Category Archives: Jason Alt

Double the Exposure, Double the Puns

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Hello, readers!

You are probably wondering why you didn’t get an article out of me last week. There’s a very simple explanation for that – I didn’t write one. I fully intended to, I was even looking forward to talking about more EDH goodness and to encourage those of you who are ProTrader members to hit the forums more often. There are a lot of single card discussions being generated about Standard and Modern cards but nothing really for EDH. Are our cards not worth money? Do they not gain? Prick them, do they not bleed? Well, OK, EDH picks aren’t sentient, but they’re worth discussing and if you’re a ProTrader, hit the forums and help me get some EDH pick discussions going. If we’re good I can see about adding our own category just for EDH picks. We’re people too, dammit.

So since I had a lot to talk about last week, why didn’t I? Well, the answer is pretty simple – I was somewhat preoccupied. I write these on a Monday and last Monday at 3:11 AM my wife and I summoned our first Planeswalker. We named her Liliana, which I realize is a basic baby name at this point. “What’s wrong, Jason? Was the hospital gift shop out of ‘Khaleesi’ license plates so you audibled?” Look, in my defense, there’s a bit of a story behind it. Basically, every name my wife liked was terrible. Like… terrible. One a scale from 1-10, the names were “If you name a boy like that, they will have to remove the underwear from his asscrack surgically.” I’m kind of glad we didn’t have a boy because she likes the name “Rowan.” Not like the Magic card, that’s “Rowen,” but like this guy.

Hello, ladies
Hello, ladies

Not happening. Her picks for girl’s names weren’t much better, frankly. I mentioned Liliana and she actually liked it. It was basically the only girl’s name we can agree on. Are there a lot of nerds naming their kids after Magic Planeswalkers these days? Yes, I guess there are. But there aren’t any in my town and she’ll be the only one in her class with that name and I can live with that. Those who think I lack originality should remember they picked their kid’s name out of a book and if you make fun of my daughter’s name within her earshot, she’ll make you discard a card. My kid is the best.

Lili

Temporary disruptions to my writing schedule aside (my sleep schedule is permanently disrupted, but I was on standup comedian time anyway, so it didn’t take much) we have some stuff to discuss, so let’s, you know, do that.

Exposure

I’m a chemist by training, so I think in those terms sometimes. It isn’t always relevant to MTG Finance, but in one way I think it can be. As an EDH financier, I like to make calls that are a ways off. First of all, outside of new sets making profound things happen, most of our calls are long-term, slow-burn (what am I, Styx?) cards. For every Sage of Hours shooting up overnight because of Ezuri, we have 10 Primal Vigors, chugging away because fewer are being opened and more are being jammed in decks because Primal Vigor is very good. We could transition into a discussion about a spike versus a correction versus inevitable price increase based on supply and demand but this isn’t that kind of article. I’m even going to talk about specific cards in a minute so hold onto your hats, nerds. Thinking about how EDH cards increase in price got me thinking about the concept of upside and upside got me thinking about chemistry.

Exposure is a word I like to use in relation to upside. The more upside a card is exposed to, the more chances it has to go up. Think about it – which card is exposed to more upside, Mutavault or Sliver Hive? The cards play very differently but they also behave very differently. Mutavault was a juggernaut of a card and if it hadn’t gotten reprinted, it would have continued to climb in price. Any cool tribal card can give Mutavault (or maybe this $7 beauty)

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some upside whereas only cool new Slivers have a chance to do anything to the price of Sliver Hive. This is one way to think about how much more upside Mutavault is exposed to. The price reflects not only the disparity in utility but also in the different strategies Mutavault boosts (it doesn’t suck as a vanilla stand-in for Mishra’s Factory, either) even though in a Sliver EDH deck, Mutavault is pretty meh and Hive is pretty outstanding.

Grubbs

When I was an undergraduate, one of the last projects I worked on was Grubb’s Catalyst, a catalyst for which Robert Grubbs was awarded a Nobel Prize. Grubbs’ catalyst is special because it helps certain chemical structures undergo a process where closed ring structures like you see on the left become more “open” structures like the one on the right. I’m super oversimplifying (if you want to learn more about ROMP there are good resources out there) but the gist of it is, this catalyst can make closed ring structures which exist discretely as their own little unit open the rings which creates two bonding sites where there used to be 0. Suddenly these rings can be chained together where they previously could not. The difference in potential between a closed ring and a structure that has a huge increase in new bonding sites is gigantic and that’s why this catalyst’s discovery was worthy of a Nobel prize. More bonding sites means more exposure to potential “upside” if you really stretch the metaphor.  I think about EDH cards that have potential to affect Modern or maybe even Legacy the same way.

Let’s go back to a card I mentioned above, a card that sold out so fast that some sites are still telling our algorithm that it’s $1.

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This was growing. If you picked these up at $0.50 you’re really glad today but you were even glad last week when some sites had them at $2. A quadruple up is never a bad thing, after all. Tribal stuff in fun in EDH and casual and new, good tribal cards get printed in every block. This card was going to climb steadily and those $0.50 investors would have felt great when this hit $3 later this year.

