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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Iconic Masters Movement

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the prices I was hoping that Iconic Masters cards were going to drop to, and we have reached a point on some of these that I’m comfortable moving in.

I don’t think I’ll need to tell you much about these cards, but this is a calendar point where I’m ready to pick up some copies. Unstable drops today, and with this being the Christmas-New Year’s lull for tournaments, sales, and other Magic activities, I don’t think much more Iconic Masters will be opened.

Rivals of Ixalan has already had a couple of spoilers/previews land, and that will start in full force after New Year’s Day, so there likely won’t be a ton of product opened. Even if prices fell another 5-10%, I’m content to get in on some of these now, and perhaps even more if the price does indeed slip another step or two.

On the flip side, there’s some cards from Iconic Masters that have fallen in price, but aren’t done falling. Be wary of these.

Let’s get to the cards!

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Horizon Canopy ($33): It’s not done. $20? I can only find fringe versions of decks running more than two, though there’s a Five-Color Humans build in Modern that’s playing four of the 19 lands as this cantrip. The Future Sight version has lost nearly half its value, and I don’t think that’s done falling either.

Ebay’s completed sales show just a few over $30 in the past two weeks, and a whole lot more in the $25 range. Not all that many people need this land, so I’m staying away.

Thoughtseize ($15): This is the card I’m having the hardest time not buying. It’s one of the most popular cards in constructed Magic, being a top 5 card in Modern and a top 20 card in Legacy. Let me show you the graph for Lorwyn Thoughtseize:

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The red arrow is the release of Theros, 2013! Those halcyon days.

Every time it’s had a printing, the value has taken a hit and then climbed back up. I didn’t get in on this when Theros came around, and I don’t think there is any doubt that it’ll climb back up again. It’s not going to hit $80 again. It’s not going to crack $50 for some time. I’m staying patient until I can get them for $10 each on eBay, and that time hasn’t come yet.

If you want to pull the trigger on a playset or two in the $12 range, I can’t fault you. When it looks like it’s flattened off, or when Rivals of Ixalan comes out, I’ll be ready to dive in.

Cryptic Command ($20): I’m staying patient till $15.We’ve got several version of Very Cryptic Command to fool around with and distract casual players, and while a playset of Cryptic is a starting point in Modern control decks, control isn’t too popular an archetype. I’m watching these on eBay closely too, and I have managed to get a couple at my target of $15. I’d much prefer that some retailer sell me a few in a batch, though.

Grove of the Burnwillows ($13): Get out. Now. If you open one of these I would buylist it immediately and not look back. Sure, it’s a Punishing Fire combo in one Legacy deck, and maybe you have a deck that abuses the lifegain somehow, but these are few and far between. The demand is not there, and I think this has a lot farther to fall before I’d want copies.

Consecrated Sphinx ($12): This is a super interesting card, and therefore a place I’m hesitant to put in much money. Sure, it’s one of the best things a blue deck can do in Commander or Cube, but those are the only formats where it sees play. The original mythic had made it up to $30, even with the Invocation draining demand somewhat, but now the slide is on. I am watching eBay for $10 copies, and foils under $20.

This had started to recover nicely from the Invocation in early 2017.

Even as I watch the card get cheaper, I’m hesitant. This is an excellent candidate for a ban in Commander, and it’s in 14,000 decks! It would be a bloodbath.That risk is going to keep me from going too deep, and your taste for risk should determine the number of copies you want to get.

Archangel of Thune ($11): I don’t think this will fall too much farther. It’s been a mythic twice, never a rare, and that’s big for the number of copies out there. I strongly suspect casual players are soaking up copies as well, because it’s good in Commander but not overpowered. If it’s unanswered, sure, the game’s over, but that’s the case in that format.

What I really like about Archangel is that looking into lifelink cards clued me into foil Crested Sunmare at $8. There’s only 40 copies on TCG, and it’s a top card for lifelink decks. There’s not much demand for Oloro, Ageless Ascetic, as there’s competition for who your lifelink Commander should be, but Sunmare is way up there on the list of things to do if you’ve got a lot of gain life effects around. Only 40 copies for a recent foil mythic, that’s a top target for me going forward.

Cliff is an eager participant in unusual formats, and is hoping to cube four times a day at the next GP. Find him on Twitter @wordofcommander or here on MTGPrice every Friday.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Unstable Finance

I love silver-bordered sets. I am exactly the target market for Unstable, because if you’ve got some weird way to play this game, I’m all over it. I’ve enjoyed all of my experiences with Unglued and Unhinged and I’m fully expecting to enjoy Unstable.

What needs to be said is that from a financial standpoint, there’s some very specific ideas to keep in mind as you pre-order Unstable and decide if you want to speculate in this market. I have been there, and I’ve got some insights that you should heed.

