Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: MM2015 — The Unofficial MTG Stimulus

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As a response to the Great Recession of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve initiated a multitude of stimulus programs. They initiated a massive bond buying program and they lowered interest rates to virtually zero. These two actions were done in an attempt to stimulate our economy and drive healthy motivation for investment in stocks.

The jury is still out on how sustainable the program was (is). Some dissenters will likely criticize the stimuli for years to come no matter the outcome. But regardless of what your political leaning may be, the resulting market performance since is impossible to argue with.

SPY

Turning back to MTG finance, one could argue that some particular cards have also been going through some economic turbulence. Original dual lands come to mind immediately – especially the out-of-favor color combinations. Other Legacy staples have also pulled off their recent highs by a measurable amount. Some Modern staples have also spiked recently, only to retreat to a lower price point.

 

Azusa

What’s to become of this developing trend? Could Magic be due for a Great Recession type of pullback?

Certainly not. The game is as healthy as ever. In fact, this week I present a new thesis that supports a new surge in some card prices. Allow me to explain.

Modern Masters 2015

Who’s excited for the release of one of the highest EV sets upon release of all time? Who’s pumped up to participate in or watch the largest MTG tournaments ever? Who’s eager to draft this set, which will definitely be a Limited crowd-pleaser?

No matter your perspective, it’s difficult to argue with the hype behind Modern Masters 2015. Even if you are a complete skeptic, dripping with disdain for some of the wasted rare slots in the set (Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder?!), you’re likely excited about the future prospects of the cards that dodged reprint this set. Speculators have been very busy lately…

Interests

Six of the top ten price gainers last week were Modern cards that dodged MM2015 reprint. The Tron lands were noteworthy absences, and clearly Inkmoth Nexus and Serum Visions are strong buys on the news. Or at least, they were strong buys before the market overreacted, sending copies up excessively high overnight.

My conclusion for Modern Masters 2015: while I’m personally not ecstatic to be opening $10 packs with a high likelihood of obtaining a sub-$1 rare, the swirl this set is generating amongst the MTG finance community is nearly tangible. I’m delighted to witness hours of debate on Twitter about card prices. The buzz should continue through GP Vegas without a hitch.

If ever there was a time to engage in MTG speculation and finance, now would be it. And with the return of a Modern PTQ season, we’ve got even more reason to get excited about Modern.

MTG Stimulus: Part 1

When the Federal Reserve bought up many billions of dollars of bonds, they infused a large amount of cash into the economy. Then they reduced rates so low that there was practically no good place to park money other than into investments. The result: a rapid decline in unemployment and multiple years of double-digit gains in the stock market.

Turning back to Magic, we need to recognize how tentative people were with buying into Modern with the knowledge that a massive reprint set was on the horizon. It’s always a feel-bad when we buy cards only to watch them tank in price due to reprinting. Therefore, I suspect players and speculators held cash on the sidelines waiting for Modern Masters 2015 to be fully spoiled. Only then would there be high confidence in which targets would be safe to buy into.

Well, last Friday we received the complete spoiler from WOTC. Various absent cards created quite the surprise – namely, Tron lands, Serum Visions, Aven Mindcensor, Blood Moon, Inquisition of Kozilek, Azusa, Inkmoth Nexus, and more. It’s no surprise that many of these cards are on the move as players and speculators acquire copies for the upcoming Modern season.

Inkmoth

In rapid-fire fashion, everyone is infusing cash into the MTG economy as they scoop up copies of the “safe” cards. This pseudo-stimulus is a combination of self-fulfilling prophecy and pent-up demand. Now that speculators know what cards are likely to further increase in value, they can invest with confidence. After all, what better place was there to invest funds than something like Inkmoth Nexus once we were certain it wasn’t in MM2015?

Now Inkmoth Nexus is a $20 card, and it will likely climb higher in the coming months. As speculators cash out on the movement they’ll have additional funds with which to work. What are they going to do with all their newfound profits?

MTG Stimulus: Part 2

I’ve got a couple ideas of where this money will go. First of all, there will likely be some great buy opportunities on my radar once MM2015 hits the market: namely, the popular reprinted cards. The Modern staples of the set are likely to sell off a bit in the coming weeks, due to both panic and the increased supply. The same thing happened with MMA on a card like Cryptic Command.

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Cryptic

Modern demand sent this card up to around $45 in Spring 2013, but the MMA reprint caused a rapid decline back to the $30 mark. But about eight months after the sell-off, Cryptic Command rebounded like never before, shooting up to $70.

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Now once again, we’re seeing a rapid sell-off. The blue instant is already back down to $50, with momentum suggesting this could go even lower. But this begs the question: will history repeat itself? Will Modern grow in popularity even more, sending Cryptic’s price right back up to new highs in eight months? It’s certainly not impossible, and I’d wager this was WOTC’s plan. They are hoping to support and stimulate interest in the Modern format with these Modern Masters sets, and time will tell how successful they will be with round two.

Either way the reprinted cards in MM2015 are bound to sell off, but eventually they’ll bottom. When that happens, we as speculators should recognize the buying opportunity screaming at us. And with their newly-minted coin from the recent movement in non-reprinted cards, they’ll buoy the MTG economy into these headwinds.

