PROTRADER: Ixalan Highs and Lows

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I like to plan ahead.

Figuring out the cards to pick up in anticipation of a rise in price is a combination of luck and experience. On MTGPrice, we try hard to present our ideas and our rationales behind those ideas.

When you’ve been at this for a while, you get a sense for what the predictors are for future demand. It’s not always a question of rules, it’s got to be a combination of things that will catch your attention and say, “Get this while it’s cheap!”

Today I want to review some of the cards that I want to get now, or in one case, that I’d wanted to get, and the historical examples.

Search for Azcanta">
Search for Azcanta
($17 regular, $32 foil, $40 buy-a-box promo)

I’m very high on this card, I have to be honest. It’s not often that I like picking up all available version of a card but I absolutely do, for a host of reasons.

Nonfoils: I think that this card is the backbone of a control deck in Standard, and it’s proven useful in any shell with blue. The only problem is that it’s not a four-of, more often a two- or three-of in such decks, and that might stop it from hitting $35.

Foils/Promos: This is popping up in both Modern and Legacy, in control and Miracles lists, and it’s going to stay a useful card there. Jeskai, UW, Esper…all the decks are playing at least one now, and some as many as three. It doesn’t give you an immediate advantage, but if you can live long enough to flip it, it’s acceleration or it’s finding the next answer. Let’s not rule out that this is a very strong card in Commander or Cube formats, and those are soaking up a certain amount of available copies.

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If there’s a chance that you’re going to build a control deck in the next 18 months, get your copies now. The set after Dominaria is about when I’d expect this to pop up to at least $25 nonfoil, and $30 is reasonable.

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The foils (and especially the promos) are a great pickup now too. Promo versions under $40 should be snapped up and set aside with the proper amount of patience. That will pay off.

Vraska’s Contempt ($12/$15)

I studiously avoided mentioning this card until we were done opening it, and unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag. I’d really been hoping that this made it all the way down to $5, but it’s recently doubled from its low of $5.50. I’ve used this card as an example of the rise and fall of prerelease pricing, as it could have been had at $4. Hero’s Downfall or Abrupt Decay have graphs worth looking at.

Ah, those halcyon days of yore…

When it was in print, it was relatively cheap, but after it wasn’t being opened anymore, the popularity grew and the price doubled.

Vraska’s Contempt was going to be on this exact same track, with the price dropping and dropping until it wasn’t in print and then it would start climbing. The problem is, Contempt is a fantastic answer to two powerful and prevalent threats in Standard: Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God.

Let me contrast Contempt with another card that does 80% of the same work: Hour of Glory.

Be honest. Did you remember about this card? Oblivion Strike at rare!

That price graph tops out at fifty cents. Hour of Glory hasn’t even been a sideboard card in its lifetime. A big part of that is some unfortunate timing: Hour of Glory was released in Hour of Devastation in July 2017, where Vraska’s Contempt came out three months later. There’s a chance that these cards were planned to be in different blocks, with 18-month rotation or rotation every set, but the threats have never been severe enough to warrant playing Hour of Glory.

Contempt has popped since it’s become the go-to spell for removal, as it can answer a Planeswalker effectively. I really wish there was time for it to fall back down, but I imagine that the price will stick at around $10 for about the next 12 months.

Hostage Taker ($5)

Remember when this was $12? It wasn’t that long ago.

All aboard!

The Taker is seeing a fair amount of play in Standard, and popped up as a singleton in the sideboard of Traverse Shadow decks at the Modern Pro Tour. It hasn’t stopped being good against the cards that need exiling, and I have to admit that being able to exile their Death’s Shadow and then replay it yourself is an amazing 2-for-1.

What makes this extra appealing is the timeframe. It’s got a whole year, several big sets to work with. I can’t imagine that there’s a better enabler of this effect than Panharmonicon, but who knows? It’s a Pirate, a tribe that’s unlikely to be better with these other sets, but the color combination has always been excellent when it comes to control decks. I don’t think this is going to be a big player when it comes to casual play, but seeing the price it was at before, this seems like a very strong candidate for popping back up to $10 anytime in the next year. Snagging these at $5 or less right now is pretty amazing.

 

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player, and has a deep love for weird ways to play this game. His next project will be a light-up sign for attracting Cubers at GPs, so get his attention @wordofcommander on Twitter if you’ve got ideas or designs.

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Crossover 2: The Crossovering

Last week I wrote an article.

Nobody made a snide or condescending comment which means I wrote a perfect article. It’s good to know that what I wrote was perfect and helpful to people. That’s excellent. Accordingly, I decided to make it a two-parter by, you know, writing a second part. Unlike a lot of unplanned sequels, this is going to go great. It’s going to be a lot more Godfather 2 than Highlander 2, you dig? If you aren’t familiar with or don’t remember what I did last week, go read it now for free and then we’ll hit the ground running. Less talk, more rock – let’s do this.

