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Angels and Giants

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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PROTRADER: PucaPicks for 12/8/16

One of the things I like best about PucaTrade is how easily I can mine my collection for value. I’ve been playing a long time, and while I have more valuable things to send out, there’s not much that feels better than sending out a stack of commons for full value. Some of these buylist for decent money, but I really like getting bonuses for the simple effort of rifling through old draft chaff.

So I’m going to get through Scars of Mirrodin block today, and there’s some surprising stuff in there. If you find it relaxing to sort through a thousand-count box and pluck out twenty bucks in value, this is how to get that feeling.

A reminder that these are not the most valuable cards from their expansions. These are the ones higher on the want list, so these are the ones that will not linger long on your have list. Find them, send them, and profit.

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PROTRADER: PucaPicks for 11/17/16

Last week I left off after Magic 2015, and I’ve got some more to talk about! I’m diving for uncommons and commons that are in high demand and yet can be found languishing in old binders and bulk boxes. This week, we are going to make it all the way back to Return to Ravnica, being on the lookout for cards that people want a lot, not just the ones that are high value.

I want to reiterate: These are the cards that can be overlooked, or underestimated. You might think that these are too commonly printed to be worth the trouble, or no one wants these, but I’m here to help make picking through a binder or a bulk box that much more fun and profitable.

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expensive cards

ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

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