Category Archives: Watchtower

PROTRADER: The Watchtower 9/18/17

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By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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


Ixalan’s prerelease bears down on us rapidly, and with the full set spoiled, players are hard at work grinding out decklists to find the hidden gems. Those that pay close attention and apply a critical lens (or are otherwise in touch with pros, or just lucky) stand to be rewarded. Will Gisath, Sun’s Avatar replace Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger as Standard’s go-to big body? Will tribal synergies be enough to become the dominant archetype in Standard? Will people stop buying non-foil Zendikar copies of Spell Pierce?

Meanwhile Modern looks to be in excellent shape, with a dynamic, wide range of top-tier decks. It certainly looks like anything can win, and while that possibly isn’t true, the belief that it is is good enough. Commander 2017 also continues to drive the market, and for the first time in awhile the most-built deck isn’t Atraxa. Exciting!

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Spell Queller (Foil)

Price Today: $12
Possible Price: $25

Modern has a lot of strong strategies, most of which can win on any given weekend. That doesn’t mean there aren’t standouts though, and Jeskai and UW Control have been mainstays for months now. It’s a welcome change for some, given that control has at times been almost entirely absent from the format. Along with the growth of the archetype, we’re seeing an increased presence of Spell Queller.

Spell Queller is an above-rate threat that does everything control in Modern wants to do. It comes down early, gets around “can’t be countered” effects, and applies evasive pressure to help close out a game before an opponent can restabilize with multitude of powerful spells available to them in the format. Even if Queller dies several turns later and gives an opponent their spell back, there’s a chance it could now be blank (e.g. removal), or considerably less useful (e.g. a Collected Company while the control player is now holding Supreme Verdict.)

Foils are on the market at $12 to $13, and while supply is decent, it’s not massive. As a growing Modern staple in an archetype that’s beloved by established players, and a constant regardless of how strong it actually is in a metagame. In other words, this is no flavor of the week combo piece. I suspect the foil supply will drain over the next three to nine months, and we’ll be looking at $20 to $30 foils in a year or so, so long as there’s no reprint, which really would only come in Masters 25, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation.

Reality Smasher

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $10

If you’re not playing Modern or Legacy regularly, you may not fully appreciate how omnipresence the Eldrazi threat remains. Both formats, Modern especially, continue to see Eldrazi rampage through top places. Modern especially sees a lot of Eldrazi action, and they see it in various stripes. Eldrazi Taxes, Eldrazi Tron, Bant Eldrazi, etc. There’s two mainstays amongst all of these variations: Thought-Knot Seer and, of course, Reality Smasher.

TKS is certainly appealing, but with a higher buy-in, we’re not looking at him today. Instead we’re talking about Reality Smasher, which is the enforcer in the “brain and muscle” pairing. Smasher is truly a marriage of name and form — he hits very hard, immediately, and is absolutely miserable to answer. If he doesn’t score a hit the turn he comes down your opponent probably spent two cards getting rid of him, which means the next one is basically guaranteed to have free run of your opponent’s face. There’s a single-digit number of threats in Modern as efficient and nightmarish as Reality Smasher, and so long as Eldrazi Temple is legal, the two are going to show up hand-in-hand, because once you’re in the market for the latter, you’d be foolish not to bring the former.

While TKS is already $6, Reality Smasher is half of that (or less) today. Normally I wouldn’t advocate buying in at $3 in order to ride it to $6, so there’s got to be more room ahead, and I believe that there is. Thought-Knot Seer is the second (!) most played card in Modern, and Reality Smasher is 10th, and the gap between them is fairly narrow. $2.50 for a top 10 Modern creature that was single-printed in the middle of a chilled Standard is going to look silly a year from now.

Malakir Bloodwitch (Foil)

Price Today: $1.50
Possible Price: $15

As I mentioned in the intro, Commander 2017 continues to drive prices, and Atraxa has finally lost her throne. This week it’s been taken over by Edgar Markov, the Mardu Vampire Lord. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t find him interesting or remarkable as a commander in any capacity, but apparently others do, and that’s what matters. Twilight is apparently still popular I guess? Probably in the midwest; it’s like 2002 over there still.

Looking through EDHREC at the signature cards for Edgar is pretty funny; two of fifteen were printed in the precon. One of those two is an uncommon from SOI, and the other is Bloodline Keeper, which already tripled awhile ago. That leaves us looking to make money on vampires in a different way. If we can’t buy any more non-foils (because they reprinted all the damn things), then let’s chase foils.