If you’re not bullish on the Modern format, or if you’re concerned about further reprints in other sets, I have some good news. MM2015 reprints aren’t the only solid buys once the dust settles.

As players discover their Inkmoth Nexus and Serum Visions are suddenly worth a bunch more, they’ll be likely to sell/trade excess copies away. Additionally, [lucky] players will suddenly come into all kinds of money when they pull Goyfs, Cliques, and Bobs in their MM2015 packs, not to mention a lineup of Eldrazi. What will the lucky ones do with their valuable pulls?

While it’s true some players will determine that opening a Goyf is the perfect motivator to sleeve up Abzan Midrange in Modern, I suspect many others will be cashing out of their valuable pulls. After all, if we are assuming the Modern Masters 2015 reprints are likely to lower prices, that means the market must see increased supply. That’s natural supply & demand logic – for the price to drop, demand must drop (not likely) or supply must rise. If supply is rising, that must mean people are selling more copies. Likely this will mean their newly-opened copies…after the initial panic, such as what we’re seeing in charts like Cryptic Command and Noble Hierarch.

Hierarch

As players cash out of their Modern staples, what do you think they’ll look to buy? I saw a well-phrased tweet last weekend from an individual I have high respect for in the MTG finance community.

Tweet

I can’t vouch for Pucatrade specifically, but I condone his overall strategy 100%. Judging by all the favorites this tweet received, I can tell we’re not alone in this sentiment. Moving high-dollar Modern cards into equities on the Reserved List is a brilliant strategy. You’re basically capitalizing on short-term price fluctuations in the Modern market by moving into cards that will never see reprint again. Even if Inkmoth Nexus does rise to $30 during Modern season, we know it will see reprint eventually, right?

Meanwhile, Tropical Island will never see reprint.

Trop

This particular dual land has been out of favor for months now, but perhaps the recent stimulus of MM2015 is just the catalyst needed for movement. Although not on the Reserve List, Wasteland is another Legacy staple that could use some stimulus – the Nonbasic land has stumbled over 50% from its highs.

If high-end Legacy staples aren’t your forte, then picking up other Reserve List cards may be a more optimal strategy. We just saw Ragnar jump in price on Tiny Leaders speculation; why not grab a couple Lady Evangela? I hope to in Vegas, in fact. Or better yet, pick up a couple Old Man of the Seas (Old Men of the Sea?). These have been gaining traction lately. I even see casual stuff like Divine Intervention and Island of Wak-Wak show up on the MTGStocks Interests page on occasion. Not only is this on the Reserve List, there’s really nothing else like it. I have a sneaking suspicion Wizards will never again print a card that forces the game to end in a draw. And what casual Reserve List discussion is complete without mention of my favorite Magic card of all time, Shahrazad?

Shahrazad

You’ll never see a sudden buyout of this card, but it’s worth noting how the top buy list price has gradually been on the rise for the last 2 years.

No matter your personal preference, moving out of spiking Modern cards or recently-opened MM2015 goodies and into Reserve List favorites is a tried-and-true strategy I recommend. It’s a great way to lock in profits and reduce risk at the same time.

Wrapping It Up

A significant amount of money is going to exchange hands this summer. Speculators will rampantly acquire non-reprinted Modern cards. Players will be opening high-dollar cards left and right. This will lead to a sudden surge of value in the MTG economy – a type of stimulus.

My prediction: this stimulus will be just what the MTG economy needed for the past few months. Modern interest will jump and demand for Legacy and casual staples will go higher as well. If you want to get ahead of the curve, consider moving into cards on the Reserve List now, as Xemit suggested. I’ve provided a few sound suggestions, and I’m sure there are many others worth considering.

The tide will rise once more, lifting all ships. Therefore it is a great time to have exposure to MTG assets. My portfolio is currently the largest it has been since I sold out of Legacy over two years ago, and I look forward to seeing my holdings appreciate in value in the coming months thanks to this unofficial stimulus.

Sig’s Quick Hits

  • If you have a large quantity of Modern stuff to move, one sound acquisition target is Bazaar of Baghdad. In fact in the last couple weeks Star City Games increased their price on the Vintage staple from $399.99 to $449.99 for NM copies. It’s a steep price of entry, but you can be confident in this long-term investment’s prospects should MTG continue to grow.
  • One Modern/Legacy card that is not seeing nearly enough buzz is Slaughter Pact. The card managed to dodge reprint in MM2015 (unlike in MMA), meaning we’re not getting any new supply of this rare. Every time I search for the card on SCG’s site, it is out of stock. Today is no exception, and the $10 price tag is almost guaranteed to rise as we head into Modern season.
  • Lion’s Eye Diamond gets very little buzz in the MTG finance community, but the Reserve List card has been a Legacy staple for years. Currently SCG is sold out of this one as well, with a NM price tag of $86.29. There are probably a few more exciting pick-ups to target with newfound profits, but no one can argue with the low risk of LED. The card is off its highs much like other Legacy staples, and this stimulus could help rekindle interest.
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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Silver and Cold

Today’s topic is Coldsnap, a set that has a very unique place in my heart. I’ve been playing Magic for a while now, and Coldsnap was one of the few sets I missed the release of. That’s because, in July of 2006, I was living on a bus traveling the US as a Drum Corps International competitor1. It was the longest streak of not playing Magic in my life, but I still thought about it all the time.

