Category Archives: Jason Alt

What EDH Can and Can’t Do to Prices

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What up, nerds?

I wrote a lot this past year about what EDH can do to prices. With 2015 winding down, I’m looking back at what I’ve written so far and thinking about the series as a whole. We’ve talked a lot about the effect new printings can have on prices, but there are a few nuances I want to really solidify so we can head into 2016 swinging.

What I am going to do for a bit is revisit the basic thesis of this series, and that is:

“Cards that are coming out in new sets can serve as an event that can shift the prices of older cards. “

Unifying Theory

Is This Effect Real?

It’s a pretty simple thesis, and I think I’ve made a pretty good case for it. Not even that—it makes a good case for itself. It doesn’t take a ton of detective work to look at Teferi’s Puzzle Box, Winds of Change, Forced Fruition, Wheel and Deal, and Wheel of Fortune all spiking the same week, just after the Mind Seize deck with Nekusar, the Mindrazer came out, to figure out those things were related.

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Nekusar came along and the card launched an entire deck archetype. It’s a very annoying one, but it’s a very good one. It’s easy and obvious to build, and it’s effective, popular, and everyone who had access to the precon had access to it. With financiers buying up every copy of Mind Seize they could get their mitts on to flip the copies of True-Name Nemesis, some people had an opportunity to get the rest of the cards for fairly cheap after the financiers culled the copies of Nemesis and Baleful Strix. These cards saw their prices affected to a huge extent and the spikes all occuring at the same time, a few weeks after the set was released and people began building with Nekusar and figuring out wheel effects were the gas that made the deck work, prices spiked accordingly.

What Can’t It Do?

That’s something I feel like I haven’t covered as well. It’s important to understand the limitations of this effect. EDH has a broad appeal, and that appeal is growing, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t limited in the effect new cards can have on prices of other cards. The more copies of a card there are, the more the deck will need to be played to affect the price at all. While Nekusar was able to move older cards like Puzzle Box and even a recent-ish card like Forced Fruition, cards that everyone has lying around, let’s re-examine some of these graphs and talk a bit about what happened with the cards’ prices.

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This is the price of Forced Fruition over the last 3 years.

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The arrow points to the point where people started to realize this card was nuts in Nekusar decks. This was a $2ish card—not selling briskly on TCGplayer or eBay or Cardshark, but not shipped in bulk, either. A $2 card isn’t worth putting in a store display case. It’s not worth having in a binder, because it’s too old for anyone to care and not valuable enough for anyone to be after. This card was total trash to all but the casualiest of casuals until it was suddenly the perfect card for a deck that just popped into existence.

What happens when something like that occurs is a weird process. First, the internet gets bought out very quickly, causing a very sharp price increase as the cheap copies are bought out and the people hoping to cash in post their copies for as much as they think they can get.

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Then, people start to dig the cards out of boxes and the supply begins to catch up as copies come out of the woodwork.

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Organic demand takes over and people start to realize they don’t mind paying more than they used to be able to for the card because it’s quite good in the deck, but slowly, increased supply catches up and satisfies the demand. Finally, the race to the bottom begins and the copies sell at a slower rate and prices plateau.

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The price ends up higher than it was before, lower than its peak, and at a place where people are comfortable both buying and selling. The price has a tendency to equilibrate here. But this is pretty unique to cards that are spread out and not concentrated in the hands of dealers.

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What would happen if Wizards printed another card like Nekusar, and people who had Nekusar decks built already decided they wanted a second copy of Forced Fruition? Well, we’d see the price basically track to its new equilibrium point. It would fluctuate a bit, overcorrecting at first, but not as drastically. The copies are concentrated in the hands of dealers who paid a fair price for Forced Fruition and overpaid a bit when the price was beginning to equilibrate as supply caught up to demand. Those dealers who overpaid aren’t in a hurry to sell at a small gain, so they are hanging onto their copies and selling one at a rate of one per new Nekusar deck.

That’s a slow rate. That rate would increase if there were a new Nekusar, possibly in different colors and people built the new deck as an addition instead of taking the old one apart. When there are a lot of copies out there in the hands of dealers, the prices don’t go quite as nuts. We are seeing a high percentage of copies of Forced Fruition out of collections, shoe boxes, rubber bands, and dollar boxes, because when the card initially spiked, everyone and their cousin hit their LGS and their closets and binders looking for copies of the card to ship into the frenzy.

This effect is going to be attenuated greatly for a newer card. How do I know? Let’s look at a card that’s played in a much greater percentage of Nekusar decks. This is a card that, according to EDHREC, 61 percent of Nekusar decks play compared to the 49 percent (can that be right?) that play Forced Fruition.

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There was some initial hype surrounding Whispering Madness when people tried to couple it with unblockable creatures in an attempt to mill opponents to death. Casuals are always going to try to play Dimir mill; they just are. When this card proved that it couldn’t carry a whole archetype on its back and the supply began to overwhelm the dwindling demand, the price suffered. Want to see something really interesting? Let’s look at what the graph did when Mind Seize was released.

