Tag Archives: cliff daigle

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Hammer Time!

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Punny titles just make my heart sing.

So the banhammer showed up this past Monday and hit hard on the two tall trees in current Standard, making Energy and Ramunap Red both less consistent yet not completely dead.

I want to reiterate that point, before we go much further: The decks aren’t dead, they just aren’t as good as they were. Energy loses a lot of the free buildup it got with Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, which makes a lot of the associated cards worse. It’s not impossible that someone builds a pretty good Energy deck, but it’s harder to do. Red loses the reach of Ramunap Ruins and also the oppressive power of Rampaging Ferocidon, a card I was going to write about in a week or two.

On the heels of that announcement, we have a number of cards that are jumping in price, and frankly, it’s exciting. The hammer came down on four cards, and a bunch of other cards popped up.

Keep in mind that these are prices for week 1 of Standard, we haven’t gotten the large-scale product being opened until this weekend.

To the cards!

 

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The Merfolk

Deeproot Elite ($5, up from $2.50)

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca ($23, up from $10)

Jadelight Ranger ($8, up from $3)

I don’t like tapping Merfolk and not attacking. Am I crazy?

First of all, I want to apologize for last week, when I wrote words indicating that Kumena wasn’t good enough and you should sell at $12. I didn’t think this through. Merfolk are pushed in Standard right now, and yeah, they were waiting for their chance to shine. Maybe now is that time? People are buying up this card at rates to indicate this is the case. Even Kopala, Warden of Waves has gone up by $1.50.

I can absolutely see the appeal to the Merfolk deck, and the linear way it’ll play. Double explore on turn three is just great value no matter how you end up with cards, and there’s a lot of synergies to play with.

Any Merfolk, not just this creature. Be warned!

Lots of other Merfolk have seen minor bumps, but these are the big three and these are the ones to look out for. This feels like a ceiling, I wouldn’t be holding out for $30 on Kumena or $10 for the other rares, even though the other two really love being four-ofs. If Merfolk does well this weekend, on camera as part of the SCG Tour, they might indeed grow this first week until supply can be opened enough to meet demand.

Sleeper pick: Heroic Intervention

So here’s the thing: Merfolk wants to flood the board (pun intended) and the best answer to the perfect Merfolk curve is a sweeper, like Fumigate. Heroic Intervention is going to rotate in a few months, putting some risk on it, yet it’s in 6500 Commander decks over on EDHREC and that makes me feel a lot better about picking up a few copies.

 

The Dinosaurs

Ghalta, Primal Hunger (up to $5 from $2.50)

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Tetzimoc, Primal Death (up to $3 from $1)

These two have doubled in price because they are powerful and awesome. Tetzimoc is being hailed as one of the best Limited cards ever ( a fair assessment, if you’ve played with it or against it) and Ghalta is able to land on turn four or five in Standard these days, ending the game rapidly if there isn’t an answer.

Regisaur Alpha also gained $1.50 this week, seems decent with Ghalta?

Are these giant death lizards enough to combat the finned menace? Perhaps. It’s a lot of fun to play cards like these, even if both die to the Ravenous Chupacabra. What seems clear is that people want to play with these cards in Constructed, which is why the prices doubled this week.

Sleeper Pick: Slaughter the Strong

This card basically says “Sacrifice all Dinosaurs, including that pesky Carnage Tyrant!”

I don’t think it’ll be a four-of in maindecks. I see this as being a three-of in control sideboards, who don’t always want to give the mana advantage of Settle the Wreckage. You can find Slaughter right now in the $1.50 range, and I don’t think it’ll be adopted in the first week, giving it a chance to slide under $1. That’s a pretty sweet price point to move in on, and it’s a card that has a year and a half to make waves.

The Vampires

Twilight Prophet (Up to $9 from $7.50)

Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle (Up to $2 from $1.25)

Sanctum Seeker (Up to $2 from $1)

We had a small window for profit on these back in November, when Mono-White Vampires made a splash at the Pro Tour, but the deck didn’t stay around. It’s got the potential to do some truly amazing things. Sanctum Seeker is the second coming of Hellrider for these decks, and perhaps people have forgotten how fast that card closes games? Not having haste is worse, yes, but there’s a lot of good cards to play.

The other B/W legendary vampires haven’t seen much movement yet, and that’s not a huge shock so far. They are for more grindy games, and at first blush, Standard looks like a race.

Sleeper Pick: Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Just get me that Grave Pact, darling, and we’re in business!

It’s easy to forget about the sweet vampires we were given in Aether Revolt, and Gifted Aetherborn is an easy four-of if the deck is real. Yahenni has potential to see a big bump as an addition to the new Vampire decks, as long as they aren’t too far on the white side.

 

 

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.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Resolutions Old and New

I do like to look back at a year and look forward to the new year.

