Stay of Execution

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There’s something I just love about the fact that the official EDH rules announcements are made on this 90s-era-design forum. People can say what they want about how WotC is “taking over” EDH but all you need to do is check out the official EDH site that looks like it was made on Angelfire or Geocities to get a reminder that this is very much a by-fans for-fans format. While some people bristle at there being a banned list at all considering house rules can take care of it, it’s obviously best to have some sort of universal rules system in place to standardize the experience, especially when you play people from outside of your playgroup or even in a tournament setting.

As a brief aside, Sheldon knows you don’t always agree with 100% of the decisions the committee makes and that he is the whipping boy for the RC on reddit and wherever else neckbeards congregate. He doesn’t care. If anyone who made rules for games listened to people on reddit, the game company would be bankrupt in a month because the people with the loudest voices are usually the dumbest. People aren’t going to stop playing EDH because you ignore their post in /r/magictcg about how “Profit of Kruphix is fine its not a banded card in my playgroup we banded Cultivate because my friend Zeke always played Cultivate on turn two always and we were like are you cheating Zeke seriously that card is not fair because he has more lands then me with my Marrow-Gnawer deck profit of Crufix is ok with me but Zeke is a cheater” but they might stop if you do take their dumb suggestions and ruin EDH.

People were saying before Aether Revolt was even legal that Paradox Engine was going to need to be banned. The Rules Committee knows that people are wrong a lot, especially random anonymous people. If Paradox Engine ends up getting banned 3-9 months down the line, those people are going to say “I told those idiots Paradox Engine was too good but they don’t listen! We need to get rid of the Rules Committee, kill Sheldon and scatter his ashes to the four winds. THEY HURT MY FEELINGS” and the problem (the biggest, there are lots of problems) with that is that people forget those same “prophets” saying Paradox Engine needed “pre-banned” (that’s not a thing) were also saying that Shaman of Forgotten Ways needed to be banned in EDH before the ink was even dry on the cardstock. Do you know what Shaman of Forgotten Ways even does? I’ll save you having to look it up.

It’s in more EDH decks on EDHREC than most people think (around 2,500) but it’s also not so game-breaking that anyone who hasn’t put it in a deck knows what it does without having to look it up. Most of the people who play it do so because it’s a Somberwald Sage that sometimes gains you some life or kills the Oloro player. Is Shaman pretty good? Yeah, of course. Is it bannable? Newp, and that’s why the Rules Committee doesn’t listen to people on reddit.

I’m sure they’re taking a look at Paradox Engine and I’m sure they’ll eventually either ban it or write a cryptic post in their forum that signals they’re not going to ban it, which will make people who don’t even play EDH buy a ton of them. That’s a legit strategy, and you’re probably going to wish you’d bought enough for your decks if that happens. What do we risk by buying 10 copies now?

Not a ton, in fact. The price might go down a little at rotation, but it would go right back up, provided it still had a home in EDH. The spread is low so dealers seem pretty confident in paying nearly retail on these because they know they can turn them over. There’s real demand for this card and the price is growing very slightly despite more and more packs of Aether Revolt being opened. It’s possible people were waiting for the first banned list announcement (I was) to buy in and now they could push the price some more.

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In a world where this doesn’t get banned, the price probably goes up. It’s really good in EDH and a good comparison to how good it is/how much it flirts with banworthiness is probably Consecrated Sphinx.

Hey, interesting that I should mention Consecrated Sphinx, because in the process of pasting this graph, I noticed something curious. Do you see it? Here’s a hint.

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What happened here? Well, this is January 2016. What happened in January 2016? Well, among other things, Oath of the Gatewatch was fully spoiled and they did their Banned and Restriced List announcement. EDH, in talking about why they banned Prophet of Kruphix, said the following.

This was challenging. Prophet is not a traditionally obvious problem card for Commander, so we chose to take a conservative approach and see if casual groups could adapt. In the past, we’ve seen unpopular cards generate a lot of outcry, but be handled reasonably well. Powerful cards existing is OK and exploring them responsibly is an essential part of Commander.

