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Origins and Dragons pickups

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It’s true confession time: I don’t like to do what everyone else is doing. I’m of the mindset that I prefer to not be with the crowd, and that’s both good and bad about myself. It’s a tendency that often serves me well in terms of Magic finance, because if I’m thinking about things that others aren’t, then there’s the potential for adding value.

This weekend, everyone is going to be agog about Eternal Masters landing and what will happen to those prices. My predictions from the last couple weeks feel okay, and at first blush there might be more of this printed than expected, so prices will be more likely to be low.

We are also about a month away from Eldritch Moon prereleases, so previews and spoilers will be rolling out soon, and that has lots of other people thinking about what will be good when that releases. (And if I hear ‘where Emrakul’ one more time…)

So what am I thinking about? The two other blocks, Dragons of Tarkir/Magic Origins and Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch. The former is going to rotate in about four months, when Kaladesh comes out, and the latter still has a year of legality left in Standard.

Today I want to cover the rotating sets, and next week I’ll give you my ideas on the still-legal ones.

Dragons of Tarkir

Collected Company (now $23)

A lot of Modern decks that used to use Birthing Pod have seemed to migrate over to this, and since it can hit any of the cards for the Melira infinite life combo, it’s a natural fit. The decks that play this almost never have less than a full playset, but there’s a lot of playsets out there. Don’t forget that this was in the Magic Origins Clash Pack, which also had a Dromoka’s Command and a Windswept Heath.

I have a suspicion that this loses a couple of dollars around the time of rotation but not much, and it’s so good in Modern that it’ll start growing before you know it.

September 2016: $17

September 2017: $25

 

Kolaghan’s Command ($13)

This is a card that Modern was made for. This plus Snapcaster makes Grixis a real and powerful deck choice, especially as a maindeck answer to Spellskite and other artifacts. It’s relatively cheap and very flexible, and it’s nearly impossible not to get two cards’ worth of value out of it. I’ve already made good money on this card, but what I can’t get past is that this is already all over Modern and Legacy, and barely there in Standard.

I think that this Command is going to stay stable through rotation and stays that way for some time. Picking them up won’t get you insane value now, but it will be stable and safe.

September 2016: $15

September 2017: $20

 

Atarka’s Command ($8)

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There’s a lot of flavors of burn decks in Legacy and Modern. Most of them are no longer straight red, since adding white and/or green gives you extra angles of attack and better sideboard tools. This card can really pile the damage on in builds with multiple creatures, and again, this is a card already seeing a lot more play in non-rotating formats. I think that this starts trending upward very soon, but it’ll plateau because Naya isn’t the default deck.

September 2016: $10

September 2017: $13

 

Sarkhan Unbroken ($5)

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The $5 planeswalker rule applies here. This also shows how prohibitive a mana cost can be from format to format, because Jund players were all over Broodmate Dragon, yet Sarkhan, who can make two tokens, saw zero love. I love picking these up now and just waiting. The growth won’t ever be sudden, but it will be there.

September 2016: $6

September 2017: $8

 

Risen Executioner ($4)

This is an expensive speculation target, but hear me out. It’s a mythic lord for Zombies, one of the top tribes for people to play casually. It’s also got built-in recursion, something that everyone enjoys. It’s $4 now out of pure casual appeal, and that is a flashing light signaling long-term growth to me.

I am not as high on the foils, but those are likely to be at least stable going forward.

September 2016: $6

September 2017: $10

 

Magic Origins

Pyromancer’s Goggles ($8)

This is another card that I’ve predicted would spike and made money from, and it’s almost back to those previous levels. It’s pure gold in casual settings, one of the best cards you could have in a Commander deck that likes casting red/multicolored spells. I think this is going to fall down a few dollars, and that’s when I’m going to jump in on them and just wait. Again.

September 2016: $4

September 2017: $6

 

Hangarback Walker ($5.50)

Oh how the mighty have fallen. It’s very hard for this card to not get value just by existing, though the presence of Path to Exile keeps it from taking over Modern. This was in the Event Deck, and that’s an extra few copies, but it’s a fantastic card in Affinity, and thatmight be enough to have it keep value.