It’s been a crazy time for me, as I have had a lot of upheaval in my personal and professional life, but here I am, chugging along at this, the habit and hobby that has treated me so very well over the years.

Let’s start with a review of last year’s goals:

#1: Make Day 2 of a Grand Prix

Nope, hasn’t happened, but to be fair, I only played in one GP main event. I’m starting to think that the value isn’t there, for the main events anyway. This is a discussion that a lot of people have, and I strongly suspect that the prevalence of team events is a way to fire up interest. Plus, a lot of times, the main event (especially if it’s Sealed, I don’t have the competitive fire to play the same Modern or Standard deck for 15 rounds) just feels like wasted time when there’s so many awesome side events to be doing. More on this line of thinking in a moment though.

#2: Spend more money

Mostly accomplished. I’ve taken profits out of my collection in order to fund new acquisitions, and that’s been a delightful time. I’ve given myself some treats this year, especially after 2016, a year in which I sold off a lot of things at a very good price. It’s true that if I’d held, I’d have made more on some of them, but reprints have been fast and furious this year. I don’t feel jilted, or upset.

#3: Build a Cube

Holy crap did I accomplish this goal. I started with a card I loved but I could never draft it or if I did, I never got the deck for it: Winding Constrictor. I started looking for other build-around cards, and that led me to a theme of only uncommons. (If you’re interested, the list is here.)

I’d enjoyed the Cubes of others but building one has shown me the ridiculously high EV of having my own Cube. I’d rather Cube than any other format, hands down. I’m less fond of busted formats like the current Vintage/Holiday Cube on MTGO, but that is always an eye-opener of an experience.

I would strongly advocate that you build a cube that you can update. Vintage Cube gets a couple of cards with each expansion, but mostly afterthoughts. Pauper Cube, or Frontier Cube, or Tri-Color Cube, those get some great new cards with every set that comes out, and it’s super fun to curate your own list.  

#4: Treat Magic as a social event, not just a game or a financial transaction.

Super accomplished. It’s easy to lose sight of the social aspect, given the financial angle and the competitive aspects of the game, but for me, this is always going to be social.

Like a lot of other players, this game has been the gateway for me to meet some of my best friends. I didn’t get to play a lot while my children were young, and with them being a little older, I’m able to go out and be me again. Getting divorced was (and is, the process takes FOREVER) painful, but I’ve got a support system of friends who know that sometimes I need a good twenty minutes to rant about Cyclonic Rift and why it needs to be banned.

 

So what about this coming year?

#1: Finish the Un-Cube

I haven’t yet built a Cube that contains multiples, often called a Draft Cube. I’m arguing with my friends about how I don’t want the logistics of the 5 copies per common as opposed to 4, but the framework is in place. I want, very badly, to have it be evenly split between the three Un-sets but they are such different animals and have very different ideas of design.

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#2: Attend at least 3 GPs, including #GPVegas

I’ve missed both big GP events in the desert, and this year, with my summer break coinciding well, I’m determined to make it out there. I also want to try and hit up another American GP, likely on the East Coast but that’s in the air.

#3: Meet Travis and James and Jason in person

Strange but true: I’ve been writing for MTGPrice for four and a half years, I think Travis came on a month before me, and James not too much later, but we’ve never crossed paths in person. I don’t have a particular motivation, and I hope this happens at GP Vegas.

Yes, in my mind everyone in Vegas looks like a Foglio drawing.
#4: Stay Organized

I hardly ever go deep on a card, not since the grand burn of Prophet of Kruphix. I’m content to pick up a couple playsets, tops, and instead of keeping boxes full of toploaders/cases, I like using an old binder, some penny sleeves, and a Sharpie for keeping track of what I bought, when, and for how much. I am not yet in large enough quantities that spreadsheets are needed.

#5: Buy more of my picks

I have a confession to make: For the last few months, when I’d write up a piece, I’d go on TCG the night before and I’d fill my cart with the cheapest NM versions of cards I wrote about. Usually, the bottom 8-10 copies, give or take.

Then in the morning, about six hours after I post my writing, I’d check the cart again and mostly they’ve been sold or relisted. Some of you really like my work, and that makes for an ethical quandary for me. I don’t have extra information. I make my picks based on my experiences, which have been right and wrong. On MTG Fast Finance, you’ll hear us disagree on picks sometimes and we rarely get immediate closure.

This is a personal view, and not one I’ve talked about: I don’t think I should buy the cards I pick right after I pick them. It feels wrong to me, and I know that’s an irrational feeling. There’s a lot going on in my head, not all of it makes sense. I don’t want what I own to influence my thinking.

It also feels slimy to pick a card, extol its virtues to you, the audience, and then buy some up as part of an artificial hype wave.

That said, this year I’m going to wait a couple days after posting and then grab some copies. There’s going to be some hot cards coming up, and I don’t want to get left out because of some weird self-inflicted moral code.

