Weekend Recap 4/5/14

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By: Jim Marsh

Every week cards from Magic the Gathering increase and decease in value based upon a number of factors.

Let’s take a look at some of the cards whose values have changed the most, and the factors behind why those changes occurred.

10 Big Winners of the Week

10. Worn Powerstone

$3.13 to $3.76 (20.1%)

Worn Powerstone is at an interesting place in its life. As an uncommon from Urza’s Saga, it was printed as a “fixed” Sol Ring.

A two mana jump in mana can be huge.

Cast it on turn three (or earlier if you have other ramp cards) and on turn four you are guaranteed to have five or six mana (if you hit your land drop.) 

That means you have enough to cast Nekusar, the Mindrazer or Aurelia, the Warleader. Or a Primeval Titan. You get the idea.

Sol Ring is obviously much more powerful, but market saturation due to the flood of Commander decks is depressing its price.

Worn Powerstone is on the way up. In formats where you can only have one of each card (Commander and Cube) the Powerstone can often be looked at as Sol Ring number 2.

It is also colorless, so you can run it nomatter what colors your commander is (you try to find good ramp in Grixis colors) or what colors you are drafting in the Cube.

Since its increase in price is based solely on Casual demand, I don’t know how much farther it has to go. Six weeks ago it was $2. Now it is climbing surely, but steadily towards $4.

Can it hit $5? $6?

I don’t know, but I suspect the time to get in would have been a couple of months ago when it was $1.

9. No Mercy

$9.50 to $11.63 (22.4%)

Here is another card that is behind held aloft based entirely upon casual formats, and from the looks of it, black control commander decks.

Nothing says “attack someone else” quite like a big sign that may as well read “Trespassers Will Be Shot.”

That’s the actual card text to No Mercy.

Maybe your commander is Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, the omnipresent Nekusar or Sol’kanar, the Swamp King.

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Whatever your plan is, this is a fantastic “rattlesnake” card that just makes every player away that you are not a threat unless you are threatened.

It’s a rare from Urza’s Legacy and it has never been reprinted, so supplies are not that great.

It has jumped to almost $13, come down to $9 and jumped again to nearly $12. This is indicative of a card trying to find a new price floor, and sooner rather than later it will stick. This is no longer the $6 or $7 it has been for the past year. I would not be surprised to see it stick around $14 or $15 in the near future.

8. Kaalia of the Vast

$17.63 to $21.99 (24.7%)

Once again, the power of Commander compels us.

Kaalia has been printed twice. She can only be found in the exorbitantly priced Heavenly Inferno Commander deck (the cheapest English copy I can find is $150 on eBay) or the even more pricey Commander’s Arsenal ($250.)

She is one of three possible Commanders for a Newspaper Commander Deck (Black, White and Red all over) and she is by far the most powerful.

She is cheap to cast (only four mana!) which means that even if she falls in battle, she will be back again and again.

She only gets better as more Angels, Demons and Dragons are printed (have you seen her interaction with Master of Cruelties or Rakdos, Lord of Riots?)

That is saying nothing of the sheer soul crushing power of getting a free Angel of Serenity, Iona, Shield of Emeria or Linvala, Keeper of Silence.

I don’t see her coming down any time soon.

7. Tropical Island

$129.23 to $161.49 (25.0%)

Lo, and behold a card played in a competitive deck! The price of real estate in Magic is only going up for right now, at least as far as fetch lands and dual lands is concerned.

After Volcanic Island jumped $100 almost overnight recently, it is almost inevitable that every other dual land that is played in Legacy does the same.

Tropical Island is featured in BUG, BUG Delver, RUG Delver, Esper Stoneblade, ANT and more. Two of which (BUG and BUG Delver featured in the Top 8 in San Diego on 3/30.)

It is right at home helping players cast Brainstorm, Deathrite Shaman, Tarmogoyf, True-Name Nemesis and Vendilion Cliques alike. That is not to mention powerful Planeswalkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

I have a feeling we have more growth to be seen.