Big Idea #1: Time and Printing

Unglued was printed in August 1998, about five years after Magic’s debut, in the time between Exodus and the beginning of Urza’s Saga block. Unhinged was printed in November 2004, during Kamigawa block, one of the dips in Magic’s popularity.

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I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Unstable will be printed and sold at a much greater rate, I’d guess somewhere in the 10-20x range. There is going to be so much more of this set, and even though we have mythics now, we are really lacking in iconic callbacks and inside jokes.

Big Idea #2: Who’s this for?

Unstable is aimed at people who want Magic to be weird. Unusual. Unexpected, random plays. This is not everyone, and that’s also going to contribute to the supply being quite significant. Anyone who wants Unstable will be able to get it, because people with a competitive focus are going to ignore it. When a sizeable piece of the market ignores a product, pay attention.

Not a lot that’s worth it, in nonfoil.

At the same time, though, Unstable is really going to appeal to some people and some playgroups. People who don’t who to their LGS might pick up an extra box or two just to draft it with their friends. Maybe this is the perfect holiday gift!

I am trying to keep my own bias in check here. Unstable is not going to be available online. I want to say that means more gets bought, but there is a very good chance it ends up like Conspiracy 2 and its super-top-heavy in prices.

Big Idea #3: The ballast of lands

There’s one land per pack, in a box of 36 packs. One in every 121 lands will have a Steamflogger Boss, apparently. That’s pretty guaranteed value, and that is unusual for Magic. If the lands are selling at $2 each from your store, they are getting boxes for around the $72 worth of lands they will get, and that’s before you get to the foils or chase cards.

Now THESE are some chase-worthy prices!

If the land price is down at $1 retail, boxes won’t get cracked. If it’s at $2, then there will be stores cracking packs just for the land, and that will flood the market with every other card. I don’t know where these will end up long-term, but I know that for the next few months, lands won’t be over $2.

Let me illustrate this with Conspiracy 2’s prices, in nonfoil first:


And now the foils:

With this set, you can hit BIG. You can get a box on eBay for $90, and there’s two foil mythics that pay for the box and then some. Several others will cover half the value of the box, and there’s $2 Serum Visions at uncommon when you’re mining for value. Unfortunately, the average box is worth less than that $90, and it’s not worth the risk of opening a foil Berserk and nothing else in your 23 other packs.

Unstable offers 36 lands, 35 if you’re unlucky. If those get as high as $3 retail, you will be able to buy a box and get your money back just by selling those basics and the rest is extra value. That’s for us, but if you’re a big store who gets boxes cheaper, then the retail needs to be lower for it to be worth it to them.

I think the supply will be plentiful for 95% of the cards in the set. This is going to be printed a whole bunch, and there’s a built-in mechanism for keeping the prices of lands in check. There isn’t much that will hold a lot of value.

I want to say that some of the unique things will be valuable, especially in foil. They might be worth a few bucks, but the market is pretty soft for such things. Don’t rely on unique cubes to drive the price of Contraptions in foil or nonfoil. I have about twenty foil Cogwork Librarian that I picked up between $2 and $4…and it’s still about $2, three years later. The demand from cubers just hasn’t materialized yet…and likely never will.

Crow Storm foils will be valuable to some people as an inside joke. Most people won’t care. Some people will want a foil set of Unstable, and that’s a small part of the playerbase. The crazy-high foil prices for some Unhinged cards is entirely due to the relatively small amount that was printed. I surely have a pair of foil Little Girl because I have two daughters, and enough MTG dads feel the same way to push that to be a $20 foil common.

I’m looking at you, Summon the Pack. You’re not going to fool me.

 

Really, there’s only two cards that have the chance to be iconic, and I think that supply is going to impact these cards and keep the prices low: Urza, Academy Headmaster is exactly what an Un-card should be, and that’s before we even know the abilities.

The other is Spike, Tournament Grinder. I think that foils of this card have real potential, but as this is a rare, not a mythic, there’s going to be a lot out there. (Am I going to pick up two foil Spikes and find a way to frame my Little Girls growing up to be Spikes? Duh.)

If it had a different name, I would be all over Super-Duper Death Ray as a spec target, as this looks like it could be a real card. We’ve already given spells lifelink, why not trample? The name turns me off, though, so I think we will see this printed in a future set as Char-Broil or something generically red.

So don’t go crazy on the finances of this set. I don’t think it’ll be there in the long term, and if you want something from Unstable, definitely give it a week or two and see where the nonfoil basic lands end up in price.