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That little dip may or may not have been caused by the Nekusar frenzy. There’s not much of a mechanism for new demand to cause the price to go down, but if you ignore the dip and just look at the average price since the deck was being built, you’ll see it’s on a decline, on average—pretty similar to the slope of the buylist price.

Why would we see such a profound effect for one card and such a different one for another card? The answer seems pretty simple to me: recency.

Whispering Madness is in every bulk bin, every binder, every shoe box. It was less than a year old when the Commander 2013 decks came out, and copies were everywhere. Anyone who wanted a copy of Whispering Madness to jam in their Nekusar deck probably had one already, or had a friend who would give them one for free. It was a bulk rare, and therefore, it was everywhere. The card wasn’t concentrated in the hands of dealers, but dealers still had more copies of Whispering Madness than they likely had of Forced Fruition, despite having a smaller percentage of the total number of the available copies.

A new event can clearly move the needle on older cards with relatively fewer copies printed. Magic has gotten continually more popular, so the further back you go, the fewer copies of a card there are. With fewer copies of old cards in the hands of dealers and more scattered to the four winds, cards have time to spike in price as people slowly unearth their buried copies and gradually feed them into the machine. Are there ways we can mitigate this and make some smart buys in more recent cards?

Can Recent Cards Move?

They can, and there are a few things we can do if we correctly predict a new card is going to make a new archetype that people will want to play.

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Sage of Hours is pretty busted with the new Ezuri. Once you get him up to five experience counters, he can dump five +1/+1 counters on your Sage of Hours, allowing you to remove said counters and take an extra turn. If your opponent(s) can’t interrupt this with an instant, you take every turn and kill them with your creatures and win the game.

Despite it being a mythic, there are quite a few copies of Sage of Hours out there because it’s recent and not in high demand from Standard players. Most of the copies of this card are just sitting in store inventories, and the new Ezuri deck hasn’t been built enough to move the needle. The threat of a reprint is always present, also, and no one seems super willing to gamble on this card. Store inventories haven’t moved much, either. There wasn’t really money to be made predicting this would pair well with Ezuri as soon as he was spoiled. Or was there?

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This went from a Vorel of the Hull Clade spec to a bit of a bust to an Ezuri staple, in foil. Foil copies are less prone to a reprint, especially in a Commander-series deck which doesn’t have any regular-sized foils. Foil copies have higher upside, since there is usually a multiplier that will drive the two prices apart as the non-foil increases. There are fewer copies of the foil, and for cards that are printed in event decks and such, the set foil is even scarcer compared to the non-foil. The relatively few numbers of copies make it easier for buying behavior on a small scale to signal the market that the price is moving, and when the card is merely twice as expensive as the non-foil like we saw here during Sage’s lull, you can still buy effectively, getting half as many copies but experiencing four times the upside.  Currently sitting pretty around $13, this card could go back down, but with Ezuri’s current popularity (it was the second most-built deck last week according to EDHREC), that may take a while.

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Moving very nicely up in price for years, Contagion Engine seemed like a good way to proliferate experience counters with the new commanders in Commander 2015. It’s colorless, allowing it to go in any of the five decks, and it serves as removal, something that is important in decks like Simic that lack a ton of ways to kill things without bouncing them or turning them into tokens. Still, the slope of the graph doesn’t really increase with the printing of Commander 2015. It seemed almost a shoo-in in one or more of the decks, and while it’s getting up there, it’s nowhere near the popularity of a card like Darksteel Plate, a card from the same block whose price is higher than you might think. Was there any money to be made on Engine?

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Apparently there was money to be made on the card in foil, where the price tripled overnight, and while it’s returning to equilibrium, it’s equilibrating much higher than the price was before experience counters made us pay attention.

The Future of This Series

I plan to continue identifying upcoming archetypes made possible by new printings as well as identifying staples that don’t necessarily need events to drive the price up. There was no real event other than EDH being a fun format that caused Chromatic Lantern to climb like it has, but every once in a while, the price corrects higher due to adjustments in dealer buying behavior and player buying behavior.

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This was a card everyone knew was good basically just in EDH, but which no one really talked about. This went up calmly, behind the scenes, and keeps surprising everyone with how high it continues to go. I plan to spend a lot of time talking about event-driven upcoming price increases next year, but I also want to spend some time identifying staples that are going to march solidly up in price and which will be great cards to stock a binder with.

Remember, EDH players are who we want to trade with. They want a much larger range of cards from us, and they’re more likely to undervalue (maybe not money-wise, but to just generally care less about) Standard staples and other cards we can instantly sell on TCGplayer, much faster than we can sell EDH cards. I hope you’ll join me next year, where we’ll keep looking at the fascinating world of EDH finance and chart some uncharted territory while we do. See you in 2016.