I’m sad to say it’s not done falling, but I do feel it’s good enough to still see play, and that will buoy and maintain the price.

September 2016:$5

September 2017: $7

 

Alhammarret’s Archive ($5)

There’s no getting around it: This is seeing no Standard play, and this price is purely doe to casual appeal. As with the Executioner, I want to listen to what the trends are telling me.In this case, they are saying for me to spend $20 or $40 on spare copies, put them in bulk, and just wait.

September 2016: $6

September 2017: $9

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Eternal Masters: The Mythics

So we’ve had an eventful few days of Eternal Masters spoilers, and wow does this look like a set that’s worth $10 per pack…maybe. I need to see the whole list and even then I’m going to be leery.

Today I want to look at the mythics that have been spoiled so far and think about what they will be worth, even taking a stab at the foil prices. I want to organize myself with the printings it’s had before as well. I’m noting the current prices, too, in case they start to slide abruptly.

Editorial note: As of this writing, there’s only 14 mythics previewed. I’ll update this as more are revealed.

 

Karakas

Original printing: Legends ($170)

Other printings: Judge Promo in 2012 ($160)

Very important to note that this is banned in Commander but it is pretty amazing in Legacy when it comes to dealing with things like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I think that there isn’t much demand for this card, to be honest. It’s not too amazing in Cube and it’s not played in high quantities in Legacy. I’m going to say that this ends up about $60 and $150 for the foil. Existing copies are not going to fall very far, since the supply is pretty small.

 

Chrome Mox

Original printing: Mirrodin ($15/$58 foil)

Other printings: Grand Prix promo in 2009 ($28)

This printing is going to be the nail in the coffin for its price. It’s played in some decks in Legacy but it’s banned in Modern and doesn’t see a lot of casual play. The price isn’t very high for a Mirrodin rare, and injecting more copies will lower the price by at least a third. This Mox will be about $10, but hit a high $50 or so in foil, because Volkan Baga is a real, honest, badass artist and this is gorgeous.

 

Mana Crypt 

Original Printing: Book promo in 1998 or so ($200)

Other printings: Judge Foil in 2011 ($233)

This is likely going to be the most expensive card from the set, in foil and not. Amazingly, this isn’t banned in Commander yet, and that’s despite one of the banning principles being ‘fast mana.’ I don’t know if you’ve ever played with one of these, but the 3 damage can add up. However, it’s two full turns ahead of what other people are doing, and that is why I’m leery. I think that this stays at $100/$250 foil, but I also think it gets the ban within a year. Not very many people have these in their Commander decks, and as that number goes up, so will the calls for a banning.

 

Maelstrom Wanderer

Original Printing: Commander 2011 ($20)

Other Printings: Commander’s Arsenal ($28)

Oh, this card is busted right in half. It’s just so good. So very, very, amazingly good. It’s possible you can miss with one of the cascades, but your deck is still amazing and getting the first spell or two off the top plus the big hasty creature. Of special note is that this set has the top-of-the-library tutors for the Wanderer, or bounce it back to your hand with Karakas every turn to make your opponent cry. Value-wise, I expect this to settle at about the $15/$40 range.

 

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Dack Fayden 

Original Printing: Conspiracy ($33/$395)

Other Printings: none

Yes, you’re seeing the foil multiplier right. This is a $400 foil due to Vintage players who will pay anything for the foil version of something. The foil supply on this is super small (check out Marchesa, the Black Rose in foil too!) and that’s where the impact will be felt greatest, I think. Stealing a Mox or something is good, but don’t overlook the draw two, discard two. There’s a lot of decks that can use that effect, and Dack does pop up here and there in Legacy. The nonfoil will be about $20 and the foil will still be in the $150 range, and I’d expect the original foil to bottom out about $300, since there’s just so few copies out there.