My first choice was going to be Anowon, the Ruin Sage, since I can’t fathom a Vampire deck without them, but he’s already like $15 now so never mind. I was pleasantly surprised to find Malakir Bloodwitch foils at $1.50 though. I was further pleasantly surprised to see that her damage trigger is all opponents, not one, and the life gain is equal to the total life lost, which means you get to triple dip. Compare her trigger to something like Palace Siege and you can see how much stronger this is. Add in the fact that Edgar’s whole shtick is to poop out vampires and you can see how a single Malakir Bloodwitch trigger could do 20+ damage.

Supply isn’t what I’d consider sparse but at $1.50 for pack foils I don’t care. I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a $10 foil by the spring.


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


 

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 9/11/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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


First of all, kudos to Wizards. In what some of us considered to be an audacious and foolhardy challenge, they claimed they were going to not spoil a single Iconic Masters 25 (IMA) before the live draft event at Hascon. People and the internet being what they are, I figured this would only spur people harder to leak cards ahead of time. Yet as 1pm on Friday rolled around and packs were being handed out, I realized that not a single card had made it to Twitter ahead of time. That’s truly impressive.

Now that the full IMA list is out there and we all know what’s in the set, hype has unsurprisingly taken a drive off a cliff. We got excited about Mana Drain, Horizon Canopy, and Ancestral Vision. It’s cool that Serra Ascendant is in. Dragon Tempest at uncommon is lol. Original art Thoughtseize is an unexpected treat, and foils of that are going to be obnoxiously expensive. In general these reprint sets are needed, and exciting ahead of time, although once the full list is out we’re all smoking a cigarette and ready to go exploring.

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Ixalan spoilers continue today and they’ve been juicy so far. Sort-of-Gaea’s-Cradle is leading the pack, with foil preorders at $75 or something laughable. This is going to be in high demand but also keep in mind it’s a rare, not a mythic. Ixalan in general is looking to be of relatively lower power level than some of these past Standard sets, but the themes are cool, and there’s a handful of appealing cards, not the least of which are the flip cards. As spoilers wrap up this week (I think), start thinking about what may pull ahead in Standard in a month.

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 9/4/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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


Ixalan spoilers have been trickling in at a fair clip so far, and we’ll be getting far more in the very new future. Most recently we saw Huatli, Warrior Poet, joining Jace, Cunning Castaway as two of the three planeswalkers of the set. Huatli strikes me as sub-par, with a rough pairing of a five mana converted mana cost and three starting loyalty, and a poor plus ability next to a reasonable zero activation. Her “ultimate” isn’t bad though, as it lets you either clear up problem creatures, or alpha strike unblocked. Maybe there’s a dino deck that can leverage her well, but excepting that, she’s not doing much for me.

Over on the EDH side of things Wizards keep trickling in. Supreme Inquisitor is showing up on spike lists today, although that’s most certainly people reaching. Other wizard cards, such as Sigil Tracer continue to sell through at a strong clip, and they’re not the only tribe to see a bump, with Scourge of the Thrones another popular seller this week.

The bulk of “easy money” from Commander 2017 has been made, but there will certainly be sustained demand over the coming months. Remember that these decks only just hit shelves, and for many players, it isn’t until they get them in their hands, play a game or two, and then start to evaluate what to do differently that they start making their purchases.

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Bristling Hydra (Foil)

Price Today: $1.50
Possible Price: $8

Two more Standard GPs, and two more strong results for Temur Energy. I spoke about this deck a few weeks ago through the lens of Glorybringer, and now I’m returning to it because I think Bristling Hydra is worth keeping tabs on at this point as well.

Over in Turin two lists made top eight, and DC saw one as well. One thing has been consistent in every single Temur Energy list I think I’ve looked at in the last three months, and that’s the full four-of Bristling Hydra. It’s the lynchpin of the deck, and showing up with less than four at this point is looking like a fool’s errand.

What makes this really worth watching is that nothing rotates in October. Like, nothing. The main deck loses a whopping two lands. Other than that, it’s Kaladesh and Amonkhet all the way down. Compare this to any other tier deck out there and you’ll see they don’t have the same luxury. With Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, all the Eldrazi, and most of the zombies hailing from Battle for Zendikar and Shadows Over Innistrad, every other list is leaving a lot of meat behind this fall.

