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PROTRADER: PucaPicks for 11/10/2016

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One of the features of Puca that I’ve really come to appreciate is the ability to sort cards and expansions by how many people want a card.

I find it super helpful to sort out what I can send in multiples, and what packages I can put together. It’s also great for me to get a quick list of the things I really want to look for from an expansion, most especially when I am sorting through chaff and looking for the things to pick out.

So this week, I want to peruse some expansions and see where I can pluck value, either from old draft boxes, or the nickel bulk box at your store, or at someone’s binder.

I’m going to go from Kaladesh backwards, so strap in!

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Mistakes Were Made

We could talk about generals we expect to push prices up today. We absolutely could do that. In fact, I think I’m pretty much supposed to since that was kind of what this series was predicated on. But I’m the Captain of this here vessel and today I think there are more interesting implications of Commander 2016 and there is a card that is a non-general that has a ton of impact on a lot of prices. I also think the card was a mistake to print and I think it was a mistake for it to presell for so cheap. I think it was a mistake to put it in the deck people are already going to buy overwhelmingly because it has the best 4-color commander and it doesn’t have red, red being the 6th best color in EDH. Let’s talk about how a non-mythic rare creature with terrible stats is going to impact more prices than most of the commanders and how this is the first of two mistakes in the set.

I can go ahead and spoil next week’s article now – the other mistake in my estimation is Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix which just made everyone roll their eyes and say “Yet another broken Simic card” which is hard to argue with. I’m embarrassed as a Simic enthusiast just because Simic has become the New England Patriots of EDH and it would almost feel good to root against it just because I’m sick of seeing it get so much handed to it. If Golgari weren’t being equally rewarded merely for existing I would feel really bad about being super excited every time Simic gets a ridiculous new card that may or may not need to be banned later. Kydele is not ban-worthy but it will certainly dissuade a lot of people from pairing their partner commander with anyone who isn’t her for fear of doing it wrong. More on that next week.

This week we’re focusing on a card I’m sure you’ve all already guessed. If you didn’t guess, you probably saw the image of the card in your periphery while you were reading the last paragraph. You know what? I’m actually going to do something about that to preserve the element of surprise.

deepglowskate

Act surprised. I was sure as hell surprised when they made this card and thought “This is probably fine, right?” and Star City said “This should probably be a $2 pre-order, right?” This card sold out at nearly every price point it was restocked at and while there’s no longer money to be made pre-ordering this, obviously, I think this makes us all some money. At the risk of pointing out a lot of cards I already pointed out when they spoiled Ezuri, there’s money to be made, potentially on cards we already made money on because of Ezuri. Also, Ezuri probably goes up.

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This is up $1 from a year ago and appears to have plateaued and HERE IS WHY THAT IS SUPER MISLEADING. Things are different, now.

First of all, this is a second spike. You know, the one I’m predicting. OK, should this spike it will have been a second spike. That means a lot of loose copies and event deck copies have been pulled out of dollar bins and binders meaning copies are more concentrated in the hands of dealers. Renewed interested in this card forces people to get copies from places that others can track. Your LGS’ dollar box getting cleaned out doesn’t alert anyone, but Troll and Toad selling out of copies sure will.

Secondly, the Ezuri deck wasn’t that popular. It was plenty popular in the grand scheme of things, but looking back, Ezuri decks with this combo aren’t the number 1 or even number 3 deck archetype to come out of Commander 2015. Meren, Mazirek and Karlov decks are all much more popular. Meanwhile, Atraxa is by far the most popular commander and I predict it will be the best-selling deck. That gives this card, poised for another spike, additional upside. Is Atraxa plus Sage as good as Ezuri plus sage? Obviously not, but the Atraxa deck could end up being better or at least more popular than the Ezuri deck which means you have a lot more people playing Atraxa, especially since people who have an Ezuri deck likely just buy a new copy of sage and leave Ezuri put together.

Skate doesn’t exactly make this broken per se, but it does factor into a deck that would play Sage since it’s super unlikely anyone is trying to make Sage get there by playing a bunch of stupid spells that target it. Since it’s a factor in the deck, it goes up along with Skate and Atraxa.

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This is worth mentioning briefly. This is currently stable at $2, but Meren has demonstrated that the ceiling is $8. Could this hit $8? No, but that ceiling shows there is room to grow. With Ezuri just as good a commander as ever, its usefulness in new decks built around cards like Deepglow Skate mean it has additional upside and $2 might look like it was a good buy-in point in hindsight. I’m not buying yet, but I’m paying attention.