 

Worldgorger Dragon

Original Printing: Judgment ($3/$30)

Other printings: none

This is one of the two really awful pulls for a mythic. It’s infinite mana with this and Animate Dead, so if you’ve got something to do with all that mana, great, it’s game over. If not, get back to your game. This is going to have a very low price, likely about $1/$5.

 

Necropotence

Original Printing: Ice Age ($13)

Other Printings: Deckmaster ($15), 5th edition ($9), FtV: Exiled ($20)

While this has had four times in print, including a special foil, I do not see this as being terribly expensive. It’s an amazing effect, and can draw a silly amount of cards at all points. This will be about $5/$30 at the end of the set.

 

Force of Will

Original Printing: Alliances ($78)

Other Printings: Judge Promo in 2014 ($500)

Oh, this is going to be interesting. Terese Nielsen has become one of the most iconic artists that Magic has to offer, and this piece is no exception. Force will always carry a high price in Legacy and Vintage, because it’s a playset or bust. Very few people run only three, and that’s always kept demand high. This should settle out in the $50 range, but I think foils are going to be in the $200 range, especially early on.

The presence of the special Judge version means that there’s both a ceiling and a competitor, price-wise. The part I’m unsure about is how much having this particular art is worth.

 

Sneak Attack

Original Printing: Urza’s Saga ($44)

Other Printings: Judge Promo in 2012 ($70)

Sneak Attack just wrecks face in a deck that can take advantage of it. Sacrifice for value, mass reanimate, do something unfair. This card enables a lot of that, but the price will stay reasonable, probably around $20/$50.

 

Vampiric Tutor

Original Printing: Visions ($35)

Other Printings: 6th Edition ($35), Judge Promo in 2000 ($100)

My only beef with this card is that the EMA art is a bit too close to the original art for Necropotence, but that’s me being nitpicky. I think this is gorgeous, and the foils will reflect that. $15 for the regular, $80 or so in foil.

 

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Original Printing: Worldwake ($90)

Other Printings: FtV: 20 ($75)

Ah, Jace. How many things contributed to your overblown power? How many people made mistakes with you? It’s iconic, and likely going to be the best planeswalker ever made. This will be about $30, with foils being near $100. The FtV version is lower because a lot of people don’t like the unusual foiling on those cards.

 

Balance

Original Printing: Alpha ($550)

Other Printings: Beta ($350), Unlimited ($40), Revised ($2), 4th edition ($2), Judge Promo ($27), FtV: Exiled ($9)

This is one of those cards that fills the ‘overpowered to busted in Limited, worth less than a bag of beans in person’ slot that every set needs. I think this will be just about bulk, and the foils might make it to $10.

 

Argothian Enchantress

Original Printing: Urza’s Saga ($16)

Other Printings: Judge Promo from 2003 ($55)

She’s best friends with Rabid Wombat, she can’t help you by herself, she was the most feared 0/1 until Noble Hierarch showed up…and she’s going to have a middling price, since she’s not played too much. I would expect her to settle about $10/$35.

 

Natural Order

Original Printing: Visions ($35)

Other Printings: Portal ($43) , Judge Promo in 2010 ($130)

This is Tinker for green creatures. Progenitus is the usual target, but you have options in Regal Force or Craterhoof Behemoth, depending on the board state. Thankfully, this is using the dignified art, but it’s not going to be that expensive. $15 for the regular, and about $40 for the foil.

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What is Patience Worth?

One of my basic tenets when it comes to Magic finance is patience. I don’t want to repeat a mistake I made, trading for a foil mythic the week it came out and paying far more than I needed to for the card.

Let’s be clear: I’m talking about cards for your Cube, your Commander deck, your non-competitive decks. If you need a card right away for Standard, well, you’ll pay what you need to for the card you want, and that is why Archangel Avacyn is a $50 card currently. She is seeing play in a range of strategies, she’s a double-faced mythic, and her casual appeal is very high too. The perfect storm of being expensive.