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Generic Finance Article

[Greeting]

  • [Acknowledgement of reader base]
  • [Reference to last week’s article]

[Paragraph detailing plans for this article]

[Body]

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[Closing Paragraph]

I want to talk about generic mana versus colorless mana now that the two terms can’t be used interchangeably, and I wanted to do it by making the article itself generic, but while that seemed meta and funny to me, it wouldn’t have come across and would have served to amuse only me, like an Easter egg hidden a little too well. I didn’t manage to make it happen, but I’m sure you won’t mind moving on, because there is a point I wanted to make this week: the differentiation between generic and colorless mana, a brand new concept, is going to matter. It’s going to matter a lot. So while the article itself won’t be generic, the subject matter is going to be. If you want a generic article I have a few sources I can point you to.

600-03697886 © Jean-Christophe Riou Model Release: No Property Release: No Generic Canned Food

The Distinction

This is what it looks like when I dive right into the topic at hand without a lot of foreplay. Try and keep up, I guess. It’s foreign to me, too, but we’ll manage.

Why is there a distinction between colorless and generic mana now? It didn’t matter before. As I’m sure 100 percent of you know, we have had to make the distinction because of a new mana symbol that has appeared on some spoiled cards.

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Look at Endbringer’s mana cost. Its converted mana cost is easy to suss out: it’s six. Endbringer costs six mana, five of which can be generic mana and one of which must be colorless mana; that is to say mana that originated from a colorless source. Generic refers to mana of any color used to pay non-specific mana costs like the little (5) in the circle we’re all used to. Like an Island putting a mana in your mana pool gives you a mana that can be used for blue or generic but not green, Island also gives you a mana that cannot be used for true colorless (non-generic) mana, which is denoted by the diamond mana symbol on this card in both the casting cost and two of the activated abilities. It’s not quite a sixth color, but it’s going to give you a little more trouble than you might imagine.  Planning for it is going to be important.

The Impetus

Why do we care about this distinction? Well, for starters, Endbringer is stupid. I love this card. I want it inside my decks. I want it inside me. I am not sure if I will be able to find room in all of my decks for this card, so I’m really trying to manage my expectations, but the more I think about how much I want to play this card and maybe some others like it, the more I realize it may be a little trickier than I thought. Colorless mana may not be as simple to come by as generic mana, and when the distinction matters, you need to really re-evaluate everything.

mirrorpool

Mirrorpool is a sexy, splashy EDH card that does everything I want a land to do. This plus a Crucible of Worlds is going to change the world. I was so doe-eyed over this card when it was first spoiled that I didn’t stop to consider how tricky this could be to activate. Five mana to make a clone is a bargain when it’s an ability on a land, but if we don’t have enough ways to make true colorless mana in our entire deck, we can’t play Mirrorpool at all. And I want to play Mirrorpool.

The Issue

Manabases in EDH are currently designed with accessing colored mana being pretty important. This may be a “basic land format,” where basics are just fine and cards like Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Kodama’s Reach, and Myriad Landscape reward you for playing basic lands, and cards like Boundless Realms really reward you for playing basic lands, but we like access to the mana we need reliably. Players are so eager to make sure they get their colored mana that they don’t see a big issue with “risky” lands like Sejiri Refuge, Golgari Guildgate, and Gruul Turf. You notice players will play that last one, Gruul Turf, but aren’t super likely to play a card like Karoo which does the same thing but gives you a spare colorless rather than two colored mana, even in a mono-white deck? Players aren’t as in love with the Karoo effect as they are with having a land that taps for two colored mana every time they use it. This shows how important colored mana is to players. Whenever we need generic mana, Gruul Turf is good for two of them, helping us power out big spells like Genesis Wave or Primal Surge.

It’s trivial to generate generic mana, so we don’t think about how many sources we have, do we?

PopQuizHotShot

How many sources of true, non-generic, colorless mana do you have in your favorite EDH deck? Four? Five? Do you even know? Well, you probably have a Sol Ring, and maybe a Temple of the False God. Probably a few more. I’m going to estimate seven sources in a two-color deck, six for a three-color one, and maybe four for five-color lists. How close is this estimate?

The answer is a bit surprising. I started poking around online to find lists, mostly at random to try and get a decent sampling of what players are currently building. I found a Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck with one source (Maze’s End) right off the bat.  Some Oloro decks ran six or seven with sources like Pristine Talismanand some ran only three. I even found a few two-color decks that had zero ways to produce true colorless mana. Those decks were rare, but they exist.

Granted, the more likely a player was to be a tryhard with only one deck and load it up with fetches and shocks, the less likely they were to have sources of true colorless. Anyone can easily build with generating colorless in mind, but I think the point isn’t how easy it might be to fit more colorless sources in, but how hard it will be to take good, useful lands out to make room. Sure, we can upend our current mana bases and build them differently so we can jam one new card, but we probably don’t want to. Are there unobtrusive ways to still get the mana we need, not disrupt our lives too much, and have access to the true colorless mana we need? I have a few solutions—and there is money to be made.

Solution – Run Some Wastes

In a three-color deck, we already have cards like Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Evolving Wilds, Myriad Landscape, etc. Jamming a few Wastes in there to tutor for means we can keep the same number of basics but have access to true colorless in the deck. We basically remove a few color-generating basics for a few Wastes.