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It’s clear we want to pair Deepglow Skate with Planeswalkers, but I can’t think of any others that are as “MUST INCLUDE” as this one. You’re going to get quite an engine going, blinking skate with Venser, and getting to his emblem quicker than normal is going to remind people that this is a stupid planeswalker with a stupid emblem for jerks when you’re nuking their entire board. Blink an Aether Adept to keep rebuying Cloudblazer and watch this emblem start to ruin some lives. A lot of planeswalkers have some upside with Atraxa and Skate running around, but I bet Skate goes in more decks than Atraxa which means, for example, just white-blue decks that can’t run Tamiyo can run Venser and Skate (And Deadeye with Displacer, also) so I think Venser has the most upside. It was a steady gainer already, another reprint doesn’t seem like a high priority and $10 is a steepish but acceptable entry point for a spec. I’m bullish.

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Remember everything we said about Sage of Hours? It basically also applies for Darksteel Reactor. Second spike, more ubiquity, etc. This is also up from a year ago so clearly Ezuri decks have had some effect and I expect Skate decks to have even more, especially because this could convince players like me who love these kinds of shenanigans to buy another copy that they didn’t need a year ago.

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This was #1 with a bullet (OK, tied for #1 with a bullet) on our list of “If this card is confirmed not to be in any of the Commander 2016 decks, you buy this because it’s going up” cards. Chromatic Lantern got the reprint, albeit in only one deck (what?) which isn’t odd in and of itself but it does seem odd that Relic wasn’t in another deck. I predicted Lantern would be in 0 or 5 decks and the only scenario I could see Lantern in one deck was where Relic was in another deck, Gilded Lotus was in one, a new card (that turned out to be Prismatic Geoscope, a card much more similar to Gilded Lotus than Lantern or Relic), etc. I knew we’d likely get Commander’s Sphere and Darksteel Ingot but we all still kind of expected some mana fixing at rare and we barely got it. With another prime opportunity to reprint Relic gone, it could be a while before there is even a chance to reprint it let alone an actual reprinting. Add to that the fact that proliferation is very good with Relic and you have a recipe for upside. I’m not sure Relic is 100% tied to Skate because of the low degree of interaction (though non-zero) between the two cards but I do think the cards are in the same classification of deck frequently enough for there to be a correlation between the price trajectories even if we can’t establish a causal link. Now’s a great time to move in on this card. Can we all agree it’s going up? Can we agree that its current trajectory is acceptable as far as investments go and that there is a very good chance that line will steepen now that the worry around reprinting has been put off for at least a year and there is likely more demand? Seeing this card and how it interacts with cards like Viral Drake should be enough to get people excited.

It’s kind of funny that I usually write about which commanders are going to shove the prices of other cards up, but I think Deepglow Skate is a good enough card to give some commanders another look.

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Rasputinanigans are more fun in a world with Skate. When they wheeled out Eldrazi Displacer, we expected a bit of a sea change as far as Rasputin was concerned. We didn’t see much of a price increase but we saw an inventory reduction. This is a $30 Legend in a world where Adun Oakenshield hit $50. Now, we all know in hindsight that Adun’s rise was predicated on Tiny Leaders (somehow, not sure what the logic was, honestly) but we also know that price mostly stuck. If this goes up, it’s staying up. There aren’t too many more stores that even have copies of Rasputin in stock and it almost seems like a few people have picked up the deck but no one is really paying attention. Most major retailers are sold out for a higher price than you can get these for on Amazon, but even Amazon has very few copies despite them all being fairly cheap. Skate pairs well-ish with Rasputin and pairs well with the other kinds of cards the deck runs. I don’t want to advocate a buy-out of Rasputin, but if you did buy the relatively small number of loose copies, you probably help this hit $50 and stay above $40, basically forever.

Is there more? Yes, obviously. Cards in decks like Roon and Brago have additional upside when you add a card like Deepglow Skate to the blink arsenal. These cards, for example.

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These both work in decks like Brago very well already. Having the option to keep doubling the number of counters on them and thereby letting you scuttle like 5 permanents every turn if you can keep rebuying Skate is a brutal way to keep them pinned down, especially if you’re using Tide on their land. I think both of these have some upside in a post-Skate universe, but it’s up to people to start brewing with them.

