upward pressure on the price or lack of demand hasn’t put downward pressure on it. This is kind of an annoying commander to play against, but Rakdos seems like a better choice, or Olivia. This theoretically goes in more decks as part of the 99 than almost any of the other gods, though, which could account for the price. However, most of them aren’t Rakdos-specific and therefore Rakdos goods aren’t likely to influence his price much. I’m pretty bearish, here.

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It’s hard to know what to expect from the Azorius deck. They’re almost certain to have one of the Legendary creatures be a reprint so it’s up to us to figure out if it’s Lavinia, Grand Arbiter Augustin, Ojutai, Isperia or any number of cards. Personally, I think we could see some sweet new bird tribal cards. I remember reading that the future future league expected Pride of the Clouds to define Standard and it was a bulk rare almost immediately. Could more fliers be the theme? I don’t know that it matters with respect to Ephara. This is a very cheap creature despite going in quite a few decks, especially ones like Brago where it’s pretty easy to get her to trigger almost every turn, drawing you x cards per cycle where x is the number of players. This has a ton of room to grow but, like Mogis, there isn’t much movement on the price. Do we have any reason to expect movement?

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How about yes? It’s a bit hard to see, but Xenagos is on the move.

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Equally effective as a Commander or part of the 99, Xenagos is almost certain to have a ton of new cards to interact with. Players have been waiting for a Gruull Hydra Commander and while they don’t always get what they want (Like an Izzet artifact commander), it seems fairly likely the Gruul deck will have ramp and fatties and Xenagos will be put in that deck when it’s out and the cards from it will go in existing Xenagos decks. Since the price is already on the move and I’m estimating it has the most upside based on his abilities coinciding perfectly with nearly every Gruul contingency we can reasonably expect in Commander 2016, this is my pick. I have a lot of confidence in this card and since it’s already on the way up, it’s hard to lose here.

I’ll start looking more in-depth at each likely deck theme and the cards likely to be reprinted next week. Until then, I feel like Xenagos and maybe some of the cards with a high affinity rating with him are going to go up when we start getting cards spoiled. We don’t know what’s in Commander 2016 for certain, but we’ve been right before taking a logical, analytical approach and I don’t expect it to fail us, now.

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