In fact, at some point in the summer, my mom forwarded to me a Magic magazine that had come in the mail, and it was all about the upcoming (or perhaps, by then, released) set. I devoured it, reading it cover-to-cover almost nightly, and dreaming about getting home and drafting. Of course, I barely had enough time to catch my breath before college started when I got home, and if I drafted the set once, I can’t recall it. The good news, for me at least, is that even if I missed Coldsnap, I more than made up for it when Time Spiral premiered later that year.

We are going to go through the set alphabetically, hitting every rare and any commons or uncommons of note. This was a set that was designed largely with draft in mind, so there is a reason why a lot of the Cs and Us are going to feel underpowered when projected against the Modern format as a whole.

The Cards

adarkarvalyrie

Adarkar Valkyrie: This card was actually one of the bigger hits in the set, until reprints in Modern Masters (the original) and Commander 2014 cratered its value. The price on these is about a buck, with foils from Coldsnap being roughly $15 (MM ones are around $8). This is a Casual/Commander/Cube card, and no deck that I’ve seen in the last nine years wants more than one copy. Low potential here.

Adarkar Windform: Is the reason why we are skipping a lot of the commons and uncommons. Boom, roasted.

Allosaurus Rider: This card was the prerelease foil and also appeared in Duel Decks: Elves vs Goblins (and therefore, in the Anthology also). It’s the kind of card that would be interesting in Modern, but the “free” cost is way too expensive. Putting yourself down two cards in green is just not doable most of the time. I don’t expect to ever see it in a deck unless WOTC puts it there.

Arctic Flats (and friends): Let’s knock this whole cycle out right here. This uncommon cycle is probably some of the better pulls in the set. All of the non-foils are worth between fifty cents and a dollar, and all of the foils are between three and five bucks. I’m not sure how much potential upside is left, but these are always worth looking out for in foil bulk boxes.

Arcum Dagsson: If you want to play with the seventh-best mono-blue general in EDH, it’s going to cost you about $5 (or $20 foil!). The card is technically some sort of tutor or combo enabler, since you can search your own library, and he is also kind of an answer to Blightsteel Colossus. I’ve been playing this game for a long time, and I am having serious trouble figuring out off the cuff how to make this guy good. Maybe Genesis Chamber, and then like, getting the Fifth Dawn Stations out? Summoning Station doesn’t seem to make artifact creatures (who knew?), so I don’t even think you can start with that one. Long story short, this guy is competing with very strong roster of playable Commanders, and he is very likely not going to make the cut. Limited upside, if any.

Balduvian Fallen: I just wanted to say that I had a Balduvian theme deck when I was in middle school. I even learned their tavern song! I was a pretty awesome kid.

meddlingkids

Balduvian Warlord: I had to read this about three or four times to figure out what it does. It was not worth it.

Blizzard Specter: I didn’t really remember this card, but I checked it out, and the foils are about $5. This card seems pretty sweet for cube, is evocative of a popular older card, has a restriction that limits reprintability (Snow), and has positive flexibility. This is the kind of thing that I love to look for. I’m not sure that I want to buy them all out, because I don’t think there is demand for it, but it’s another bulk box hero, and maybe something you target to bridge a “close, but not quite there” trade.

Boreal Druid: I only looked this up because I played the card in Standard, but the foils are apparently $2! If Skred Red ever comes roaring back to popularity, expect these to have sneaky upside. Also, this does produce snow mana, which isn’t totally clear if you weren’t playing at the time.

Braid of Fire: This card was worthless up until the M10 rules changes and the removal of mana burn from the game. Now, the card is a solid ten bucks, with foils at fifteen. That kind of spread tells me that either the foils are undervalued, or (more likely) the non-foils are overvalued. This card doesn’t start to give you serious amounts of mana until three turns after you’ve cast it, and that’s assuming you have a reliable mana sink, they don’t have an Abrupt Decay, and neither player has put an aggressive enough clock on the other so as to divert attention elsewhere. I think this card is still priced so high because people don’t want to be caught off guard if it does break out, not because it already has.

Brooding Saurian: This card wasn’t worth very much, and then it got reprinted. Foils are still around $3 because the reprint was a Commander deck, and so it only got a non-foil printing. I guess if that Donate Goat guy is in your Commander environment, then you can play this? It’s a foil rare that does something weird and will likely never be reprinted again (at least, not in foil), so feel free to pick some up, but only below their current retail, and expect to own them for a very long time.

Chill to the Bone: This card was much more impressive before Murder, Go For The Throat, and Hero’s Downfall. This was on my foil snipe list for a long time, though, so just as it is important to know what foils are worth snagging, it’s equally important to know which ones are dead ends.

Coldsteel Heart: Did you realize that this card is two bucks? Did you know that the foils are over twenty? Two-mana artifacts that can produce colored mana are actually very rare, so this card gets the benefit of slotting in somewhere that WOTC doesn’t go anymore (colored mana producing artifacts start at three, but you can get one colorless for two). This is a great Cube card, and it helps ramp non-green Commander decks, so those are two major boxes to be able to check off. We may see a reprint, but it won’t likely be in foil.

