Category Archives: ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: What We Learned (so far!)

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So I think we need to be honest: while a lot of the attention and coverage is on the triple Grand Prix in Vegas and all the associated silliness, there’s a lot still going on, especially as this is Announcements Week!

I’m not here to remind you of what’s happened. If you have a Twitter account, if you even glance at the Magic subreddit, if you engage at all the you’ll read this and not need me to tell you the base news, but there are some things worth taking away from all the stuff that’s gone on.

I’m going to be referring to this site quite often for the next year or so: the ‘Coming Soon’ page. This is a list of what’s coming out and when, though some specific dates aren’t on there, it’s at least a month/year listing.

Financially speaking, there’s a whole lot of things to be aware of. It’ll be up to you about what action to take.

The Masters Sets

We’ve had expensive times in Magic before. I don’t think we’ve had anything to compare to this, though. In one 12-month period, we will have had Modern Masters 2017, Iconic Masters, and 25th Anniversary Masters, or Masters 25 as they are calling it, and I devoutly hope a better name comes along before then. I get that it has to say ‘Masters’ in there someplace, to continue the naming convention, but wow that makes for awkward branding.

Those three sets represent 747 reprinted cards, in just one year. There might be some overlap, there might not.

Why we care: Reprint risk has been at an all-time high lately, and this is a pure minefield. Something like Conspiracy would at least have some new cards, but this is all reprints and all will likely have the one-foil-per-pack setup we’ve gotten used to.

I don’t know what they are going to print and speculation is rampant. We’ve had a lot of reprints covered in the Masterpiece series (more on that in a second) but right now, I’m taking stock of what I’ve accumulated and if the value has appreciated enough, I’m going to look at moving it. This many reprints in this short of time is a minefield, and I want to minimize what’s going to hurt. I don’t think you can escape, if you have a lot of cards you’re holding long-term.

 

From the Vault: Transform

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One of the things that’s come up over the years is the logistical difficulties of printing double-faced cards, and how safe those are from being reprinted. I wonder if anyone thought this would be the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. There’s only 92 cards that are completely double-sided, and 59 of those are from the last two years. Will they have fixed the terrible appearance of FTV? Will these somehow curl on both sides?

Why we care: The quick consensus seems to be that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is going to be the expensive card of the set, and Delver of Secrets seems like an easy inclusion…and then what? I freely admit that I’d been quietly picking up foils of Archangel Avacyn, and that seems likely to take a hit. Are we going to get the Arilinn Kord reprint we didn’t need? There’s not a lot of value in double-faced cards, and what value there is, is about to take a major hit.

I think a Meld pairing is going to be included, but which? I think Hanweir, the Writhing Township is most likely the choice but who knows? Will we get the full Delver trilogy? Will they do something wild, like turn the Kamigawa flip cards into full transform cards? Who knows. Would we even care? I highly doubt the prices of old flip cards would budge if new double-sided versions were premiered this way.

 

The third Un-set: Unstable

I’m exceptionally torn about this. On one hand, playing with either of the first two silver-bordered sets was an amazingly enjoyable experience. On the other, I think I would pay full price to draft this…twice? Three times, tops? We have a recent example of how this model doesn’t always work: Conspiracy: Take the Crown. It’s a lot of fun, a unique draft experience, it’s got its share of valuable cards, and yet you can still get boxes dirt cheap.

Why we care: The basic lands. When we get around to opening these packs, we are going to expect some sort of unique land design. I don’t think they can match, much less excel, the standard set by Unhinged’s minimalist approach or the beauty of John Avon’s work. I do think these will look…nice. Pretty, even. But they will need to carry all of the value, since none of these cards will be worth anything else. Foils will likely not carry much weight either, as you can’t put these in Commander decks. How many thousands of Unstable cubes will need to be created for this to be valuable?

