Category Archives: Watchtower

PROTRADER: The Watchtower: 1/23/17

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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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!


Aether Revolt’s official release weekend brought us the first SCG Open of the new Standard format, and it came out…cats blazing? The crazy cat lady combo that we all feared, that is Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian, showed up but didn’t dominate. It had a reasonable showing, with three in the top eight, but all lost in the quarterfinals. The top three decks of the event were various flavors of GB aggro, with a GW build rounding out the top four that’s likely to become hybridized with GB in the future. Looking through the top 64 and conversion rates, GB Aggro and Saheeli are two of the pillars, with Mardu Vehicles, GW Tokens, and a smattering of other strategies rounding things out.

Key cards in GB began spiking Saturday morning, and as of today, Walking Ballista is up well over $10. Verdurous Gearhulk doubled, and Rishkar, Peema Renegade is in the $5 range. The GB well is already pretty dry with these jumps, but remember that the first weekend of Standard is often not the same metagame as the Pro Tour.

Mindwrack Demon

Price Today: $2
Possible Price: $10+

GB Aggro was inarguably the success story of the weekend. As is often the case with GB decks, it’s a suite of efficient, flexible removal paired with creatures that provide excellent value. There were a variety of builds, though most contained the core of Verdurous Gearhulk, Walking Ballista, Winding Constrictor, and Rishkar, Peema Renegade. Verdurous and Ballista already spiked hard, Winding Constrictor is an uncommon, and Rishkar is up to $5 with perhaps a bit more life left in it.

Grim Flayer and Mindwrack Demon were also popping up, though not quite as frequently as the above cards. Given that this is the very first weekend, there’s likely a good amount of room for growth and evolution in the archetype. If the deck pushes towards leaning on delirium, Flayer and Mindwrack should play a part in those lists. Flayer is an intensely powerful two-drop that was heavily played last season and has been breaking into Modern Jund since release. Mindwrack Demon has been much quieter so far, but the power level is indisputable. A flying trample 4/5 for four is no joke. While the GB Aggro lists abused counters and had more explosive draws, the stronger late game and hard removal of the delirium lists may have the edge in time.

Grim Flayer is already over $15, so I’m not eager about him. (Though foil copies at $30 or so should still look good in the long run.) Mindwrack Demon copies are round about $2 so far. Heavy inclusion in a format pillar will begin pushing the SOI mythic upwards pretty quick. Remember that SOI is the only block in Standard to lack a Masterpiece series, which opens up the ceiling on cards from that set as well. Between Verdurous Gearhulk and Walking Ballista I’m not sure how high the price can reasonably get — I doubt we’ll see $20 Demons — but this could easily double or quintuple up from a buy-in of $2.


Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

Price Today: $1.50
Possible Price: $10+

People that have been involved in this scene for awhile are all too familiar with the “the next Dark Confidant” cycle. Wizards prints a cheap black card, typically a creature, that draws cards. People flip out that it’s the next Dark Confidant. Prices rise considerably during pre-release season. The card utterly fails as a card possibly can. Everyone forgets about it while the guys selling the pre-orders laugh all the way to the bank. Dark Tutelage. Blood Scrivener. Pain Seer. Asylum Visitor. And now Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Perhaps.

So far, Glint-Sleeve has actually managed more competitive success than any of her predecessors. There were four in the second place GB deck. She’s a bit slow to get going, as she can’t draw cards until turn four unless you played an energy producer on turn one. Still, she represents a lot of potential card drawing over the course of the game, with menace helping to generate energy and get in for damage here and there.

My biggest concern with Glint-Sleeve is how popular Walking Ballista is. There are at least two lines out of GB that kill it without costing a card on turn three; Ballista into Rishkar or Constrictor into Ballista. “Dies to removal” isn’t a valid argument for dismissing a creature, but a metagame being particularly hostile to X/1s is another story.

At $1.50 I’m not encouraging you to race out and buy these. After all, with the pedigree of False Confidants, that would be criminally negligent of me. Yet I bring your attention to it because it has already performed better than other iterations, and the price is low enough that if it somehow became A Thing, there would be some serious profit to be made. Who knows, maybe WotC will ban Walking Ballista with the new post-PT B&R update and Glint-Sleeve will explode.


Oath of Nissa

Price Today: $2.50
Possible Price: $8

Everyone with a heart loved Oath of Nissa when it was spoiled a year ago. So much so that I’m far from the only one to try and make it work in Modern. (I tried it in Mono-Green Nykthos.) It’s been popping up here and there in the format since release, usually in GW Tokens decks pre-Kaladesh with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. The deck had faded a bit after Kaladesh’s release, but GW Tokens is back in the metagame these days after the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End and an enabler in Rishkar was printed.

This weekend we saw a fair bit of GW Tokens pop up, with four Oaths a mainstay. That isn’t the end of the story though. The most popular Saheeli Rai build was four-color, with green the fourth color. The ol’ “splash green for mana fixing” plan is alive and well. Oath of Nissa’s other line of text, the one that doesn’t draw you a card, lets you cast Saheeli Rai with any color mana. Between that and Servant of the Conduit, I wonder how often Saheeli was cast without a blue or red source in play. Don’t forget you can also blink Oath with Felidar Guardian for a little extra card draw when necessary.

