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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


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


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


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



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


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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The Art of Art

Hello everyone! I am back today to bring you a rarely discussed topic in MTG finance, card artwork. Part of this is because art is very subjective. As you know many Magic cards have various printings. Some have different borders, rarities, and artwork. All of these components tend to have varying effects on the prices among different printings of the same card. So today I will be discussing how otherwise similar cards having different artwork can affect price in a big way.

Many of the best artwork on cards are on the original version. While this is my opinion, I’m here to show you the price often reflects that. While that isn’t always the case, I find that  more often than not, the older artwork is superior. We know that the original printing of cards tend to fetch a slightly higher price than any reprints do. However, we can also see cards with the same artwork that are reprinted have prices very close to each other. Many cards boast the same or less than 5% price difference when the versions share the same art. This even applies to cases where one has a much smaller print run or wasn’t opened as much.

Some examples of cards that have been reprinted years after the original but containing the same artwork are:

Notice anything about these prices? The prices of the reprints are right in the same ballpark as the originals. Basically, the demand to have one version of these cards over the other is so small, that there isn’t a profound price difference even where the original has far fewer copies in circulation.

Additionally, many cards that have been reprinted with different artwork have similar prices. I have found that when the quality of artwork is relatively similar, two different versions of the same card tend to only have small price differences. In other words, if the player base is relatively split when it comes to artwork preference, the prices synchronize.

Some examples of this would be Goblin Guide, Engineered Explosives, and Vendilion Clique. The prices for these between their different sets and artworks is relatively consistent. In my opinion, this can be attributed to a lack of one artwork being vastly superior to its counterpart.

Today, I will be discussing cards whose prices do differ significantly. The most likely reason for these price differences in my opinion is the artwork. In some cases, the old frame versus new frame may cause a bit of the price difference, but for me, the true appeal of these cards is the artwork.

  1. Chord of Calling


I absolutely love the original Ravnica Chord of Calling. The way Heather Hudson uses the colors for the lighting and the focus on the giant bird are more pleasing to the eye than the M15 version. The M15 Chord comes off somewhat jumbled and confusing and I do not get the whole “I am summoning a sweet creature” vibe from it.

While both cards have a post-8th Edition frame, the Ravnica version commands roughly a 33% higher price tag. The price of the foil Ravnica version is three times higher than the M15 as well. This goes to show that when players are choosing how they want to search out their toolbox creatures in Modern and EDH they are willing to shell out a few extra dollars for the beautiful colors of the original printing.

  1. Venser, Shaper Savant

Venser is one of my favorite blue cards of all time. When he isn’t putting work in cube, he can be found smashing face in competitive and casual EDH alike. Just missing the bar of playabilty in Modern, it’s these casual formats that caused this amazing tempo creature to soar in price before being reprinted twice in recent years.

While I do like the blue colors in the newer Venser, the original Future Sight artwork is just so iconic. Future Sight commands the highest booster box price tag of all Modern-legal sets and Venser is right there on the box artwork as the focus. You can buy an entire playset of Modern Masters 2017 Vensers for the price of ONE Future Sight original version. And when it comes to foils, the newer version could buy you exactly one Chipotle burrito. A Future Sight Venser however, could buy you one burrito per day for a whole week. Because both Vensers have the post-8th Edition frame and rarity, it can only be surmised that the artwork plays a huge role here. I absolutely agree, you can’t beat Aleksi Briclot’s amazing artwork here and we will see another of his iconic works later.

  1. Cabal Therapy

Cabal Therapy may be the only uncommon on my list, but it has certainly earned its spot. The original Judgment printing is worth double it’s recent Eternal Masters counterpart. You could also buy two playsets of pack foil Cabal Therapy from Eternal Masters for the price of ONE Judgement foil. Now, some of this can be attributed to some preferring the old border compared to the new, but that’s not the end of the story.

The original artwork for Cabal Therapy was created by the talented Ron Spencer well over a decade ago and the artwork really speaks to me. I was actually shocked to see the original artwork of this piece change hands a couple years back for under $2,000. Nothing against the newer artwork, but the two are light and day to me. I could never part with my playset of Judgment Cabal Therapy and combined with the old border, there’s no other way to go.