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The beginning of single-set blocks and the return of Core sets

This might be the biggest news of all, aside from the leaked cards. We’ve had things sort of like this before, such as a standalone third set (Rise of the Eldrazi, Avacyn Restored) or the big-big-small model of Return to Ravnica block, but this is going to be interesting. Sets will be opened for three months and that’s it. No more 6:2:1 of the three-set block, or the 3:1 ratio of two-set blocks. This is one and done. Supply will be pretty clear at that point. We also get Core sets back, which means reprint mania!

Why we care: I like the single-set model because I don’t have to worry about that trickle of packs during the second set. For example, as we go into Hour of Devastation, does the small amount of Amonkhet being opened mean the price of Anointed Procession will keep trending downwards? Core sets will likely be on the modern model of some reprints and some new cards, keeping the set interesting while providing a place to reprint stuff that might not have fit, flavor-wise, into some other block. Think of Stifle or Inquistion of Kozilek in Conspiracy 2.

 

The Ixalan Leaks

So someone who’s working on test prints for Ixalan (the set is three months away, the cards should pretty much be set in their wording, barring emergencies) decided to snap a couple of photos and spread the word. This is wrong and bad but not something that we can ignore.

Why we care: We’re about to get a new tribal-based block, with some interesting color shifts. Merfolk in green. Vampires in white! DINOSAURS! We are also about to get tribal Commander decks in August, so if stuff avoids reprints in that set and this, it’s got nowhere to go but up.

The Commander decks worry me, because, again, that’s a lot of reprints. Foils are probably safe, but only if they couldn’t possibly be in Ixalan. Something like Obelisk of Urd, where the nonfoil is an easy inclusion into a Commander product, but the keyword is ruling it out of Ixalan.

 

Masterpieces becoming rarer

Someone at Wizards must have said, “Holy crap, we’re already down to printing Divert as a super-mythic alternate frame chase card? We need to throttle back.” So Masterpieces will be back, just not in every single set. FTV: Masterpiece is probably just a couple of years away.

Why we care: Standard will be a little more expensive now without chase cards goosing the value of the product. I think this is the worst side effect of a good change. We’re too used to this, and it’s in our best interest to have this be something we are excited for, a bonus, instead of an expectation.

 

Cliff is an avid kitchen table player who’s loving the Drake Haven deck in FNM. He’s been at this since late 1994 and doesn’t appreciate being called iconic, though he’s extremely likely to build a foil Unstable cube. Find him on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Midpoint Pickups

Since Standard is on a once-a-year rotation, I like to think about what’s on deck. Yes, we are about to lose two blocks in September, but there’s two that have another 18 months or so, and that’s what I want to focus on. Kaladesh and Aether Revolt are at their low points, so this is when I want to look for value.

I’m looking at cards that are being played, and are not as expensive as their amount of play might indicate. I’m not expecting huge gains, but I do want to think about increases in value, especially in trade or Pucapoints (if you’re still doing that).

Verdurous Gearhulk ($7.89): Considering what a beating this is, I’m surprised that this mythic is as low as it is, especially because B/G Snake decks are a thing. Sometime in the next 18 months, a Gearhulk deck will have a great tournament and this will easily break $10, likely hit $15, and possibly $20 again.

The graph for the green Gearhulk is exactly where I want to be: getting in at the lowest point.

Dovin Baan ($3.16): I don’t see how this can get any cheaper, even if it doesn’t budge until rotation this is silly cheap for a planeswalker. I really like picking up specs that have good potential short term and long term. The fact that he’s the only planeswalker with the Dovin type is good for Commander too, since he’s a good fit in superfriends builds without being the seventh Jace.

Panharmonicon ($2.66): Shhh. Hush! Don’t say anything. Just slowly walk over to your store, grab all you can of these, and try to not look like you’re getting fantastic value. We’ve already seen this spike up to the $8-$10 range and it’s not gonna take much for that to happen again.

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The foil is still just 3x the value, which is very surprising to me. Buy for these. Trade for these. Don’t trade them till they spike, and if you’re into the long-term holds, the foils are going to be rock-solid.