6. Grafdigger’s Cage

$2.60 to $3.32 (27.7%)

Grafdigger’s Cage find itself as the sideboard card of choice in both Legacy and Modern.

It is featured in Esper Stoneblade, UWR Miracles, Death and Taxes, Sneak and Show, Imperial Painter’s, Jund, Faeries and more. 

It can easily and efficiently cut off  Narcomoeba, flashback cards like Cabal Therapy or anything that Snapcaster Mage is targeting. It makes reanimation decks look silly.

It makes Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling decks fair.

If you don’t rely on your graveyard (or pulling creatures straight from your library – sorry Dryad Arbor) then you can run this, hopefully play it on turn one and just make some decks scoop.

It’s hard to believe it has more than doubled in value in the past six weeks.

I don’t expect that trend to continue, but I do feel it is going to continue to climb and will probably be at least $5 before it stops.

5. Bayou

$115.00 to $148.41 (29.1%)

Remember everything I said about Tropical Island?

Repeat that, only this card helps enable Turn 1 Thoughtseize, Deathrite Shaman, Cabal Therapy, Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor, mana elves and more.

It is featured in Esperstoneblade, UBG, Jund, Elves, Shardless BUG, Nic-Fit, Junk and more.

It is usually featured in multiples in the decks that run it, which is more than Tropical Island can say.

I will be a little surprised if this does not hit $200 in the next month or two.

4. Exploration

$33.45 to $43.76 (30.8%)

Lands! Legacy offers a wide variety of powerful lands and this turn 1 enabler lets you break parity and star slamming down Karakas, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Dark Depths and more.

Thoughtseize probably feels kind of silly when you are starting at a handful of lands.

The card was only printed as a rare in Urza’s Saga, so there are not many to go around.

The deck is not very prevalent in the metagame, but it is a viable option and can catch the opponent off guard by attacking from a different axis than most decks do.

It has been appearing in MTGO Top 8s and the increase in price is indicative of players putting the deck together to try it out.

It has been growing aggressively as of late (it was $27 as recently as Valentine’s Day) and it looks like it continue to grow.

3. Winds of Change

$1.50 to $2.25 (50.0%)

Back to Nekusar, the Mindrazer!

What is remarkable about this is that even with four different printings (and one as an uncommon, no less) every version of this card is being snatched up to play with the Grixis commander of choice. 

What else would you expect from a one mana Storm Seeker that hits every one of your opponents while reloading your hand?

It also makes it difficult for your opponents to stockpile answers in their hand.

Combine it with a few reanimation spells and you can look at all of those freshly stocked graveyards like a kid in a candy store.

I expect Wheel of Fate and Reforge the Soul to be increasing in popularity as well off the back of Nekusar. They both only have one printing.

2. Teferi’s Puzzle Box

$1.50 to $2.49 (66.0%)

What’s better than a Winds of Change?

How about a free Winds of Change every turn, forever?

Even with a staggering five printings, this card has room to grow.

I expect a lot people that even have this card in their binder consider it bulk, so I‘d say now is the time to strike.

Never before has a group hug card felt so mean.

1. Negate (Magic Players Textless Reward Card)

$3.92 to $12.35 (215.1%)

The rise in the popularity of Modern has given way to the inevitable pimping of decks.

As an eternal format, staple cards can be upgraded to their splashiest versions so that they look good on camera and impress your opponents while you stop their Scapeshifts and Splinter Twins

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Negate is used in a variety of decks, including Splinter Twin, UR Delver, UWR Control, Azorius Midrange and others.

The card had been showing modest growth and had been holding at $4 as recently as a week ago.

I will be honest, I see the appeal, but for a card that usually is only seen as a couple of copies in the sideboard, I would be more excited about textless Lightning Bolt (already a considerable sum) or Lightning Helix.

It has been printed eight times, as a common and foils of each of those versions can be had for $1.50 each if the player is concerned about making their deck look as fancy as possible.