If we’ve got two major pillars in Standard playing Oath of Nissa, GW Tokens and 4c Saheeli, that bodes well for the playset in each archetype. Copies are well above the bulk rare price tag of $.50, and are instead in the $2.50 range. That means there’s an existing baseline of demand today, right now, without any extra pushing from Standard. As the card grows in popularity in Standard, there won’t be a surplus of bulk copies to burn through before prices climb. I doubt we’re looking at a $15 card here, but $6+ isn’t out of the question, especially if it’s a key component of two major strategies.


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PROTRADER: The Watchtower: 1/16/17

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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!


Aether Revolt had its prerelease this weekend, which means there were virtually no telling events that took place. Constructed Magic in general had a quiet weekend. Next weekend is the release, which won’t be much different, and then two weeks from now we should see things changing as SCG Opens begin firing. Even MTGO didn’t update their ban list until a few days ago, and as such I only see two Modern league results with the appropriate cards banned. Jund, Infect, and Shadow Zoo are nowhere to be found among them. I doubt we’ve seen the end of any of these strategies, though I suspect they’ll need to regroup and figure out what the meta and their appropriate lists will look like now.

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower: 1/9/17

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 watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!


Wow. Now that was an announcement. If you somehow missed it, Wizards told us that in four hours we were getting the Banned & Restricted List update, one week early, and then dropped an especially large hammer:

Standard:
Smuggler’s Copter is banned.
Emrakul, the Promised End is banned.
Reflector Mage is banned.

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Modern:
Golgari-Grave Troll is banned.
Gitaxian Probe is banned.

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It’s going to take a lot of weeks, words, and work to figure out what all of this means across Standard and Modern. This week I’ll do my best to capture the surface level of these changes, but please give me some leeway for not catching any huge shifts that may come about. I’m sure even the pros are sitting around scratching their heads about where to go from here right now.

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BANNED’MRAKUL: Early Banned & Restricted Announcement Jan 9th/17

Hey all,

Wizards of the Coast surprised everyone this morning by announcing the Banned & Restricted list changes for all official formats a week earlier than was planned.

Here are the results:

Ok, so that list was a bit, er, unexpected. Let’s unpack the signals.

Standard

Emrakul, the Promised End

Emrakul, the Promised End is banned because, as part of the various flavors of Marvel Aetherworks combo decks she represents a massive feel-bad scenario as early as Turn 4. The ability to put Emrakul into play in the early game and absolutely wreck opponents on the spot has been a central figure in the perception that we were in the midst of a “bad” Standard format since a few weeks after the release of Kaladesh. Now that sales of Eldritch Moon are no longer a priority, shaking up Standard carries massive benefit as we head into the release of Aether Revolt and Amonkhet, and this ban was widely discussed in the context of potential fixes for the format heading into the announcement.

Smuggler's Copter

Smuggler’s Copter was targeted for being so pushed that it was impacting the diversity of the format. Translation? It gets played in too many decks, but it also reduces the chance that many other cards will get played, including other Vehicles and Planeswalkers, of which we have several incoming in upcoming sets. Still, this is going to be a tough pill to swallow for the many Standard players that bought full play sets and the stores that are carrying heavy inventory of the card. My head is now on swivel for this card to crash in price immediately, and I will be looking to pick up foils on the cheap in case it ends up making a splash in Modern (via aggro, Ensoul Artifact or BW tokens builds) or Frontier continues to grow (where it may be safe for now given the unsanctioned nature of the format and some folks desire to make use of their copies.)

Reflector Mage

Reflector Mage is a very odd choice that WoTC explained was necessary to ensure U/W Flash didn’t run rampant in the format with the other bans on the table. I’m not sure I agree that such a ban was necessary, but at least this one doesn’t cost us much money. Had they targeted Archangel Avacyn, Spell Queller or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, the financial body count would have been getting pretty high, so a powerful lower cost target makes some sense from that angle.

The most important takeaway from all of this is that Wizards is more than willing to ban for participation issues rather than big tournament/on camera dominance. This factors heavily into the safety of future specs since any card that might be deemed to be impacting sales is now at risk.

Modern

Gitaxian Probe is a card that has been discussed as ban worthy by many pros on the basis of being too flexible, too easy to cast and too useful in sussing out the likely shape of a game in Modern. In decks like Infect and Death’s Shadow Aggro the card allows a pilot to dig deeper, check whether the opponent has a relevant answer in hand, and fill the graveyard with Delve count. The card doesn’t win games by itself, but eliminating it makes some of the most dominant aggro decks a little weaker, and hopefully provides some breathing room for other strategies to rise.  Thankfully, I sold any spares I had lying around months ago as ban whispers were rising, and I hope you did the same.

Golgari Grave-Troll now holds the dubious distinction of being a card that has been banned not once, but twice in Modern. In fairness, Drege did not look like a threat when the big green guy last came off the list, but the printing of Prized Amalgam and Cathartic Reunion in particular helped turn the deck into a finely tuned juggernaut capable of ridiculously explosive and non-interactive game play. There was a good time to sell this card earlier in the year, and I hope you took the chance if you were holding because we are highly unlikely to see this card at relevant top tables again any time soon.

New B&R Schedule

The other noteable announcement is that we are now going to get B&R changes before and after Pro Tours. Here are the details:

From a financial perspective this is going to make speculating on especially strong cards a bit more risky, since there is now an official safety valve on hand should things get out of hand. This should be read as a measure being introduce primarily to ensure that Standard seasons stay on track in terms of sales and participation, since problems of this kind can’t really be easily discerned on this schedule for Modern, since there are no longer Modern Pro Tour stops.

Make sure to note the relevant days in your calendar so that you can stay on top of things moving forward.

James is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

 

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