Commandeer: Another popular Cube and Commander card that is sometimes compared to Force of Will. It is not Force of Will, but it is pretty good in the formats that don’t really want or need Force of Will. It takes over the kind of big, splashy spells that are more common in those wider formats, and the two costs (pitching two blue cards or paying seven mana) are much more tolerable in EDH than Modern or Legacy. I could see non-foils getting reprinted in a Commander box or some other off-shoot product, but I’m not sure if it will be in a product that has a foil printing (which would really only be Modern Masters X). Foils are probably a safe bet, since most people are only going to need one. A similar card that I really like? Spelljack. It’s a foil rare from an older small set that has a unique, Commander-friendly ability.

Counterbalance: So when I did my Future Sight piece, I only talked about cards below about five bucks. This time, I’m doing the full set, so I get to talk about a couple known entities, this being one of them. Counterbalance is a $16 uncommon, a nearly $100 foil, and the namesake of a very infuriating popular Legacy deck. I can buy a box of Coldsnap over in Tampa for $325 right now (ignoring tax), which puts the packs at just over $10. This card is one of only two non-foils in the set that has a retail price of more than a booster pack. With 55 uncommons in the set, you are really only guaranteed to open 1.74 Counterbalances per box. I say all this to make the point that Counterbalance at its current price is probably a good deal, since there are not going to be many more Coldsnap packs opened, and the card is so rage-inducing powerful that it really can’t be reprinted in a meaningful way. This card is so good, it got Krosan Grip to see play.

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Cover of Winter: This card is very bad and dumb.

Cryoclasm: This, along with Deathmark and the rest of the hosers, has been reprinted a varying amount of times, but I just wanted to say I personally like this card.

Darien, King of Kjeldor: There are a lot of legends in this set! This guy is a very flavorful commander option, and possibly some sort of terrible combo piece. I expect foils are safe for forever, and we will (maybe) see a non-foil reprint somewhere far down the road. His name restricts him from being reprinted in a lot of places, and the fact that he kinda stinks prevents him from going in most other sets.

Dark Depths: This is the best card in the set, and it is not close. Unfortunately, Dark Depths is currently banned in Modern, and even though I think it would be fine in the format, it’s not likely to come off the list anytime soon. This card has literally no ceiling. I’m not buying in at this price, and I’d probably sell mine off just to move them into more diversified holdings. This card has potential, but not momentum. I’d rather own Thespian’s Stages.

Deepfire Elemental: This is probably a foil sleeper. Very good card for the C3 crowd.

C-3PO_droid
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Diamond Faerie: This gets better every time aggressive Snow creatures are printed, so never.

Field Marshal: Reprinted in M10, but still $5, and a $10 foil. This definitely goes in your Darien, King of Kjeldor theme deck, and I feel like this was in that white soldier Legacy (or was it Vintage?) deck that everyone2 fell in love with a little while back. SCG is entirely sold out of this card (both printings), and it’s a perfect fit with the C3 crowd. I like it, but there’s nothing that keeps it from being reprinted in any future standard set.

Frozen Solid: I liked the Scourge art better. This has the superior flavor text though.

Fury of the Horde: This is a combo piece in Modern! It was reprinted in the Speed vs Cunning Duel Deck, which is why the non-foils are only two bucks. Foils are safe, but this card really only goes in one deck, so that limits the upside.

Garza Gol, Plague Queen: This card does a lot of good things, but is in the same colors as Nicol Bolas, Thraximundar, and a couple other generals. She is not better than either of the two I listed, nor is she popular enough in Magic’s canon to swing people in her favor. Foils will always have a shred of appeal, but if she was a good Commander option, her non-foils wouldn’t be seventy-five cents.

Garza’s Assassin: Foils are five bucks. Art is pretty cool. Limited upside because his best ability will scare off a lot of players, and there are just better things to do in the formats where he is playable. Three black pips if you want to build a black devotion deck in Modern!

Greater Stone Spirit: Shout-out to Ocarina of Time.

Grim Harvest: This is a Pauper card, and sometimes it shows up in weirder cubes. I actually liked this card a lot, even though it uses up a LOT of mana. Worth looking out for.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge: This is my kind of card. More popular in Cube than anywhere else, he is also buoying the price of Nameless Inversion. He’s more of a parlor trick than a serious threat, but there are enough people like me willing to buy them that he’ll always have some upside. People know who he is.

Heidar, Rimewind Master: People don’t know who he is, and for good reason.

Herald of Leshrac: This card just feels so old school, it’s one of the few pieces in the set that really nails the resonance they were trying to go for. Foils are currently $6, but if you told me they were double that, I’d absolutely believe you. If Guy Fieri started playing Magic around Beta, he would call this a slam dunk flavor bomb.

Hibernation’s End: I know Birthing Pod is banned, but this is not the answer.

Into The North: Foils are worth noting because they can grab Scrying Sheets, Mouth of Ronom, or any of the snow duals we mentioned at the top of this article.

Jester’s Scepter: Sell these to that Juggalo that plays FNM at your store. He’ll love them.

Jokulmorder: It’s a leviathan, which means something to a very small amount of people. At a dollar, I guess I’m a buyer for a handful of foils, but I could also probably just flush that money down the toilet instead.

Jotun Grunt: Eli Manning’s Invitational card. Sees (or saw) Legacy Zoo play, but that was a long time ago. Foils are still $8 because of price memory and Cube.