 

Gush

Pauper deck – Delver, other Delver, Inside Out combo

2,425 is hardly the largest number of EDH decks a card has ever been in where we later referenced its “demand” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Gush is played a non-zero amount in EDH and is bannably-good in Pauper.

It’s a stupid-good card in Pauper and if it’s banned, a lot of people are going to eat it. For now, though, with so few printings, the first one being so long ago and with it being banned all of these years meaning there was no real impetus to dig these out of nooks and crannies, Gush’s price, well, gushed.

If you have these, I think you ship them. I don’t think pauper-mania can sustain its current fever pitch and regardless of if it does, I think Gush is one the watchlist. Could this hit $20? It’s possible but I think you just out these.

Distant Melody

Pauper Deck – Elves

Sooner or later, someone else will break some other tribe. In the mean time, Elves is basically the one viable tribal deck and with the use of Birchlore Rangers it can cast Mob Justice or Distant Melody pretty reliably (not bad for a deck with only 9 lands).

If you’ll notice, the interest in this card came way back when Wizards announced that Commander 2017 would be tribal decks. Before anyone even knew what the tribes would be, everyone decided that they knew there would be a blue. They were kind of right. While I don’t think the EDH demand quite justifies this price increase, I don’t think it can maintain its current price either with the new interest from Pauper. If Pauper is for real, expect to see this head upward and if this card survived a reprinting in Commander 2017 (it did; I should have probably said “since” and not “if” but I was doing a literary thing where I mirrored the previous statement… you know what? I don’t owe you an explanation) I expect a reprinting isn’t on the horizon and we could see some real growth from this card. There’s enough supply out there for current demand but as it rises, remember, second spikes are hard because there aren’t cheap, loose copies out there to backfill demand. This hits $3 or maybe even $4 pretty easily.

Having flirted with $15, the set foil is a mere $5 and that could have something to do with there being a competing foil. However, that foil is from a rare premium deck (the Slivers one) and the foiling is ugly. Anyone serious about foiling their pauper deck will get the good one and supply is pretty low.

Fog Frog

Pauper Deck – Abzan Control

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Tortured Existence is the MVP of this deck and with its price already at $3 (not bad for a common from Stronghold) and its EDH inclusion being less-than-impressive, I opted to talk about Fog Frog, a card whose stock  can only rise. Rare in the traditional sense of the word because it’s from an old, bad set, Foggity Froggity is nuts in a deck with Tortured Existence.

Pauper fever is catching up. This could easily hit $3 or $4 with sustained demand and the non-zero amount of EDH play it gets will only drag on supply and bolster its growth potential. Lots of people don’t even know this is a pick so be sure to paw through Prophecy bulk if you hit up older shops that have more boxes than customers; there are a lot of them out there.

I wouldn’t worry about getting a foil copy under $40, though. If you do, SHIP.

Gemhide Sliver

Pauper Deck – SLIVERS!

OK, so somehow Muscle Sliver, Sinew Sliver and Predatory Sliver are all common on Magic Online. That means you have a deck with all common creatures that has 12 lords in it. That seems good.

Lucky for us, Gemhide Sliver is going to be in all of the EDH Sliver decks because of course it is. That means if Meathooks gets popular (it’s a cheap deck if you already own Ash Barrens) the demand from the two formats puts a lot of pressure on a card with two printings, one of which was a terribly-foiled premium deck. Oh, and Fog Frog goes in the sideboard of this deck, usually, because despite every creature being a Sliver most of the time, people just call it “GW” because of stuff like Standard Bearer in the board. Maybe if more people knew there was a Slivers deck, they might give Pauper a chance. I mean, I doubt it, but a man can dream. I don’t think you understand how important to me it is that there are Slivers.

I think this should be enough to whet your appetite. It’s a good idea to just look at Pauper decklists to see what is getting played. Anything with cross-format applicability obviously has some upside to it and EDHREC has all of the info you need about how many and which decks jam these paper pauper picks. That does it for me, nerds. Until next time!

UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 2/5/17

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.


Heck of a weekend, wasn’t it? We started off Sunday morning with the bad guys winning (Lantern Control, not-Gerry), and finished off the day with the good guys winning (not-Patriots). And while they didn’t riot as hard in Bilbao as they did in Philadelphia, people enjoyed the return of the Modern Pro Tour just the same.

Before the top 8 even started, there were plenty taking to social media to express a desire to see something from Lantern banned, and that sentiment only increased with each successive round. Calls to do are are shortsighted, I assure you. While it doesn’t have the most ideal play pattern, the games are (typically) quicker than Eggs, and there’s plenty of reasonable interaction you can be playing. Especially when you consider how few people are even going to bother sleeving it up and showing up with it.