  1. Mana Crypt

Just because you flip a coin for Mana Crypt doesn’t mean you should leave your artwork selection up to chance. The original Mark Tedin artwork for this powerful Vintage, Cube, and EDH staple evokes what I feel to be subtle ominousness. It looks so quaint, but complicated. Unwelcoming, yet fascinating. I always wanted to see what lies beyond that corner. Sometimes, I imagine that there are two wizards waiting there right around the bend, where the light source is coming from. One has a gift of mana for you, the user, waiting eagerly to provide aid when you reach for your Mana Crypt. The other wizard has a spear ready to offer you, stabbing you in your side when you reach to the crypt.

Anyways, my crazy fantasies aside, the price difference between the media promo version (which happens to be the original) and the new Eternal Masters Mana Crypt isn’t a figment of your imagination. The original crypt will set you back about 40% more than the newer one, so for those of you with many Commander decks, you could buy three new ones for the price of two old ones. I do believe the very handsome old border plays some part of this massive price difference, however you can’t discount the artwork when comparing the two. Since you are expecting the crypt to stick around on the board as long as you are, I would absolutely choose the original.

  1. Sneak Attack

Surprise, you’re dead! That’s what happens when you allow a Sneak Attack to resolve these days in EDH or Legacy. With the power creep of creatures over the past decade, Sneak Attack’s stock has risen quite sharply and it even finds itself the focus of a few Legacy decks. While it was recently reprinted in Eternal Masters with different artwork, the original from Urza’s Saga commands a 33% premium over the newer version. This is even despite an upshift from rare to mythic rare.

Now there is quite some allure to the older border when it comes to Sneak Attack. I absolutely love the old red border magnitudes above the post 8th Edition border.  But by far, the biggest selling factor for Sneak Attack is its artwork. Illustrated traditionally by Jerry Tiritilli, the artist for Rishadan Port, the colors and movement of the piece are absolutely stunning. Goblins teaming up and attacking a dragon beat some kavu attacking a random soldier any day for me. The Urza’s Saga version sticks out on the field quite vibrantly, despite me always grumbling when it is played against me. The masterful artwork combined with the amazing flavor text on the original means we certainly have a winner, and the price reflects that.

  1. Grim Lavamancer

Red players eat your heart out! If you have respect for the color red you will use the original Torment version of this amazing 1-drop. There are very few red artworks in all of Magic that beat out Grim Lavamancer to me. Jim Nelson hit it out of the park with the original art from 15 years ago. The blue of the lavamancer’s cloak contrasts the reds and oranges flowing from his hands. The facial expression on the lavamancer himself and the Obstinate Familiar on his shoulder really set the callous red player’s mood.

When it comes to pricing, it seems that most players agree with me. Non-foil Grim Lavamancers from Torment are priced around 40% more than their M12 counterpart. For the price of a single foil copy from Torment you could buy ten foils from M12. I cannot speak poorly of Michael Sutfin’s amazing artwork either, as he is also the illustrator of Sensei’s Divining Top, Vendilion Clique, and Exalted Angel. However, when it comes to this lavamancer, any choice other than the original would be grim.

  1. Tarmogoyf

“Ach! Hans, run! It’s a very price inflated version of the lhurgoyf!”

Surely everyone reading this has heard of Tarmogoyf. At one point it was the most expensive creature in all of Magic, even beating out Imperial Recruiter and Juzam Djinn. Thanks to recent reprintings, the mighty Tarmogoyf has shrunk in price to an affordable… $300 per playset. Well that could buy you the cheapest playset out there. If you want to play your goyfs in style, you will have to shell out closer to $500 for a playset of the Future Sight version. A this point, Tarmogoyf has been printed four times and I suspect that number to rise to five by 2019. Foil Future Sight Tarmogoyf is one of the most expensive foils in all of Magic. Commanding more than some Beta dual lands should be an indicator of how coveted the premium version of this powerful creature is. It would be cheaper to acquire a playset of foils from any other set than shell out for a single copy of this extremely rare foil. There are two reasons for the huge price difference between versions.