Was Descendants’ Path a good spec? Yes, of course. Almost all tribal stuff is and we have EDH and casual to thank for that. If you bought in at $0.50 and outed them for $1.50 to a buylist you’d clear some real money after fees if you bought in deep enough. Best of all, these were very easy to trade for and I got these in bulk all the time.

What took this from a good spec to a great spec was people playing it with tribal eldrazi in Modern. All of a sudden people were flipping an Emrakul off of the top way too early because Eldrazi can cost 0 mana these days. Turn that 0-drop Mimic into a 15/15 and threaten lethal, all because of Descendants’ durdly Path. When Modern players decide to start doing the kind of unfair stuff we do in EDH, they’re going to need our cards and we’re happy to sell them to them, provided we were invested first. Modern playability exposed Path to a ton of upside and that paid dividends this weekend.

It wasn’t just tribal cards, either.

Modern Price Trends

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Hope you got your copy for your Daxos deck, because this went from about $3.50 to about $35.00 over the weekend. Multiple printings made this a real risky gainer and the fact that you have to keep it and creatures around made it a tough way to stay alive in EDH, but this was always a solid card. Would it have gone up over time as a result of EDH and casual play? Maybe, but I didn’t like the price trend of “super flat for like a decade” enough to include it in the same breath as Daxos when I wrote about Daxos a half dozen times or so between here, Gathering Magic and spoiler coverage. It is a good card (good enough that I bought multiple copies of an Urza’s Saga precon to make sure I had multiple copies for my white weenie deck back in 1998) but kind of wasn’t going anywhere – until you factor in the Pro Tour. Suddenly the card is sold out and Modern, not EDH or casual, got it there.

So what are some other EDH-tier cards that could get a second look based on things happening in Modern?

exposeevil
All kinds of exposure in this article

Expose evil is an okay card in Limited but nothing special. What is relevant is an artifact token that can be used not only to draw a card, but also, as one excited redditor puts it, to build an archetype around.

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This is a bulk rare right now and with any amount of upside from turning investigation tokens into Blightsteel Colossus this could be a real card. It’s old enough that cards in this set are valuable. Personally, if a deck with 4 Polymorph and 4 Shape Anew to get Blightsteel wasn’t doing it before, this won’t make it happen in Modern. Polymorph is just better because it can get Eldrazi and make the game end a lot faster and I don’t know about this. Still, if anyone builds the deck, this bulk rare has some upside. Even though I’m not excited at the prospect of this as a spec given the clunkiness of builds like this which already exist and are already clunky, EDH and Modern both influence the future of this card rather than just EDH like for a card like Rite of Replication (I mean, for now). This is a good thought exercise to get us looking at EDH playables (My Sharuum loves Shape Anew for funsies) that are also fringe Modern playables.

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Jor Kadeen’s right-hand man here has a decently-high buyin price to be sure, but also has a lot of playability in both formats. The Puresteel deck is fun but is a known quantity although it’s a bit of a Dr Dre right now – not gone but forgotten. That is, until someone got people excited again.

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Top 8 at SCG Regionals isn’t exactly on-camera Day 2 of the PT, but it’s online and it’s exciting. While this isn’t necessarily a home run, it’s also a fringe-playable card that has upside based on two different formats. EDH seems to print new equipment and new Kor to wield them in both regular sets and supplementary product with relative regularity and Modern having a deck (though what Tier?) means it gets bought as a 4-of by people playing that deck. Again, whether or not this is a spec I’d spend money on remains to be seen, but what is clear is that this kind of thing makes cards spike hard overnight and being able to see them coming by checking fringe decks like this helps you buy ahead of time. People who buy ahead of time don’t get their orders cancelled. People who buy ahead of time have copies in hand to list at the new price when the card spikes and people are panic buying.

Broken Stuff

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We’re used to doing broken stuff in EDH. Modern is so unused to truly broken plays that  they see fit to keep Emrakul legal, a card that is no fun for EDH because of how many lives it ruins and how easy it is to get into play in EDH. A steady gainer (until the reprint absolutely pantsed it) like Eldrazi Temple is a great EDH spec until another reprint takes it down or something like this happens. Both are somewhat likely which is why MTG Finance has risks. But when Modern starts looking to do broken stuff, they’ll be coming to EDH, not standard for their goodies. We knew about Goryo’s Vengeance and we loved it, but Modern made it the price it is today. What else could be fringe playable in Modern and suddenly become as broken there as it is in EDH?

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Could this see the $5 it once was again? EDH can make this climb a bit but it’s not going to send it into the $10 range the way Modern could.

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Imagine my delight when my favorite EDH spec was mentioned as a way to deal with Eldrazi in Modern. I’ve been on this since they were a buck or two and I’ve got a pile going that will make me very happy if Modern makes this a $10 card, but I could also just wait a few years for EDH to hopefully make it hit the same mark. Either I win big by getting lucky or win as big over a longer time by being smart. Either way, looking at cross-format playability is a surefire way to make some money.