This didn’t happen with Prophet. Casual groups haven’t been able to work around it and problematic play has not dropped off in hoped-for ways. Instead, the primary approach has been to steal it, clone it, run it yourself, or get run over. Ultimately, it seems the card is too perfect – it does everything U/G Commander players want to be doing and it does it in a way that makes counterplay difficult. With traditional boogeymen such as Consecrated Sphinx, you’re forced to expend a lot of your mana to cast it and will have a challenge protecting it as the turn goes around the table. With Prophet, it has virtual protection built in, negating that disadvantage almost immediately.

They mentioned Sphinx directly in contrast of a card they were banning. They basically gave their rationale for never banning Sphinx. If that wasn’t a signal to run right out and buy, what would be? Any anxiety about a banning of a highly-touted “Ban this” card from the “Ban this!” crowd evaporated – the card was safe and therefore a safe investment. I’m sure the RC didn’t mean to signal a run on Sphinx but it happened. The price is going back down to an equilibrium that is somewhere between its pre-spike price and its peak price, which is what always happens.

This means there’s an opportunity for a scenario where they accidentally say something like “We think (stupid card that got through R&D the way a Standard-Legal Splinter Twin combo did) is abusable in EDH in a way that’s not fun for anyone and is abusable with minimal set-up, unlike with a card like Paradox Engine that requires creature or artifact mana and a supply of spells to power the engine” and without meaning to, spike the price of Paradox Engine. I’d put the odds of that happening at about 1 in 20.

They didn’t exactly say “We’re not banning Paradox Engine” and it’s probably a bit premature for that, anyway. People were expecting Engine to be banned, but Prophet wasn’t banned the first chance they got. Prophet of Kruphix is from Theros, a set that came out in September 2013. It took them a little over 2 years to decide Prophet needed a ban. Sure, people whined less before Prophet was released than they whined about Paradox Engine (Or Shaman of Forgotten Ways) but they sure whined plenty once people like me started jamming it in decks and taking every player’s upkeeps.

Does the obvious, naked abusability of Paradox Engine coupled with its being colorless and therefore jammable in any deck (the same decks can jam artifact mana and Isochron Scepter and basically do anything infinitely) mean it can jump the line and get a ban before Prophet did? Not, before but, you know, earlier. It took 27 months to ban Prophet will it take 27 months to ban Paradox Engine? I feel like if it does get a ban, it will be in a shorter timeframe than that. This does give us some time for Engine to grow and, more importantly, it will continue to push up the cards that work best with it. I’d put the odds of Paradox Engine getting a ban in the next year at about 1 in 2. I just don’t know. I don’t think the card’s that bad, but they sometimes listen to whining and there’s some whining going on about this card already.

Since Paradox Engine is more apparent early, it’s likely that if it gets banned, it will be before the card rotates out of Standard in 2018. I think if it gets banned, it’s much more likely that it would be sooner rather than later. The RC will meet several times before 2018 which gives them chances to talk about how it’s on their watch list (It’s on their watch list) and how it has been performing and what the online scuttlebutt (whining) is trending. It would be a quicker turnaround than normal, but this card is more obvious than normal. If it is banned while it’s still legal in Standard, dealers won’t want to slash its price. It’s unclear how much of its price is predicated on Standard legality and how much on EDH demand but the price will be impacted less if it’s banned while there’s still a chance it could be broken in Standard and while it’s still legal there. The price will fall a bit but if you paid retail (or better yet, buylist) today, you’re not getting your pants pulled down completely. You can probably buylist your copies the day of the ban and get the full amount. You’re not taking a bath if it’s banned in the next year, which I think is more likely than it taking 2 years to ban it.

So we have a few scenarios that I’ll summarize

  1. Engine quietly gets ignored by the RC who watches it but never comments. The card steadily goes up over time. Odds – 1:1
  2. Engine is banned by the RC in the next year. The price is OK. Odds – 1:1
  3. The RC accidentally signals that they won’t ban Paradox Engine. The price goes up but probably comes down a bit. Odds – 20:1
  4. Paradox Engine is banned in more than a year, after it rotates out of Standard. The price gets cut in half or more. Odds – 20:1

Since there is only one scenario where you get blown out, scenario 4 and 3 scenarios where you either make some money or don’t lose a ton, I feel pretty good about buying Paradox Engine right now. Even typing that feels wrong to me. It still feels like a dangerous play, but unless there’s a flaw in my logic, I think we’re pretty insulated from a blowout. I don’t know how much I expect these to go down at rotation and the fact that this has ban risk somewhat counter-intuitively makes me want to stray from my normal buying behavior of trying to wait until rotation.

