Category Archives: Jason Alt

PROTRADER: Counting Boats

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Let me preface this article with a warning. You’re going to get sick of the puns in the title that are some variation on both the deck I want to discuss and boating because I’m doing a whole series on that whole a-rising-tide-lifts-all-boats motif way before I do. I promise. I. Promise.

Want me to spoil the deck I want to talk about by explaining the title to you? Sure, eat your dessert before you finish your salad—you’re an adult and you can make your own decisions by now. I want to talk about decks that put counters on creatures in light of a few cards (rather than just one) from Magic Origins that are going to go off with these strategies. We’ll look mostly at Vorel of the Hull Clade decks, but we won’t limit ourselves to that.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Shaman of the Boats

By: Jason Alt

As I alluded to last week, I am going to spend the next few articles looking at cards from Origins that may either launch new archetypes or strengthen existing ones. I think there is plenty of EDH gas in this set and that there are a few archetypes that are going to get plenty bolstered.

Last week, we discussed future Superfriends builds brought on by the new planeswalkers in Origins, and I think we uncovered some really interesting cards that are overlooked, undervalued, and poised to do big things. Inexorable Tide shows us what a reprinting can do to prices, but it can also make foils look safer, and EDH player sure do love their foils, don’t they? With the emergence of Cube as a format that can affect foil prices, as well, foils are very saucy targets moving forward. So we may not know what we want to talk about this week, but at least we know how we want to talk about it when we figure that out, so that’s good.

Packing Shamans

There was a card in particular in the spoiler for Origins that really caught my eye. It’s not getting discussed much at all, probably because it’s not a mythic rare, or even a rare. It’s an uncommon and there isn’t much financial upside to the non-foils of this card. So why am I so excited about it? Why would we spend an entire article discussing a card that doesn’t have  a ton of upside? Well, the answer to that is simple: we’re talking about the boats that are lifted by a rising tide, and sometimes you don’t need to drop a very big rock in the water to make big waves. Sometimes the card is a butterfly flapping its wings across the globe and a chain reaction of events takes care of the rest. Strap in, nerds, because it’s El Niño season and we’re about get hit with a wave so big that every other boat’s going to be all jacked up and our boat will be fine because we were prepared and got ahead of the storm and Lieutenant Dan was just daring the storm to kill him but he survived and I’m mixing my metaphors. Let’s just show the card I mean.

Shaman of the Pack

That’s the card. Does it fit in a narrow list of decks that are able to run it? Possibly. Would it benefit most greatly from being in a deck with Rhys the Redeemed, a potent token generator? Possibly. Does that mean this isn’t a ridiculous auto-include in more decks than you might think and a potent finisher? No, this card isn’t going to routinely deal 10 or more damage to people. You have to have a formidable board state to make that happen, but this spell breaks ground stalls open and that’s the most useful thing an EDH card can do in my opinion. So which generals are able to play this card and benefit easily from it?

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This is a big one. Nath is a nathty character, he makes elf tokens, he strips cards out of opponents’ hands, and he sets you up to benefit from making them discard aggressively, turning cards like Mindslicer, Mind Shatter, and Waste Not into potent cards. Pop quiz, hotshot. How much is Waste Not worth?

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Three dollars? It’s up from $2, down from $8, this card’s price is confounding. I don’t think $14 makes sense, but if someone bothered to buy the card out at one point, a lot of the copies were concentrated in one person’s hands for a minute. This could dip even more at rotation, even though this price is entirely predicated on EDH and casual and I think this is a $5 to $7 card long-term. It’s very unlikely to get reprinted (there’s no precedent for reprinting a “you make the card” winner) and the foil has upside either way.

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This is a crazy, crazy graph. Instead of maintaining a multiplier, it has held at just about $10 even as the non-foil approached that price several times. If the non-foil has upside at $3, you’d better believe the foil has upside at $7.50. I like this pickup a lot. This is like Geth’s Grimoire on steroids.

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Speaking of which, with a decreasing spread and increasing upside, Grimoire isn’t a bad trade target in foil if you find any. The more Nath we see, the more people will want to cheat with a Geth’s Grimoire.