Scrapheap Scrounger ($2.44): This is played in a huge number of decks and is always a four-of. Mardu has a target on its back, and that’s fine, but this is a card that requires the Magma Spray immediately or it’s going to just keep coming back. I’m shocked at how cheap this is, frankly, and if Mardu adds a card or adapts to the hate somehow, I’d expect this to climb to at least $5.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship ($2.44): It’s an in-print mythic that just dominates the board and isn’t easy to answer. Heart of Kiraan is stealing a lot of the thunder, but this has become so cheap that I want to have a few copies just in case it pops up again.

Metallurgic Summonings ($1.25/$4.50): I want to try a couple copies of this card in the assorted control decks. I’m in love with Drake Haven right now but the potential of this card is astronomical. If you land it and live through the following turn, then your Glimmers come with a 4/4. You get a 2/2 when casting Grasp of Darkness. Your end-of-turn Pull from Tomorrow is as big as you want to make it. This is also a super-cheap mythic that is looking for the right deck, and should it hit, it’ll hit big.

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter ($1.37/$7.22): This is more of a very-long-term pick, as it is amazing in casual formats and why her foil price is six times higher. These are the best colors in Commander, and she’s going to get you some extra cards, no matter what. I love the foils a lot more but dollar mythics are always super intriguing.

Foil Paradoxical Outcome ($3): It’s a niche card, but that niche is Vintage. I appreciate when people try to make this work in Standard, with endless Bone Saw castings, but no, this is an Eternal card and I want to have some foils in long-term storage.

Cliff is an avid player of any and all casual formats, the weirder the better, going all the way back to his first tournament wins: Iron Mage, keeping a life total from round to round, and a grand melee where he cast a Hurricane for 43 and lived.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Checking in on Amonkhet

It’s been a month and the Pro Tour hype is over, and we are still adjusting and still innovating. I love that mono-black Zombies took it down, but I don’t love that much of the deck is going to rotate in six months. It’s gonna be a good time until then though!

Today I want to go over some of the movements of Amonkhet cards, and how far they might fall.

Gideon of the Trials ($20.69): He didn’t light up anything at the PT, so I’m not expecting much from him right now. We’ve also had hints that the Gatewatch is getting a little overplayed as a set of planeswalkers, so if he’s the only Gideon in the deck, he gets less good.

I do think there’s space for him to be good, we just haven’t seen the control deck that wants him yet. If he lands, and there’s a Fumigate or other wrath waiting to punish the opponent for overcommitting to the board, then I think there’s a whole lot of potential.

I’m not buying now, though, and he’s getting his price cut by a couple of stores. He’s gonna be $15 soon and I think he’ll be $10 by the time we get Hour of Devastation…which is where I’ll be getting in. I’ll be hoping for a double-up when he gets good.

Rhonas the Indomitable ($17.72): Believe it or not, this card is increasing in price even as it sees almost no Standard play. The foil is only 1.5 times more, and the Invocation is about 3x. I think it’s casual demand causing this graph:

I am super impressed that this is rising slightly, when most of the mythics are on a slow decline. Sure, this is good in Commander, but I didn’t think it was this good. I don’t know where this will go, but experience tells me that it should be going down. I definitely am not buying this now, but the rise in price over time is fascinating given how little Standard play it’s getting.

Vizier of the Menagerie ($8.13): It’s lower than when it was released, and the casual demand has been mostly sated. A creature that helps you get more creatures is always going to have a special place in my heart, especially when it’s half the mana cost of Garruk’s Horde. It’s hit $6 and has crept up a little, but I’d expect that to go back down over the next few weeks. I’d prefer to pick this up in the $3 range, but $5 might be the floor. Very few green Commander decks would skip this card.

Glorious End ($1.82): So in case you’re not aware, there are streamers who can cause a card to spike quickly. This was featured the other day and while the deck didn’t light the league up, it’s closing in on bulk-mythic territory…which is always an intriguing pickup, especially considering how much longer this will be in Standard. When it gets to sub-$1, I’ll be looking to grab a couple of playsets, because when these spike, it’ll be glorious.