Juniper Order Ranger: Foils are $5, but there is room to grow since the reprint was non-foil only (Duel Decks: Knights vs Dragons). This card is popular with a lot of different crowds, and works kind of like a Melira in some of the Pod-esque combo decks. Your Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap plus sac outlet pluf this guy is infy.

Karplusan Minotaur: Cumulative Upkeep: Flip a coin. NEXT!

Krovikan Mist: Also a pauper card, and actually a pretty strong little beater.

Krovikan Rot: The next victim of Tiny Leaders speculation?

Lightning Serpent: Splashy rare with some EDH (Horde of Notions) appeal.

Lightning Storm: This is actually a kill condition in some decks, which is why the foils are around $12. There’s a very limited market, as the people who can kill you with this could have very likely Inkmoth plus Kessig Wolf Runned you, like, twenty turns ago.

Lovisa Coldeyes: If she pumped herself or cost a little less, she could be a powerhouse, but she doesn’t so she isn’t. Maybe a commander, but I’d rather play Kamahl.

Martyr of Sands: The only one in her family to really make something of herself. Too bad it’s that stupid Martyr deck. I hate this card, but I’m also genuinely surprised foils aren’t twenty.

Mishra’s Bauble: Thanks to Pat Chapin and that Tasigur deck, this card is pushing ten bucks. This could be in Modern Masters 2015 for all we know, at which point it will plummet back to earth. Is this really any better than Gitaxian Probe?

Mouth of Ronom: It’s a land that kills stuff, and that’s pretty good. Higher upside if it didn’t require a critical mass of snow lands.

Ohran Viper: No longer a Constructed powerhouse, this did make its living as a cool Cube foil. Limited upside since its reprint in DD: Jace vs Vraska has put way too many non-foils on the market.

Panglacial Wurm: This card is worth money and that is very strange to me. I guess in Commander you can be searching your library and still have seven mana open.

Perilous Research: Cube foil sometimes.

Phyrexian Etchings: Anyone who thinks this is a worthy spiritual successor to Necropotence has not played with Necropotence enough.

Phyrexian Ironfoot: This card was Standard playable, if you ever want to know how miserable life was then.

Phyrexian Soulgorger: Three mana to attack for eight once (without trample!) and sacrifice three creatures? Neat.

Rimefeather Owl: An automatic inclusion in any RUSH theme deck.

Rimescale Dragon: It’s a dragon from a relatively unpopular set that you can get a foil of. That is why the foils are $8.

Rite of Flame: Storm staple in the formats they let you play it. Honestly can’t say if we will ever see another printing of this card. If not, the $10 foil price tag will look like a steal in the future.

Rune Snag: Technically better than Mana Leak. Foils are probably underpriced.

Scrying Sheets: If you are going to play with snow lands, then this is really your major payoff. Not sure we will ever see it again, just because it requires so many other pieces to even be worth looking at. Also, it’s not legendary, even though most decks that have this are Cube, Commander, or Tiny Leaders (if a Tiny Leaders deck even exists).

Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper: Another multicolor general who is not competing for starting reps. See Garza Gol.

Shape of the Wiitigo: I really regret committing to talking about every rare.

Sheltering Ancient: Foils are worth about four bucks, even though this card is probably not worth it. Good versus creatureless control decks.

Skred: YEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! This is my favorite card in the set, and probably one of my favorite cards ever. Foils should be six-hundred dollars and everyone should play snow lands in Modern.

Snow-Covered Basics: Expect these to follow Skred’s meteoric rise.

Soul Spike: People were going nuts for this card a year or so ago, and I am still not sure why. Still, foils are ten, so… just know that.

Stromgald Crusader: Somehow worth more than several rares in the set. This card would have been a Pro Tour champion if it was printed ten years earlier. Foils are about $5. Also, there is a white version of this card that is worth way less than this one.

Sunscour: A bad Wrath of God that can sometimes be cast for free, although, again, you really don’t want to. Foils are worth something just because they are foils of a Wrath of God variant.

Tamanoa: A card in the best creature colors that only works with non-creature sources of damage. Pass.

Thrumming Stone: Relentless Rats.

Vanish Into Memory: We designed this card! This card is our fault.

Vexing Sphinx: This is a rare. That is all.

Void Maw: See also: Vexing Sphinx.

White Shield Crusader: This is that white dude I was talking about.

Woolly Razorback: There are some really bad cards in this set.

Zombie Musher: I think it’s pretty cool that they used what appears to be an Iron Maiden album cover for card art.

Zur the Enchanter: Well, at least we are going out with a bang. This is a very Spiky EDH General, and one of the few degenerately poweful cards in the set. This card is probably too good to reprint, except for maybe in a future Commander box. Foils are safe, but have a narrow audience.

Thanks for sticking around to the end! That was a long one. If you see anything in this set that you like, I have to think that the restrictive price of sealed product (versus the overall lack of quantity of good cards) will buoy prices. Any foil that falls under the $10 booster pack price tag that you like is probably worth looking into. Thanks for reading, and if you have any suggestions for my next set to review (not next week, but sometime in the future), let me know!

Best,

Ross

1 Ironically, my organization was also named “Magic.” Between the game, the drum corps, and my NBA allegiance, I get impressive mileage out of five letters.