I still have some wordspace so I’ll use my last little bit to suggest a few cards with upside in a world where Engine doesn’t get banned and has some more certainty.

They didn’t like this being $10 but now that it’s a little closer to $4, they will likely hold off on reprinting it for a minute. This is a great card to combo with Engine and it can go in any color deck. Sol Ring, this and Lightning Bolt plus Engine kills the table. Is that a 4 card combo? Yeah. Will you always have artifact mana? Also yeah. There are enough tutors in EDH that a 4 card combo where one of the cards is “Any amount of artifacts that tap for 2 mana” and another is “Anything you can imprint on Iscochron Scepter” suddenly isn’t that daunting.

Cards like this are a great example of why EDHREC has been so useful to me as a financier. There is no obvious synergy between these cards – it’s more of a parasitic relationship than a symbiotic one. Engine untaps this, this is wholly unhelpful when it comes to enabling Paradox Engine to do anything (unless it draws you a spell to play to trigger Engine, which is not guaranteed.) This doesn’t immediately pop out at you as a good pairing, but when you see how often both of these cards are in the same deck, you start to realize that a deck with Engine in it being built means someone probably needs a staff, also. I play both cards in my Paradox Engine deck, so clearly there’s something to it. A high correlation between cards that don’t interact can establish a causal relationship between demand for one card and demand for another even if the two cards aren’t part of the same combo.

Did I miss something obvious? Are my odds wrong? Do you agree that Paradox Engine is a good buy? Are you staying away? Buying at rotation? Do you wish you could short it? Is it getting banned never? In the next year? I want to hear from you – leave it in the comments section. Until next week!

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The Watchtower 3/13/17

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.


About seven minutes ago (at the time of writing this), WotC revealed the first five week post-Pro Tour ban list update. Twitter was buzzing ahead of time, in no small part due to the fact that this was the first of the new announcements. Would they make a big change in Standard? Hit Gideon? Take out a few commons or uncommons, like Thraben Inspector, to keep strong cards around but disturb the base? Would they reach out and touch Modern or Legacy? Will Jace, the Mind Sculptor be unbanned? (No, stop asking.)

Despite all the wild conjecture, nothing happened. No formats were touched. Perhaps most telling was the language used in the announcement – results from GP Utrecht were cited, and Jersey and Barcelona weren’t discussed. This leads readers to believe that decisions may have been made weeks ago. One wonders how WotC employees were feeling Sunday night, knowing that nothing was going to change, as they looked over the Barcelona and Jersey results, which were absolutely saturated with Copycat and Vehicles.

In any case, it means many more weeks of stagnation for us. There’s simply nothing that looks interesting out there right now. Even Temur Dynavolt, which is just barely hanging on to a top 32 slot’s worth of quality right now, has no worthwhile targets. Ah well. Guess we’ll turn elsewhere.

Ancient Stirrings

Ancient Stirrings

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $15

Given that this series is called “The Watchtower,” that would metaphorically put Ancient Stirrings in ‘pour hot oil over the ramparts’ range.

Supply hasn’t been deep for awhile, given that the only printing was in Rise of the Eldrazi. Granted, that was a popular set, and Ancient Stirrings was common, it was nigh seven years ago now. That’s a bunch of years. It’s an auto-four of in every single Tron build that’s green (which is all of them), as well as the various builds of Eldrazi, Bant Eldrazi prime among them. That’s not all though; Lantern typically plays all four as well. In each of these strategies the ability to look five deep not just for high-powered lands, but also colorless Eldrazi monsters or artifacts means it’s well worth the slot.

We’re not likely to see Ancient Stirrings show up anytime soon, either. The upcoming Duel Deck, Mind vs Might, is red and blue. We’re about seven months away from Commander 2017, and I doubt we’ll be seeing any Eldrazi in Amonkhet or Atlazan. There’s a great chance we don’t see additional copies of Stirrings this year, and possibly even next. (Although that’s a lot less reliable.)