Collective Brutality (Foil)

Price Today: $35
Possible Price: $60

It’s sort of wild that it’s come to this, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion. Collective Brutality rapidly established itself in the Modern scene, and its popularity there has only grown. Looking through the PT IXR results, this much is clear. Of the top 8 lists, five are playing Brutality. The three that aren’t are UR Pyromancer, Humans, and Humans. Across the top performing decks, roughly 50% are running some number of the card. Did you catch that? Half of the best decks at PT IXR had Collective Brutality.

Calling $35 foils as having an upward trajectory is never a position I’m eager to find myself in, but there’s no denying it. The card is too popular in the format not to see continued gains. It was released in Eldritch Moon, the summer 2016 set. Don’t forget that summer sets are consistently the least opened sets in Magic. And when do you think you’re going to see it again? It’s highly suspect it shows up in Masters 25, and if it isn’t there, then what are the other options? We don’t have any other reprint sets on the horizon. That’s good reprint positioning for the eight most popular card in Modern.

Supply is low, it’s been popular for awhile, so there isn’t a glut of copies looking to hit the market if the price rises, and it’s used in all sorts of strategies, from midrange to control to combo. It’s likely Collective Brutality continues to rise, and could climb as high as $60 or more within 2018.

Mantis Rider (Foil)

Price Today: $7.50
Possible Price: $20

It’s been a wild ride for Humans, having started out the year as a “what deck won the tournament?” early in the year to being the most popular deck this weekend. I’ve been following it the whole way, discussing which cards I liked at which point of the deck’s run, starting with the easiest and scarcest cards. Now we’re here, and I’m talking about a Khans of Tarkir rare.

Humans was the most popular deck of the event, but it wasn’t the hottest performer. While it did manage to put two copies into the top 8, it didn’t have unreal conversion rates or anything. (Props to Hollow One for that. 100% for 13 decks I think?) An average conversion rate isn’t going to stop players from picking up Humans to play at their local store. It’s clearly a solid strategy, fun to play, and has game in most metas. Add in that most of it is quite affordable, and you’ve got a great onramp deck.

I was suspect that Mantis Rider would be an integral part of the strategy, as it seemed like a sort of filler card that was there as a serviceable human that could get kills, but would flex into a more useful, more technical slot once it was clear what the deck needed. Apparently that’s wrong, as Mantis Rider has been a four of in basically every humans list I’ve seen.

Foils haven’t moved much from their perch at $7 to $8 for a few months now. This is Khans of Tarkir, so we’re not going to see $70 or anything, but with Humans having proved themselves as a strategy, the deck is here to stay. Foil Mantis Riders will begin being eaten up, and a price tag closer to $20 won’t be far behind.

Utter End (Promo)

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $15

Even with all the excitement of the Pro Tour, we can’t forget about our old friend EDH. It was the MTG finance engine of 2017, and we’ve got no reason to expect any different this year. Today I stumbled upon Utter End, a removal spell found in over 17,000 EDHREC lists (which makes it the 13th most popular multicolored card in the format).

I probably don’t need to go on for long here. 17k decks says a great deal. The rest of this comes from the fact that I’m talking about a Game Day promo, which is a promo type we’ve never seen reprinted with their full art treatment in, like, 10 years? Admittedly the art isn’t as cool as it could be, but you can’t have it all.

Copies are $3, which is pretty dang cheap for a such a popular card. Especially so when you notice how few vendors there are. 18 as of this writing. That’s a combination for explosive growth – a low buy in and not a lot of sellers. Probably won’t be like this for long.

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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Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan: Day 2 Analysis

So far this weekend at Pro Tour: Rivals of Ixalan, we’ve seen our assumptions about Modern play out pretty much as expected. The field of pros was largely unable to table a definitive solution to a format with this many viable decks and the Day 1 Meta breakdown demonstrated this clearly.

An amazing 23 (!) decks made up at least 1% of the field coming into this weekend which is a far cry from what we’ve seen in recent seasons of Standard. It also illustrates why the pros seem to have gravitated towards playing the decks they know best rather than attempting to out maneuver the meta with a fresh brew. With so many possibilities, meta gaming must bow to skillful play.

5C Humans, Affinity, Burn, Tron and Grixis Shadow made up the largest slices of the field, but none of them represented more than 10%, and combined the Top 5 archetypes were still less than 38%,

In a field like this our best bet is to focus on emerging tech foils and multi-archetype staples that are in low supply.

So far we’ve already seen several of the foils for 5C Humans dry up and sales should be solid heading into next week if the deck does well in Top 8 and solidifies it’s position as part of the Tier 1 Modern gauntlet.

To attempt to figure out what might move this afternoon as the Top 8 is settled, we should take a look at which decks boasted the best Day 1 to Day 2 conversion rates.