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Savra is another sweet legendary build-around, and having lots of elf tokens to sacrifice will really help out. Savra is a good general in her own right and an inclusion in my Nath deck as well. She’s fine in any GB elves build and also works with the GB graveyard-based strategies we see. Dredge is very potent with sac outlets, and green and black have plenty. A few that work well in decks with a lot of tokens and other elves have real upside.

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Completely unperturbed by the reprinting in a Commander deck, this card shows solid growth and is a solid, solid card.  Attrition does everything you want a sac outlet to do, and sacrificing one elf token that you got when they discarded a card to kill one of their creatures with Attrition plus everyone losing a dude to a Grave Pact trigger is potent. I think there is upside at $2.50 to $3, even with another reprint possible, seeing how Attrition shook that first one off. I used to buy these for a quarter out of binders and sell them for $5 a playset on eBay. Those were the days. I kept enough for my decks, which ended up being a pretty large number since I don’t know a ton of black decks that don’t want an effect like this. I’ve used this to protect my general from tuck spells back in the tuck days, get value out of a removal spell of theirs, and avoid returning creatures I have borrowed with Threaten effects. Attrition is a solid gainer and I would get on the train now, even with the spread doing goofy things. The foils are too expensive to trifle with.

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Recently. the buylist price was so high on foil Perilous Forays that we see something I want to take a second to talk about. I am going to zoom in a bit on a region of the graph before I come back and discuss the card.

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See the white area? When you graph the price (green) against the buylist price (blue) you sometimes see “white” regions where the buylist is above the retail price. This is an arbitrage opportunity. I won’t go a ton into arbitrage because it’s a bit outside the scope of this article and the series, but even if you don’t pounce on every arbitrage opportunity, what you can do is take note. There were two periods of potential arbitrage over the graph of foil Perilous Forays, which means dealers think there is upside. Currently the buylist price has backed way off, which tells me one dealer was paying a lot to get these in stock and then got enough copies and removed the card from its buylist, causing the buylist price to be set by the next-highest buyer. That means the demand for this card may be regional. Still, two “arbs” popping up in a one-year period coupled with the strong growth tells me this is a lowish buy-in with upside, demonstrated power, and the benefit of being in foil and less susceptible to a reprint blowout. I like foil Forays a lot, and tapping a Priest of Titania and sacrificing 11 elves to pull every last basic out of my deck in response to a Massacre Wurm saved my bacon in a game this weekend. It’s expensive to get out, but it’s worth it. It replaces Boundless Realms in my decks that want a sac outlet.

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This is a terrible sac outlet in a deck that runs 1/1 tokens, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how flat the price has been for a while. This is an EDH staple and it’s sicko in Cube as well. I think there’s upside here, eventually. Trade for these at $6 and put them in a shoebox and forget about them.

So what else is good in decks that want to have a ton of elves on the battlefield?

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This card has been reprinted basically into powder.  A price of $3 is a pretty cheap buy-in considering this card has demonstrated the ability to be way more and lords are always interesting, but I think it’s been printed too many times and could be printed more.

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Wizards’s demonstrated willingness to reprint foils of this card make me wary as well. I don’t know if there is a ton of downside to buying the cheapest non-foil you can for $2.50 (the entire green Commander 2014 precon is looking like a great buy with Ezuri surging), but be careful. I brought up Perfect because I think it’s a deceptively bad buy.

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This has been printed as a foil many, many times. Four times. That’s so many times. That’s one more than “too many” times for a foil to be printed. The thing is, though, I like this as a pickup at $3. Why? Let’s think about where this can get printed as a foil. Hardly anywhere! From the Vault: Elves? Commander’s Arsenal? Core sets that they’re not doing more of? I think the dealer price surging(ish) and the increasing demand for elves with Ezuri resembling the new Birthing Pod spells real upside for foil and non-foil alike. This card is bonkers and when copies start drying up, I expect foils to diverge wildly from non-foils. Priest of Titania this card is not, but sometimes it’s better and it’s legal in Modern which helps it immensely. Besides, why debate the merits of Archdruid versus Priest in EDH when you clearly run both?