Effectiveness as a Solution

This makes it harder for us to get colored mana. We could take every mana-producing land out and run 40 Wastes. Is that going to help us cast most of our spells? I hate the idea of weakening a deck’s ability to get colored mana. Otherwise, we’d run Rath’s Edge and Dust Bowl and Wasteland and Strip Mine and all the other utility lands in every deck. Unless your commander is an Eldrazi or a silver golem, you’re not going to want to take out colored basics for Wastes.

Is There Money to be Made? 

Yes, actually. I feel like Wastes will be everywhere and under-valued initially, but looking at snow-covered lands and foil snow-covered lands, I feel like foil Wastes could be as much as $10 in a year if they become popular in EDH. They’re almost certain to be undervalued at peak supply and rotation, and those are the two times I’d start to look at them. I’ve harped on this in other articles, so I won’t belabor the point, but Wastes are a card for some situations, just not solving our Endbringer problem.

Solution – Colorless Ramp

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We have a few lands and spells we could run that are such efficient ways to generate mana that we forgive the fact that the mana they give us is colorless.

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Effectiveness as a Solution

These do the trick, however a lot of these have restrictions. Whether you can only spend the mana on spells like with Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, have to sacrifice the land like with Crystal Vein, or having to wait like with Temple of the False God, these lands come with strings attached. However, we play with a lot of these cards already, because the restrictions aren’t so great as to keep us from playing them in decks that don’t require the colorless mana to be non-generic. If we want to jam a Kozilek or Endbringer (and I do want to jam Endbringer), that just makes these lands even better.

Is There Money to be Made?

Eh. The problem is the cards that are good enough to be played already are already expensive. Repeated reprintings has crushed the price of Temple of the False God to around $0.50, but the foil is $25 and seems safe but not poised to go anywhere but glacially upward. The cards that are the least obtrusive new inclusions have the fewest financial opportunities. The cards with the most room to grow are not played much now for a reason, and we’d need a huge increase in adoption to move the needle. My desire to play with a Staff of Nin that’s also a 5/5 isn’t enough, I fear. These cards do the trick, but they’re kind of doing the trick already. Sol Ring isn’t going to spike because it helps us draw a card with a bulk rare Eldrazi, it’s going to go in decks because it’s Sol Ring.

Solution – Lands That Do It All

Do you want to summon and activate Endbringer with the same lands that can help you play the Prophet of Kruphix that makes him even stupider? It’s pretty simple, really.

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Sexy, right?

Effectiveness as a Solution

Perfection. These give us two colors of mana and can also tap for true colorless, and don’t give us damage to boot. These can’t be tutored up with Burnished Hart like a Forest, fetched with a Misty Rainforest, or divined for with Cultivate, but these solve our problem and solve it good. If you have a Simic Guildgate, Thornwood Falls, or some other land that’s not super exciting but is in the deck because it’s cheap, taps for mana of two of your colors, and doesn’t deal you damage, you have a card to take out. Pain lands deal damage to you, but that rarely matters. The number of times I’ve lost games of EDH to my life total being reduced to zero pale in comparison to the number of times I’ve been milled, killed by commander damage when I had over 100 life, been hit with a quadrillion copies of Zealous Conscripts, or lost to Laboratory Maniac.  A pain land is “calibrated” for a 20-life format, so when you think about it, Yavimaya Coast deals about half a damage in EDH terms. I’ll pay half a life to get an entire mana any day.

Is There Money to be Made?

Yup. These were already a pretty good buy and these are a cheap solution for EDH decks. For a while I thought “check lands” were my go-to non-basic, two-colored land. The problem there is that there is a wild price divergence going on.

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It’s a little difficult to tout this cycle as the “answer” when there is such a price divergence going on. One has been reprinted much, much more often than the other, but you see my point. Jam a Sunpetal Grove all you want; I used to buy these for a buck cash from players before they stopped selling at all on TCGplayer for me. Enough players are fine playing guildgates and gain lands that come into play tapped that the fact that these sometimes don’t come into play tapped seems trivial.

Guildgates are durdly. Karoos don’t tap for colorless (except for actual Karoo). Shocks are expensive, and if you have them you’re playing them already and know they’re worth it. Too many utility lands like Alchemist’s Refuge dilute your ability to produce colored mana reliably, and even gold-star lands like ABU duals can’t get you the true colorless you need. Pain lands are perfect here. If only you could run more than one in a Vorel deck.

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This is the graph for an Origins foil. It’s under $3 with a lot of potential. There is the risk of even more reprints, true, but with core sets being a thing of the past, it’s less likely that we will see another printing. Most likely, the mana needs of each individual set will be covered by something new. For now, these cards are the cheapest they’re ever going to be and there are a lot of them in binders. If you can get these for buylist (cash is king no matter where you go), it’s pretty tough to lose. There is very little downside to adopting these in EDH and the number of lands each deck wants goes up precipitously depending on the number of colors it is. A two-color deck can only run one pain land, but a three-color deck can run three, and a five-color deck can run ten. Will it want to? I guess that all depends on how badly it wants to activate Mirrorpool and not Maze’s End.

It remains to be seen whether the few “true colorless” cards are going to be a significant price  driver in EDH. What is known is that with the pain lands being historically affordable and historically available and less likely than ever to be reprinted soon, these are a great target. Pain lands are generic. But that’s what we want.