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Next time you see a card that is talked about in Standard like it has potential bottom out, think about it. EDH is going to make this card gain over time. You have a minimal investment, virtually-assured growth due to power level and all the time in the world to watch this grow. You also have a non-zero chance of something making this go insane in Modern and all of a sudden you dectuple up on every copy. EDH will make you money, Modern can make you money. Put the two together and get some real work done.

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How is Removal Like the Wu-Tang Clan?

Last week, we talked about the changes to the rules of EDH and how those changes can affect prices. A major event like a significant banning and a significant change to how the color identity rules work coupled in the same announcement gives us an embarrassment of information and led to some pretty significant price changes, as we all predicted.

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Foil Sen Triplets shot up $30 over a week ago from where it was hovering around $40 to the $70 people are trying to charge on TCGplayer now. Most of the smaller retail sites are out of copies and the excitement about how much fun this card is going to be to play seems to be responsible. This was something we predicted would happen last week and it happened very quickly.

Similarly, Seedborn Muse was roughly a $15 card last week and it’s sold out nearly everywhere online as people rush to plug the hole left in their deck by Prophet of Kruphix. Seedborn Muse is not even half as good as Prophet and its price won’t hold, but people are going to try anyway. Something like $27 to $30 seems to be the growing rate and if history is to be believed, the price should stabilize between the pre-spike price of $15 and the post-spike price of $30. $22.50 is still a lot to pay for a card that doesn’t even give your creatures flash. If Muse were that good in that spot, people would have been playing it already alongside Prophet. This was predictable as well.

Now that the dust seems to have settled and we’re thinking about which decks to build in the future and which cards we want to include in those decks, we should address something that is rarely discussed for some odd reason.

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People love to talk about what they want their EDH deck to do. They make a pile of a ton of cards that can go in the deck that might accomplish the goal and set about the nearly impossible task of paring the deck down to just 99 cards plus a commander. This is a decent way to build a deck, except that it ignores something pretty fundamental that people who don’t play a ton of one-on-one EDH forget sometimes: other players exist. That is to say, they’re trying to do stuff and you should probably try and stop them from doing their thing so that when you do your thing, you win. Planning an epic Insurrection is cool unless some guy makes infinite mana with Palinchron (another card we predicted would spike, remember?) and kill you before you even get the mana to do it.

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Why trifle with other formats when EDH is so predictable?

You need to devote space in your deck to dealing with what they do, and while this isn’t a deckbuilding column (mostly because I told you how I build decks in the last paragraph even though I essentially just mocked people who build that way in the same paragraph), we should consider putting removal and cards that stuff their strategies into our decks. If everyone does that, we can make some money predicting the cards they’ll use.

Some of the stuff that is good removal is always going to be good removal and the prices of those cards are going to reflect that.

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I was expecting the price of this card to be relatively stable to help me prove my point but this does the opposite. I had to shift the axes of this graph because this was like $35 at some point. Who knows why these things happen? The point is, Legacy monkeys with this from time to time, but this is basically always going to be a solid EDH spell that green decks should run. You stop them and they can’t stop you from stopping them. Seems solid.

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It took a few Commander reprints to drag this foil kicking and screaming away from the $25 mark. Am I showing you declining cards because I don’t know how to structure an argument? No, I want to prove the point that obvious removal is sometimes going to stagnate. What we want to be thinking about is how the new strategies brought about by new cards work. We know how they work so we should be able to dismantle them.

Most of this  series has discussed new events and how to buy ahead of the people building to make those work, but we should also think about how to buy ahead of the people who are going to get sick of losing to that strategy. We knew that Eldrazi Displacer was going to push cards like Palinchron up, right? How do we beat that?

Shut It Down

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Card – Torpor Orb

What it stops – What doesn’t it stop?

Torpor Orb is a card no one really wants to play with in every EDH deck because it also neuters your own strategies sometimes. Shutting down crazy enter-the-battlefield triggers is a fairly important thing to do, though, and the card is growing accordingly. When people start doing stupid stuff they couldn’t before because they needed Deadeye Navigator and now have Eldrazi Displacer to try that nonsense in decks like Mangara of Corondor, we’re going to want to shut them down. This is great against Roon and Brago; a ton of decks rely on getting value from creatures that enter the battlefield and flashing them out. This even stops enchantments like the Aura Shards they would really like to use to blow up your Orb. How many people play with cards like Viridian Zealot? Not as many as play with Acidic Slime, I’m guessing.

I actually don’t even have to guess. EDHREC is pretty clear on how little Zealot is played: it appears 225 times in 16,945 green decks, or roughly 1.3 percent of them. Acidic Slime appears nearly three times as often. Enter-the-battlefield triggers are integral to EDH, and stuffing them is going to hurt people’s feelings. Good. They’re trying to kill you, remember?