If you’re trying to destroy them with Shaman of the Pack, you’ll want a way to find him.

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Check out the foil Elvish Harbinger: a recent arbitrage opportunity, steady(ish) price, and a multiplier of two on a card with two printings. There is upside here, I think. The card is fluctuating between $4 and $5, but it wouldn’t take much of an increase in play to push it up. There just ins’t much movement here—the buylist price for the Duel Deck non-foil hasn’t budged a penny in two years. Any activity could see the few copies snapped up quickly. Don’t buy in for cash on a stagnant card, but be aware: this card is very good.

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Not shocked to see that this card looks strong. It’s a good tutor in the best EDH colors. It lets you search for Craterhoof Behemoth at the end of their turn. That’s quite good. Enlightened Tutor has established that the ceiling could be around $16, so buying these at $8 seems fine, especially with the strong growth we’ve seen lately. Dealer confidence is up; retail price is up. Expect a leap and a plateau of $2 next year.

Just finding him isn’t enough, recurring him to smash them is important, too. How do we do that?

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No super-duper upside here, but just remember to keep some of these on-hand to trade out. Wirewood Symbiote is bonkers with elves that have enters-the-battlefield triggers, and since there are so few, Symbiote is underplayed right now.

We talked last time about how Superfriends would give us some real upside with Doubling Season but not so much with Primal Vigor. How’s Primal Vigor doing?

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Not bad! Having called this a pick at $4, I obviously feel great about the price doubling since then. Vigor isn’t done, I feel. While you can’t stack counters on planeswalkers and you can accidentally benefit your opponent, Primal Vigor is nuts with token decks. Imperious Perfect, Nath, Waste Not: your deck really benefits from spitting out a ton of tokens and this can help you go very wide. Doubling the number of elves you put out matters a great deal when you can KO your opponents with Shaman. This is good in lots of other decks, so the overlap will be very good. I said to buy these at $4 and I’m saying now that $8 isn’t a bad buy-in either. You don’t like to buy stuff after it doubles since it doubling again is somewhat unlikely, but this card has upside and low reprint potential. An $8 card in a $20 precon could do any number of things, all of them good.

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This could be based on an irrational fear, but Parallel Lives strikes me as a card that is super, duper, duper reprintable. I was buying the non-foils very cheaply and still had a lot left when they hit $4 and I sold then. I am just waiting for the next EDH supplementary product or even Duel Deck to have a Parallel Lives reprint (new art would be sweet). The foils can help us dodge that.

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Now this I can f@#% wit. A mere multiplier of two, very steady growth, decent dealer confidence, art that looks good in foil—I expect a divergence from the non-foil price soon. I think a higher multiplier is more appropriate and I expect that to be on the horizon. This card is a no-brainer, honestly.

I think these are all cards that have significant upside once Shaman of the Pack is out. I think Shaman will be a card you will find randomly in draft chaff for free sitting on tables, and I plan to pay cash for any foils at the prerelease that I can find. This card is good and it just might make some other cards better.

Do we want me to stop this format after Origins is released? Immediately? Sound off in the comments! Until next week.


 

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PROTRADER: Rising Tides

I’m nothing if not a man of the people, and while I have a vision for this column and occasionally get inspired to write threepart series (I made each word a link to a different article, so I guess you could say I’m pretty awesome at the internet) about even the most miniscule-seeming of topics, I’m not above feedback.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Gods and Generals, Part 3

We’re at the end, readers. You made it through the first two parts, and I think some of you are pretty excited for part three. I can’t pretend I’m not excited myself—I called Purphoros as my pick of the week in the latest episode of Brainstorm Brewery, a podcast I hope you’re all listening to. You get it a day before the rest of the plebians by virtue of being a ProTrader, so that’s pretty cool. If you think my opinion is worth reading, why not give the podcast a listen?