2 “Everyone” = Me and Nick Packard.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Elements of an Undervalued Mythic

By Guo Heng

Mark Rosewater did an AMA on Reddit a few years back, and the following was part of his response to a question by Hall of Famer Brian ‘Dragonmaster’ Kibler regarding the “lack of truly awesome dragons in a long time”:

“…I am happy to tell you that there is a dragon that I’ve been told is very tournament worthy in the pipeline. I can’t tell you for what set but suffice to say it’s been made and you all will have a chance to play it soon enough.”

-Mark Rosewater

Sure enough, in Mark Rosewater’s preview piece for Magic 2013, we got this:

Thundermaw Hellkite Large

Thundermaw Hellkite was the dragon that redefined the competitive dragon. The ambition behind the design of Thundermaw Hellkite was to create “a Dragon that set the standard for a badass Dragon as Doug Beyer laid it out in Mark’s preview article. And Thundermaw Hellkite achieved exactly that. Prior to Thundermaw Hellkite’s existence, the dragons that saw high-level competitive play were either too expensive to cast or contain a prohibitive mana requirement that restricted their playability to few archetypes.

Thundermaw Hellkite broke the mold. She is a five casting cost 5/5 flier with haste and an enter the battlefield ability that ensures she and potentially your army could go in for the alpha strike. She was obviously pushed and was designed for the tournament tables.

Yet her price trajectory during her first few months of being unleashed into the meta was nothing but dismal.

Thundermaw Hellkite Price

After the hype surrounding Magic 2013 died down, Thundermaw Hellkite’s price tanked all the way to $10. How could the price of such a playable mythic stoop so low? We all know the answer to that: Thundermaw Hellkite was a mythic with no home in Standard. Indeed the reason Thundermaw maintained a price tag of $10 was the fact that she is a dragon and is from a core set.

In October 2012, a couple of months after Thundermaw Hellkite’s release, and right after Return to Ravnica rotated in, Takeda Harunobu won a high profile Standard tournament in Japan with a Standard brew we now know as Jeskai Tempo (or UWR Tempo back then). Takeda’s deck featured two Thundermaw Hellkites alongside Geist of Saint Traft and Restoration Angel.

In the middle of November 2012, Jon Bolding took down Grand Prix Charleston with a Black-Red ‘Big’ Zombies deck that featured three Hellkites in the mainboard. Tyler Lytle took down Grand Prix San Antonio the week after with the same deck.

By December 2012, Thundermaw Hellkite was a $40 card and remained so until February 2013. Throughout her Standard shelf life, Thundermaw Hellkite saw play in a multitude of archetypes and was a quintessential staple of InnistradReturn to Ravnica Standard. She even saw Modern play when the UWR Tempo archetype made its debut in Modern.

Thundermaw Hellkite’s trend was not unique to herself of course. A handful of expensive mythics had at some point during their Standard life been sorely undervalued due to a multitude of reasons. Some stayed low for a brief period of time. Dragonlord Ojutai is a recent example. He was preordering for $6, began his first week in Standard under $10 and is $38 as of writing. Some remained low much longer. Remember the summer when Jace, Architect of Thought was under $10?

On the other hand, a lot of mythics stayed in the under $10 region all the way until they rotated out of Standard and into the bulk bin. I was bullish on Duskmantle Seer after a BUG Aggro shell running four Duskmantle Seers briefly surfaced in the meta. Even Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had good things to say about the Seer, arguing that his symmetrical ability is asymmetrical in the right deck. When Duskmantle Seer hit $3, I thought he was too cheap. I bought two playsets for speculation and one foil playset for myself. As of today, they are collecting metaphorical dust in my bulk specs box.

When we speculate on undervalued playable mythics, we are betting that those mythics would have their day in the sun before their time in Standard comes to a dawn. The following are three questions I use to evaluate the chances that an under $10 mythic would spike before its time in Standard comes to an end.

1. A Mythic in a Hostile Meta?

Thundermaw Hellkite struggled to find a home during her first few months in Standard as it was the era of Blue-White Delver. If you were lucky enough to be able to resolve a five casting cost dragon amid Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage, Vapor Snag would wreck your tempo. Once Mana Leak and Vapor Snag rotated out, the meta was Thundermaw Hellkite friendly and as a result she was able to spread her wings and soar to $40.

Thundermaw Hellkite’s dominance (in tandem with that of Falkenrath Aristocrat) kept Jace, Architect of Thought out of the metagame.

Jace, Architect of Thought Price

Once the hasty fliers rotated out of Standard in October 2013, Jace proliferated throughout the metagame in Blue-based control decks and Mono Blue Devotion. His price spiked to the $30s briefly and hovered around the $20s until the release of Jace vs. Vraska.

Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver both spent time as $7 mythics. Both spiked above $15 when a new Standard was ushered in last fall.

Are there any inherently good mythics that are currently undervalued because they do not have a home in the metagame? Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is just $7.55 at the moment. Sarkhan is competitively costed, defends himself and is a game finisher but he is not the card you want to cast in a metagame where Hero’s Downfall is prevalent. Could Sarkhan soar to $20 once Hero’s Downfall falls out of Standard?

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker smells like a good summer pick-up.