If we expect a surge in enter-the-battlefield shenanigans with the printing of Eldrazi Displacer, we can expect an increase in the efficacy of Torpor Orb and an increase in its price. A price of $3 isn’t the best place in the world to buy in, but this is a card I have been accumulating for a while. When these were still around $1, they were on my short list of “throw-in” cards I would use to even up a trade that was $1 in their favor. This is also literally the only card on my PucaTrade want list. Orb is a nutso card and it’s from New Phyrexia which has $30 Spellskites and $5 Unwinding Clocks. Is Orb more useful than Clock? I think so, but the Prophet banning has made people scramble to find terrible cards to replace it instead of jamming a card that will trip them up.

The banning of Prophet nearly explicitly said Consecrated Sphinx was safe, but it also implied Deadeye Navigator was also looked at and they decided to keep it legal. I like Torpor Orb a ton, frankly, and its current price leaves some room for real growth, even if it’s only like $2 (otherwise known as 66 percent of its current price, which is nothing to shake your gnarly old fist at, you geezer. Face it, no one wants to listen to Sinatra and dance the jitterbug anymore. Your day is over; die with some dignity) which would pull it even with Unwinding Clock, a card that is in three percent of all eligible EDH decks. That’s more than Orb is in now, but expect that to change.

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Card – Rest in Peace

What it stops – Graveyard BS.

Believe me, you want to stop graveyard BS. According to EDHREC, graveyard BS makes up over 41 percent of all EDH BS, up from 33 percent before Wizards printed Mazirek and Meren. This has additional upside from other formats (sometimes) and at its current price, it’s not too expensive to sink a little money into. I’m not as convinced we should buy $12 foil copies for EDH, but the non-foils are growing and this is a solid “enough of your BS” card. Expect graveyard BS to be on the rise with Mazirek being the most-built commander according, again, to EDHREC.

Check the left side of the homepage weekly
Check the left side of the homepage weekly

Also popular this week appears to be a bunch of commanders we can shut down with Torpor Orb. Handy.

With Meren decks gaining so much popularity, it’s important to have ways to shut them down. Rest in Peace does just that, preventing them from even getting experience counters—not that they could bring anything back. This also has the advantage of pairing well with Helm of Obedience, which is at a three-year low since Legacy isn’t as popular as it used to be.

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A way to shut them down and sometimes have an “oops, did I win?” combo with just one more card seems fine, and I recommend Rest in Peace even if all you do is wipe the graveyards when you cast it before it’s dealt with. A 1W spell that clears every yard is kind of like the Wu-Tang Clan, in that it ain’t nothing to @#$% wit’.

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Not everyone likes to play white, so here is another option for you. This is growing steadily and I don’t see a reason for it to stop, so why not park a few bucks in a proven winner that could see some more upside soon?

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Card – Thief of Blood

What it stops – Ezuri, but other stuff, too.

This gets my vote for “most underrated card in Commander 2015. I realize it’s technically printed as an uncommon, but that is suggested power level. There aren’t three of these in every Plunder the Graves deck—there is one. That means there are as many copies of Thief of Blood as there are Meren of Clan Nel Toth, and Meren is currently sitting at a shade under $10. Is this a $10 card? No, not really. But it sure does ruin #%$ when you cast it.

You notice how Ezuri and Animar are both pretty popular? Well this pulls those cards’ pants down. Superfriends? Super dead. Vorel of the Hull Clade? More like Vorel of the All… Dade… all of my hydras are dade. They’re dead. Dade means dead.  He kills their hydras, guys.

I lamented the terrible design of this card a few different times, because it hoses some decks and leaves other entirely unscathed, but that doesn’t really matter financially. All that matters is that this is a super good hoser card and people are not all that interested in holding onto their copies. In a year or two, this could be real money if it starts to see real play—and the popularity of decks like Ezuri and Animar should make this a card that people look to to solve their problems. If you have never resolved this against a full board, do it. It gets everything. I was pulling counters off of Vivid lands and cackling like a lunatic, nevermind the Assemble the Legion I got down to nothing. You know what is a fun thing to do with a vampire that has just gorged itself on the counters the Ezuri player was putting on his Woodfall Primus so he could sacrifice it every turn? Sacrifice it to Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and end the stupid game.

These cards are all going to be more effective against the new field than they were before Commander 2015 and Oath of the Gatewatch came out. New decks like General Tazri (hosed by Torpor Orb in a huge way), Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim (Leyline of Punishment or Everlasting Torment?) and new cards like Eldrazi Displacer and Thought-Knot Seer are shaking up EDH, and if you can stop them, you should, right? Who wants to lose to that crap?

New events give cards that help decks upside, but it’s also important to take a look at cards that hurt those strategies as well, especially the ones which are the most popular new decks being built. Check EDHREC every week to see what’s hot and think about what hoses those decks. Or, I guess, just keep reading my column, because I’m going to do that for you in all likelihood.

Next week I may do some more examples of hosers that I think have upside in the new EDH landscape, or maybe I’ll talk about something else. We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it. As always, thanks for reading and let’s get a $#%storm started in the  comments section. Sound good?

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How Are B&R Announcements Like Transformers?