Speaking of picks, have a couple! (I’ve bought none of these as of 12/28)

Foil Solemnity ($8): The nonfoil is just $2, and that’s pretty tempting, but I’d rather get the foils. This is a card that’s already part of all sorts of shenanigans, as Phyrexian Unlife makes you immortal and Decree of Silence locks the game unless you’ve got Abrupt Decay. It hasn’t been truly broken in tournament play yet, but it’s a small-set rare with a 4x multiplier and with each card that comes out, it gets better and better.

The spikes happen every time a streamer tries to break the card!

Thoughtseize ($14 or so): Well, I’d hoped for $10 but we’re two weeks away from Rivals of Ixalan and there’s one NM on TCG at $13. I’m going to try my luck at GP Santa Clara, trying to get a couple of playsets for $45 or $50 by offering vendors cash and haggling, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I’m an optimist, and I also have to accept that we’ve reached bottom. Grab your copies now, people!

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Presents for Future You

I love this time of year. I love how excited I get about buying people presents, and seeing their reactions.

Know what else I love? Getting presents from my past self! This past year, my biggest presents were a stack of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and a few foil Thought-Knot Seers. Thanks, Past Cliff!

So with the year closing down, I want to highlight a few things that you should buy for your future self, and that person will thank you for spending as little as you did for something so valuable. Yes, this is a semi-wordy way of explaining that I’ve got some juicy picks for the coming year, but it truly felt like a present to trade away foil TKS at $40 when I’d gotten them for a lot less!

Now for the cards:

Whir of Invention foil ($5): It’s started to pop up in Lantern Control builds, and it’s a terrifying card in that deck, able to get whichever one-of they need. This is only the first deck to make good use of the card, and that’s why it’s still just $5. The casual appeal is also off the charts, as artifact tutors are really powerful (Fabricate, an uncommon, is nearly $3 for this reason) and abuseable. I’ve called it out, as has the MTG Fast Finance crew, and consider this your last warning for getting in under $10. There’s 20 pack foils on TCG right now, and another 70 Prerelease foils.

Treachery ($23): Reserved List cards have been popping all year, some for reasons no better than ‘It’s on the RL, BUY THEM NOW OMGWTFBBQ’ so getting this while it’s cheap is wonderful. There’s only 32 on TCG right now, so it won’t be available for long. It’s awesome in both Cube and Commander, and how about a foil price above $300? That’s a 12x multiplier, an indication of the super-tiny supply in existence.

I could also be talked into buying Future Cliff some relatively cheap Gilded Drakes, a card that just wants one more good flicker effect. Roon of the Hidden Realm does love this fella.

Containment Priest ($12): Yes, I know there’s an Invocation version, but I have a very strong bias against those cards, but that version will likely rise too. If this spikes, I like to be in on the cheaper version and get the bigger percentage gain. This was a $50 card its first weekend, if you remember all the way back to the GP right after its premiere. I don’t think it’ll hit those heights again, but there are enough Legacy and Vintage decks, plus the Commander/Cube users, to give this legs. The Invocation likely means it’s safe from reprints for a little while, and the supply is pretty small.

Solemn Simulacrum, Invention version ($55): I think the Inventions are home runs every time I see them, and as the card with the widest range of homes, I want to get my future self a couple of these relatively cheaply. It’s not going to take much for this to bump to $75, and given the number that get soaked up by casual players, there’s never going to be a lot of these in circulation. The sad robot is at the sweet spot for the amount of play it gets and the price it’s at. Sure, there’s a ton of printings out there, but this is the sweetest version of all, unless you’re a pack foil purist, a totally respectable stance to take.

Ignore the non-filters in the list, though they are intriguing…

Expedition-version filterlands ($32-$59): I keep being surprised that they haven’t reprinted these lands, but given the prices of these special versions, maybe I shouldn’t be. What’s really surprising is that these specials are around 1.7x the price of the normal paper version, with the exception of Graven Cairns, who’s had two extra printings in Future Sight and now Iconic Masters. These are some of the best lands you could ask for in color-hungry decks, and if I’m needing just one for casual play, why not pay a little more and get the super-sweet one?

Sigarda’s Aid in foil ($3.50): There’s ~150 total foils of this on TCG, and a foil multiplier of a touch over 3. For a small-set rare, that’s awfully intriguing, considering that this card is truly absurd in the decks that want it. Equipment has flash AND free equips? Auras are all instant-speed too? (Don’t overlook that, I sure did!) It’s an enabler in two archetypes, and the name means we’re less likely to see it in a Masters set where it’d be in foil again. This seems like a great contender to be in a nonfoil special release, like Commander decks.

Too bad it’s not the top ten cards of your deck!