I think Negate just became victim of the latest internet buyout and will probably come crashing down to $6 to $8. I’d move mine if I had any.

5 Big Losers of the Week

5. Hinder (Magic Players Textless Reward Card)

$6.89 to $6.48 (-6.0%)

Ironically, I feel that is better positioned than Negate. It only has two printings. It is not played in Modern, but it used in Commander, as it can “tuck’ a commander or other problem card.

I don’t feel bad at all about the card settling. It was $4 and jumped to $7, and has been trying to find a home between $6 and $7.

I think in the long term this will see growth.

4. Ghostly Prison

$6.71 to $6.00 (-10.6%)

This card may be grouped with the losers, but it is still a big winner in my book. It is especially impressive for an uncommon card. 

It had been a $4 card that jumped to nearly $7 and is settling. Growing 50% in the past month is nothing to scoff at.

Not only is it popular in Commander decks that want their opponents to look the other way (like No Mercy) but it is now used in a variety of white control decks.

It sees play in Soul Sisters (in the sideboard), Death and Taxes, Martyr Proclamation decks, and I could not be surprised to see it in Azorius Control shells in the future.

It would also be interesting to see in Bant or Selesnya Hexproof.

3. Jace, Architect of Thought

$15.00 to $13.11 (-12.6%)

This was inevitable.

For $20 you get a Remand, Jace Architect of Thought and 118 other cards. (Sorry, Vraska, the Unseen.)

It is going to keep dropping too.

Sure, it’s used in Esper and Azorius Control decks in Standard, but there are sure to be shake ups in the metagame with the release of Journey Into Nyx, and then rotation will be upon us.

It is barely used in Modern and with the opening of many Duel Decks to get the Remand inside, supply will be flooding in as demand dwindles.

That is a sure recipe for a downward crash in price.

2. Ancient Tomb

$49.01 to $37.00 (-24.5%)

Let’s make no apologies here. Ancient Tomb is good.

It is used in Sneak and Show, to help race for a turn two Show and Tell into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand.

In Imperial Painter’s it can get you a quick Imperial Recruiter or Painter’s Servant.

It can give you a turn one Phyrexian Revoker, which can Stifle a lot of decks, if played correctly.

So why the drop?

Over the past month it jumped from $12 to $17 to almost $50 one after another.

It’s a powerful card, but is it a $50 card?

I think the market got a little carried away correcting itself and now it is destined to continue to drop down to a respectable $20 to $30 card.

It will still be powerful and valuable, but as an uncommon and a printing in a From the Vault, it cannot just decide to quadruple without tournament results to back it up.

1. Silent-Blade Oni

$8.79 to $6.46 (-26.5%)

Is it a $6 card? Is it a $9 card? It cannot decide and neither can the market.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

This card is only of use in casual formats. It is not a staple anywhere. It is a Johnny/Timmy’s delight, but is that enough?

I don’t expect any answer soon.

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Chicken or Egg? Omelette!

By: Cliff Daigle

In case you didn’t know, I play a lot of commander games. I love the interactions of 99 cards, I love offbeat tribal decks, I love seeing the unique creations we build in the format.

We’ve had two generations of the preconstructed commander decks, and each time, we have gotten some legends who truly deserve to be built around.

One thing that has happened with each set of decks has been that some of the legends included in the precons have gotten a lot more attention, focus, and decks built in their honor. From the 2011 set, I’d have to say that Kaalia of the Vast and Riku of Two Reflections got the most decks built around them. All of them got tried but these two did some unique things. Kaalia is a way to cheat costs on some popular and overcosted tribes and Riku copies spells and is a combo-enabler, traits which led to some enjoyably degenerate decks. 

Animar, Soul of Elements has seen a recent spike to near $20, indicating that I’m not the only one who enjoyed chaining together creature after creature. (Want some real gas? Put Animar in charge of an all-Artifact-Creature deck. Start with Frogmite, add a Vedalken Archmage, chain all the way up to Blightsteel Colossus. Affinity never had it this good!)