We got some surprising bans in Modern this weekend, but I’m not here to talk about that. You have probably read so many EDH articles from me between MTGPrice and Gathering Magic that I imagine people will wonder if they even want my opinions on Modern.

I mean, maybe they do. I said to buy Night of Soul’s Betrayal at $4 and it spiked hard, just in time to tank because no one needs to worry about beating Pestermite and Deceiver Exarch anymore.

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But you’re right, you don’t want my opinion about Modern, so let’s not talk about the Modern bannings and their implications. If you want that, you can read literally every other finance article written this week. Instead, let’s delve into another interesting banning, one that no one is really talking about fully.

EDH makes its own banning announcement about around the same time as sanctioned Magic makes its announcement, the Monday after the prerelease, and EDH didn’t make its announcement early because they aren’t completely inept dipshits who banned Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom a few days early on MODO, prompting an early announcement. EDH made its announcement on time, jsut so they could make my Blue Monday even more depressing. And what an announcement it was.

* Commander-specific mulligan rules are removed
* Rule 4 (mana generation restriction) is removed
* Prophet of Kruphix is banned

The full announcement is available here.

The  Obvious One

Yes, Prophet of Kruphix is banned. Yes, I’m upset. No, I don’t think this is super-duper relevant financially for the most part. However, there is language worth discussing.

With traditional boogeymen such as Consecrated Sphinx, you’re forced to expend a lot of your mana to cast it and will have a challenge protecting it as the turn goes around the table. With Prophet, it has virtual protection built in, negating that disadvantage almost immediately.

If this doesn’t say, “We’re not banning Consecrated Sphinx any time soon,” I don’t know what does, frankly. I don’t know that anyone was holding back on buying Sphinx, but there was always a little tension since it was always whined about in the same whiny paragraph as Prophet of Kruphix whenever whiners whined about EDH. With the future of Sphinx all but assured, new confidence in the card should push anyone who was on the fence about it off of the fence. Buy them now if you were holding off, because stock is low and I bet this dries up the last few loose copies. I expect this to end up higher than it is now.

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I’m writing this on Monday and there are a lot of $18 copies, but some jackass is trying to get $40 for his on Amazon even though there are foils for $42 on also Amazon.

If this article was too late to pick these up at this price, you should follow me on Twitter (@jasonealt), I guess. I tweet about Magic finance sometimes and even when I don’t, I’m tweeting jokes, and isn’t that half of the reason you read my weekly screeds? If I write an article with no finance content, no one complains, but if I don’t put enough ha-has in your heads every paragraph, I get a bunch of emails asking what’s wrong. Reddit is full of bad advice and bad detective work, Facebook is full of racists, and Twitter is full of people asking dumb questions. My wife is so pregnant right now that we didn’t have any ornaments on the bottom two feet of our Christmas tree, and she could pop any minute and Netflix took House of Flying Daggers off of its list in November and I just noticed now. David Bowie and Glen Frey are dead and Ted Nugent is still alive. Lots is wrong right now. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is a good writing gig and thanks for reading, nerds. If there are any Sphinxes left, make sure and get yours.

What takes a hit? EDH isn’t a format where a ban takes out one-fifteenth of your deck and can remove the one card that makes the deck work (unless it’s a Commander, obviously). It’s a format where you lose one percent of your deck and you can usually recover. Am I going to scrap my Vorel of the Hull Clade deck because I can’t cheat at Magic and take every turn? Nah. I’m going to put in a Seedborn Muse or one of the sweet hydras I don’t have room for. (I don’t expect Seedborn Muse to go up, by the way, because it’s not the same card and isn’t that important to do half of what Prophet did.)

I’m really deeply saddened to lose literally my favorite EDH card in Prophet’s banning, but I don’t see it making any of my decks worse. If you have a Kruphix deck where you make hella mana with Prophet of Kruphix, sure, I guess you get a little worse. In general, though, Prophet being banned means the guys with a big box full of Prophets and who traded for another foil one on Saturday (you know, me) eat it, and that’s about it. I think there is a bigger financial impact buried in the announcement and we should talk about it, but first…

The Irrelevant One

After examining several popular options, and coming up with a few of our own, we’ve concluded that the Vancouver Mulligan (with the standard first-one-free in multiplayer and a scry once you go to 6 or fewer) is the best option. The RC continues to use and recommend the Gis (“Mulligan 7s to a playable hand. Don’t abuse this”) for trusted playgroups, but that’s not something that can go in the rules.

Sell your Serum Powder, guise.

Seriously, this is a good change, but it doesn’t matter financially. I’m sure some nerd can come up with some circuitous sequence of events that will make someone some modicum of money and that would make the Rube Goldbergian sequences from the latter Final Destination films look like the plot to a porno by comparison. For the most part, though, this change is all upside and is largely irrelevant, but had to be addressed because it was included in the announcement and allowed me to set up some “The Obvious One, The Irrelevant One, and X” rule-of-three device for the article which is psychologically satisfying to me as a writer, and I’m glad it worked out that way.