Is that a bad endorsement? “Listen to the podcast where I mention Purphoros a week after I wrote about him!” Look, I don’t have to justify myself to you nerds. I just felt I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug the podcast where you get to hear three other finance experts agree or disagree with my called shots. I don’t imagine this is a super tough sell to a bunch of finance article readers, but what do I know? Besides what I think about the last five Theros block gods, that is.

We saved the best for last, I think, and my favorite god of the 15 is going to get a really in-depth look. I’m excited to write up this last batch, so forgive me my digressions. I’m sufficiently pumped now. Let’s do dis.

 

Athreos, God of Passage

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$10?!

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Athreos certainly got a ton of buzz from its release, and why not? The card looked and smelled an awful lot like some other cards that existed in a similar vein, only it seemed better.

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Though it failed to do much financially, Immortal Servitude was the basis for a (tier, like, 10) deck that was fun to play and that’s about it. But what if your Immortal Servitude effect were on a permanent and getting enough dudes into play let that permanent attack? People had enough experience playing the gods to know that if Thassa could get there, Athreos could certainly do so too, given its low mana cost and inherent unfairness. What would we do with this? Run wraths to take us to value town? Loop Elvish Visionary for value? Whatever it was people thought they were going to do, they mostly haven’t. Athreos hasn’t made much of an impact if any on Standard, and its price has stayed within a couple bucks of $10 basically as long as it’s been a card.

Could EDH be a reason for this? Certainly it could. I think Athreos is absolutely the top choice of general for a deck with lots of Shadowborn Apostles in it. Does that make it a $10 card on its own? No. Athreos is a fine commander in other builds as well, but I think third-set stickiness is propping the price up to an extent. Can we rule that out if we see the other generals coming in cheap? We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. If EDH is really the culprit here, will we expect to see that reflected in the foil price? Yes. Yes, we will.

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You’ve got to be getting pretty good at analyzing these graphs by now. What do we think? A multiplier of three on a card that already seems pretty overpriced? Is Standard doing that? Or is EDH?

Personally, I think we can see EDH’s influence here pretty significantly. The price looks so flat compared to the non-foil, which means copies aren’t moving very quickly, but quickly enough for the dealers not to change their buy prices. Honestly, $30 may be just about perfect, which for our purposes, is actually a bad thing.

We want our gods to be the wrong price or to look like they’re going to be the right price soon. Athreos seems neither. With EDH propping the price up as well as third-set scarcity, I don’t expect the foil or non-foil to drop a ton at rotation. Certainly the non-foil has room to fall, but the foil likely isn’t going anywhere, either up or down, in the near future. I am a 2/5 on this card both in foil and non-foil.

The non-foil does have some chance of getting more reasonable at rotation, but dealers are actually cutting their buy prices rather than raising them. Could that be in anticipation of the price coming way down soon or is it in anticipation of people wanting to ship a ton of these while the buy price is $5 and the dealers would end up stuck with cards they paid $5 for and can’t sell for $4? I think it could be a bit of both. What I see is low demand and a high price for this card and both those factors kind of suck.

Is Athreos good in EDH? Sure, but all 15 cards sort of are, and I’m not bullish on the ones where I don’t see room to make a profit. I could be persuaded to go in one these at like $4, which seems unlikely but not impossible. I’m certainly keeping an eye out.

Iroas, God of Victory

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Remember what I said about third-set stickiness? Well, here’s a great baseline. Worth half as much as Athreos but well below half as playable, Iroas never made an impact in Standard. This card is $5 for the same reason Godsend is $5: it has a non-zero amount of casual appeal, it’s in a durdly third set with not a lot to be excited about, and it is technically not unplayable in EDH. I could see Iroas getting there as a utility-enchantment-cum-beater in a deck with a different commander, like Jor Kadeen, but I’m not jazzed about him otherwise. Neither are dealers, who are cutting buy prices significantly, probably in anticipation of rotation. While the price is relatively flat, dealers have tried to pay as little as $2 for this card. I’ve seen people no-sir offers of $4 on Godsend before so nothing surprises me a ton, but I don’t see demand for this. Heliod at $0.75 tells me gods have a long way to fall, some farther than others. I’m a 1/5 at $5 and a 4/5 at $0.75. I imagine you will be able to get them for somewhere in the middle, but unless it’s closer to $1, I don’t know that you want to.