The most obvious reason that sticks out, is the border. I would wager that on my list, the card that has the most contribution to its price from its border is Tarmogoyf. The amazing and unique Future Sight border that appeared on “future shifted” cards hasn’t been replicated since, and players do jump at the chance to throw them in their deck. We see this with other cards like Street Wraith, Narcomoeba, and Bridge from Below. I absolutely love this frame as well and can certainly see it contributing to the price difference.

However, let’s not forget that Tarmogoyf was upshifted to mythic rarity when it was reprinted in all three Modern Masters sets. Because the original version is simply a rare, we must attribute another factor to its price premium. The artwork for Tarmogoyf certainly plays a factor here. I will admit, the original artwork for Tarmogoyf is peculiar. It was produced by an artist who was given one other card and never illustrated for MTG again. Calling Tarmogoyf’s artwork a masterpiece would certainly be pushing it. “Iconic” is more aligned with how I feel when I see a Future Sight Tarmogoyf. The artwork actually looks amazing when combined with the border, something few other cards can boast. Immediately recognizable and always sizeable, it leaves me and many others hungry for the original.

  1. Polluted Delta

I was tempted to put all five original Onslaught fetchlands here on the list but decided that I would just do my favorite, Polluted Delta. You can’t beat a traditional Rob Alexander landscape painting and it isn’t remotely close when compared to the Khans of Tarkir version. Polluted Delta is one of my favorite artworks of all time and it is absolutely one of the top 10 most powerful lands ever printed to boot. The colors Rob uses to illustrate a very calm but tainted scenery are perfect and this artwork will always command respect from me. Also the Khans version has flavor text. Ew.

The Onslaught version is about 40% more expensive than the Khans version and for good reason. Did I also mention the 700% difference in price between the two pack foils? That insanity partly comes from the amazing old border but you gotta hand it to the artwork as well. It is a display of good taste to use original Rob Alexander fetchlands from Onslaught, but those aren’t the only of his works you should pay a little more for…

  1. Hallowed Fountain

Number 2 on this list shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone but I chose the Ravnica shockland cycle. Just like the fetchlands, I decided to focus on my favorite one of the bunch rather than dive into the set of 10, but for artwork the original 10 are vastly superior on each count.

Hallowed Fountain is one of the best pieces of artwork for the game, hands down. The amount of detail and intricacy in the artwork isn’t seen in the rest of the game, old or new. The size and scale of the piece is remarkable and the use of shadows and details makes it quite stunning. Mr. Alexander strikes again and it is always nice to be able to use a fetch by Rob to grab a shockland by Rob.

As for the price, you are going to pay roughly double for the original Dissension version over the Return to Ravnica edition. The foil version of the original is worth roughly 550% more as well. That means you couldn’t even buy a single copy of a Dissension foil for the price of a playset from Return to Ravnica. Both versions have the exact same border and the exact same set rarity, so the artwork seals the deal here.

  1. Thoughtseize

The moment you have all been waiting for, the number 1 spot. Thoughtseize was the main card that inspired me to write this article in the first place. I found the difference in artwork quality so vast and the playability of the card so frequent that I had to bring up the discussion.

Thoughtseize from Lorwyn is illustrated by the talented Aleksi Briclot and captivated everyone from the moment it was printed. Don’t let the beauty and elegance of the colors fool you, getting Thoughtseize’d is no fun at all. One of the most powerful plays in Modern, Legacy, and sometimes Vintage, it would behoove a player to have the best artwork of the card. After all, it often sits there, glaring your opponent in the face taunting them, as you write down the contents of their hand. Might as well give them something nice to look at.

The original Thoughtseize from Lorwyn is worth about double the Theros version. When it comes to foils, things get crazy. Lorwyn Thoughtseize foil versions have really been shaken up lately on the market and the prices have been fluctuating between expensive and very expensive. Currently, an original foil Thoughtseize will set you back close to $600, while a Theros foil goes for around $45. Considering both cards have the same set rarity and border, it is another clear indicator of artwork superiority.