It feels like there’s more we could cover because Skate interacts with a ton of cards. I’m sure there is something glaring I am missing, but that’s OK because there will be a period of like three weeks where it will get adopted, show up on EDHREC, prices will move slowly and we’ll still be able to buy in. If I didn’t miss something obvious, great. Even if I did and we can’t make any money of the cards I missed, there’s still plenty here. Deepglow Skate is like Vorel but very easy to repeat by doing things we already want to be doing.

We’ll keep an eye on the cards people are beginning to jam alongside Skate and revisit it periodically if there is anything particularly juicy. Chasm Skulker? Panharmonicon? You’ll hear it here, first. In the mean time, there are some excellent targets here and that’s a good enough place to start. Next week we’ll talk about Kydele and some cards that I expect that deck to push up but we’ll have another week of data to look at if there is anything Skate-related we want to go back over. As always, thank you for reading and enjoy MTG Finance on easy mode.

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PROTRADER: PucaPicks for 11/3/16

So Commander 2016 lands in a week, and maybe some of you are checking your big box stores early. It’s not unheard of for them to stock these a day or two ahead of schedule.

This week I want to look at the listed prices and see where I can either buy low or sell high, even though you can’t quite get your hands on these yet, I like to plan ahead.

I want to be clear that if you can buy the decks on the first day, and then move out the singles, I don’t think that’s a winning play…mostly. The postage rate is going to be pretty high, unless you’ve got a great source for stamps, or you know someone who wants most of a deck.

That being said, these decks have a ton of value, and a lot of potential. Some people, who get stamps through work or some such, are going to really turn their $30 msrp into an easy 6000 points, but I just don’t have the time for that. If you do, more power to you. I’m properly envious of those who have the stamps and the spare time.

On to the cards!

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Exciting Generals, Boring Decks

I was really excited to talk about Commander 2016, you know. There are a lot of good cards and with approximately 300 new commanders to build around, everyone should be building new decks. We’ve already covered everything else I want to cover with the reprint guide article last week. Stuff is getting reprinted, some of it is going to recover and some of it won’t. The stuff that won’t recover is predictable because its growth heading into the reprint was slow or the card is old and only expensive on the basis of scarcity and actual demand isn’t enough to save the price. The stuff that’s going to recover won’t do so for at least another year. In fact, the price isn’t even done cratering. It’s too early to even talk about the cards being cheap enough to buy let alone poised for a recovery. We can look at the cards that are cratered right now, but I feel like we’ve talked about them incidentally over the last year already and we know what they are. Cards we identified a year ago like Black Market are just starting to show signs of rebounding and cards from two years ago like Crypt Ghast have grown too much so that buying in now doesn’t make sense. We could twiddle our thumbs, but the basis of this series was looking at new decks and deck archetypes and seeing which older cards, with established prices, we would expect to move. I fully intended to do that this week. That was, at least, until I started looking at decklists.

EDHREC is my favorite resource for this sort of thing. It aggregates the decks posted online and tells you which percentage of those decks are playing certain cards to give you an idea about the relative demand for certain cards. You can tell what’s hot at a glance and that’s good because it takes a long time to identify a truly good spec and anything that saves you time is appreciated. The first article after a set is fully spoiled, I usually look at the most popular commander. Most of the time there are only one or two like The Gitrog Monster or Leovold and the rest of the set is pretty meh, but this is Commander 2016 we’re talking about here. There are lots of commanders to choose from, the top of the heap being Atraxa. It stands to reason that the most popular and exciting card in the set should be exciting to write about. I thought that for, oh, probably 10 decklists before I started to realize today was going to SUCK. There are plenty of Atraxa lists out there. The problem? Everyone is building their Atraxa deck BASIC AS $%^&.

Superboring

People have decided the only two ways to play the deck different from the hodgepodge of counters and randomness that’s the preconstructed deck is to build either superfriends or infect. We’ve covered Superfriends builds in this article series at length. We’re aware it’s a pretty decent and fun archetype, but we’re also waiting for The Chain Veil, perhaps the best card to use as a gauge for the overall impact of the artchetype on recentish cards, to do anything. Everyone knows The Chain Veil will be worth more money later than it is right now because it does something unique and powerful for a deck archetype people want to play, but no one knows how long it’s going to take and how high it’s going to get and right now I’m not really very impressed with its growth. I have a stack of them sitting around waiting to be exchanged for diapers or horseback riding lessons or whatever you have to buy when you exchange your dreams for living vicariously through someone else.