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A multiplier of three, as well. That’s very interesting. It kind of puts the multiplier on Athreos into perspective, doesn’t it? When I said, “This price is likely due to EDH,” above, I think what I meant was, “This price isn’t not EDH,” but judging by Iroas, a mostly-ignored card, the multiplier appears to be some sort of weird standard.


Quck aside: Isn’t it fascinating that the gods seem to get their cues vis-a-vis their prices from their expansion set rather than their playability? It’s a good thing I grouped these by set or I may never have noticed these trends. I literally almost did all 15 gods alphabetically the first week. It’s a good thing I write too much or this could have been a mess and we would have learned way less. Should we predict the same multiplier for Kruphix or Keranos? Absolutely not, but nothing would surprise me. However, if we do see that for Pharika, I think we can pretty safely conclude the multiplier is a supply issue. I’m interested to see what we come up with when we get there.


As for Iroas, I feel the same as the dealers who have been slashing their buy prices. I’m like a 1/5 at its current foil price. You’d have to make these pretty cheap to make me get into the 3/5 or 4/5 range. Like, if current buy price became the new retail price, I’m probably a 3/5 at the price dealers are paying then. Maybe even not that. Iroas seems like this set’s Heliod or Ephara.

Keranos, God of Storms

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I have been quoted numerous times saying, “If it weren’t for EDH, only about 100 Magic cards would be worth more than $1.” While I think that’s true and smile whenever I hear someone repeat it, we can acknowledge that Modern has been a real bro and made some cardboard worth some moolah. Thanks, Modern!

Keranos was touted as a Modern option, and while that hype appears to have trailed off, dumping Keranos nearly back where it was before all the hype, I expect its EDH playability to have a real effect on the foil. I understand why Keranos was $20 for a while—what I can’t figure out is why it’s the same as Athreos.

EDH clearly can’t pull the non-foils above $10 unless the card is played a ton (like I imagine we’ll see for Kruphix) and the dive back to $10 seems to indicate that Modern demand has all but evaporated. Keranos was never more than a one- or two-of in Modern anyhow, and that can mimic EDH demand in some ways. I expect expensive foils if only because we won’t see the race to the bottom the way we did with the non-foils.

Keranos may not be played in Modern as much anymore, but the fact that it’s an option can work both for and against us. Price memory is going to make the price stickier come rotation, which makes me pretty bearish on the card unless it comes down more than it probably will.

While the buy price for most of the rest of the gods is tailing off, Keranos is actually increasing. Dealers are going to buy super aggressively if the spread is low at rotation, making it harder to get your hands on Keranos and limiting the chance the price falls below where the buy price is now. Do I like these at $6? Not a ton, no. They’ve demonstrated an ability to be $20, but you’d have to think that will happen again to pay $6. Should these miraculously fall to $3 or $4, I’ll change my attitude significantly, but this still won’t make it past a 3/5 in my excitement. My money is better-invested elsewhere, in my opinion.

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Yuck. You see the price spike as a result of Modern, but the price has not come down the way the non-foil has. I don’t think EDH is the culprit for the price staying up as much as scarcity is. See those “mini” fluctuations? Those point to a very, very low supply. If one or two purchases can upset the price balance, you’ll see little jumps like that when the stock is completely bought out by virtue of buying a small number of copies.

So the demand is non-zero, but if buying a few copies can make the price “twitch” like that, steady demand would completely wreck the price and we haven’t seen that. I’m not super bullish on the foils here, honestly. EDH demand isn’t going to put much upward pressure on the price and buy prices aren’t really moving despite the retail price coming down a smidge. This graph is ugly, folks. I’m like a 1/5 for foils and I don’t get to a 2/5 until the price gets somewhere the price won’t get.

I have a good feeling about this next one, though.

Kruphix, God of Horizons

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Get. Hype.