Plenty of copies exist out there, of course, but with such impressive results week after week and the fact that it’s going to be the unquestionable best deck on day zero, we could see a great deal of that supply dry up fast. If Temur Energy becomes the deck to beat, it’s not hard to imagine Hydra at over $5 a copy.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle (Release Promo)

Price Today: $11
Possible Price: $30

If you’ve been watching MTGO results for the past few months, you’d notice the amusing and tenacious presence of Valakut combo. So much so, in fact, that mtgtop8 is now showing Valakut Combo as the most represented combo deck in the format. That happened quietly, right? Did you realize that? I certainly didn’t. I knew it was being played, but the most popular combo deck in Modern? Huh.

Players seem to have settled squarely on a RG build, using full playsets of Primeval Titan and Scapeshift to deliver the dirt. A couple of Summoner’s Pacts act as Titans five and six, making sure this deck is always ready to deliver the damage on turn four. One or two Chandra, Torch of Defiances round out the heavy hitters in main, and other than that, there’s a familiar mixture of Sakura-Tribe Elders, Farseeks, Lightning Bolts, and Search for Tomorrows. All in all, not an especially clever build, but clearly an effective one.

The core of the deck, the card from which the deck derives its name, is of course Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. There’s still been only one printing so far, which has pushed non-foils into the $10 range. Pack foils hang out around $15 at the moment, and release promos are available at $11 to $12.

Those release promos are the ones I’m interested in. With Masters 25 next spring apparently focusing on Pro Tour-winning cards from the last 25 years, there’s a reasonable chance we’d see Valakut make an appearance. It was the only deck that could realistically hang with Caw Blade back in the day, which is quite an honorific to wear. A reprint in a masters set is likely to come with the pack art, which isn’t particularly impressive or interesting. Meanwhile the release promo art is darker, foreboding, and dangerous. It’s got a real Mordor thing going on. It’s the preferred art for sure, and it’s likely that the only place you’re ever going to get it is on these promos.

Working under that expectation, promos at $11 are appealing. There aren’t many left out there, and with Valakut’s growing strength and popularity online, it won’t be long before it begins to transition in earnest to paper. Once that happens, these promos will be well positioned.

Aura Shards

Price Today: $9
Possible Price: $25

Everyone that pays any attention to EDH whatsoever knows this is a majorly important card in the format. If your deck produces both green and white mana, there’s a very good chance you’re in for aura shards. It allows you to basically cast a merged Purify/In Garruk’s Wake in a single turn if you’ve got the ability to generate tokens. Persistent enchantment and artifact removal is excellent, and the fact that it’s one-sided is icing on the cake.

Somehow there are still only two printings of this; Invasion and the original Commander. As such, there is not exactly a bountiful supply. Over on TCGPlayer right now there are 38 total sellers across both copies, and that includes every condition and language. Filtering down to NM English, there’s far fewer. The story is similar on most major vendors.

As alluded to, this card is popular. How popular? According to EDHREC, it’s in 23% of 45,084 decks. That’s a lot of Aura Shards. With supply as low as it is and the card as popular as it is, I wouldn’t be surprised to see inventories dry up any day now. Once that happens, it will be a $20+ card until Wizards deigns to pop out some more.


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


 

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower 8/28/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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


With no non-limited events this weekend, I don’t have much to draw from on that front. No exciting Standard or Modern decks materialized that we get to go over with a fine tooth comb. There is a Banned and Restricted List update today, but A. I’m not expecting any changes, and B. even if there are, the buyouts will be so fast that waiting to write about them in this article would be pointless. If you’re reading this before the B&R list update goes live, just remember to buy from reputable vendors.

EDH activity has been a flurry lately with the Commander 2017 decks finally on shelves. I’ve personally seen a lot of Bloodline Keepers moving, and Scourge of the Throne has picked up considerably within the last week or so two, with what appears to be a buyout under $20 having occurred over the last 24 hours. Urza’s Incubators and Cryptic Gateway similarly went last week. The immediate well of C17 picks is drying up, but the longer-term stuff is certainly still on the table.

Since there’s no recent decklists to go over and EDH is coming down off a high at the moment, I’m going to flip through some Modern results from smaller events to see what’s hiding out.

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