And that concludes my list of cards that demand premiums based on their superior artwork. There were many cards that I felt missed the list not on their merits but because rarity shifts had too important a role in their price. For instance, Snapcaster Mage from Innistrad is worth roughly the same as the Snapcaster Mage from Modern Masters 2017. I believe the original artwork far outshines the reprint, but the price hasn’t reflected that yet due to the upshift in rarity. The same goes for Vampiric Tutor from Visions and Eternal Masters.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these amazing pieces of Magic history as much as I enjoyed gathering them. I hope we see a new direction of artwork, calling back to days long gone in the future. What are your favorite versions of popular cards? Do you prefer the newer art style or the old? Feel free to let me 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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Angels and Giants

Modern Masters 2017 is fully spoiled, and, may I just say, what in the actual @#$%?

Seriously. Seriously. Seriously.

I predicted the set would be crammed with value and that a lot of the cards I predicted would be in it would be in it. In reality, the set was crammed with value and a lot of the cards I predicted would be in it were in it PLUS Tarmogoyf.  It’s kind of hard to even right now. What we can do is look at the set, understand that the EV is through the roof, supply is much higher than we’re used to seeing with a Modern Masters set (no one knows exactly how much so it’s going to be tough to predict exactly how much prices will fall and we don’t need to do that to know we should buy at the floor, anyway) and figure out which targets are juicy. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to try and isolate cards that are just predicated on EDH demand and let other people tell you what Modern and Legacy may or may not be able to affect. Modern has an actual metagame and changes to it and bannings affect entire decks. EDH bannings, an infrequent event, don’t invalidate a whole deck, merely a card. We’re looking at a stable, predictable format and we even have some historical data of EDH cards in Modern Masters sets. Let’s see what we see!

The first Modern Masters had a lot of EDH goodies in it, and some of them got smashed, especially at rare.

Adarkar Valkyrie

Valkyrie was about to recover and might well have done an OK job of it if not for a second reprinting in Commander 2014 a year later. Those two combined have made this a bulk rare basically in perpetuity. But not ever card was so unlucky.

Stonehewer Giant

This has gotten back to its pre-reprint price. You can thank a little buoying from the renewed interest in this kind of card with the printing of the Nahiri commander deck as well as it being a nice budget alternative to Stoneforge Mystic. There’s one thing we can check that can help shine some light on the subject.

There you have it. How much a card is played can also be a factor, with Giant justifying some of its price with nearly double the inclusion. While it’s a little disingenuous to directly compare a card reprinted once with a card reprinted twice (much more aggressively the second time) we have a good idea of the factors that can affect the price so we can tell if a card is an Angel or a Giant. In this context, Angel is a bad investment doomed to stagnate for years and make you no money and Giant is a card that promises robust recovery. Giants give us those sexy, U-shaped graphs we like to see.

Modern Masters 2017 is going to give us more copies of a given rare than Modern Masters… 2013? 1? What do we call it? I’m just going to call it “Modern Masters” the way everyone refers to “A New Hope” as “Star Wars” and the other sets I’ll refer to as Modern Masters 2015 and 2017.

Let’s look at a few cards and see if they are an Angel or a Giant.

Craterhoof Behemoth

I have hopes for this card. In a lot of ways, I feel like this is a worst-case scenario sort of card. What if they print so many packs of Modern Masters 2017 that we have as many mythics as we did of Modern Masters rares? Are there cards with similar levels of adoption printed at rare in Modern Masters that could show us that Craterhoof could recover?

Woodfall Primus

I feel like I don’t even need to put the arrow on June 2013 to show where it got reprinted – it’s very obvious. Worst-case scenario, we get so much Modern Masters 2017 that mythic is the new rare, we see Primus (4,939 EDHREC decks, to Craterhoof’s 6,779, both well above the 3,479 we saw with Stonehewer) recovering almost 100%. Craterhoof also has some Legacy implication (very minor) to help it. My hope is that Craterhoof flies under the radar a bit. Everyone will use splashier mythics like Tarmogoyf and Griselbrand and Linvala in their EV calculations and the lack of immediate demand might tank hoofy’s price a bit. I see this being a Giant under even the worst of circumstances and the more this falls, the more money we make. Will it ever be almost $30 again? I’m not sure. I think it could recover a lot more than people think, and given that it’s mythic, it’s hard to imagine there ever being enough supply to fully tank its price. Even the ugliest Modern Masters mythics don’t look that bad.

