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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Losing and Finding

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A lot of times, MTG Finance focuses on the nitty-gritty of single cards to get or watch or sell, and that’s a very useful set of topics. You’re reading this because that’s what I usually do.

However, there’s other aspects to this game and the finances. Here on MTGPrice, we’ve written about assorted formats, research tools, insurance, accessories, and other ancillary topics. Today, I want to talk about what to do when your unique collection vanishes.

Six years ago, I was at my LGS for the usual FNM experience. During that, I heard about one of the regulars whose five-color Sliver deck had been stolen. It had judge foil fetchlands, the full set of duals, loads of expensive foils, even by prices back then.

I happened to be in the store again the following Sunday, when someone came into the store and tried to sell a hundred cards that included chase foils, lots of Slivers, and a full set of duals. This person wanted something like $100 for the stack of cards, I want to say they wanted a few board games.

The buyer that day was also a judge who knew that this set of cards had been stolen and got the police to come to the store and confront this seller, as well as the player whose deck was stolen. Reports were made, stories were told, the police had this person there and justice was ready to be served, as a group of angry players watched eagerly for the comeuppance to happen.

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The alleged thief walked away with the cards that day.

I cannot put into words how formative this experience was for me. Imagine seeing someone with your stolen deck, something you’ve put countless hours into, with your personal modifications, maybe even some alters, and all the emotion tied up in this deck.

Someone else has it, and you can’t prove it’s yours.

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I can’t claim that every police officer will handle stuff the same way as these two (then four at the end) did. Maybe they are the exception, but they showed me the necessity of good information and some level of unique interaction. We don’t have barcodes or serial numbers on our cards. The whole point of the game is that all the backs are the same, and cards are interchangeable.

The police that day said that there was no way to prove that this stack of a hundred unsleeved cards belonged to the regular customer. I don’t know how many alters would be needed to prove ownership, and is it enough to have a couple of things drawn on three cards? Does your name need to be on these alters?

Depending on who you follow on Twitter, you may or may not be aware of other stories in this vein. Collections lost and stolen. Beloved and elaborate deck boxes, custom decks, all sorts of things have been lost and only some have been found.

Via WoodBornWorks on Etsy

My old pal had a bad ending to their story, but maybe you know someone with a better outcome.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned from stories like this:

First of all, insurance. We had a writer cover insurance in 2014, I did a few months later, and I know it’s come up a couple of times in MTG Fast Finance’s archives. I strongly urge you to look into renter’s insurance to cover your assets. A modest policy won’t cost much, and requires some organization and documentation. Your results will depend on your local laws and agencies.

Second, documentation. Have a list of the cards in your EDH deck, in your Cube, in your long-term spec binder. Take a day and snap some photos. It’s really easy for your Commander deck to break a few hundred bucks, and some of you might need to have toploaders on every damn card in the deck because of the value. If something happens, you need to be able to say what was lost/stolen, and say so exactly.

Third, spread the word. Both my experience and that of others hinged on Magic players telling each other, and telling the local stores, that a specific collection has been stolen and someone might try to unload it all at once. Twitter, Reddit, Discord, whatever it is, tell as many people as you can and have them tell other people.

Fourth, be vigilant. Go read some stories of people having lots of valuable cards stolen. Here’s a whole other list of links via Reddit. Now that you’ve got a healthy fear, think about what you bring when you go to a GP, when you go to an LGS. Be aware of the risk you’re taking. Your Cube might be the down payment on a house! Even if you didn’t buy it for that much (foil Grim Monolith, for example) you’re taking on a level of risk when other people see what you have. A snatched backpack can set a thief up for a long time, and you can’t count on them being silly. Just a few minutes online will tell these criminals to break up their sales. A GP is a great place to steal a deck, wait two hours, and then circle the vendors, sell a few cards to each, and get away clean.

I want to scare you. I want you to think about what you’d do if you lost part or all of your collection. Most Magic players have a theft or loss story. I’ve had decks stolen, I’ve left decks on tables and never seen them again. I don’t want to relive those experiences, and I definitely don’t want you to go through it, but it requires consideration. Building value also means keeping that value secure.

Cliff has been playing Magic since late 1994, and is currently in the midst of a Cube obsession. Check out his Busted Uncommons cube if you want a great time, or let him know on Twitter (@WordOfCommander) what a chucklehead he is.