The Non-Obvious One

There was another change that no one but the diehard EDH guys are talking about, and I think it’s worth delving into because it has a lot of financial repercussions that aren’t obvious, which is good because I’d feel silly telling you something you already knew. They made another rule change and this time it impacts “Rule 4” which I thought was the rule where if you think about anything, like dragons having sex with cars, someone will make porn out of it, but that’s rule 34 it turns out—and also, don’t google basically anything from this paragraph unless you’re in a public library or something. Not because someone will look up your browser history or anything, but because it’s apparently super socially acceptable to look at weird porn in public libraries if the homeless dudes at the library I go to are any indication.

Anyway, Rule 4 in EDH was a rule that limited the mana you could generate with respect to color. If your commander was Kruphix (be strong, Jason. Don’t let them see your tears) and you had a Birds of Paradise, you could tap it for blue or green and that’s all. Since there were no other colors in your general’s identity, you were limited to those two colors. This rule changed for two reasons.

…the mana system of Magic is very complicated, and trying to insert an extra rule there has consequences in the corners. Harvest Mage. Celestial Dawn. Gauntlet of Power. And now, colorless-only mana costs.

Being able to generate colorless mana more easily in Commander wasn’t going to break anything. But, it represented another “gotcha” moment for players, who were now likely to learn about Rule 4 when someone exploited the colorless loophole. We could paper over it (both “mana generated from off-color sources can only pay generic costs” and “you can’t pay a cost outside your color identity” were considered), but a lot of the flavor would be lost in the transition, defeating the purpose. Without the resonant flavor, Rule 4 was increasingly looking like mana burn – a rule that didn’t come up enough to justify it’s [sic] existence.

Not only was the rule a little bit archaic and not that necessary, it was going to be very confusing for players when you factored in the new “pure” colorless. You can’t use that Birds of Paradise for a mana to activate your Endbringer with this rules change. Basically, this is upside. Sure, you can’t use your City of Brass for a colorless mana to activate your new Oath of the Gatewatch Eldrazi, but you can tap that City of Brass to generate a black mana in that Kruphix deck to play a spell you have taken control of somehow. This change makes what we said about pain lands essentially being tri-lands in post-Oath EDH still true, and it also has a few implications for good cards becoming better. So if we have lands that generate any color in a deck that isn’t five colors, what’s going to get better?

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Awww, yiss. Stealing their cards is fun, but now it’s way easier to cast those pilfered spells. Lands that tap for a mana of any color are suddenly very, very good in this deck. You can load up your mana base with a ton of them in a Sen Triplets deck. You can run three Vivid lands for starters—I don’t see any of them becoming all that expensive as a result of this, but Sen Triplets has a little room to grow if the deck gets more popular, and any cards that are used in that deck to a large extent get very good. Celestial Dawn, ironically, gets a little worse, or maybe just a little less necessary but still pretty good.

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This guy plus Springleaf Drum, right?

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Hey, this does stuff, right?

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Any hope of getting a Lantern sub-$10 next week is a pipe dream. This is now a much better mana rock, as if it wasn’t insane before, and decks like Sen Triplets can use this to full effect. Stealing their spells and powering them is trivial with Lantern. I would flip these quickly, since I can’t imagine Lantern not getting a reprint in a supplementary product if it goes above $10.

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This has been a penny stock of mine forever, and now it’s getting even better now that you can cast something other than their Sol Ring or Solemn Simulacrum or use this as a bad Jester’s Cap. Being able to cast anything is amazing if you can come up with the colored mana. Remember, you can’t just jam a Gruul Signet in a Sen Triplets deck, since the mana symbol on the card still precludes it, but cards that used to tap for colorless because they produced a mana not in your commander’s identity can now tap for any color.

It isn’t just casting their spells that gets better, either.

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Casting this with five colors in a two-color deck is saucy as all get-out, and that’s exactly what you will be able to do if you have enough Mana Confluences and Forbidden Orchards in your mana base.

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Ditto on this guy. These cards were never designed to be super amazing in two-color decks, especially not in EDH, but with a new paradigm, they are looking a lot better.

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You mean I can use the lands I take? Sounds amazing.

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At this point I may just be grasping at straws, huh?

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Any G/x deck can jam this, now. That doesn’t suck.

Anything with converge or sunburst suddenly deserves a second look. Lands that add mana of any color to your mana pool should get a second look. Cards like Sylvan Caryatid and even Orochi Leafcaller get a second look. People spent a lot of time fretting over Prophet of Kruphix today, but looking a little deeper, we found a new paradigm in EDH that is a relatively rare but can be exploited for an advantage, and which can push a few cards up in price. Particularly, I’m very worried about how good Lantern is going to be all of a sudden, and its price could get out of control in the near term.

That does it for me this week. What do you think: was this super obvious or was it valuable analysis? Did I miss a card you think has upside with the rules change(s)? Am I underestimating how bad losing Prophet is going to be for your deck? Sound off in the comments and I’ll try to resist the urge to make fun of how you spell your name. Until next week!