Vedalken Shackles

1,163 decks on EDHREC and an artificial spike from the Modern Blue Moon decks make this just about the ugliest Modern Masters mythic and there’s still hope of recovery. Craterhoof has much better bona fides than this. I’m very confident.  I’d love to be fair and show the price graph of Comet Storm but, shoot, it got another reprinting and can’t tell us anything. Darn.

Zur the Enchanter

Compare Venser to a card that’s almost sure to get ground into powder. Coldsnap didn’t get opened a ton and cards like Arcum Daggson have demonstrated the ability to reach and hold some pretty lofty prices but Zur here is in for a big hit. While EDHREC numbers lie a bit (his 188 inclusions and 539 registrations as a commander [yes, it’s in more decks as a commander than inclusion] belie how popular he is in competitive and French Commander, formats where they rarely register on EDHREC but where their inclusions are even more likely to drive prices) I still think this is set to take a big hit. Being reprinted at non-mythic in a set where we’re nervous about mythics’ ability to regain ground before 2019 when we could see another reprinting is bad news bears for this card. It’s already having a tough time maintaining some of its earlier hype. I’d like to say its EDHREC numbers don’t matter because this would be a good example of counter-intuition if this were going to recover but I fear it can’t. Angel for sure.

Sphinx’s Revelation

This is going to get crushed into absolute powder. It’s going to be on fire for weeks, maybe months. Here’s the thing – I think this could end up getting down to bulk mythic status. Modern doesn’t use it a ton, Legacy at all, people who started playing in the last 4 years don’t even remember how dominant it was and no one seems to be aware that this is a pretty decent EDH card with 3,871 registered decks including it. It’s Oloro gold and Oloro is a top 5 commander of all time. When this gets pulverized, and it will if non-mythic rares like Blood Moon are to maintain any of their value, this is a very good pickup. I like this at its floor, which could end up being bulk. Being able to grab these greedily for cheap is a very attractive proposition. I think its EDH numbers are strong enough to maintain a price increase from oblivion and it’s basically no-risk if this ends up in bulk mythic territory. We have to see how low this goes, first (I don’t like buying these at $2, for example) but this has the ability to rebound from completely cratering and EDH demand is enough to do that. This is an X spell that draws cards and gains life – it’s even better in EDH than it was in Standard and it absolutely warped Standard.  Giant here, provided it gets humbled enough before it begins its comeback.

Basilisk Collar

This card has had a very weird month. No sooner did people notice this was pretty keen in conjunction with Walking Ballista (the same way people made the connection with it and Inferno Titan in Standard) in Modern than it was announced as a reprint. Clearly this was a “Wow, and EDH card people love is $10? That’s not cool” reprint and not a “Let’s bring the price down because Walking Ballista spiked it too hard” because while they knew Ballista was coming, it’s unlikely they planned a Modern Masters 2017 inclusion based on a 30% increase from more Modern play. This is in 3,303 EDH decks currently and it’s stupid with commanders like Olivia Voldaren. Can this be $10 again? I think it’s possible that it can. I think this card is a good example of the concept of Hidden Demand that I talked about last week. People who weren’t super aware of this card until its Ballista application materialized will likely underestimate the power of EDH. I think the demand from EDH and its cheap price suddenly making it accessible to people who weren’t inclined to shell out $10 for a Gorgon Flail are going to surprise some people. I see a nice, U-shaped graph in this card’s future. It won’t be $13 and it might not even be $10, but if it ends up $7.50, you’re going to be glad you paid $3 for it.

Venser, Shaper Savant

I said last week that this was something that could show us some hidden EDH demand that could trick people who think its price increases are entirely predicated on use in Modern, and in a deck that no one is really using anymore at that. EDH demand is pretty robust and is in line with the numbers we arbitrarily decided were OK for other cards – 4,434 inclusions and 56 as a commander. That’s a lot of demand that people who see this as a fossil from a Blue Moon deck that’s no longer in vogue (look at how sluggishly Vedalken Shackles is limping along after its reprinting in Modern Masters at Mythic) won’t realize is there. At 4 times the inclusion rate of Shackles, Venser is far more than some mere Blue Moon card that no one needs anymore.