Dispossess ($.59): You’d think that with all the vehicles and Marvels and Scroungers running around this would at least be a sideboard card. I’m both surprised and not surprised Lost Legacy saw some play when Emrakul, the Promised End was the Marvel target of choice, but the goal there was to take down the monster, not the enabler. I wouldn’t mind having some of these in bulk storage, but that’s the purest of speculative targets.

Special bonus pick: Fumigate ($1.79): It’s a wrath that catches you back up. Yes, it’s bad against planeswalkers and vehicles but it’s seeing more play now than at the beginning, and lots of people are trying very hard to make UW Control good again. I think eventually they will get there, and I want to have some sub-$2 copies of this handy for when it cracks $5.

Cliff is a father, teacher, and casual enthusiast who recently finished a ‘Busted Uncommons’ cube, which Sol Ring is not in because it’s too busted. His Magic career boasts two PTQ top 8s that were 8 years apart. He whispers to his stack of Prophet of Kruphix every night, telling them they are good boys and their time will come.

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Pro Tour Amonkhet Finance: Standard Day 1

Check out our Pro Tour Amonkhet financial preview over here, and join us for round to round coverage in live blog style below all day. Look for color coded text if you don’t have time for the whole thing.

Before the start of the Standard Rounds, LSV highlights the cards he expects to see a lot of this weekend:

  1. Magma Spray
  2. Glorybringer
  3. Pull from Tomorrow
  4. Sweltering Suns
  5. Manglehorn
  6. Liliana, Death’s Majesty
  7. Censor

Round 4 (1st Round of Standard) starts at 2pm EST/Noon PST, Friday, May 12th, 2017 after three rounds of draft. Here’s how things are playing out.

Round 4: Martin Juza (2-1, Mono Black Zombies) vs. Masashi Oiso (2-1, New Perspectives Combo)

Coverage decides to start off with coverage of two of the newer decks, likely hoping to head off the potential Mardu narrative. Oiso, clearly well practiced with the new combo deck, quickly dispatches Juza, who amusingly posts an F6 note in the middle of the table as the Japanese player works through his combo for the win. In Game 2 Juza tables a strong offense backed up by a timely Transgress the Mind, and Oiso can’t find his combo pieces fast enough to hold him off. In Game 3 Juza is able to work around control elements from Oiso and advance to 3-1. N

Nevertheless, camera time has triggered the obvious buyout and New Perspectives is now bought out below $5. 

Round 4: Jacob Wilson (3-0, Temur Control) vs. ??? (2-1, Zombies)

Wilson takes this match down 2-1.

Deck Tech #1: Patrick Dickmann (Jund Gods)
Watch live video from Magic on www.twitch.tv

Patrick explains that he decided to run Amonkhet gods instead of planeswalkers due to the power of indestructible.

Deck includes:

Round 5: Joel Larsson (4-0,  BG Rites) vs. Kentaro Yamamoto (4-0, Temur Aetherworks Marvel)

Larsson is on a Cryptolith Rite deck sporting Bontu, the Glorified, a card that has been on my radar, but which hasn’t made much of a splash until now. Other cards include Vizier of the Menagerie, Walking Ballista, Catacomb Sifter, Manglehorn, Loam Dryad, Duskwatch Recruiter. Yamamoto manages to get an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger onto the table in Game 1 and puts Larsson on the back foot. Game 2 doesn’t go much better for Larsson, who stumbles on lands a bit early and never manages to accelerate out past the reach of Marvel activation from Yamamoto.

Round 5: Sam Pardee (3-1,  BG Rites) vs. Travis Woo (4-0, Zombies)

As we enter this match, the players are tied at a game  a piece. Vizier of the Menagerie">Vizier of the Menagerie + Cryptolith Rite is tabled by Pardee, while Woo has a hoard of zombies. Ultimately it is an active Ormendahl, Profane Prince that puts the match away for Pardee and moves him to 4-1.