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When Does a Staple Act Like a Rock?

I always imagine there is one person who has never read one of my articles before. I imagine them reading the title and thinking, “What in the actual crap is this dude talking about?” and it makes me laugh. There is a non-zero chance even people who read my article from last week are confused. Either way, maybe brush up on that piece because I introduced a few metaphorical concepts that we’re going to continue here.

Last week we talked about identifying cards that either can make other cards go up by how they impact the format (rocks, so called for the way they aren’t interesting themselves but can generate ripples when thrown into a pond) or are going to impact the format directly by virtue of their own power and be used across a variety of different decks (staples).

I only mentioned the card once, but I really structured how I thought about all of those  concepts around the card Eldrazi Displacer. Do you like the card Eldrazi Displacer? Do you want to talk about the card Eldrazi Displacer? Would you like to see me spend 1,800 more words on it? Because that’s what’s up. In case you need your memory refreshed, and also because I love posting the picture of the card so I can admire it in all of its glory, here it is again. Your new overlord.

If you know anything about EDH, you know this card is going to be ridiculous and will make people re-evaluate mana bases to see if they have the non-generic colorless to support this card. I feel the same way about Endbringer, so I think the first topic we should tackle is the effect that non-generic colorless mana will have on manabases and other cards. There is real upside here.

I consider Eldrazi Displacer to be a future staple. I don’t know if its adoption in EDH is initially going to be enough to make non-foil copies of the card worth any money, and for a card that’s just a staple, that’s usually the end of the conversation. Its sheer power level influences its ubiquity and its ubiquity influences its price. However, there are times in this wacky durdle format that I love (and I also assume you love, because when I ask people who want to make money on Magic cards but don’t personally play EDH themselves, they look at me like I asked them to donate a kidney), where a card that looks a lot like a staple of the format can act a lot like a rock. It pushes up prices of the cards in the deck with it without meaning to.

This is odd behavior for a staple. Chromatic Lantern didn’t do that. So why should this? Well, I’m obviously going to tell you why. That’s sort of my whole deal.

Effect on Mana

At first glance, this looks more mana-hungry than Deadeye Navigator because it costs three to activate to Navigator’s two and requires you to have true colorless, which could be harder to generate than we think. However, the need for colorless mana and ways to turn generic mana into colorless can really get some use.

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This card has been reprinted into just about powder, and it could see another reprinting in Commander 2016 (although it didn’t in Commander 2014) so that limits its upside a bit, but this is the sort of card you want to be looking at. You can turn generic mana into colorless mana at the rate of three for three. That doesn’t look like much, but this sort of card is useful in a manabase that needs true colorless in ways it wasn’t necessary before.  Basalt Monolith prima facie is pretty inefficient, but as a mana filter, it’s pretty saucy. There has to be some way to make some money from this card seeing more play.

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The Unlimited printing seems to be shrugging off the ugly reprints nicely. I like how this looks compared to Commander and Revised, but its odd centering may bother some. Still, they aren’t making more of this particular card, and I like how it’s retaining value despite not seeing more play. If it sees more play, we can pretty safely predict there will be some upside.

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Compared to a less efficient, more expensive card, Basalt Monolith starts to look like what it is and less like a bad Grim Monolith, which is in turn just a bad Sol Ring. Let’s ignore the price of Grim Monolith since it’s predicated on other formats, but let’s remember Grim Monolith is expensive because it’s a good card—and if Basalt Monolith can be better in our decks, the price has upside.

I think true colorless mana is going to put some pressure on some manabases to change. I talked about generic and colorless mana and its implications in depth in a previous article which still has a lot of info worth brushing up on. Cards that generate true colorless are going to be in more demand with silly Eldrazi that require this specific mana and those cards will see some upside based on the new demand. I won’t rehash the examples from that piece here—take some time to reread it if you want a better sense of what could be affected.

It seems like Eldrazi Displacer is powerful enough that people are willing to change up their manabases, especially if they jam a few more Eldrazi like Endbringer to make the most of that new manabase. I like pain lands a lot in the future, especially the ones which generate white mana.

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Archetypes It Bolsters

Decks that are already decks are going to love this card. Basically, if you go to EDHREC and look for decks that are playing Mistmeadow Witch and/or Deadeye Navigator you will see quite a lot of action. Roon. Brago. Reaper King (awww yiss!). Augustin. Phelddagrif. These decks are already doing stupid stuff with Mistmeadow Witch. The list gets even bigger when you add Deadeye Navigator. Sakashima. Tasigur. Sedris. Silumgar. So many decks that are using this silly ability. While only decks that play white benefit from Eldrazi Displacer, it’s fun to see how many decks cards like this effect. But it’s worth looking a little deeper, because there are some decks where Eldrazi Displacer is more than just a second copy of Navigator or Witch.