Infect is just as bad. Sure, it’s popular, I guess, but with exactly two expensive cards most of the time (Skittles and Blightsteel) there isn’t a ton of money to be made. A lot of the business cards are common and uncommon and while it’s smart to know what they are so you can pull them out of bulk and buylist them, there isn’t much action otherwise. You can try and speculate if you want to spend $4,000 buying every Viral Drake on the internet to try and corner the market. That’s dumb, though.

I looked through about two dozen Atraxa lists before I got frustrated. Then wordpress messed up and I lost this much of the article and had to try and rewrite it and make all the points I wanted to make and it was frustrating a second time. After looking at a ton of Atraxa lists from a ton of different skill levels of deckbuilder, nothing leapt out at me. Hardened Scales and Corpsejack Menace were reprinted. Doubling Season and Glen Elendra Archmage are too expensive to make any money from at this point. Superfriends cards aren’t doing much and Planeswalkers aren’t likely to spike much because there is no consensus regarding which walkers to run in Atraxa.

What do we do in this situation? The most popular deck is not giving us anything. A lot of the cards people are brewing with right now are in the precon and the people who are eschewing that build are not including the same cards as each other. A lack of consensus in deckbuilding is interesting for a builder but it’s boring for us because a lack of consensus means a lack of financial upside. I think in this case we’re forced to look at the boring cards people are building with, including the ones in the precons, and look at what’s likely to go up next year. What choice do we have?

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This was a really promising graph. The big spike was due to adoption in Standard which was good because that got copies concentrated in store inventories right off the bat. If a rare never becomes a bulk rare, it helps the copies of it go up later because people can’t just find them in an old binder when it’s time to build the deck; they have no choice but to buy them. The reprint nipped this in the bud, but make no mistake, even with the reprinting, this is an EDH staple forever. There’s decent risk of a second reprinting before we ever get a chance to make any money from this, but this is a card that looks so much like Parallel Lives that it’s worth at least keeping an eye on. For reference, this is Parallel Lives’ graph.

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I’m not saying we’ll ever get $7 for Hardened Scales, but I will say that Parallel Lives is a good example of what a card can do in 4 years if you leave it alone. Hardened Scales is in the same class as Parallel Lives in terms of impact, although it’s probably twice as narrow. However, with all of the value in the Atraxa precon, there is very little pressure on Hardened Scales to pull any weight in terms of value. This is a card that I liked as a bulk rare once already and while it never got there, I think it can this time and I’m still a buyer, even with the extra copies we just got foisted on us.

Outlook – 1 year until it bottoms out, 18 months to 2 years until we see a return, barring a reprint.

That’s basically all I’m excited about. At this point I was even more frustrated. Sometimes the way people choose to build as a community doesn’t leave much financial opportunity. I am reminded of a similar outcome with a very different set of circumstances. Remember Ayli?

Clerical Error

Ayli seemed perfect. While some people were excited about Tazri allowing them to play 5-color allies, I was pumped about the prospects of Ayli, a legendary black and white cleric that could finally bring cleric tribal to fruition. There were a lot of juicy foil specs, or so we thought. As predicted, Ayli was a very popular commander. The issue? Not very many clerics to be found. Instead of building a Clerics deck, people used Ayli as a generic Orzhov lifegain commander. That’s actually legitimate and there’s no reason to fault them for doing so. That doesn’t change the fact that nothing really that we predicted panned out if it wasn’t included in the deck that ended up being built. Is non-tribal “boring”? No, I was being goofy for the sake of a title to the article. But that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes the way decks get built is either hard to predict or just doesn’t give you any real avenues to make any money. That’s really the lesson we learned today, unfortunately. There’s going to be money to be made in some of the other deck archetypes as a result of Commander 2016 but we have some time on those so there’s no real rush. We’ll cover the other archetypes over the coming weeks. Why did we look at Atraxa at all? Well, basically because it was the most obvious one. It was spoiled first so people were brewing with it longer, and it was spoiled by itself so everyone who wanted to brew had to brew with it. There is more data on Atraxa than any other commander, at least for now.

There’s no getting around having to research leads the end up not panning out. When it does happen, though, you need to pivot and that’s what I want to talk about for the rest of our time today. We can look to the future next week but for now, I want to take a look about a month back at something very curious that is developing.

Conspiracy 2.0 Lives Up To Its Name

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See how the graph ends prematurely? That’s because copies disappeared. No one has foil Leovold. It’s out of stock at $150 on SCG and some eBayers are trying to get up to $300, but there are some $190 Buy it Now auctions that make those look silly – until the $190 copies are gone, I guess. So why are we seeing Leovold turn into the next Dack Fayden? We knew this price would go up eventually, especially in foil, but we didn’t expect it to take less than a month? What happened?