2. Does the Mythic Carry the Game by Itself?

A card that requires synergy to tap into its full potential is unlikely to  be played in multiple archetypes. Build-around-me mythics have a significantly lower chance of spiking due to the reduced probability of them finding a home. Duskmantle Seer was a good example. He requires you to maintain a low curve in your deck to optimally exploit his Dark Confidant ability.

The reliance on synergy was the reason I did not buy in on the Master of Waves spike when Shorecrasher Elemental was spoiled.

Master of Waves Spike

It was tempting to buy into cheap Master of Waves in case Blue Devotion becomes a thing again, but too much hinged on the success of a single deck for that bet to be worth making.

Every card listed on point one above are good cards even by themselves. Dragonlord Ojutai is a card advantage machine all by himself, allowing him to be one of the most ubiquitous mythic in the current Standard metagame. Of course we get a card that occasionally bucks the trend. Falkenrath Aristocrat’s spike hinged solely on the popularity of The Aristocrats archetype but she was an exception rather than the norm.

3. Does the Mythic have a Snowball Effect?

The card advantage you get from each activation of Jace, Architect of Thought or each time Dragonlord Ojutai connects makes it more likely for you to activate or connect the second time around. And the third. Eventually the card advantage from those effects propel you sufficiently far ahead in the game that your opponent has practically lost even though his or her life point is still above zero.

An undervalued mythic with a snowball effect is more likely to find a home and experience a price spike compared with a mythic that offers you a splashy, one-off effect.  Incremental card advantage and board position win games. Sometimes the advantage those cards generate are not immediately obvious until you play with them.

I am going to cheat and use a couple of Standard rares to illustrate this point. In my defense, the following are rares that started out their Standard lives being in the low single digit price range and eventually maintained a price above $15 for the majority of their Standard-legal life. Without playtesting with Goblin Rabblemaster, it was easy to overlook the fact that every turn Goblin Rabblemaster stayed on board puts you further and further ahead in board position. Every turn Courser of Kruphix remained unanswered could potentially lead to an extra card drawn and an extra life point gained.

This question generally applies to permanents rather than spells. We do occasionally get a spell that allows us to chain card advantage. The first Sphinx’s Revelation you resolve increases your odds of hitting your second.

In this vein, I like Sorin, Solemn Visitor as a pick right now and during this summer. Sorin is currently paying a visit to the valley of sub-$10 playable mythics. $9.40 seems too cheap for a versatile planeswalker that generates incremental card advantage and could be found in both Abzan Aggro and Abzan Control. Perhaps the latest iteration of Mardu Superfriends could be the next tier one contender in the format. Or we could even see Sorin and Narset side-by-side in Esper Control in the new Standard meta this October (I personally prefer Dragonlords). Sorin also has the additional upside of a relatively low spread of 36% as of writing.

Conclusion

Those three questions cover only the main points in evaluating if a sub-$10 mythic has a good chance of spiking before it rotates. Other factors like Duel Deck reprint risk and set supply should be taken into consideration as well. I chose those three elements because they constitute a useful rule of thumb to help you decide if a cheap mythic is worth picking up. Those points were derived from the lessons I’ve learned from getting burned by Duskmantle Seer and the countless other mythics I spec’d on with hopes of an early retirement but are now destined to remain in my bulk spec box forever. Those points were distilled from the what little success I’ve had with Thundermaw Hellkite and a few other mythics which in retrospect seemed exceedingly obvious they were too cheap. Those were the points I used to evaluate Dragonlord Ojutai before coming to a conclusion that I should probably preorder him.

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.


 

 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Casual Hits of 2015

By: Corbin Hosler

Hello, everyone! I appreciated the response to my article last week, which I think exemplified one of my core tenets when it comes to MTG finance: playing it safe.

There is plenty of money to be made in this game with proper planning and timing. What isn’t needed is speculation-fueled buyouts, huge positions in Standard cards that may take off tomorrow, or supply-side buyouts.

Why go through all the trouble of that when there’s so much easy money waiting to be made, assuming that you have a little patience?

As I explained last week, that’s why I love casual cards, and it’s why I focus most of my speculation decisions around that. I’m not the guy glued to Pro Tour coverage to see what gets mentioned early Friday morning and buying out whatever that is. I’m the guy playing Commander at the LGS and finding out what cards are going to still have demand for them in two years.

Of course, with such a long time frame on these cards, it can be easy to forget about some of the good targets in this category and lose yourself in the Standard or Modern happenings. That’s why one of the things I like to do every so often is centralize all of these will-be targets in once place.

Almost six months into 2015, now seems like as good a time as any. I’m sure I’ll revisit this at the end of the year with an update, but now represents basically the optimal buying opportunity on some soon-to-rotate cards, so this should be helpful in the short-term as well.

Last week, I added a list of some cards that fill this category that were already seeing movement. I’ll repeat the list here for convenience.