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This creature comes into play with seven counters on him that can be removed for colorless mana. You remove all seven, putting seven colorless mana in your pool. Use three of those mana to activate Eldrazi Displacer, removing Rasputin from the game before returning him with all of his seven counters restored. Do this a lot of times to net four colorless mana each time you do it. Proceed to drill everyone in the face with whichever way to use infinite colorless mana you’d like to use to end all of their lives. This doesn’t make this deck more than a turn faster, but it does give it one more avenue to go infinite, and it’s a two-card combo plus your mana outlet rather than you having to come up with blue mana for Deadeye. This makes Rasputin a much better deck than it already was, and it was already pretty good. Rasputin has demonstrated the ability to hit $50 or more and with copies available below $40, this seems like a good example of a card whose archetype is bolstered disproportionately. Eldrazi Displacer works with Rasputin better than it works with almost any other Commander which can play it in its deck, and that has to matter. Rasputin is old and it’s not like it’s getting a reprint.

This could lead to some people building a new Brago or Derevi or Lavinia deck which means staples in those decks have upside. I’d absolutely watch cards like Great Whale, Peregrine Drake, and the big one:

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Palinchron was on the way up anyway, and any little boost could just steepen the curve.

This is all fascinating for a card that isn’t a legendary creature. It’s a staple that’s behaving like a rock quite a bit with all the ripples it’s creating.

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True “rocks” don’t just bolster old archetypes.

New Archetypes It Creates 

Eldrazi Displacer is white, that much is obvious. But did you know it also wasn’t blue? That’s sort of important, because Mistmeadow Witch and Deadeye Navigator and Venser, the Sojourner and Grover from Sesame Street are all blue, and that limits the number of decks they can go in. While Deadeye Navigator is played in decks like Tasigur that Witch can’t go in, it can’t go in some of the non-blue decks with white the Displacer can go in. If there’s no blue at all, Witch and Navigator aren’t an option, but all of a sudden Displacer is.

Are there commanders that have white but not blue that could use this? Of course there are! It may take some time for people to figure out exactly which white-but-not-also-blue decks they want to jam Displacer in and which archetypes can be created. In the mean time, we do know which cards pair with it, and that’s important.

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This took quite a blow from being forgotten by Standard players and getting a reprint, but it has growth potential, especially since this can be abused in decks without blue. There are enough angels with good enter-the-battlefield effects that Eldrazi Displacer could bolster one deck right off the bat.

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This badass and all the cards that go in the deck suddenly look a little sexier. FTV Angels (don’t google that exact thing. It’s porn. You get porn.) got people jazzed about angels and Displacer does dumb things with basically every angel and demon in the deck. Once, you couldn’t go nuts with an Angel of Despair that you could tutor for, but now you can. And that’s just dandy.

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Hey, look at a combo  that was only available in decks with blue before. Isn’t that dandy? Everything is dandy. And that’s the point.

Lots of decks are going to want to use Eldrazi Displacer as a mono-white Deadeye Navigator, but it has defensive properties as well. If you use it on an opponent’s creature, it leaves combat and comes back in, tapped. This can keep you from dying to certain Voltron decks until they give their commander protection from white or creatures, it can lock down big beaters and creatures that have to hit you to take effect, and can generally just keep a lot of damage out of your face. Tokens? Dead meat. Forever.

What’s one last way a card that seems like it’s bound to be an EDH staple is going to act a bit like a rock, and therefore a card whose own price may actually matter (and go up from where it is now)?

Effect on Other Formats

EDH is EDH. EDH rocks tend to not be worth a ton of money sometimes (Nekusar) compared to staples (Mana Reflection). But EDH is only one format, and it’s just one place where the cards can impact play and therefore be financially relevant. Edric was a great commander, but his price really soared when people played him briefly in Legacy. The speculation community as a whole, as well as armchair speculators reading tweets from pro players, all bought in heavily to Edric and other first-generation EDH commanders. Even a modicum of playability in Legacy set off a chain reaction.

Could we see Eldrazi Displacer make some movies in Standard? There are potential combos with Standard cards, and some of them let me kill people with Zulaport Cutthroat, which is all I ever wanted to do as a Magic player. Any interest in Standard, even interest that doesn’t end up substantiated by sustainable play, can give this card itself a chance to move up in price. If it does work out, it can bring other cards with it to the top. Those speculations are outside the scope of this article series and better left to Standard specialists, but an EDH staple can find its price affected by things no one anticipated.

I was taking my time and trading for See the Unwritten at a leisurely pace when Standard speculation about upcoming Eldrazi kicked the price in the ass, and it still hasn’t recovered. It’s good to be on top of things, because you never know what Standard could do to upend your plan of, “Wait to get this for cheap at rotation,” and the price may never get to below where it was when you decided to wait.

Eldrazi Displacer is a very special card. It’s going to cause all kinds of tumult, and it’s going to make all kinds of shenanigans possible. I personally welcome it and can’t wait to jam it in every deck. Cheap foils? Sure hope so. Expensive non-foils? Maybe, and I hope I’m invested if it happens. All I know is that there’s more than meets the eye with this card, and it’s going to cause more ripples than any other card in the set. Seeing what this card can do will help us immensely if we see a card like it on future spoilers. Until next week!

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