I’m hearing that 25% of the field is still on Mardu Vehicles. Lower than it could have been, but still pretty high.

Deck Tech #2: BW Zombies

This build gives up a bit of mana consistency to have a much stronger sideboard.

Here’s where we are in the standings after five rounds. A lot of big names on this list:

Round 6: Patrick Dickmann (3-2,  Jund Gods) vs. Craig Wescoe (3-2, RW Humans)

Here we see coverage again making the choice to show interesting decks instead of the players with the best records overall. Be aware that this may make certain decks seem more important in the meta than they really are.

Game 1 hinges on a couple of missed land drops from Dickmann, leading to a quick concession in the face of overwhelming offense from the famed white mage. Game 2 is a tighter, more drawn out affair, but ultimately it is Patrick that takes it to even things up. In Game 3 Dickmann manages to keep the pressure on Wescoe, who draws a few too many lands to stay in the race. Wescoe drops to 3-3, while Patrick moves to 4-2.

Owen Turtenwald is now at 5-1 on Mardu Vehicles.

Deck Tech #3: Paul Cheon (UR Control)

Paul walks us through the UR Control list that has been posting solid results on MTGO lately. The highlights here include 4x Disallow, 4x Torrential Gearhulk and 1-2x Commit//Memory.

Round 7: Chris Fennell (6-0,  WB Zombies) vs. Marc Tobiasch (6-0, Temur Marvel)

IN Game 1, Chris Fennell manages to get a ridiculous mass of zombies onto the table, leveraging Liliana’s Mastery and a posse of Wayward Servant to make the pile of assets on Marc’s side moot. Zombies takes Game 1. The reach of the white splash via drain effects really paid off in this game. Wayward Servant is commonly available at $0.25, but could easily end up as a $3-4 uncommon this season if zombies proves out this weekend and through the next few major events. Diregraf Colossus inventory has been draining out at $3, and the card could end up at $6+ by the end of the weekend. The next game isn’t much better for the Marvel player, and WB Zombies in the hands of Fennell goes to 7-0.

Round 7: Ari Lax (4-2,  Temur Marvel) vs. Alex Sittner (4-2, U/W Spirits)

On the back table, Ari Lax casts an insane six Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in a game he eventually wins the first game against Alex Sittner on W/U Spirits after casting the Memory half of Commit/Memory. Sittner strikes back to even it up off camera, and in the third game Lax manages to find an Ulamog off Aetherworks Marvel to take out two potential attackers & lock up a victory to move to 4-3.

Deck Tech #4: R/W Humans (Craig Wescoe)

Craig is one of the only players on this list at the tournament so it’s unlikely to have much impact. This list is pretty similar to what we’ve see here.

Day 1 Metagame Breakdown

Here we see a solid falling off for BG Delirium decks, but Mardu Vehicles still making up a full quarter of the field. Marvel at nearly 20% could lead to further gains on their banner card (currently tough to find under $10) if it gets a strong contingent into Day 2 and on to Top 8. Zombies is the only other archetype over 15% and then we have 10+ other deck types with minor showings. This all suggests that the pros had trouble establishing consensus across teams on which decks were best in this newly minted format.

Round 8: Pierre Dagen (7-0,  BG Energy) vs. Oliver Oks (7-0, Temur Marvel)

Here we have a Marvel deck already well positioned for Day 2 success against one of the few aggro energy deck pilots. Marvel spins don’t quite pay off as hoped in Day 1 and Dagen is able to take the first game. In Game 2 Oliver again hits a low impact spin off his Aetherworks Marvel, netting a Servant of the Conduit against a board of aggressive threats (Greenbelt Rampager, Glint Sleeve Siphoner, Winding Constrictor) from Dagen. In the final game Oks ends up with a trio of Ulamog caught in his hand, and after many turns Dagen is able to put things away.

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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