The simplest explanation is no one drafted Conspiracy at all. It’s sort of a tough sell to begin with but drafters, people who want cube cards and EDH players alike are all interested in the set. Whereas last time terrible core set and drafts were competing with Conspiracy and it wasn’t until a few months later that Khans came out, people got Kaladesh immediately on the heels of Conspiracy 2 and people are done buying. Stores have boxes of Conspiracy 2 just sitting around and there aren’t many foil Leovolds being added to help with the supply issues, a situation exacerbated by a lack of MODO redemption. With so many boxes out there, a world with a $300 foil Leovold is unlikely to do anything to the box price so we’re forced to conclude either every other card in the set’s price gets crushed, or it will be very efficient to buy boxes. Couple that with Christmas coming up and stores likely to both do holiday sales and cut prices further on Conspiracy boxes to make room on shelves, we could see opportunity. Either way, we need to be ready. What’s worth looking at if prices dip short-term?

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Here’s everything currently over $3. If these prices start to dip because there is literally no pressure on them to hold up ANY of the value of the set (Non-foil Leovold is sold out most places at $25ish), what do we want to pick up?

I am not super bullish on Berserk or Show and Tell right now. With Star City all but entirely abandoning Legacy, there isn’t going to be much pressure on Legacy cards with everyone panicking. It’s not a good time to be investing in volatile cards like that, so I’m staying away from those cards unless they get significantly cheaper. Elsewhere on the list, though, I’m seeing some promise.

Sanctum Prelate is going to impact EDH in a big way, but the buy-in price on this card seems very high right now and it’s largely predicated on no one having opened Conspiracy packs. If this price doesn’t start to tail off and some of the other cards that are a bit cheaper start to head up in price the farther we get from this set’s printing, I’m liking discounted boxes if we have a few solid $15-$20 targets. Prelate, Recruiter and Selvala all approaching $20 makes boxes look pretty sexy. EDH will always want a ridiculous card like prelate – look at these two graphs of cards that are getting there despite being in sets where way more packs were opened than were Conspiracy.

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Abolisher is already starting to recover from its reprinting two years ago. This and Prelate pair nicely and do a lot of work separately. I think this kind of effect, though antisocial, is powerful and efficacious in EDH.

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This was $40 at one point. This card is a dirty hoser of a card but that appeals to a lot of people. I don’t think this will ever be $40 again, but it does point to a theoretical ceiling for Prelate, especially absent a reprinting and a significant change in the amount of Conspiracy 2 packs that get opened.

Recruiter of the Guard is a card that might want some help from Legacy and probably won’t get it, but with Cube and EDH being a thing, I think the fact that so few packs are being opened means its rarity might be a non-factor. Scarce is scarce.

Expropriate is too stupid good a Magic card. I wish it had gotten cheaper and indeed if it starts to, I’m in for cash. I’m not predicting this card could go up in price and make boxes more appealing the way a card going for closer to $20 could, but this is a tempting target if prices start to tank.

Birds of Paradise, Burgeoning and Platinum Angel are surprisingly expensive. I think it’s possible those prices were predicated on a higher box price and if the box price starts to tank, these prices could theoretically see some relief. I also think if they do tank, it will be a year or less before they’re above where they are now. These cards are never not going to be EDH staples until someone prints something better. Lump Phyrexian Arena in there and you’re looking at some very cheap EDH staples. They seem bound and determined to print Phyrexian Arena into powder, however, whereas a Birds of Paradise printing is rare and a Burgeoning reprinting will probably never happen again.

It wouldn’t hurt to go back through the Leovold article also to see if there is anything there we should keep an eye on. Leovold is clearly a popular enough commander that it’s messing up the prices for the entire set, which is fine. We welcome that, frankly. This Leovold situation is something I plan to keep a close eye on, but with the excitement surrounding Commander 2016 now palpable, we’ll likely table this for now and come back once we’ve looked at opportunities predicated on this new set. There are a ton of new commanders and that’s going to give us a lot of new deck archetypes which could make some bulk rares $5 or so, which is our favorite thing. Until then, poke around online and see if you see any evidence people are poised to dump Conspiracy boxes. If you can get them under $60 or something absurd like that, it’s worth a look. If not, Commander 2016 is poised to make so many things happen we won’t even mind. Au Revoir, nerds.

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