I think it’s done a nice job recovering from it FTV printing. That goofy spike to $50 on the graph throws the scale off and belies the fact that its modest-looking crawl starting in mid 2015 is actually a precipitous $10 increase. That’s a very robust recovery.

Will it recover as well from a Modern Masters non-mythic printing? It’s hard to say. However, I think that while it’s going to have a tough time recovering if we’re getting as much product as people seem to indicate, it’s also going to be overlooked. I think the lack of apparent demand from competitive players will relegate this to a lower “tier” initially and its price will take a bigger hit than something like Blood Moon. That being the case, you may be able to make as much money as you would have buying something more expensive at its floor even if this card doesn’t quite reach its previous price. That is to say it may grow at a rate that’s a smaller percentage of its previous price than something like Craterhoof, but it could fall at a greater rate, also, meaning in terms of real dollars you can make as much money buying in at the floor even if it doesn’t recover to the same percentage of its initial price. Is that sentence gibberish? Tell me in the comments if that sentence is gibberish.

I’m personally pretty jazzed for this set. I really hope everything just takes a pounding and prices end up slashed because we’ve seen that a lot of these cards can recover nicely. There are a few unknowns. Will the FTV printing of Venser combined with its Modern Masters 2017 printing be as detrimental to the price as the Commander 2014 plus Modern Masters printing were to Adarkar Valkyrie? Or will the robust demand and relatively small print run of the FTV be enough to negate it? Is Venser an Angel or Giant? I’m betting he’s a Giant and I am betting money on it. There are some other very attractive targets to invest in. Next-level investors are looking at cards that have upside not having been reprinted and while that’s smart and useful (Check out James’ column tomorrow), EDH demand is strong, predictable and quantifiable. What more could you ask for?

Thanks for reading!

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I Like Liking What I Like

Last week I tried something radical and new and talked about cards I liked out of the new set and no one fired me. It turns out my guess is as good as yours when it comes to cards I’m not sure about and you’re not paying me to hear guesses that are as good as yours. Actually, you’re not paying me at all. This website is paying me. And it’s not like you’re directly paying the website because this is free to read. So you’re not even paying me indirectly. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not accountable to you in any way. I’m FREE! I can cast of these shackles and live totally uninhibited! Rules are for losers! Clothes are for slaves! ANARCHY!

You read this column because, hopefully, I think of things you don’t think of, either because I spent more time thinking about it and you used that time better by having a social life or working an actual job or because I have insight into a format you aren’t interested in but still want to profit from. Insight comes to us in a lot of different ways, including input from readers, input from people who have tested cards I haven’t had a chance to test and from my own testing. Accordingly, playing some cards has changed my opinion on some of the stuff in this set and my updated opinion comes just in time for the cards to be available for purchase after the prerelease and the prices to have been updated accordingly. I like some of what I like, don’t like some of what I liked, like some of what I didn’t like and don’t like some of what I didn’t like. Those are the only positions I can think of. I should be able to find a few examples of each of those.

