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PucaPicks for August 25, 2016

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Well, everyone, the much-hyped new Pucatrade is here and gosh, it’s pretty. It’s also clunky and everything is in a different spot, which is never really fun. I am not yet a fan of the new layout, I feel it’s a lot of extra graphics and unneeded stuff, especially on mobile.

However, I’m giving it and myself time to adjust to a new way of doing things. I’m planning on a more comprehensive review of the site and how things work next week, after I’ve had a chance to play with the settings and send out some cards.

This week, I’m going over my current picks from Eldritch Moon. Normally, I don’t advocate getting cards from the set in print and is being drafted every week, but there’s a new factor: Conspiracy.

The short version is that a ton of people are going to want to draft and play and buy Conspiracy: Take the Crown instead of the usual Eldritch MoonEldritch MoonShadows over Innistrad. Plus, we have only one month until the Kaladesh prerelease!

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So now is the time to look at EMN cards and make some strategic pickups.

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From the Vault: Yawn

I figure I’m not the only one to make that joke, about this being FtV: Bore, but it’s so darn accurate that I’m not going to flinch.

This FtV is super disappointing, there’s no way around it. The marquee cards aren’t that expensive and they are about to get a damn sight cheaper. Uncool foiling, a tendency to warp, and unexciting cards just aren’t going to peg the needle very far.

Also, this set doesn’t have much of a connecting theme. I get that Magic has a lot of cool stories to tell, and cards that want to tell those stories, but this set is disjointed at best. FTV: 20 at least got to pick the best/iconic cards to represent twenty years of Magic, but this set didn’t hit a lot of the high points for me.

Financially, this set follows the previous From the Vaults, in having a couple of high-value cards, mostly $5ish cards, and a couple of super-bulk cards. I’m seeing presales vary, sets are going for $50-$70 right now and that seems high. You’re far better off getting your singles in a week or two when people are desperate to unload their extras.

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Beseech the Queen – This is a $4 uncommon! Sneaky-great for picking out of bulk boxes, but these were two relatively small printings in Planechase and Shadowmoor. I expect this to end up in the $2 range.

Cabal Ritual – It’s a $2 common, and played in exactly one deck. It’s going to be a dollar or less, an easy pickup if you really need one or a set.

Conflux – There’s a Legacy deck which uses this and Dream Halls to really go off. It’s not good enough in Cube, it only goes in five-color Commander decks. I would expect this foil to settle out in the range of five to seven dollars.

Dark Depths & Marit Lage – This is one of the two money cards in the set. Dark Depths is quite the combo with Thespian’s Stage, and that’s why Stage has had a significant spike recently. A huge part of this card’s price is that it’s from Coldsnap, which was never in huge demand and 60 regular or 200 foil is about right for the play it gets. No one has ever done this card fairly, Vampire Hexmage caused a spike in Depths back in 2009.

This version will slice the price in half and then some, and I expect it to end up about $25.

Glissa, the Traitor – Nigh-impossible to beat in combat without help, she also has artifact recursion synergies. Don’t overlook that she was the prerelease foil, and so she’s going to be $1 at most thanks to FTV.

Helvault – Bulk before, bulk now.

Memnarch – This is one of the most terrifying sets of abilities ever. For seven mana, you can steal target land, permanently. Combines really well with other cards that make the ability easier and cheaper, which will absolutely, and rightfully, get you taken out quickly in Commander games. I would expect this to be about $10.

Mind’s Desire – If your Cube has a Storm deck, then it is up to you if you’ll run this as well as the other finishers (Tendrils of Agony, Brain Freeze, etc.) that cost less and are more certain to work. It’s barely a dollar card, and there is a Judge foil giving a top end, so I’d expect this to be around $3.

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary – I have to admit, I didn’t know this had gotten all the way to $10, and a $30 foil. It’s undoubtedly an amazing card in Simic decks, turning every G/U creature into a creature in your hand. Chaining Coiling Oracle into Prime Speaker Zegana and so on and so forth is certainly powerful. I think this will be lower than $10 and more than $5.

Near-Death Experience – So many things from Rise of the Eldrazi, and they picked this. Blah and bulk.

Obliterate – Oh joy, a card that resets the game, even down to lands. Suspending this with Jhoira of the Ghitu will get you attacked into oblivion. This won’t be much above bulk.

Phyrexian Processor – Yes, this is the first foil printing, and that is always awesome, but not every deck needs this card or this effect. The more life you pump into it, the more worried you’ll be. Waiting till you have mana to both cast and activate it is much safer. Price-wise, this will probably be less than $5.

Tolaria West – Another one of those ‘Holy crap, it’s a $5 uncommon!’ cards but a lot of that was the way this card was used in Summer Bloom decks. It’s not bad in Commander, where you can use it to find any land you want, or Pacts or other shenanigans, but there’s not much of a demand and I would be very surprised if this kept the $5 price.