Cliff has been an avid player of silver-bordered sets and any unusual way to play, most especially Momir Basic, perhaps the biggest bang for your buck and the best reason to keep MTGO the way it is. Follow him on Twitter @wordofcommander or catch his articles every Friday!

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Time to Move in or Move on?

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and has had the chance to do some awesome drafts with Iconic Masters, which has such a different play pattern than Ixalan draft. It’s a nice change of pace, but I have to admit, I really hated paying $35 for a draft when I knew I could get a box for $160 all over the place.

I don’t think Iconic Masters is done falling in price, but we are only two weeks away from Unstable drafts, and then it’s dead in December until after New Year’s, when we dive into Rivals of Ixalan previews and prerelease!

If it seems that time is flying by, I’m with you. I’m also keenly aware that lots of stuff has settled in price and that means I need to evaluate two things, as it comes to Amonket and Kaladesh blocks:

  1. How likely is the card to see another bump before it rotates?
  2. Is the card Modern/Legacy/casual playable, and what’s the demand going to be going forward?

Now if you’re thinking, “What the heck, did he say rotation? It’s December!” that’s not wrong but you need to be aware that there’s not a lot of chances for a deck to break out.

With that in mind, I want to look at some cards and see if I want to get in or move on.
 

Glorybringer ($6): Right now, creatures are dying all over the place. Four toughness is not enough, with this dragon and with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. The fifth toughness is a big part of the appeal with it comes to The Scarab God. Glorybringer is seeing some play in a range of decks, but it’s only a four-of in some of the new Mardu Vehicles lists.

Especially with a buy-in at this range, I don’t think this is worth a buy. It would have to spike past $10, into the $12-$15 range, and that means super-widespread adoption. Seems pretty unlikely to me, and since this doesn’t see much play. It’s in less than 700 Commander decks, so yeah, stay away.

Anointed Procession ($9): I have to be honest, I didn’t know that this had crept up to the threshold of $10. It’s now the #3 card in Amonkhet, and while I want to say that’s due to casual appeal, that’s not quite right. There’s a lot of these in EDH decks (4500!) and there’s a range of token strategies available in Standard. Bringing some Hidden Stockpile/Anointed Procession deck to FNM and making a huge stack of tokens does sound like a lot of fun!

Don’t count out the kitchen table players either. Something has been soaking up spare copies of this, to keep pushing it on the gradual upward curve. Legion’s Landing is the proximate cause, but at the root, the casual demand is super high on here, though the foil is still available under $20. I’m going to be looking for this to drop at rotation, but I don’t think it will fall far.

A caveat: This is very easy to reprint in a Commander product going forward. Be cautious if you’re stocking up.

Bontu’s Last Reckoning ($4): This is intriguing on a couple of levels. It’s hot garbage in casual formats, so that’s out, but it’s the cheapest Wrath of God variant available in Modern, where it’s popped up in a few sideboards. It’s not super-widely adopted yet, but there is room for that to grow. Lantern Control, a deck which is merciless to play with and against, has one or two in the board, as does 8-rack and some other fringe strategies. This price isn’t due to Standard, or to casual demand, so the amount of play it’s seeing has kept it from being a dollar rare.

I would like it better if it fell back into the $2 range, where it was a couple of months ago, but if it doesn’t dip at rotation, Picking up a few is something I can get behind.

Solemnity ($2): It’s got all sorts of fun combos, and frankly, it hoses a wide range of popular EDH strategies. Do note that it doesn’t care about planeswalkers, as happened in a game I was in. I’m hoping that rotation cuts this to a dollar rare or less, as it’s too unique an effect to stay this cheap forever. Also notable is that the foils are four times as much, but the card is only listed in 850 decks on EDHREC.

Panharmonicon ($3): If you don’t have a taste for reprint risk, this is a lock. It’s in more than 11,000 EDH decks. It’s the #81 artifact in that database, which is surprising to me until I looked at the list and saw all the mana rocks. Three bucks is too low for this card, it did make it to $10 when people were trying to get all the value possible early in the format. It’s highly reprintable, though…so the foils at sub-$10 are even more appealing to me. Foil Anointed Procession is already pushing $20, and this is the card that defines ‘win more’ which is what we all want to do deep in our filthy casual hearts. Go buy some of the foils right now and just sit on them for a little while, and thank me later.

Bonus Pick: The Chain Veil (Foil): There’s 23 copies on TCG right now, and none at several big sites. It’s only in 3500 EDH decks, but the supply is super tiny for a card that fits into the always-popular superfriends decks. I don’t think it’ll take long for this to get a hefty spike over $20, and while this is a strong contender to be put into a supplemental deck, I have a hard time seeing this in a Masters set or in a set that has foils.