Cards I used to like but now extra like

I thought I liked this card a lot and I was surprised to learn I like this a lot more after playing with it. This looks weak for Limited at first but it’s actually just nuts. This puts you behind curve, I guess, but if you can’t play behind curve to ensure you never run out of gas or draw too many land then I guess your deck is too good to ever lose. This overperformed in Limited but it’s also just stupid in EDH. You have to play it in decks with green which is fine because having the Scry in a green deck means you can improve your draws. Besides, green decks already have a ton of extra mana so you’re just going to draw a ton of cards with this. Green is already the best color in EDH and now it got a card that honestly white needed a lot more. The rich get richer with this card which is fine with me. At $1, this is going to be a cheap pickup in the short term but in the longer term, this is a $5ish card unless it’s reprinted. It could even grow from there. I realize it could take a minute because this is a non-mythic not only from the post-mythic era but in a new era of bulk rares I’m defining as the post-Masterpiece era. Masterpieces make boxes attractive and that means bulk rares are going to be crushed into powder and will take longer to materialize. If you’re still too impatient, consider the foils, which are currently about $7. This strikes me as a $20 foil if this card ends up in a lot of decks, which it might do. This might not end up a staple for the format, but there are plenty of decks that could use the draw-smoothing this gives you. You’re going to draw a lot more quality for your green mana with the scry, also. $7 foils seem pretty good to me, and the non-foil copies seem like they have upside. I’d trade any card that’s $5 because of Standard that will be $0.10 a week after rotation for a pile of these. I would use this to shore up trades off by $1. I would go after foils of this, but you might have some time (watch to see if this takes off; it shouldn’t but it could). Playing with this, I see this is better than I thought, and I liked this card quite a bit.

People are calling for this to be banned already, which is funny. What’s also funny was the EDH rules committee’s announcement concerning the ban list, specifically –

Some folks have talked about a preemptive banning of Paradox Engine, but we won’t do that. Every card – even Griselbrand – gets to be legal for at least a little while, as we prefer to look at actual play in casual settings over theory. I’ll note that the last time we saw this much speculation about a preemptive ban was Shaman of Forgotten Ways, and that card turned out just fine.

Paraphrased, that’s “A lot of you are very vocal which is great, but you’re also dipshits, which is not great, so why not leave the bannings to us because as much as you insist you know better than us because your little kitchen table group unbanned black Braids and banned Cultivate, we actually know what we’re doing and most of your suggestions are terrible.

I don’t think Paradox Engine is going to be banned. It has more upside than Prophet of Kruphix but takes a lot of work to get going and if you don’t do anything, it doesn’t do anything, unlike Prophet. It doesn’t give your spells flash or untap your lands, two things that Prophet did that made it so degenerate. Is Paradox Engine the best EDH card in the set? I think it might be. Is it bannable? Doubt it. Scoop these up with confidence, but with the price going down by $1 since the weekend, I would wait a minute. I don’t see Standard spiking this like it did with Panharmonicon, so this could get very affordable, even as a mythic, and I want to pick them up, then. I would say peak supply is when this will be the most affordable, so as long as someone doesn’t put up results with this in the mean time, I say we wait. At $7 and $24 for the foil, this has clearly been identified as an EDH card. Considering Panharmonicon is an $11 foil, I might wait on foil Engine, too. I know that Engine is a mythic, but I also know it used to be more than $11 so I’d say let’s wait on engine. Mythic or not, I think the price will get lower.

Cards I used to like but now don’t like so much

I used to like this card. Then I played with it.

I thought I would be OK with it only triggering once, only on your turn, and only if you made something happen. I was not OK with those things. I didn’t think this would be exactly Lurking Predators, but this isn’t Lurking Predators the same way Call of the Wild isn’t Survival of the Fittest. Oh, and one of my readers told me this is going to be jammed in one of the Planeswalker decks, further limiting its potential. I liked the look of this card, but similar to how Bestiary plays much better in practice, this so much worse. I said to trade for these and sit on them so hopefully no one bought in for cash, but I have really soured on this card. Whiffing on it happens, failing to trigger it happens and it doesn’t punish your opponents for playing a ton of spells. Free permanents off the top is great, but this underwhelmed me.

I was in Walmart looking for Atraxa decks (This used to be more of a thing – I found plenty of Mind Seize decks in Walmart weeks after the sets came out) and noticed that the promo in those store repacks that have a draft set plus a foil rare was Thalia’s Lancers. I don’t know if this is going to impact the set foil, prerelease foil or non-foil the most, but I do know that a very good card that can fetch things like Paradox Engine has been dealt another blow. Sometimes Wizards likes the same cards I do and makes them promos. I expect a promo Leovold, just in time for that price to go down anyway, but I didn’t expect this. It makes me like it a lot less as a spec moving forward, unless you snag the promos for cheap. They’re like $10 a playset on eBay right now, though, so I’m not sure how much cheaper we expect them to get or how high they can go after such a low vote of confidence from the market. This feels bad considering how hyped I was for this card, but let’s not pretend circumstances don’t change later. This kind of thing happens, and if you hadn’t noticed we’re getting additional supply we didn’t anticipate, I’m glad I pointed it out.