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UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 7/10/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Hour of Devastation’s prerelease was this weekend, with casuals and spikes alike swarming local stores to get their hands on new EDH fodder in the form of The Locus God, and competitive staples like…hmm…check back with me on that. In fact, HOU has an abysmal expected value at the moment; perhaps one of the lowest of the last five years or more. That’s pretty dang low. Two other spring sets come to mind that looked this way: Dragons of Tarkir, which came out of the gate looking like a heaping pile of garbage for Standard, and Dragon’s Maze, which, well, same.

There’s a remarkable divergence in behavior after prerelease weekend though. DTK ended up taking off — Dragonlord Ojutai was a major Standard staple, and the other dragonlords were reasonably popular. All of the Command cycle was respected, and there were some other hits in there too. However, over on the DGM side of things, it got worse and worse. Voice of Resurgence ended up at an absurd $40+, Blood Baron of Vizkopa hung around $10 or $15, and that was it. That. Was. It. Voice was so expensive because every other card in the set save for Baron was so miserable.

What’s going to happen with HOU? Will the god cycle pull up as it turns out they’re playable in Standard? Will several rares turn into sleepers, in the same way Atarka’s Command and Kolaghan’s Command did? Or will it be another Dragon’s Maze, with Nicol Bolas hitting $35 and the rest of the set a scene of devastation?

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Anger of the Gods (Foil)

Price Today: $15
Possible Price: $40

Not quite the same gods, but still on theme to be fair. Anger of the Gods has been a mainstay in Modern basically since it was printed, and while supply was deep initially, given that it’s from Theros, it has slowly sapped over the years, and is finally turning the corner into a semi-valuable card. The non-foil well is still fairly deep at over 100 copies on TCGPlayer, but stock on the foils is perilously low.

Dredge is an obvious reason to play Anger, especially since they’ve moved hard towards using a fleet of small-ish recurring creatures. An Anger after one of their big turns could easily take out five or six bodies and leave them reeling. Similarly, it will frustrate Abzan Company players, exiling their Kitchen Finks and Redcaps while also clearing away all the clutter of their mana dorks and combo enablers. Valakut decks stalking the MODO queues lean on it, Boros Nahiri decks use it, even Living End and Scapeshift stash some copies in the board.

You can score copies for $15, but not many. I wouldn’t expect a run on these any time soon, but copies will slowly get eaten, and without a reprint, it’s not unreasonable to see a Modern staple foil hit $40. Look at Collective Brutality and Kolaghan’s Command for reference, which Anger is played less than and more than, respectively.


Astral Cornucopia (Foil)

Price Today: $4
Possible Price: $12

I feel like I’ve talked about this card before, but if I can’t remember when then it’s been long enough that I don’t feel bad bringing it up again, and it’s still a good choice. Do you know what the most-built EDH deck on EDHREC was this past week? Locus God? Scarab God? Scorpion God? Well it was none of them. It was Atraxa. Again. Nearly twice as many as Scarab God, in fact.

Atraxa is going to be the most popular commander for quite some time. I doubt any of these upcoming tribal commanders are going to surpass her, in fact, for the simple reason that Atraxa is so flexible. Want to make Planeswalkers? Atraxa. Infect? Atraxa. -1/-1 counters? Atraxa. +1/+1 counters? Atraxa. Filibuster counters? Atraxa. Her sheer versatility is hard to understate.

If you’re playing Atraxa, Cornucopia is one of the best mana rocks you can play, if not the best. Sol Ring is the only artifact mana played more than Cornucopia, and that’s probably incorrect. Sol Ring is better for like two turns tops. With Atraxa in play and a single additional proliferate trigger, Cornucopia gives you your mana back on the same turn you play it, and a few turns later could conceivably tap for more than your opponent’s entire mana base.

There are still foils at $4, and as the most popular commander in the format, these are going to keep getting bought, and without additional foil supply, these will end up over $10 soon enough.


Supreme Verdict (BaB)

Price Today: $10
Possible Price: $25

A player has at their fingertips an expansive array of sweepers these days. Most cost over four mana though, what with Wizard’s push towards bigger costs and bigger effects. Four mana sweepers have been deemed too efficient and oppressive to creature strategies in Standard. This all means we’re unlikely to see more four mana wraths anytime soon, and what we’ve got is what’s available for awhile. Of the ones legal in Modern, Supreme Verdict is right at the top of the pile.