Cliff is an avid Cuber and a player at a wide range of kitchen tables. He has yet to Top 8 a GP but eventually they will have a Cube event and he’ll have that locked right up! Find him on Twitter @WordOfCommander or here on MTGPrice every Friday.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Price Targets for Iconic Masters

This…this is weird.

We are neck-deep in atrocious spoilers for Unstable and yet the set that’s getting opened this weekend is Iconic Masters. I’m not a marketing or economics major, but it seems something is off about this timing. We’ve known this set for months, a few folks drafted it at HasCon and all I want to do is mess around with Contraptions and Host creatures.

There’s another factor at play with Iconic Masters: Somehow, this set is dirt cheap to buy. The EV is there, with 16 rares and mythics that match the price of a pack, but why am I going to drop $30+ on a draft at my LGS when my pals and I can chip in for a box at $160-$170?

With this set, I’m not going to buy any boxes or any packs. The far better bet will be to choose the prices I want and see if cards settle to those ranges. The availability of boxes makes me think that this isn’t going to tick prices downward, it’s going to yank the rug out from under them and expose a giant hole.

I am open to being wrong, but the box prices are worrisome to me. We’re only going to be opening this for a month (Unstable lands December 9, so four weeks?) so that’s going to mitigate the damage, but I can’t help thinking that this is going to torpedo a lot of prices.

Here’s my targets, with their current prices.

Mana Drain ($90): So this represents the chase mythic of the set, the headliner, and I think it’s about to tank hard. I think this drop into the $50 range, and $40 wouldn’t shock me. There has been a judge foil, to go with the original, and now the rest of us are going to get a crack at it. Question is, what’s the demand? No one needs a playset, so is it going to be all EDH decks? It’s a pretty phenomenal card in there and in Cube, but that’s going to fill pretty fast. The people who were drooling for a cheaper version are going to get their wish. I will be looking to pick these up around $40-$60.

Ancestral Vision ($19): This is a card that has really ridden the rollercoaster over the years.

The truth is that while it feels really great to resolve this as a control player, Modern has become a bit too fast for this card. For right now, anyway. I fully expect that in the fullness of time, someone will build a control deck that sweeps away the aggressive decks and defeats the combo players. That time isn’t now, though. I know this will go below $10, but it’ll have to fall further to interest me, maybe to $7.

Flusterstorm ($31): This is another card that’s about to take a beating. I can’t find a Legacy or Vintage list that uses more than two, and that’s a bad sign because this is a rare. I think it’s going to drop into the $10 range, and I’m not sure I’d want to pick any up. Where’s the demand? This goes in some Cubes, but it seems like trash in Commander.

Aether Vial ($30): We keep getting this card, but never ever in Standard again: Darksteel, FTV, Masterpiece, Modern Masters, and now here. It’s dropped in price before and always recovered well, so I don’t think it’ll fall far. $20 would be my target, especially because when people want this, they want the full set. That bodes VERY well for future demand.

Thoughtseize ($15): This is a difficult call to make. Let’s go to the history:

It’s easy to forget that Thoughtseize was worth ninety dollars at one point before being in Theros. Even now, the original is worth about twice as much as the Theros version. We’re back to the original art and flavor text, which means little when a card is played as much as this is. It’s awful in casual formats, worthwhile in Cubes, and it’s among the most-played cards in Legacy and Modern. The demand is real, but the question of how much supply worries me.

Here’s the bottom line: It’s going to trickle down to $10. Will it go lower? I don’t think it will, and I’ll be content to stock up at $10 and wait. It’s played too much to stay that low for long, and if growth is slow, well, I’ll be patient until it gets back to a buylist of $10 and move on.

Glimpse the Unthinkable ($12): This is already half the price of the original Ravnica version, and is going to test the premise ‘casuals love mill cards enough to keep prices high.’ This will be a $5 card. It’ll stay a $5 card for quite a while after that, and I won’t want to get any.

Cryptic Command ($23): Lorwyn. Modern Masters 1 AND 2. Invocation, and a textless promo. That’s a LOT of printings, and two different alternate looks for those with a taste for either. This sees some Modern play, and that helps, but I can’t help feeling that a lot of people who want a Cryptic or four have them already. This will drop by at least half, and that casting cost is going to rule out a lot of Commander decks…though EDHREC has it in 11,000 decks already.

I can’t imagine this stays above $20, and only if it goes below $10 will I be interested. Getting in at $15 and waiting  is just going to take too long to be useful.

Cliff is an avid cuber and Commander player, and can be found investigating all sorts of unusual formats. His first boosters were in late 1994, and the years since have seen a range of spikes, sellouts, thefts, and triumphs. Catch his articles here every Friday or on Twitter @wordofcommander

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