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On Clerics: The Article I Said in the Spoiler Coverage I Was Going to Write

I’m helping with the Spoiler Coverage for Oath of the Gatewatch. Well, I mean, am I helping, or am I just doing it and DJ is helping me? I’ll let you be the judge. Unless you think I’m helping him and not the other way around. Then I’m never letting you be the judge again. Usually you have to go to law school first, and you suck at it.

I said in said coverage that DJ is helping me with that I was going to write about one of the cards at length, because while I expect it’s probably going to be a bulk rare, I also expect it’s going to make an entire deck playable that people have wanted to play and have not been able to. I’m talking, of course, about Mono-Black Splash White Kor Tribal™.

The Coming Tide

aylieternalpilgrim

Real talk, though, having a black-white legendary cleric is something that people have wanted since EDH was a thing. We want four-color commanders, we want an Izzet-colored Commander that deals with artifacts, and we want a cockadoodie black and white cockadoodie cleric so we can build a COCK-A-DOODIE CLERIC DECK.

cleric

We’ve waited for long enough. Ayli and Daxos have made me seriously consider converting to Orzhov, and this is after Simic basically gave me everything I ever wanted in the form of the new Ezuri. Infinite turns with Sage of Hours? That’s cool. What have you done for me lately? Lumping myself in with Orzhov people who have waited patiently for this momentous occasion aside, what would the deck play and what can we even make money off of?

The deck would play a lot of back and white clerics cards, and those cards are old enough to be scarce, yet new enough to be available in foil. This pleases me. There’s gold in them thar’ hills, and we can mine it ahead of the coming gold rush if we’re canny enough to know where to start prospectin’. So let’s prospect.

EDHREC is a great resource for us, but without a commander to plug in, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s time to strap on our gumshoes and do some old-fashioned detective work. I googled “BW Clerics EDH” and looked at a few decks to see if they had anything in common. This gave me my first lead.

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This card will go in 100 percent of Ayli decks. It’s a way to gain life to make sure you switch on her last ability. It’s a way to kill people. Can you imagine having a ton of clerics and just one-shotting an opponent by saccing Doubtless One to this land?

Foils are under $2, and that seems insane but also easy to fix. There just aren’t a ton of copies of this land out there, and EDH players aren’t really socking these away into collections and decks because there really wasn’t a way to build this deck unless you did what some people did and built around Teysa or an Esper-colored creature that served to occupy your command zone while you played the clerics you wanted to play. With an actual commander, this land will be the first card to go, and with as cheap and rare as it is, I see real upside. Not only was identifying this card a leg up, it also gave me something to search EDHREC for.

How many decks that weren’t running a ton of clerics were going to run this land? Very, very few. This gave me a list of cards that were frequently paired in decks with Starlit Sanctum. So which cards are likely to go up based on the abundance of new clerics decks built around Ayli?

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Now here’s a real card. This can go in other decks, probably, but if we’re going to be sacrificing a ton of clerics, this gives us a way to replace them with bodies, and it has crossover appeal with zombie decks. Kinda. The point is that this has been pretty steady, had a recent brush with arbitrage, and is generally in low enough supply that it could easily jump over $5 and beyond if people give it any attention. How do I know a ton of people aren’t paying attention? Easy.

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The foil is has a multiplier of only two. Casual players are making Rotlung Reanimator a $2.50 card with a $5 foil, and Ayli can really drive both prices up and make the foil multiplier diverge. A foil cleric deck is doable right now with only a few cards like Auriok Champion being prohibitively expensive to foil out. I feel like the foils cost now what the non-foils could cost very soon if people start to build around Ayli.

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How about that Tiny Leaders format? I am not going to sit here and say, “I told you so,” but I did refuse to write about Tiny Leaders as a format before it really established itself as something other than a flash in the pan, and every subsequent “next hotness” that comes along like 1994 and Canadian Highlander I vow to stay out of for a year to give myself time to learn about them and for the formats to fizzle out. Now that the price of this cleric is returning to earth, be cautioned. The copies of this card are concentrated in the hands of speculators who couldn’t sell them, dealers foolish enough to jack up their buy price, and store display cases. When a card spikes after not really being a real card, copies come out of the woodwork. Speculators hit every LGS in the area to scour bulk bins and binders. People buylist them because they were junk and now they are worth something. Loose copies all get concentrated. If this card spikes again, even a little, the market will get flooded with copies. This is still too expensive for what it is, and I don’t see financial opportunity in trying to bank on this card going up based on clerics being popular. It’s a good card and good in the deck. It goes in the deck. But you’re not going to make money on this, I fear. There are too many people looking to undersell you to dump their hella copies and a much bigger shock will be needed to move the needle.

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Tapping five clerics may look a little steep, but gaining 10 life is a reusable way to keep your Ayli switched on and keep yourself from dying to regular damage. This is also a very old foil that’s under $2 and will go in every Ayli deck that’s built with victory in mind. This card’s fate, like so many cards in this article, is directly tied to Ayli, but with Commander players clamoring for a black-white cleric and finally getting their prayers answered, there is real upside. This card fuels several clericy win conditions, as well as making sure you can keep nuking non-land permanents with Ayli. This is a must-include.