In the newest incarnation of preconstructed decks, there’s been one clear winner: Nekusar, the Mindreaver. This card has led to price spikes in lots of other cards, such as Wheel of Fortune and Forced Fruition.

However…there’s an added wrinkle. Nekusar just happens to be one of the legends included in the same Commander deck as True-Name Nemesis.

TNN is still a $40 card, despite the deck itself being found at big-box stores randomly for $30. Is it possible that Nekusar decks are becoming so popular not because of the legend’s power or flavor, but because people are buying the deck for the Nemesis and then have a pile of cards to work with?

Wizards is about to change their distribution model too. Instead of retailers getting one of each C13 deck, they will get two Mind Seize and three random decks. More supply is coming!

This represents an opportunity, even if we missed out on some of the already-spiked cards. Perhaps Underworld Dreams is going to spike next, as a backup. Maybe it’ll be the new Hag who also damages opponents who draw cards.

For an example of what I mean, look at the price of Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Released within a few months of Kaalia, the two of them are the best of friends. Avacyn is a pricey card, especially in foil, though she sees no play in any Constructed format. Avacyn’s only drawback is her mana cost, and luckily, that is what Kaalia is best at dealing with. Nekusar and Forced Fruition work together in a similar way; it’s hard to imagine a curve of five into six that will result in more shenanigans, since every spell played means seven damage.

The Nekusar decks are going to get a real tool in the Magic 2015 enchantment Waste Not. It’s cheap and it rewards you for making others discard, which many of the Nekusar effects also cause. It’s not as direct as something like Megrim or Liliana’s Caress, but it enables so much more.

Seizan, Peverter of Truth is creeping upward, and I’m really surprised to see Memory Jar at its current price. I have had a good time trading for Jars at $4-$5, or the FTV foils at a couple dollars more. Eventually, Nekusar players will catch on to the power of not just drawing, but discarding too.

So if Nekusar is the first general to cause spikes in price, because of True-Name Nemesis, which generals will cause other spikes? Let’s look at one general from each deck.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic: likely Exquisite Blood, perhaps foil Vizkopa Guildmage

I love lifegain decks. I’ve had one myself, based on Vish Kal. I like that this Esper deck gives you three very different generals to play with, and Oloro has the unique effect of free lifegain no matter the zone he’s in. What do we do when we gain life? Anything!

For my money, this is the most likely general to cause price increases, for two reasons:

1) It’s free lifegain.  If you’ve ever piloted a lifelink deck, you know that’s the trick: gaining the life. It’s not about what tricks you have, it’s about having the trick AND some way to gain life. This is automatic, costs nothing, and works all the time, unless he got shuffled in somehow.

2) Toxic Deluge is one of the best sweepers in Legacy. It can go early and late and have exactly the effect you need, and there’s no resistance or protection from having negative toughness. This is the package that the still-pricey Deluge is in, and could get the same bonus that Nekusar got for being in the TNN package. More copies of this deck being bought means more of Oloro, and more people seeking lifegain synergies.

Prossh, Skyraider: Breath of Fury, In the Web of War, Goblin Bombardment

The trick with Breath of Fury is that you don’t need to be attacking the same player over and over again. All it takes is getting through once, and that enables you to start chaining sacrifices and attacks together.

In the Web of War is so amazing. It’s two mana more than plain Fervor, but the instant bonus and haste is incredible, especially if you spent a lot of mana on Prossh. Sure, you can sacrifice tokens for all sorts of effects (I love that Goblin Bombardment was included in this deck) but why not do what comes natural, and send those Kobolds to do some work. Sacrificing can always be post-combat.

Gahiji, Honored One: Aurelia, the Warleader, In the Web Of War

Gahji would be great in a token strategy, but doubling his effect with either Aurelia or ItWoW is what we love to do as Commander players. Sure, it’s a bit of a win-more play, but getting twice as much for each creature seems like a lot of fun to anyone.