  • Akroma’s Memorial. The Magic 2013 version is at an all-time high of $12, and this was a $20 card before the reprint. It’s going to get there again.
  • Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is on a tear, and is almost $9. Again, we have what was a $20 card before a reprint. This has seen a lot of growth already this year, so it’s not quite as attractive, but this is going to continue to climb.
  • Door of Destinies is at an all-time low of $3.50, and this will continue to climb back toward the $8 it was before the reprint.
  • Rise of the Dark Realms sits at $4.50 after some momentum, and as a mythic, this one should rise at a faster clip than the others.
  • Gilded Lotus is also at an all-time high of $6.50 (noticing a theme of “casual reprints in Core Sets?” and will be $10 within in a year.
  • Looking further ahead, Darksteel Forge has three printings and hasn’t shown much momentum this year, but it fits the exact same mold as Gilded Lotus, and Darksteel versions of this used to be $12.
  • Dragon Tempest and Dragonlord’s Servant are both on their way to bottoming out, and once they hit near-bulk status they become very good long-term players.
  • Adaptive Automaton is showing some steady progress over the past three months, and is likely due for a correction upward within the next year.

What do all these have in common? Besides being sweet casual cards, they also have all already seen at least a little movement, and in some cases more. While this is a great sign of things to come and represents a reason to get in, it also necessarily means less upside. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and all those are picks I like moving forward, but we’re not exactly getting in at the very bottom, either.

Today, I hope to shed some light on those cards that are actually near the bottom. Getting in at the valley may mean a longer timeframe to cash out, but it also means maximizing profit.

So let’s dig in.

foodchain

2014

I know I said I was going to focus on 2015 today, but I can’t help but look back to last year as well. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.

Gods

Basically, I’d be remiss to talk about casual cards and not mention gods (holy crap, these are actually from 2013, huh? Getting old, here). Either way, these are basically mini-Eldrazi that will see growth over time, even if it’s not the momentous growth that Emrakul and friends saw.

Of these, the mono-colored five are certainly good, but I feel like the upside may be more in the Born of the Gods and Journey Into Nyx copies that were opened much, much less. You already know the score on these, so I won’t dawdle.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

This bottomed out back in February (when it was my Pick of the Week on Brainstorm Brewery), but since then it’s climbed back to $6. I expect this will have to wait until rotation to go lower, but it’s well worth picking up then.

Prophet of Kruphix

It’s hard to know what the right call here is, but I imagine it’s the alternate-art printing, though neither is expensive and regular foils are trending toward $5. This thing is straight bonkers in Commander, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

Dictates

Specifically, Dictate of Erebos (especially the foil) and Dictate of Kruphix (Game Day promo). These are solid Commander playables, and while they’re certainly going to take some time to move up, move up they will. Grave Pact is $8 after six printings. Dictate of Erebos has huge long-term upside.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Again, a card that’s not cheap enough yet. It’s $9 but was $20 before the reprint. Standard play likely props this up a little, so if this settles down by rotation it will be a great pickup.

The biggest reason? How nicely it plays with Cabal Coffers, forming the most dangerous combo of any black deck in Commander.

Sliver Hivelord

I’ve talked about this several times, but for good reason. Every other five-color Sliver bomb is at least $15. This will be too.

Crucible of Fire

Again, a long-term gainer here. But Dragons, yo. People like them. This was $5 card before the reprint.

Clever Impersonator

Phyrexian Metamorph is $5 with one printing and a promo. Impersonator isn’t exactly that, but in practice it comes pretty close. On top of all that, it’s a mythic. As we’ve seen with sets like Zendikar and Innistrad, coming from “the most-opened set of all-time” isn’t the drawback you might expect. At $2 there’s a lot of upside on the Impersonator.

Temporal Trespass

This isn’t one I’m as hugely excited about, but it will certainly make its way into plenty of Commander decks over the next few years, and importantly, it is a mythic. It’s essentially a “dollar rare” these days, and it’s hard to lose at that price.

Soulflayer

Again, not one I completely love, but it’s worth noting that Cairn Wanderer is $2 so this could end up there one day, too, especially since it’s ostensibly better.

Dragons

Of course, this encompasses a lot. Looking at Dragons of Tarkir, I see a lot of cards that need to drop quite a ways before I get particularly excited about picking them up.

That said, some are head and wings above the others when it comes to the long-term. The Dragonlords, especially Silumgar, Atarka, and Dromoka, are good casually. Ojutai is just plain good, but I can’t foresee this hitting a price that makes it worth picking up until at least rotation. Thunderbreak Regent is actually the clear winner, though again, it’s too expensive right now to want in on. But it has so many things going for it, not least of which is just being red and therefore more flexible, that it’s hard to not see this as the best long-term pick.

I’m interested to see what happens with the Game Day promo of this card, because that’s definitely the most attractive version, as Guo Heng Chin touched on earlier this week.

Haven of the Spirit Dragon

This definitely competes with Nykthos for the title of “best casual land currently being supported financially by Standard,” and it may actually surpass Nykthos in that regard. I hope every day that this gets cheap soon, because it’s just such an appealing target if it hits $1 to $2, even if we have to wait for rotation to get there.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

As sweet as the other cards in this set are, this may actually be the best in Commander. It’s finally starting to fall, and I can’t wait for this thing to bottom out.

Risen Executioner

Rounding out our list today is a pretty solid zombie, which has both the benefit of being cheap and being mythic. Lord of the Undead is $8 after several printings, and while Executioner may not be that good, it’s still an extremely-solid zombie lord. Lots to like here.

mysticspeculation

And that’s my list of casual targets for the past 18 months. There are a few lesser ones that are interesting, but this represents the best of the best. Until next week (when we have a full Modern Masters 2 spoiler), keep it casual!

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

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