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So many foil staples under $2. This is making me really want to just build this deck. A recent arbitrage opportunity and dealer behavior showing they are willing to come very close to the retail price, repeatedly, shows that dealers have a tough time keeping the relatively small number of copies in stock, but are willing to get these in and sell them for a small margin. This card is biggity-bonkers in a clerics deck and can make you friends at the table and keep your life total high enough to keep Ayli switched on. This is dumb. Under $2 is dumb.

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If this card were older, it might be closer to $2 in foil instead of the $1 in foil it is now. Protecting your life total is important, and this card can keep you from dying to a token swarm or cards like Goblin Bombardment, which happens more often than you might think. Expensive mana-wise, this is worth it. And it’s cheap money-wise, so I’m even more inclined to just build a foil clerics deck. The foil Debtors’ Knell will suck, but the rest of the cards are like a damn dollar. For now, that is.

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Conversely, casuals are already very aware of this tough-to-destroy creature who can get very large and very formidable very quickly. With foils at $13, there is room for divergence. It looks like this card will go up over time anyway, so it’s hard to lose here.

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I don’t know if you jam this in the deck, and if you do, how many, but just remember these were sitting on draft chaff piles for free and they’re approaching $2 and $5 in foil. Just thought this card was worth revisiting.

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This only tacks on $3 to our foil cleric deck price and it does WORK. A recent brush with arbitrage shows at least one dealer has confidence this will get somewhere some day. Personally, I just think it goes in the deck and probably just the one deck, but there is real upside. This is good in the deck.

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“Hey guys, remember me? Well, I make clerics. You need to sacrifice a cleric? Use one of mine. Can I make the game get out of control? Yep, sure can.”

Heliod seems to have bottomed out and is starting to creep back up. He’s a much more useful card in EDH than he was in Standard, and I expect to see him pass a few lesser gods on his way up. He makes enchantments and clerics at the same time. So many decks want that. Foils are only $8 for now, which seems super reasonable.

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I am seeing a lot of recent arbitrage opportunities on these $2 foils, and all around the same point in history. I wonder what happened that crazy month. Probably an article like this one. Am I creating false hysteria? I don’t think so—we’re getting a CLERIC COMMANDER.

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There are a few other creatures that are probably shoo-ins, like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails and Auriok Champion, a card that costs as much as the rest of the deck at $50 in foil. Those are fairly obvious. Put basically every cleric creature in the deck. Heliod, though, is less obvious, and I think you read my column because I come up with some things you might not have thought of on your own. How does this pile of clerics become a deck?

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This should take some of the sting out of sacrificing your clerics all day long. Getting them back for value all the time and being able to use Ayli a lot will feel good, and this card goes in lots of other decks. It’s not going to go down in price much, if at all, and any bump in demand should send the price up a bit. This is a solid place to park some money. I may even spring for the foil at $21. This foil clerics deck will be fun.

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This $6 card is available for $9 in foil. A 1.5x multiplier tells me that casual players love this card, and foil nuts like I’m gradually becoming aren’t as keen yet. But as cheap as it is, I’m springing for the foil, as there are so few copies that people paying attention to this card should see that multiplier grow even if the non-foil price grows more slowly. This card says “win the game” on it and rewards you for gaining life like you already planned to. Deal.

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The reprint at non-mythic rare threw this card off a cliff. You can pretend this is a $4 card all you want, but Battle for Zendikar copies are bulk. BFZ foils are $2. Will this card recover? Yes. Just not this year.

This used to be a $30 foil. I almost bought one, and I’m glad I didn’t, but even if I had shelled out like $25 for this, I would have been able to use it for a year before its price took a dump, and winning games with this would have made it worth it. BFZ foils at $2 seems interesting, but remember, it’s not mythic anymore, and that sucks. Now I know how Yu-Gi-Oh! financiers feel.

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Do people just not know about this card? How is this not more expensive? In any case, this does work in a deck where you are sacrificing your guys and want them back to sacrifice them again. This card is from Urza’s Saga, meaning it’s old enough to vote, and we’re not getting more of these printed because it’s so busted that Wizards saw fit to include it on the Reserved List. With the cards in Battle for Zendikar that reward sacrifice, this seems like it has upside to me.

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This could get reprinted, but until it does, why not Grave Pact them and make them not want to cast removal spells on your stuff? This card is growing very steadily because it’s busted, and clerics decks where your commander is a sacrifice outlet won’t shy away from this card by any means.

I went way over my word count and didn’t  even jam in my usual space-wasting rhetoric this week. This is a topic that could have easily yielded another full article full of picks. What I suggest is looking at how the deck would be built and getting ahead of the people who will likely want to build around Ayli when the set is released. Forewarned is forearmed, so be armed with the info from this article or I will forearm you in the throat. You know, with my forearm. That word means two things.