Copies are around the $6 to $6.5 mark right now, which sounds pretty wild for a common, but Mishra’s Bauble is an uncommon, played in like one deck, and is $35. Given that as a benchmark, $15 for Ancient Stirrings doesn’t sound unlikely at all. For reference, it’s played about half as much as Thoughtseize, the third most played spell in Modern. We may not see it at $15 next week, but by November, if it doesn’t plummet in metagame share, it’s absolutely possible.


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Lotus Bloom

Lotus Bloom

Price Today: $9
Possible Price: $25

In keeping with this week’s metaphor, Lotus Bloom isn’t in oil range, but the archers wouldn’t have any trouble hitting it. (This is probably a tortured metaphor at this point, right?)

Lotus Bloom is primarily an Ad Nauseam card, which I highlighted a week or two ago. It’s a mandatory four-of in that particular deck. Given the reduction in Infect, which was generally just better at racing, Ad Nauseam is now looking much more palatable. Most of the other decks in the format aren’t fast enough, and while I’m not clear on how the Death’s Shadow matchup looks, at least their proclivity to reducing their own life total means that drawing your one or two copies of Lightning Storm is a real out.

Beyond Ad Nauseam, Lotus Bloom shows up in Eggs. This has almost completely fallen off the radar since Second Sunrise was banned years ago, but it does manage to occasionally pop up in Krark-Clan Ironworks (KCI Eggs) lists, typically alongside Reshape. There was some additional chatter regarding Bloom during Aether Revolt’s spoiler season, when Whir of Invention was spoiled. Nothing has materialized yet, though the ability to tutor a Black Lotus for UUU has to come in useful somewhere, right? Hierarch on T1, Whir on T2, 7 mana on T3? I don’t know.

Flipping through TCG, SCG, and ABU, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to put together 15 NM playsets of Lotus Bloom right now. I’m not expecting a sudden pop on this in the next couple of days, but it won’t take many more interested parties for supply to hit zero. I like both this an Ad Nauseam (the card) similarly, so whichever scratches your itch (or that you can find cheaper relative to market), really.

MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 58 (Mar 11/17)

MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast, fun and useful sixty minute format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: Mar 11, 2017

Segment 1: Top Card Spikes of the Week

A pretty quiet week in card spikes…that is up until the MM17 reveals wrapped up Thursday and people started moving on cards that weren’t included. (Expect to see those here next week.)

Three Wishes

Three Wishes (Visions, Rare)
Start: $0.50
Finish: $4.25
Gain: +$3.75 (+750%)

Colossus of Sardia (Antiquities, Rare)
Start: $3.50
Finish: $28.00
Gain: +$24.50 (+700%)

Merchant Scroll (Homelands, Common)
Start: $2.00
Finish: $8.00
Gain: +$6.00 (+300%)

Yawgmoth’s Bargain (UZD, Rare)
Start: $2.50
Finish: $6.00
Gain: +$3.50 (+140%)

Fabricate (MRD, Foil Uncommon)
Start: $8.00
Finish: $19.00
Gain: +$11.00 (+137.50%)

City of Shadows (DRK, Rare)
Start: $5.50
Finish: $13.00
Gain: +$7.50 (+136%)

Tarfire (Lorwyn, Uncommon)
Start: $1.00
Finish: $2.00
Gain: +$1.00 (+100.50%)

Fulminator Mage (MM2, Rare)
Start: $20.00
Finish: $40.00
Gain: +$20.00 (+100%)

Note: Mox Opal and Karn Liberated were also up 30% or so this week.

James’ Picks:

Master of Waves

  1. Master of Waves (Theros, Mythic)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 7: $3.00 to $6.00 (+3.00/100%) 12+ months)

2. Aether Vial (Kaladesh Masterpieces)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $75.00 to $100.00 (+25.00/+33%, 12+ months)

3. Ancient Stirrings (ROE, Common)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 9: $5.00 to $10.00 (+5.00/+100%, 0-12+ months)

Travis’ Picks:

  1. Leyline of Sanctity (MM2, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 7: $16.00 to $25.00 (+9.00/+56%, 0-6+ months)

2. Steely Resolve (ONS, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 6: $5.00 to $12.00 (+7.00/+140%, 0-12+ months)

Disclosure: Travis and James may own speculative copies of the above cards.