In the Web of War is in the perfect place for a spike: It’s from an older, underprinted set, it is available for cheap in lots of places, and fits either of these strategies remarkably well.

Roon of the Hidden Realm:  Minion Reflector and Strionic Resonator

First of all, my apologies to anyone who knows the Phasing rules. I’d originally been trumpeting the utility of Teferi’s Veil, but it turns out that Phasing doesn’t trigger leaving or entering the battlefield effects. I’m not sure how I got that so confused, but that’s my bad.

Instead, here’s two other cards that will combo well with either Roon’s ability to flicker or with creatures that want to be flickered. Both cards allow you to double up on the enter/exit abilities of any creature for an extra two mana. The Reflector is especially spicy, since no tapping is required. This means you can use the Reflector as often as you have the mana and the ability to flicker!

Both cards come from a less-opened set. Shards of Alara was forever ago, with a significantly smaller print run, and M14 had pressure from Modern Masters lowering its expectations. The Resonator already has a devoted following, but if Roon becomes the new popular kid, lots of others will jump on the Strionic bandwagon.

The best part of compliing this list was thinking of awesome cards, and then seeing that they were already in Commander 2013. It’s pleasing when Wizards can jump on a theme this way.

Magic Online’s Bots

By: Camden Clark

This is part two of my series on Magic Online and its financial implications.

The economy of Magic Online is “made” by the official Wizards store (and events) and the unofficial bots. This dichotomy permeates throughout every facet of Magic Online. Unofficial prices on things has to be lower than the official Wizards price or they are not competitive.

This is especially common with booster packs.

Unlike in paper, where Wizards sets an MSRP and store owners set their price, all normal set boosters cost four tickets and are adjusted to some amount lower based on supply, demand, and the price of the cards in the boosters. Some booster’s unofficial prices drop to under three tickets (Dragon’s Maze) while others stay quite close to four tickets. I have never seen a booster pack price rise over four tickets while its set was still in standard rotation. 

It might not make sense why pack prices are under four tickets if there is no way to bring them into circulation outside of Wizards’ events or store.

Constructed events provide the surplus of booster packs that drive the economy. Thousands play in constructed events such as Daily Events (Swiss 4-round, prize support to 3-1 and 4-0) and 8-mans (single elimination three round, like the Top 8 of a GP). All of these provide payouts in booster packs.

When you get booster packs from doing well, you can either keep them or sell them for event tickets to get back into constructed events. The vast majority of people do the latter. This generates massive surpluses.

The people who buy booster packs use them for draft events. If the draft format is popular, the demand is huge. They will keep buying packs to use. However, draft events also give out packs as prizes. As this happens, supply will eventually outstrip demand as the draft format falls out of favor. This means booster prices will decrease as constructed players continue to enter into events.

After the next set has its release events, constructed events will switch to the next set as prize support (there are exceptions).

Why is this all significant?

It means booster prices swings are quite easy to predict. If the second set of a block’s draft format has the previous set in it, you can expect prices of the previous set to increase. This is because there will be little supply coming in from constructed events as they switched to the next set.

Boosters are a very good investment target because they are extremely liquid and have small margins. A booster pack like Theros, which was at three prior to the release of Born of the Gods, is an extremely safe target for a bulk of cash. Margins can be as low as a tenth of a ticket, which means the price only has to go up by ten cents for you to profit. They are extremely easy to sell, there are hundreds of bots devoted to boosters that will buy on demand.

Let’s talk about another facet of the Magic Online economy, the secondary card market.

The developer of Magic Online attempted valiantly to create a mechanism for players to trade with each other. However, the same problems with person-to-person trade exist. Players often get rid of cards they don’t want instead of holding on to them for trade binders. Often you will want a niche card for Modern that scouring several player’s trade binders will not yield. Card shops can hold an inventory.

These issues are magnified when card shops don’t have to mail you your cards, have little overhead for maintaining their shop other than cards, and provide instantaneous access to the cards you need for your deck.

Thus, bots were born.