Did I make a clerical error and forget to include an obvious cleric card? Leave it in the comments below. Until next week, nerds. Smell ya later!

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What a Waste

So that Wastes card is all but confirmed, isn’t it?

Wastes

This guy. The card that is *wink wink, nudge nudge* unconfirmed. I am not going to 100 percent say that we know this card is real, but I don’t think it would kill us to pretend it is.

Kill Shot

This card actually matters a great deal even if it’s not real, because it’s going to drive buying behavior for a little bit, and if it is real, everyone who was waiting for confirmation is going to act and only those who bought before they got confirmation are in a position to benefit. Let’s look at every possible consequence of this card within an EDH-finance perspective and try to see how much this card matters and how likely we think it is to be real.

I think it’s probably real. I’ve heard from a few people who design proxies, most notably “Proxy Guy” (@theproxyguy) that if this card is a fake, it’s flawless. For a while, the odd symbol on the card appeared like it might be a dreaded sixth mana color. Players who are optimistic like me when I’m drinking (but only the right amount and the right stuff—like, Whiskey Jason is only optimistic about his ability to beat school buses in fights and Tequilla Jason blacks out and tells people he invented time travel, but only a few hours into the future and your pants can’t travel into the future with you) will tell you they think this is just a basic land that taps for colorless mana.

How do we explain Newzilek (Newlamog rolls off the tongue so much better) and the fact that he has colorless mana in his casting cost?

Kozilek-the-Great-Distortion

 

Being charitable, we’ll assume the two diamond shapes are colorless mana that originated from a source that produces colorless mana and the other eight mana can come from colored sources. You can tap eight forests and two wastes, for example, but you can’t tap ten forests. That seems a little bit clunky and unintuitive, but the alternative is living in a world where Wizards of the Coast took all of the design work Johnathon Loucks did plus all of the feedback they have gotten from EDH players with colorless generals, put all of those things into a pile, and peed on them. Just peed right on that pile of mostly intangible concepts.

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I don’t want to live in a world where Wizards of the Coast pees on concepts. I want to live in a world where I can play Evolving Wilds in my Karn, Silver Golem EDH deck, should I ever hate winning enough to build that kind of deck. Although, maybe I will build it, because the idea of using Liquimetal Coating to assassinate their lands one by one or attack them for seven with Spine of Ish Sah makes me laugh.

So maybe it’s not just wastes that produce this diamond mana. Maybe other lands tap for it and maybe it’s just a new and totally unnecessary way to denote colorless mana. Did we have other clues? You bet.

mirrorpool

There’s that symbol again. So, either only lands from this set produce this mana (stupid) or this is the new way lands that tap for only colorless will denote that (stupid, but less stupid, so it wins).

Battle of Wits

Let’s ignore how totally hot sex Mirrorpool is in EDH for a few weeks, even though this card is. It’s hot, hot sex. Can you think of a deck that doesn’t want to do any of those things? Oh, you can’t? And Crucible of Worlds is a card? Interesting. I hope this card’s real. You know what else I hope is real? The last piece of the puzzle.

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There’s that fugly diamond again. I could kiss you, fugly diamond. I could kiss your fugly, foil f$^%*@# face.

I don’t want to talk about the price of a Mystic Gate Expeditions land will cost, because I just started thinking of the analysis I could do to figure it out, and correctly predicting the price of something that the market will dictate the price of before any of us can preorder them and no one can make any money from short of buying packs and busting them is a lot of work to show off, maybe be wrong, and not talk about what I wanted to talk about when I started writing this article.

"Ach! Hans, Run!"

Let’s stick with the task at hand. Still, if this is real, we’re getting foily, fantastic filter lands in EDH, and maybe some other formats, too, I guess. It also confirms the diamond symbol. There will be DIRE CONSEQUENCES.

Card with Symbols

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I did this in MS paint because I was out touching girls’ boobs when the rest of you nerds were learning how to photoshop boobs onto the Facebook pictures of the girls in your homeroom class. The point still stands: if they’re committed to the stupid diamond thing outside of this block, and therefore for the rest of the time this wacky card game keeps selling, this is how the next Sol Ring might look. Why is this important? Well, it’s new. And new could matter.

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Oh, the plateaus and plummets of our old friend. Every time it looked like the card might get back on its feet, another reprint came and kicked the legs out from under it like old Brooks kicked the legs out from under the chair he was standing on when he carved “Brooks was here” in the support beam in the room in the halfway house where he was staying after getting paroled from Shawshank. Who’s going to feed old Brooks’s crows, now? Are you? No, all you care about is yourself.

Greed

Maybe you want to think about other people for a second, though. Because people have different opinions. Some people think Shawshank Redemption wasn’t one of the greatest movies of all time. They’re wrong, but since we can’t put a snubnose .38 in their face (the very same gun that was use to frame old Andy Dufrense) and force them to buy a DVD copy, we have to tolerate their points of view.