Avacyn-the-Purifier-MtG-Art

Her price has been one of the few that has ticked upwards since the set has come out. Our price tracker has her at $30 when released, and she’s been as high as $60. She is the outlier, though; lots of other cards have come down in price.

Today, though, I want to talk about those other cards, and evaluate two in particular.

It’s a truism that most cards get cheaper as time goes on and a set is opened more. You can see that in almost all of the cards from Shadows over Innistrad. Almost none have gone up in price, and some have come down quite quickly. It’s been a month and we can prices starting to stabilize, based on how much they have been played and been featured on camera.

Let’s look at Olivia, Mobilized for War, in foil because I have an all-foil Vampires deck.

Olivia

Now, I have the magpie curse. I love shiny versions of cards and I pick them up whenever I can. I accept this as part of who I am, and I curse that the regular version isn’t good enough for my Commander deck.

This Olivia is a house in Limited, a cheap and good-sized flyer who grants haste to your next plays without costing any mana. Being free of a mana cost is why Lightning Greaves is better than Swiftfoot Boots, even as hexproof is better than shroud.

I hesitated at first, thinking that I don’t always want to pitch a card to make things bigger and hasty, but then I realized that it’s no-downside. You don’t have to, unless you want to. So I decided I was going to add her to the deck, and then it became a waiting game.

If I had pulled the trigger right away, that is a $25 foil. Not unreasonable for what she does, and if she blows up Modern (not impossible) this could be more. Still, that was more than I wanted to spend, so I decided to wait.

And wait, while it ticked downward.

And wait a little more, as the psychological need to acquire got stronger. I finally pulled the trigger Thursday morning, because it was down to $15 and I doubt it’s going to fall much further. I admit, the small tick downward in the buylist price has me thinking I should have waited, but frankly, I’m okay with a minor cost in order to get what I want now.

The same thing happened with Relentless Dead, where it’s dropped to about $15 in foil from highs of up to $40, but more interesting is that the spread (the difference between the highest buylist and the lowest vendor) is really close to zero.

Relentless

In each of these cases, waiting saved me significant money. Right now, I can get two for the price that one would have cost me at release.

One thing I find quite interesting is how close the foils and non-foils are to each other. Generally speaking, foils are two to three times as expensive as the nonfoil. These ‘should’ be about $20 or $25, but are a lot less right now.

This is true for a lot of Shadows over Innistrad. The foils are a little underpriced, for reasons that aren’t clear. Will MTGO redemptions play a part? Is the demand for all the cards still high enough that the nonfoils have caught up to the foils? For instance, Declaration in Stone is $15, with the foils at $20. I think that in this case, demand for the card is so high that being foil is only worth a small amount.

The same price pattern appears in Pyromancer’s Goggles, which spiked pretty hard the last few weeks, and the foil is only a few dollars more than the regular. Interestingly, there are foil versions of Dark Petition available for cheaper than the nonfoil, after the Pro Tour-induced spike.

I think that the small gap between foil and nonfoil is due to Standard demand. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on these cards to see where they end up, because if this is a new pattern, I want to learn it right away. I can’t recall a time where so many foils were so close to nonfoils in price. Perhaps I didn’t notice it before? Maybe it’s an effect of two blocks or 18-month rotation? I’m honestly not sure, but if this is the new normal, it’s a significant shift.

In the comments or the forums, come talk about the narrowing gap, and if there’s other trends I’ve missed.

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Money in the Box?

Well, Shadows over Innistrad is here, and while I have been wrong about a lot of things, I want to look at one of my most cherished ideas and see if that’s even applicable this time around: Not opening packs/boxes.

There’s 59 rares and 18 mythics, and that counts the double-faced cards. There’s not any strong or official information out there regarding the relative rarity of the double-faced mythics as opposed to regular mythics, but since two of the three double-face mythics are two of the three most expensive cards in the set, maybe there’s something to that.

Shadows over Innistrad

It’s time look at some cold numbers.