Deploy the Gatewatch foil ($4): Here’s another card that I feel pretty good about going forward. It’s got HUGE appeal among the casual crowd, and is a card worth jamming in the superfriends decks that commanders like Atraxa love. It’s even a small-set mythic, with only 50 NM copies on TCG right now. I’m also tickled to have this card because Magic’s creative team is leaning away from the Gatewatch as a story element, making reprints that much less likely.

And whatever holidays you’re celebrating, I hope they are awesome!

Cliff is an avid Cuber and Commander player and loves any unusual way to play Magic, especially avoiding endless Temur Energy mirror matches. Catch his weekly articles every Friday on MTGPrice or hit him up on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Adjusting to the Times

I have been buying and selling cards for a while, but I have to admit that I’m not so sure about what rules apply and what rules don’t anymore.

This year especially, I’ve been waaaaaaay off a couple of times recently and I want to try and fix that. I also want to see where some cards are coming in, to teach me some new ideas to guide me for this ‘three Masters sets in 18 months’ sort of world we are living in.

I also want to try and apply what this year and previous years have taught me, to see if there’s stuff I want to start picking up, now that we are in the end-of-the-year doldrums.

Philosophy #1: What will be good in a year?

I didn’t like 18-month Standard, and I freely admit it. I dearly love scheduled-rotation Standard, as it gives me a very clear timeline to follow. I want to pick up cards at the end of their cycle, hoping that they will spike in about 2-3 sets, or 12 months. The timeline is fungible, the results are not.

The best examples of these are Fumigate from Kaladesh and the bicycle lands from Amonkhet. Fumigate was down to about $1.50 when Amonkhet came out, and stayed there until about a year after it was printed, when we got other good tools to play with it (notably Settle the Wreckage and Search for Azcanta) and it spiked to nearly $6.

Fetid Pools is another case study, but a couple of the other lands had a similar tale to tell:

A land or a fresh card, every control player’s dream!

Both Fumigate and Fetid Pools are rotating in ten months, making this a very difficult card to pick up in hopes of selling at a profit later. That ship has sailed, but there’s cards I’m thinking about.

Vraska’s Contempt at $6 is a very intriguing card, but four mana is a scary cost for premium removal. While I want to dive in headfirst because Hero’s Downfall taught me to pick up the good black removal while it’s cheap, the need to exile creatures is also rotating in the fall, when both Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God go on their next great adventure.

The other option for premium removal is Walk the Plank, and I’m scared here too. Being an uncommon isn’t terrible, just means you have to target buylists instead of eBay. Under most circumstances I’d happily get a hundred of these for a quarter each, as it’s seeing very little play and I’d be looking to buylist them for a buck each.

Instead, vendors are wise to this play and are selling at fifty cents, a price that means my margins are pretty thin. Plus, there’s a promo version out there, but I’d be betting that Walk the Plank jumps to a four-of in a lot of decks, gets to $1.50-$2 to buylist for my target of $1, and that’s a more dicey proposition for making fifty cents a copy.

Personally, I am trying to decide between these two, and a couple of other targets are tempting too. Search for Azcanta at $9 is sweet, even with the promo version, but control decks aren’t playing four copies…yet. Deathgorge Scavenger is awesome at $3, as one of the very few ways to both affect the board and deal with graveyard synergies, but are there such strategies coming?

I want to think that Wizards has learned the lesson about having answers, especially as we get to one-set blocks and we get wave after wave of new sets and new mechanics. We will see, though.

Philosophy #2: Casual still rules, kind of?

Commander is likely the reason MTG finance is still a thing. We’re all suckers for a format where you get to do most things, and assemble the jankiest of combos or play the tightest, most tutorrific deck guaranteed to take 20-minutes turns and win via disgust. Fun comes in many forms.

The format is exactly what the market needed, from a gameplay perspective and a financial one, and we’re all benefitting.

The downside is that we are getting hit over and over with reprints, and there are a lot of cards getting treated for repeated bashing right in the wallet. Most concerning to me is not when $10 cards get reprinted, but when $2 cards get that treatment and don’t have a chance to reach the lofty heights.

And it’s a gorgeous foil, too!

I know Sunbird’s Invocation in foil is EXACTLY an EDH card. It does nothing when you play it, it’s six mana, and if you untap with it in play you’ll be super far ahead. It’s at $5 and that’s after being more than twice as much at release. Those who had to have it immediately, they have it now and it’s time to start stocking up.

At the same time, there’s stuff like Panharmonicon ($2.50/$8 foil) which should also be easy money, but I’m super wary of the reprint risk. I think I’m more likely to go in on foil Panharmonicon, but I’m not sanguine about it. This could easily be in Conspiracy 3 or some other non-Standard product.

 

Cliff is an avid cuber and has been making mostly-sound MTG decisions since using Magic cards to buy a new transmission in 2001. Follow him on Twitter @wordofcommander or check out his articles weekly here on MTGPrice.

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