First, let’s flag the worst performing archetypes so we know what to consider avoiding in spec land:

  1. Titan Shift: 37.5% (6 of 16)
  2. Dredge: 52.9% (9 of 17)
  3. Mardu Pyromancer: 53.8% (7 of 13)
  4. U/R Gifts Storm: 56.5% (13 of 23)
  5. B/G Mid-Range: 55.6% (5 of 9)

Despite Gerry T’s deep run with Mardu Pyromancer, the conversion rate for the deck overall should give you some pause on speculating in that direction. Primal Titan doesn’t look like a great bet, and the field seemed to be ready for both Dredge and Storm strategies.

The Top 5 conversion rates belong to:

  1. Traverse Shadow: 84.6% (11 of 13)
  2. Eldrazi Tron: 76.9% (20 of 26)
  3. Jeskai Control: 73.9% (17 of 23)
  4. Tron: 68.8% (22 of 32)
  5. 5c Humans 67.4% (29 of 43)

Despite a relatively small sample size, it could be that the Traverse Death’s Shadow builds may have been underestimated coming into the tournament. Traverse the Ulvenwald foils are still available around $10, but supply is pretty shallow and this card also sees solid demand from the Commander/EDH scene. Modern Masters 2017 Death’s Shadow foils are also relatively scarce, and could make a move towards $20+ from $12-14. The fact that there are two versions of the Death’s Shadow decks also provides some insulation against meta shifts on that spec.

Traverse the UlvenwaldDeath's Shadow

Both of the main flavors of the Tron builds were top converters which further entrenches that archetype as one of the giants of the format. With most versions running multiple copies of Wurmcoil Engine as their mid-tier threat, you might want to have a look at how few Masterpiece copies are still floating about under $90, with potential to push $120-$150 this year. Other versions are also worth a look but I’m a bit worried that this card could show up in Magic 25 this spring. Karn Liberated hasn’t seen a reprint since Modern Masters 2015, is often played as a 4 of in Tron builds and only has two printings total, so should it dodge a reprint in Magic 25, a move on non-foils from $70 to $100+ on low supply could take place. For the record I think a reprint in the first half of 2018 is likely, but roll the dice as you may. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon hasn’t yet seen a reprint outside his promo version, and I’d bet on Karn seeing a reprint first, so picking up a few of these at $30 with the assumption it will get to $50 before a reprint could work out as well.

Karn LiberatedWurmcoil Engine

A quick glance at the Jeskai Control lists would suggest a couple of decent targets. Supreme Verdict is likely to be the best sweeper in Modern and EDH for quite some time, and if you’re looking to pick up a foil, they can be had for as little as $7 after the recent reprint in Iconic Masters. Search for Azcanta has made strong inroads into the blue decks in the format, so you might want to have a look at the foils on these, especially the ultra rare Japanese Buy-A-Box version with the alternate map art on the back.

Supreme VerdictSearch for Azcanta

You can see my notes on the 5CHumans cards in play from the setup article yesterday over here.

If you’re feeling like targeting a long shot, perhaps take a look at Hollow One or Flamewake Phoenix foils from this sexy deck brought to the tournament by Ken Yukuhiro, who is now at 12-2 with a solid shot at Top 8. This deck had a 100% conversion rate to Day 2, on a small sample size.

Why the focus on foils you ask? Well, most of the cards mentioned above boast fairly deep supply in non-foil, so foils are the safer shot at leveraging low supply into some profit or savings.

If you’re looking for more specs, take a look at the list of most played cards at the tournament and cross check against supply levels: https://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/ptrix/day-one-metagame-breakdown-2018-02-02

Dech Tech #5: Lukas Blohon on Esper Goryo’s Vengeance

This deck abuses the interactions between Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Obzedat, Ghost Council that leave them in play after being brought in via Goryo’s Vengeance.

I’ll be checking back in as we see the Top 8 decks emerge. Stay tuned!

12:15pm EST: Top 8 looks like it will include at least:

  1. Pascal Vieren: UR Pyromancer (watch Thing in the Ice foil prices)
  2. Luis Salvatto: Lantern Control
  3. Ken Yukihiro: BR Hollow One (watch Hollow One + Flamewake Phoenix foils)
  4. Gerry Thompson: Mardu Pyromancer (Bedlam Reveler foils)
  5. Javier Dominguez: 5C Humans (lots of price motion likely)
  6. Reid Duke: Abzan Mid-Range (unlikely to generate much movement)
  7. Jean-Emmanuel Depraz: Traverse Shadow
  8. Andrea Mengucci: 5CHumans

This is a diverse Top 8, typical of the current state of the format and it’s anyone’s guess what will come out on top tomorrow. Keep an eye on the inventory levels for the key cards mentioned above.

James Chillcott 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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