Here’s all the cards currently that have a Fair Trade Price over $2.50. I’m using that as a general cutoff, that means the box price is $90. I know you can beat that price, but that is a pretty optimistic box price.

Just in case you’re curious, though, I’ll note when we pass the MSRP of $4 and when we get to $3, which puts a box at $108, a better price than stores will give yet slightly higher than TCG.

Card Name and Fair Trade Price

Archangel Avacyn $57.49

Sorin, Grim Nemesis $23.99

Arlinn Kord $23.64

Declaration in Stone $17.99

Jace, Unraveler of Secrets ">Jace, Unraveler of Secrets $13.73

Westvale Abbey $12.73

Thing in the Ice $12.35

Relentless Dead $12.05

Olivia, Mobilized for War $11.85

Nahiri, the Harbinger $11.60

The Gitrog Monster $8.23

Tireless Tracker $7.23

Thalia’s Lieutenant $6.98

Mindwrack Demon $5.64

Ulvenwald Hydra $5.64

Anguished Unmaking $5.58

Startled Awake $5.14

Foreboding Ruins ">Foreboding Ruins $4.53

Sigarda, Heron’s Grace $4.38

Traverse the Ulvenwald $4.19

Port Town $4.17

Under MSRP

Only 21 cards at $4 or more, two weeks into the set. Now let’s see what’s under MSRP in value.

Game Trail ">Game Trail $3.98

Always Watching $3.97

Fortified Village ">Fortified Village $3.97

Goldnight Castigator $3.73

Sin Prodder ">Sin Prodder $3.60

Cryptolith Rite ">Cryptolith Rite $3.59

Choked Estuary $3.51

Descend upon the Sinful $3.04

 

Eight more cards have the average value of a pack. So if you happen to win a cheap eBay auction or something and get your box for $90, there’s an additional pair of cards that are worth the price of a pack:

Drownyard Temple ">Drownyard Temple $2.73

To the Slaughter $2.51

At the most optimistic price, you have a 31/77 chance of making the value of a pack. That’s 40%. Ouch. Not great but not awful? Would you push all-in on a 60/40 hand?

If you get your packs at the TCG price of $108 or so, then you have a 29/77 chance, and that’s a slight decrease to 37%, and at the full MSRP on boosters, it drops further to 27%.

Further Explanation

There’s a couple of flaws with my admittedly basic methodology, and it’s worth addressing them.

First of all, I don’t have any way to account for foils. That’s a random event and a nice bonus, but nothing that can be counted on. For every box with a foil Archangel Avacyn, there’s another box with no foil rare at all. If you get it, great! If you don’t, well, better luck next time.

Avacyn-the-Purifier-MtG-Art

Second, the distribution of double-faced cards is a little wonky, and you can have a double-faced mythic and a double-face uncommon in the same pack. That’s a weird way to go about collating the boosters but hey, that’s not my job. If this is the price we pay to no longer have box mapping be a thing, I’m all in favor of it.

With that said, though, I have to say that the value is just not there for me. Opening a box is a rush, one I know well. Pack after pack of potential, of going slowly to drag out the anticipation or just tearing into it all in a flurry of Mylar. It’s a great feeling…until it’s gone.

I am obligated to point out that not all mythics are equal. Three of them (Seasons Past, Geralf’s Masterpiece, and Wolf of Devil’s Breach) don’t even make this list. That’s not a surprise in the abstract, as we all know mythics can be powerful and yet still inexpensive, but with so little time in retail stores and draft settings…that’s a lot of value gone and fast.

We have a potential spike in front of us, though, with the Pro Tour starting today.This will begin the dance of ‘who will follow through with orders?’ and ‘I can’t sell this fast enough!’ and the popular ‘oh god the card spiked and I had it on my want list…’ and that’s all an extra layer of price complexity. What cards will be popular? Who will run the table with an unforeseen and effective metagame call?
Still, the advice remains solid: Don’t buy packs. Don’t buy boxes. Don’t buy cases. At this point, you’re going to be lucky to open even equivalent value.

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