Umezawa’s Jitte – This is tricky. On the one hand, it’s the best Equipment ever. On the other, it’s banned in Modern. It’s climbed to $45 based on a tiny original print run, and being the GP foil for the 2009 season. No one needs a playset of this, it’s always a one-of in Legacy thanks to Stoneforge Mystic. Generally speaking, Legacy players don’t like FTV foiling, so I don’t see much of a market there, and that leaves Commander and Cube. I think this remains in the $30 range, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it fell all the way to $20, simply based on few how many people need another copy.

Unmask – Oh, I love this card. I had a black deck once that wanted to go Swamp-Dark RitualHypnotic Specter. A blue deck could beat that only with Force of Will, and that’s what Unmask is for. It requires an answer, or it strips the answer away. It’s only $6/$33 now, and I would expect the FTV version to be sub-$5, maybe as low as $1.

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PucaPicks for August 18, 2016

Welcome back to PucaPicks!

I can’t wait to go over some of the cards which are undervalued and which are overvalued. Last week I talked about Oath of the Gatewatch and Battle for Zendikar, and this week most of my attention is on the rotation: Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir!

There are some cards in here which I love love love, and others barely worth the effort of a stamp. Let’s get to it!

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Long-Term Thinking

So the Pro Tour was last weekend, and now we are in for a long lonely spell until Kaladesh

…oh yeah. We are still in the throes of a very expensive summer to be a Magic player.

From the Vault: Lore is coming out next weekend, and I can’t remember the last time one of these was so ho-hum. Sure, it’s the first foiling for some of these, but the niche of people who need a Dark Depths or an Umezawa’s Jitte is relatively small. Plus, neither of those are particularly expensive cards.

At least FTV: Angels last summer has some sweet new art Akromas to tempt us with. This looks more like FTV: Barely Worth Retail.

Conspiracy spoilers have already started (the Ghost Assassin!!), and that I’m pretty stoked for. I want to warn you now: Don’t get caught in a trap like I did and start trading for all the assorted ‘draft matters’ cards like Cogwork Librarian. Those haven’t budged in price at all since that set came out, much to the chagrin of my foils.

But what I want to talk about this week is a topic I’ve only recently come to appreciate: how Wizards R & D plants seeds across sets for the stuff that’s coming up.

To get the sense of what I mean, I want to talk about a card that was good when it came out, good with the sets that came later, and good with the last set it’s legal with.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is an awesome Magic card. It’s cheap, could block if you wanted or needed, lets you cycle through your deck, and then turns into a planeswalker who locks things up nicely. It’s a powerful card all by itself, and strong enough to make waves in Modern and Legacy, not just Standard.

Consider this your regular reminder to pick these up at sub-$30 prices and be prepared to reap the profits in a year. If decks are powering out Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang on turn two or three, then JVP has a real chance to be flipped by then.

What else is Jace good with? Madness. Delirium. Self-mill, like Gather the Pack and Grapple with the Past. Cards that want to be in the yard, like Kozilek’s Return and Prized Amalgam. Only because hindsight is 20/20 can we see how good it is with a range of abilities and card mechanics.

Until very recently, I hadn’t learned to appreciate the sneaky-brilliant nature of the game designers that work in Seattle, but I’m aware now. More to the point, I don’t want to get caught out. I want to have a better time anticipating what is good and will remain good in the future.

A few weeks ago, when I was guesting on MTG Fast Finance, I picked foil Eldrazi Mimic at about $6 as a long-term hold, because I love how good Legacy Eldrazi decks are. Still do, as a matter of fact. A couple weeks after that, my compatriot Travis Allen picked nonfoils at 75 cents to a dollar, because they are good with these huge Emerge creatures, but both of us missed a very salient point:

Eldrazi Mimic only cares that the creature is colorless. It doesn’t have to be an Eldrazi, or something with devoid. It could be an artifact creature, and oh look, Kaladesh is going to have an artifact theme!

This is brilliant forethought from Wizards, and once you start looking at it, and thinking about it, you realize that they have been doing this for years! Remember the glory days of Mono-Black Devotion? Gray Merchant of Asphodel plus Nightveil Specter? Who knew that hybrid symbols could be so incredibly relevant? Wizards did.

I don’t claim to be smart enough to have figured out all the plants ahead of time. I do know that I am taking a hard look at cards that notice colorlessness (like Sanctum of Ugin) versus those that are specifically looking for Eldrazi (Kozilek’s Return). I truly love when a plan comes together, like the UR Spells deck that for some reason isn’t playing Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. It seems like a better Thermo-Alchemist, and playing her is a total blast. I’m enjoying Standard for the first time in a long time. Powerful cross-block synergies is what Wizards is planning for, building, and anticipating. Unlocking that knowledge, and looking for those interactions, is something I want to get better at.

Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Shadows over Innistrad gave us token, disposable artifacts right before an artifact-themed block. Tireless Tracker is probably the best, but Tamiyo’s Journal or Magnifying Glass might become super-relevant.

The two sets after Aether Revolt, if I were to speculate, will have something to do with sacrificing. I don’t know what, but I know that Shadows over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon certainly are encouraging us to discard and sacrifice creatures, and I won’t be surprised at all if that’s the theme in nine months or so. Probably it will be enough to reinvigorate our interest in Emerge or Voldaren Pariah or something like that.

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