Realistically, there are three top unconditional wraths in Modern. Wrath of God, Damnation, and Supreme Verdict. Damnation obviously occupies a different space than Verdict, which mostly leaves Wrath. Wrath has the benefit of being easier on the mana and wiping out regenerating creatures, but that last clause is irrelevant in 98% of matches. Not requiring a second color is nice, but really, the number of mono-white decks casting wraths is miniscule. The average deck in Modern that wants to cast Wrath would prefer Verdict, since getting through Remand and Stubborn Denial and whatever else is mandatory for when you absolutely have to resolve a wrath.

All that said, Supreme Verdict is also in over 12,000 EDH decks. That’s a lot of decks!

Admittedly both the Buy-A-Box and the pack foil have good art, though I’ve always been partial to the BaB copy. The colors are great, and more importantly for us, supply appears to be lower than the pack foils these days. With the spell as popular as it is in EDH and the go-to wrath in Standard, these BaB promos have nowhere else to go.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


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Eye Candy from Grand Prix Vegas (Part 1)

Whewwww! Grand Prix Las Vegas is in the books and it was quite the experience. Having attending multiple two-day Grand Prix, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as this massive five-day event was concerned other than “Yeah, this event is just going to be longer, right?” Well it sure was longer and larger than I could have imagined and I knew I had to document some of my favorite sights and scenes from the Grand Prix!

The WotC coverage team did a great job as always taking photos encompassing the venue, the attractions, and players of the event. I figured I would do something a bit different and would go hunting around for awesome photo opportunities and capture some less photographed rarities and special cards. Everyone would see pictures of cosplayers and artists’ alley, but would you get to see a full set of Summer dual lands? Original Magic artwork? Graded cards galore? Come take a look at the amazing items I found at the Grand Prix! (Sadly, no, I did not purchase any of these items)

Hopefully you got to attend the Grand Prix. If not, I hope these photos help you live vicariously through me to see some of the awesome eye candy from this historic MTG event.

Okay, I absolutely LOVE the way the Masterpiece Series looks in dealer cases. They are real eye catchers and so shiny that they get this girl to waltz right on over. Some pretty solid prices here to boot. Oh yeah, check out those ten Black Lotus on the right side there. No big deal right? There were certainly several hundred Black Lotus in the room this weekend which is mind-blowing to think about!

Speaking of power, here are some Power 9 cards that have various alters on them. Although admittedly, the thought of applying a paintbrush to a Black Lotus makes me shudder, I do understand that sometimes these can be restoration projects as well.

I am not too big a fan of the basic land alters such as the Mox Jet with the Urza’s Swamp background or the Mox Sapphire with the Zendikar Island background, but they are an interesting and unique take for sure. As for the prices, I honestly have no idea if they are a bargain or not. I certainly wouldn’t purchase them but that doesn’t meant they wouldn’t make great additions for some folks.

Similarly, the Power 9 with the updated artwork from the Magic Online Vintage Cube versions, while well-done, doesn’t do it for me. OG artwork all the way, but it is an interesting way to have your pieces stand out.

Magic calculators!! Well, sorta. Sadly, most have moved towards pen and paper to keep track of life totals, but real men and women use an abacus! These relics of days gone by were released by Duelist Magazine all the way back in 1995 and are still quite rare to this day. Obviously, the blue one is the most expensive of the lot, but $50 for a green one isn’t too shabby. If only this was the go-to method for keeping track of life totals we would see these be astronomically more expensive. However, if you and your opponent get into a life total dispute, if they have pen and paper and you an abacus, I don’t need to tell you who the judge will side with. SAD.

Be still my beating heart! What unholy disaster has taken place here? And before you ask, NO, these are not those new white border plastic inserts. Someone actually took an eraser to those borders and committed a cardinal sin. Jokes aside these look surprisingly cool and certainly are quite eye-catching. Don’t let the new white border inner sleeves trick people into thinking you aren’t deranged. There is plenty of crazy out there for us all!

SAND!!

But for real, these sculptures were really awesome! Someone was building each day of the event and they were hard at work toiling away like a citizen of Naktamun! Perfectly flavorful and super interesting addition to the Grand Prix.

This lucky fellow won an uncut rare/mythic sheet of Amonkhet. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I got it. Would I frame it or just resell it? I’ll get back to you on that when I win an uncut sheet tournament!