This is what opportunity looks like. Cheaper than Iroas, steadier than Keranos, more playable in EDH than Athreos—this card has it all. The spread is currently pretty wide, so even dealers aren’t really on this guy. However, Kruphix is the most EDH-playable out of the crop it’s in and its price is not reflecting that fact.

I’m a 3/5 on this card at its current price, and if it gets really cheap, I’m even deeper. This is never going to get the boost Keranos gets from Modern, Athreos gets from casual, or Iroas gets from the people who have made Godsend $5, but it does get help from being very good.

Don’t let the low price fool you, as it’s a good thing. This card is unplayable in Standard and that has made its price plummet, but it has a ton of upside and I’m deep on these if I can pay what dealers are paying now. I want a big old pile of these. This is Purphoros-tier as far as I am concerned: useful in decks but best as a commander. Let’s see if the foil agrees with us.

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Here’s a nice gut-check. The prices are very low for the foil and the non-foil. Did we misevaluate something? Is Iroas more playable than we think? Is Kruphix worse than we think? Did I overreact to the cheap price because I don’t understand that it’s cheap for a good reason?

Let’s check our multiplier, shall we? What’s that? It’s five? Not only that, it’s been five forever? I think that tells us that we’re onto something. Not only that, it tells us we have real upside on the foils. If the non-foil is $4, then that multiplier gives us $20 foils. If the non-foil hits $10, we’re looking at $50 foils, provided the multiplier holds.

And why shouldn’t it? This is a real EDH card. If I can pay what dealers are paying now for foils, I’m a 5/5. I don’t expect that to happen and I am still a 2/5 at its current price. If it doesn’t fall at all, I may buy a bit down the road if I start to see any upward movement at all.  Kruphix is money, and I am glad there is actual opportunity here.

Pharika, God of Affliction

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This was pretty heavily touted early by the likes of Conley Woods, but it never made the impact on Standard anticipated. EDH isn’t propping this up more than it’s propping up Kruphix and the few times it’s flirted with $6 are confusing and an insult to the god of horizons, frankly.

We can really see the relative difference in distributions between sets here: both the distribution of the cost of a redemption set over the total cards in Journey into Nyx and the distribution of Theros relative to Journey. We have $1 Heliod and that’s a damn sight more playable than Pharika, even though Pharika is a general people are going to try and try to build around.

I’m losing steam, folks. I saved a card I don’t care about for last.

Dealers are not thrilled about this card, so why should I be? At the $1.50 dealers are paying, I think this is okay, since in a few years, even bad gods strike me as $5ish cards (I’m basing this off of what we saw with planeswalkers when there were relatively few of them), but I’m not going to throw cash at Pharika at basically any price. This is played a bit in EDH and that could indicate upside if we’re buying very cheap. The foil can tell us how much EDH play there is.

Care to try and guess the multiplier for the foil?

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Did you guess a multiplier of six? I will admit I did not. Not only is it six, it has been for a while and dealers don’t appear to disagree! That’s wacky.

Is EDH propping this up? It must be that, which makes the non-foils a bit more attractive but leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The plateau indicates there isn’t a ton of sales-action happening, but a race to the bottom would throw the price into at least a bit of disarray. This is honestly just mostly puzzling. Still, if the price is this flat and irrespective of Standard play, there is little potential movement in the price at rotation. I’m not bullish on these at the current price. If I could buy at buylist, sure, fine, but I don’t see this being as good a pickup as Kruphix, although that could be pure bias.

Objectively, this card looks strong, but subjectively, I’m not jazzed. With Kruphix seeming like a better pickup, why would I hedge my bets anyhow? Still, if you clicked the link and looked at how many Pharika decks there are (gorgon tribal could be a thing, I imagine, but Damia or Sidisi seem better for that), you might feel differently than I do. I’m leaving these alone, so more for you, I guess.

Something Something Omega

That concludes my series on gods. I’m a little saddened by this realization, because I enjoyed writing this series and how much good feedback I got from all of you about it.

I’ll be back next week with something different, so stay tuned for that. You won’t want to miss the next series I potentially start because I can’t keep it under 10,000 words. Leave your questions and comments in the section below and let’s make some money.

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