The point is: preference could come into play. I can’t guess at the exact distribution, but there will be people who prefer the new double diamond look of the Sol Ring from Commander 2016 which, let’s not pretend we all don’t think is happening, and the people who prefer the classic circle deuces look. People will prefer one or the other, and the new look could mean the price won’t be quite as cheap as we expect, even though there will be a Sol Ring in every deck. The price of the new, diamondy Sol Ring is likely to finish above the many different printings of the older ring, and the price divergence could stabilize the price of the older versions, as the preference players have for the different versions could have a stabilizing effect on the supply and demand curve.

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Ditto here, and maybe moreso.

Colorless Cards

There are EDH staples and then there are narrower staples. It’s the manabase pain in the ass that kept people from building a deck with a colorless commander. There are a lot of colorless cards with upside if people start to build more decks with colorless commanders, made easier by Wastes. Maybe Newzilek would be a sweet commander.

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An artifact that is less useless in mono-artifact decks all of a sudden? Be still my beating heart. The Commander 2015 version of Marvin the Paranoid Android is hovering under $3 and has some real upside at that price. I don’t see it getting any lower. It’s a damn Solemn Simulacrum. True, there is a chance it’s reprinted a year from now, but I bet it goes up enough from $2.50 that you’ll be glad you bought in. Besides, being able to fetch Wastes is unprecedented for this card, and when people realize how much applicability it will have in a type of deck people weren’t building before, I see real upside. The original version is still the most expensive because it looks the coolest (why have an Invitational and do a portrait of the winner on the card they designed if you’re going to change the art later? It’s dumb) and because it’s super rare compared to the rest. It’s also got a foil version.

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The new applicability in the colorless decks could be the kick in the ass frowny Jens needs to climb the charts again. You could get an ugly 2012 version in foil, but you could also join the Hare Krishnas or pierce your own nipples with that kit you bought on Amazon because the directions looked so easy, and that cute goth chick in your computer programming class said “tight” when you mentioned you thought you might get a piercing (and you didn’t mean it), but maybe this could be your in; you could be like “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” and maybe the piercing she shows you won’t haunt your nightmares. The point is: don’t buy ugly foils and don’t pierce your nips. That chick’s getting back together with her ex, everyone knows that.

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The third printing, even though it was at mythic, brought this card down to a new low. According to EDHREC, this is a +47% synergy rating for Karn, Silver Golem, a commander with upside with Wastes. This can’t get cheaper barring a reprint, and it could be turning the corner already.

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This thing is almost impossible to reprint, and it’s already doing what we expect it to do. Dealer confidence could be higher, but you never know what caused the behavior which was following the plot to tail off. What we do know is this card is nutter butters with artifacts.

It’s not just artifacts that could benefit here. A new Kozilek and new Ulamog give us a chance at having sicko Commanders, ready to come out of the Command Zone and get into trouble. Although Wastes may figure into the mana base, it won’t be the only thing.

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Can we agree this card isn’t going anywhere but up?

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At first glance, there’s no money to be made here. Bulk rares in in-print sets that are non-mythic in the post-mythic era aren’t going to be significantly buoyed by EDH alone, but wait. Let’s look at another graph.

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Foils under $3? Thanks, generous multiplier stymied by a low non-foil price. If this card preserves this multiplier (it can’t) this could be a $50 foil as the non-foil grows, but I’m thinking we’re seeing a divergence due to the high desirability and low relative availability of the foil versus the non-foil, and I expect more divergence is possible.

We can explore a few more examples later. I have a final point I want to make.

Wastes Themselves

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Awwww, yiss. Playing with Wastes is going to be sicko. How do we evaluate the price of Wastes? Are they in every booster? Are they inserted as a sixth basic land? Do they replace a common? Are they mixed in with commons? Will this be the last set with them? What I think is important to know is that these will likely be discarded by Limited players and are worth jamming in a box if you get them for free. I think it’s unlikely they will be printed again soon, and if they are, I doubt it will be full-art. This is free money.

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Here’s a card to look at.  Four printings have beleaguered its price, but it’s still hanging in there. Imagine only one printing of this card. I realize it’s uncommon from a much older set, but it’s also a card that everyone who wants them wants a lot of. Foils are $4 to $7 depending on the set. Want a closer example?

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I feel like Wastes are$1 (or more!) cards waiting to happen. Snow-covered lands are cool, but Ice Age gave us a ton of them so the two printings limit the upside.

Here’s a price you should have memorized as we go into preorder season:

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Is $10 unreasonable for foil Wastes? I don’t think so. If you can get them for very cheap, imagine what a foil, full-art Wastes could go for very easily in a year or so. Will Wastes be in every set? Return to Return to Zendikar only? Will they never print them again? All I know is that we have some decent price corollaries and we should be mindful of them going into “busting packs of Oath of the Gatewatch” season. There will be full-art lands in the fat packs again, there will be Expeditions lands again, but there will also be foil Wastes. As far as I know, that’s worth paying attention to.

After my article last week went a little bit long, I was told my article this week would have a hard cap at 2200 words and that was non-negotiable. No matter what I was talking about, 2200 is the cap, so I need to work on being a little pithier. I understand the need to be more succinct in my writing and respect the decision to cap me. I’d like to thank you all for reading and I invite you to join me next week when the topic of my article will be


 

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