I met some awesome people from Spain this weekend who played in the main events. One of them had some sweeeet Japanese foils to show off. A full playset of Japanese foil Mishra’s Baubles is something I’ve never seen before and must be worth a pretty penny (especially since the set wasn’t printed in Russian).

And don’t even get me started on those Thoughtseizes. Good gracious! I would love to pimp my ride one day with those beauties. What I love about images like this is that is shows the heart and soul someone pours into their deck to pick up rare cards and customize things the way they love.

The Original Magic Art, OMA, booth was bustling this weekend as well. So many amazing choices when it comes to tokens for your deck. So what’s interesting about them? They feature historic real-world art from around the world and through the centuries. What could be better than using The Great Wave of Kanagawa as a Master of Waves Elemental Token?

Alright, well here are some most Masterpieces! Quick trivia, without scrolling up to the top of the page which booth had better deals? Look at the Mind’s Eye and Mind Twist. Which booth was better? The previous picture showed Mind’s Eye at $16 and Mind Twist at $25 while here you would be paying $28 and $33 respectively. That’s a 67% increase, or a free $20 bill to spend elsewhere. Tsk tsk. It always pays to shop around at Grand Prix and for many floor traders and dealer flippers it works out like an hourly wage. For those who just want to pick up a sweet card for their decks or cube, it will still always behoove you to shop around.

Unf, I want theseeee. Look at those delicious black borders. There is nothing better than playing with cards from Alpha and Beta, and while I don’t always gravitate towards signatures, I would happily sleeve some of these bad boys up. Notice the lack of prices? If you have to ask, you can’t afford them 😉

At what would a wonderful and hectic Grand Prix day be without concluding with dinner? This was an amazing Wagyu Beef that was out of this world. The food in Las Vegas is world-class and this dinner was one for the ages. A big thank you to VintageMagic.com.

There you have it, some great finds and hidden gems from the monumental Grand Prix Vegas. I hope you enjoyed checking it out and will enjoy part 2 as well. What were your favorite things from the Grand Prix? I would love to know in the comments!

Rachel Agnes is a VSL Competitor, Phyrexian Princess, Collector of all things shiny and a Cube, Vintage, Legacy, and EDH enthusiast.
Catch on Twitch and Twitter via Baetog_.

 

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50 Shades of Non-Foil

I love promos. Do you love promos? Of course, everybody loves promos. There are hundreds of promos to discuss in all their foily glory and I do own quite a few of them myself. However, foils aren’t for everyone. Some people dislike how foils warp in humidity and others dislike when they can’t foil out their entire deck, which is sometimes the case in Legacy. So what promos exist for players who aren’t fond of foils? Today I will be showing off my top five favorites.

5. Guru Lands

(1999-2000)

Some of the nicest lands ever printed, Guru lands were given out in a promotion that Wizards launched in 1999 and only lasted a year. What’s so special about these lands? Well for starters, they are illustrated masterfully by the talented Terese Nielsen and feature an eclipse panorama that hasn’t been replicated since. But let’s get to the real issue here, Guru lands are incredibly expensive.

Islands are close to $400 a pop and the others are over $200 as well. Talk about supply and demand.The supply is incredibly low, especially Near Mint copies. The demand is off the charts. There are almost no players out there who wouldn’t desire one of these beautiful lands to accessorize their deck. They are more expensive than ANY foil basic land in existence, so if foils aren’t your thing you can still give your deck some bling bling treatment.

The reason these don’t place higher on the list is because of the price tag. Honestly, while I do absolutely love them and they look amazing on the battlefield as quite the display of opulence, I cannot support their price tag. For that price, you are better off investing in cooler cards, foil or not. The fact that you can purchase a Beta Taiga for around the price of two Guru Forests should really go to show that these promos are just for those with the richest of tastes. Perhaps if you aren’t spending your money on upgrading your foils, you may have a bit to blow on those basic lands.

4. Ugin’s Fate Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

(2015)

Fate Reforged was the middle set in the Khans of Tarkir block and was released in early 2015. At the pre-release, if you and your clan completed certain tasks you were awarded an “Ugin’s Fate” booster pack containing two random cards with alternate artwork. There were 26 cards total that differed from their traditional booster pack art, and they were supposed to depict an alternative future in the story line. By far the rarest and most sought after Ugin’s Fate exclusive card is Ugin, the Sprit Dragon.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon sees play in Modern, EDH, and cubes everywhere. On top of being a highly coveted planeswalker, it is one of only two colorless one printed to date. Ugin has competitive and casual uses alike so it is no surprise that this extremely rare version of the walker commands a price tag over $100. That’s a lot of money for a modern-day printed promo, and you can purchase a playset of regular Ugin, the Spirit Dragon for the price of one Ugin’s Fate Promo.