Cards I didn’t like but now maybe not like less so

I feel like I may have underestimated this card. Last week, I feel like I made a good case for even the foil versions of the unexciting, mono-colored commanders from Kaladesh still not moving much and me not being excited a ton. This isn’t quite Rashmi, but it’s also not quite whatever that mono green thing that makes tokens that’s so durdly I keep having to look its name up but don’t even care enough to do that this time, you know the one I mean. The old broad. Anyway, I don’t know why I glossed over this card because this is basically a Kressh, the Bloodbraided that can go in Golgari decks and in Golgari decks, this is dumb. You can trigger this a ton with Grave Pact effects and your kill spells. You can play my favorite C16 card, Curtain’s Call, and get two counters on this. This card is dumb and it’s $1. Yahenni still isn’t my favorite Aetherborn (Gonti 4 LYFE) but this is still a fine card and I liked it a lot less initially than I do now. I think this being a $12 foil that I whiffed on tells me I probably misjudged it by evaluating it in the context of what the Kaladesh mono-colored commanders did. I don’t think this will be a $12 foil when it’s been enough time since the prerelease weekend as it has been now since Kaladesh (does that sentence make sense to you? It does to me) but people are clearly somewhat interested. This isn’t Baral or Sram but I liked those and was wrong about this one. I’d keep an eye on it, and $12 for the foil might look appealing in a year or two when this is $20 in foil. That’s a maybe, not a definitely, but I think these can go down then go back up and probably higher than they are now, so try to snag foils near the floor.

I don’t know what this will do financially, but there are a ton of ways to untap artifacts, especially artifact creatures, and I think this is super. Is this Archivist or Azami? It’s hard to tell, but I think being able to draw a ton of cards when you have Clock of Omens, Unwinding Clock, Paradox Engine, etc. and still draw when you have Intruder Alarm and Mind Over Matter if you pick the right artifact is underrated and while this might end up a bulk rare, this did a lot of work at the prerelease. I expected it to do work at the prerelease, but I didn’t expect to look at it for EDH. I’m not saying buy these, but I am saying this overperformed and it’s worth looking at. Only 8 decks are running this on EDHREC, 5 of them Breya, but considering 130 decks are running Quicksmith Genius (although looting for no mana without tapping the creature is pretty good in Daretti), this could get some love, soon.

Cards I no liked and now I still no like

I agree with everything people who like this card are saying about this card. It’s fetchable with Trinket Mage, it’s stupid in Vintage, it was great at the prerelease with Scrap Trawler. I get it. I just don’t know if the limited amount of play it’s liable to get in EDH due to it not interacting with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed the way Triskelion does. This does have other interactions, though. I’m agnostic to what Vintage could do to the price of foils. I could speculate on that but I have no confidence in the conclusion I’d come to. I don’t know whether Modern wants this, I’m suspecting not. I feel the same way about Standard. A lot of people are pumped about this card and I am not among them. I understand everything people are saying in support of this card, but I don’t find any of it super compelling, with respect to non-foil copies, anyway. I’m prepared to be wrong, here and if you think I am, the foils are like $2 more than the non-foils. I think $6 is really high for this unless Standard does something with it.

There you have it. I think there are some actionables here, especially if you like Walking Ballista and think that a 1.2x multiplier is probably not correct, meaning either the non-foil or the foil price will correct soon. I recommend playing with cards before you pay cash on anything, or talk to people who have played with them. Sometimes cards work out much differently in practice than they do in theory and your opinion on cards my change quite a bit. I’m disappointed not to like Aid From the Cowl anymore, but I’d be more disappointed if I spent $200 on a bunch of copies. I’m building a few decks out of new cards from Conspiracy, C16 and Kaladesh block and the more testing I do, the more I’ll discover that might not be obvious at first glance over the set. Remember, this is EDH finance and we have a LONG time to get ahead of price increases. Until next time!

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