Segment 3: Metagame Week in Review

James & Travis went over the result from the Magic Online World Championship and GP Brisbane (Modern).

Segment 4: Topic of the Week

The boys reviewed the recent announcement giving Channel Fireball control of all Magic: The Gathering Grand Prix worldwide.

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.

The Ground Floor

The spoiler for Modern Masters 2017 is here, and while it’s full of juicy speculative goodness, I’ll get to some safe picks in a moment.

I want you to understand that next weekend, when we can draft with this set, is going to suck the air out of Kaladesh block drafting, and Amonkhet is only six weeks away from prerelease events, so preview season for that starts in about three weeks.

Stay disciplined. Get your Whir of Inventions for pennies. Stock up on foil Metallurgic Summonings. Trade for all the Panharmonicons you can at $4 or less. If you don’t have them already, get your Fatal Push playset now, instead of waiting and watching the price go up. Don’t let the new shiny things distract you from what you should be doing: Getting all the last Kaladesh block cards you want now.

When a new set comes out, I have a two-step process. I figure out what cards I want to have, and the price I want to pay for them, cash or trade. That’s how I try to make sure I’m growing my collection’s value, by not overpaying when I get in on cards.

The sheer number of once-pricey rares in this set has me a little spooked about going too deep on a card. Going forward, I don’t want to be in on too many copies of a card, it’ll be better served to diversify what I’m holding.

For this set, I want to look not at the cards being played in Modern, but the casual stars that have been reprinted. For the most part, these are cards that can own the table in Commander or Cube, and since they are being printed right now, I think they are likely safe from being in Commander 2017 or some other supplementary product.

Probably.

These are the cards that I want to pick up, in anticipation of solid, steady growth.

Cavern of Souls – I need this to get cheaper. It’s not played in a lot of decks but it tends to be an all-star in a playset. This is the land that Sliver decks and Ally decks and tribal decks love most. I sold every one out of my Commander decks when it broke $40, and I’m really hoping this drops to the $25 range. At that point, I would get one for each of my tribal decks and I would absolutely sell them again when the prices go back up again.

Craterhoof Behemoth – Right now you can get these for $10 or less on preorder, and that’s a price I already like. If it drops lower, to $8 or god forbid $5, I’ll be all over this and sorely tempting my new ‘don’t go deep’ philosophy. This is a game-ender card, a stellar casual creature, and something that goes in lots of decks.

Temporal Mastery – Extra-turn cards are always going to have legs. This is a card I want to make sure I pick up a couple of sets of, and it can be had for $3 in preorders. I don’t think it will fall much farther, and this is why I love the card:

A couple of times there was an extra-turns deck that would pop up, but this graph is what I want to see. It’s in consistent demand, so I want plenty at a low buy-in.

Cyclonic Rift – I had expected this to be in another Commander printing before long, but being here means I want some at $4 or less just to hold. I hate the existence of this card, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it got banned in Commander.

Phantasmal Image – I’m hoping this makes it down to $1 or so, and I would pick up quite a few. I’ve seen it be recurred too often and do too much work to stay that low for long.

Venser, Shaper Savant – My target for him is $5. The FTV version didn’t dent him too hard, but this is too good in too many ways to stay $5 forever. He almost never shows up in constructed formats, but he’s very powerful in casual settings and I do think his price will go back up over time.

Stay away from:

Griselbrand – Being banned in Commander is the big strike against him. He’s one of the premier cards to cheat into play, making him a four-of in combos, but the supply is too high for me to get in.

Sphinx’s Revelation – No price movement for years and years. Observe.

That’s a card that isn’t going to recover from this printing.

Past in Flames – Nope, nope, never.

Thragtusk – Solid, dependable, reprinted into oblivion.

Zur the Enchanter – Before the judge promo, before this, I could have been talked into him, but now I think he’s going to drop to near-bulk status. I don’t even want to get in on foils.

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