The decks that tend to play Ugin can usually be entirely foiled out. But for those who do not appreciate foils, the Ugin’s Fate promo makes an excellent substitute and you would only need to purchase one or maybe two copies. Chris Rahn’s artwork on it is spectacular but the regular pack artwork by Raymond Swanland is still my favorite.

3. Player Rewards Promos

(2005-2011)

The Player Rewards program was an excellent promotion run by Wizards for about a decade that officially started in 2001. While the promos given out started as tokens, playable cards started being released from 2005 to 2011. JUST in time for me to miss it as 2011 is when I started playing. Tilt. This free program rewarded players for playing a lot of Magic. Talk about a win-win program! Suffice to say, it was a tragic loss to players everywhere when it was discontinued.

All player rewards cards were sent in the mail and they were all textless. The more pricey and coveted cards, the rares, were foil. The commons and uncommons (with the exception of Lightning Bolt) were not foil. Dozens were printed over the years, but my favorites are Ponder, Mana Leak, Lightning Helix, and Terminate.

These cards have been creeping up slightly over the years, as they make great additions to decks that do not aim to be foiled out. All players rewards cards do have foil alternatives available to them but each textless card comes with unique artwork from their set arts, making them ideal candidates for this list.

2. Euro Lands

(2000)

Euro Lands were given as rewards to stores the distributed boxes of Nemesis, Prophecy, and Invasion. There are 15 total lands, 3 of each type, and they are quite hard to find in large amounts or sealed.

The artwork on these stunning lands are all done traditionally and are extremely high quality depictions of the real world. This offers a major contrast from modern-day Magic art direction, as the goal is to create and depict fantasy worlds that offer very little resemblance to the real world. There may be inspirations like steam punk and India for Kaladesh or ancient Egypt for Amonkhet, but when you see the actual world, you are not drawn to the exact parallel in the real world.

For the Euro Lands, the goal is exactly to transport you somewhere that exists here on Earth. I absolutely love that aspect of the cards and they reflect a unique time in Magic’s history that I am sure we will never see again. With a price tag much more affordable than Guru lands, these provide an excellent substitute to any foil lands on the market and absolutely earn their high spot on this list.

  1. States/Game Day Promos

(2006-Present)

The Champs/States promos and Game Day promos are two different systems, but I grouped them together due to their similarities. States for the US (Champs for the rest of the World) was a yearly program where a Standard tournament was held to determine the champion for a particular region. Though it was eventually discontinued, the most similar, currently running program is Game Day. A few weeks after each Standard-legal set release, there is a Standard tournament to decide who the top players for the format are at local game stores.

The similarity in the promos given is also evident. Along with a higher-end foil promo given to the top 8 competitors, there is a non-foil uncommon card given to each player who participates regardless of finish. In the case of States/Champs, it is the same artwork as a card but given a full-art and border treatment, the likes of which hasn’t been replicated again. For Game Day promos, there is an alternate art from the set version, and it is also given a full-art treatment.

I like many of these promos but my favorites are Imperious Perfect, Electrolyze, and Reclamation Sage. I always though Imperious Perfect’s artwork was never done justice on the tiny art from Lorwyn, and this is as close as we can get to seeing more of Scott Fischer’s masterpiece artwork blown up. When I think of ways to upgrade decks without using foils, these are the first promos that come to mind for me. For that reason, they are the number one on my list.

I hope you enjoyed checking out some unconventional ways to upgrade your decks. The go-to cards many people consider when blinging out their decks are foils, but foils aren’t for everyone. I may enjoy foils more myself, but I respect these various promos offering something excellent and different for a different type of collector. What are some of your favorite non-foils you enjoy in your decks. Would you like to see Wizards print more non-foil options regarding promos these days? I look forward to your feedback in the comments. Thanks so much for reading!!

Rachel Agnes is a VSL Competitor, Phyrexian Princess, Collector of all things shiny and a Cube, Vintage, Legacy, and EDH enthusiast.
Catch on Twitch and Twitter via Baetog_.

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