Bots provide the liquidity on Magic Online. There are small bot chains of a single bot all the way up to chains of a dozen. They are quick and transactions usually take less than a minute.

This quick trading speed is the allure and downfall of Magic Online. It is easy to speculate on cards but you are almost entirely dependent on bots who set margins similar to buylists in paper.

Speculating on Magic Online is a bit outside the scope of this article; however, it’s important to know these things for paper investment. You aren’t getting the whole picture of which cards are getting bought if you aren’t on Magic Online. Knowing your way around the bots is a great way to be cognizant of the inventory of different bot chains and make buy decisions in paper.

Many run-ups happen on Magic Online before they happen in paper. More importantly, inventory changes happen first on Magic Online. Similar to the inventory data here on MTGPrice, the inventory data that is visible on Magic Online is invaluable for investment on Magic Online.

Even better, the major bot chains keep their inventory data online. Speaking of major bot chains, why don’t we go through them (objectively) as they are such an important facet of the economy:

MTGOTraders

MTGOTraders is the largest and most public bot chain. It (probably) has the largest inventory but also has much higher prices. It is one of the easiest places to find a card. They allow you to purchase cards from their website using PayPal (you don’t have to use event tickets) and you get a significant discount.

They have over a dozen bots. They have quite a few bots with normal inventory, along with buy bots. They also have some bots that serve niche roles such as bulk cards.

Although they often have the highest prices, they do a lot of volume. Often, they have the highest buy prices for older cards and pauper staples.

MTGOTraders is a very good resource to see whether you are being ripped off. It also publishes its inventory data online, updated instantaneously. That’s valuable for a variety of reasons.

They also have some decent casual-ish articles at http://puremtgo.com. I recommend them.

MTGOAcademy

MTGOAcademy is the main competitor of MTGOTraders. They have similar prices to MTGOTraders, and some similar features.

In all honesty, I have rarely used MTGOAcademy so I cannot say anything specifically about their bots or prices.

MTGOAcademy also has great strategy articles at http://mtgoacademy.com. Michael Hetrick used to do videos for them.

SupernovaBots

SupernovaBots is another major bot chain. I have some limited experience with their bots. I have only been disappointed a few times by the selection that they have, but the prices are quite good.

There is little special about this bot chain, in my opinion.

The MTGOLibrary Bots

MTGOLibrary provides a service that allows people to run their own bots. They have a pay-as-you-go service for small bot owners to pay small amounts per trade that the bot makes.

There are hundreds of MTGOLibrary bots. They all have similar user interfaces.

If you are looking for a specific card, I highly recommend going to http://mtgolibrary.com. They have a price look-up tool that searches all of the bot’s inventories for the bots with the best prices. Although sometimes not updated, you can try to search out the bots that have the lowest prices.

One of the MTGOLibrary bots that I have used a LOT due to their low prices is MTGOBazaar. I am not affiliated with them but I highly recommend them for old cards as they have some of the lowest prices (I found a Primeval Titan for four dollars cheaper than the going price). They also give free prize support to some of the Player Run Events on Magic Online which is a good reason to support them.

The F—ing Annoying Buy Bots

Annoying buy bots.

They are a plague on Magic Online.

There are hundreds of these bots that have similar formatting for their “classifieds” posting. There are maybe a few people running two or three chains. They post insultingly low buy prices for thousands of different cards and prey on players who don’t know their way around the system. They are not fair with their pricing. Under no circumstances would I sell to one of these bots. Someone else always has a better price.

A great way to spot these is if they don’t sell cards (unless they are a buy bot for a major chain of bots, like the MTGOTraders Buy Bots). They are simply going to flip your cards to a different bot. Or, do your homework and see if the prices they are giving you are reasonable or not.

I hope this evaluation of bots and how they deal with things was educational. These are important to know even if you never boot up Magic Online. Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/CamdenClarkMTG\ I’d love to chat with you and you can see what I’m going to write about next.

Thanks!

MAGIC: THE GATHERING BLOG, ARTICLES, AND COMMUNITY

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