Tag Archives: Finance

PROTRADER: Everything In Its Right Place

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This week’s article is not a continuation of the Playing Better series (which will continue next week), but is more of an address to the various things that have come up since I started that series. This is going to be one of those grab bag style pieces that is slightly more focused than a collection of quick hits. If there is one major point to be made, however, it’s the following:

NOT EVERYTHING IS FOR EVERYBODY: We have three supplemental Magic products coming out this summer, and they are all in the form of actual sets (as opposed to pre-constructed decks or something). This is unprecedented, and has a type of psychological impact that people have largely had trouble articulating.

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PROTRADER: Vintage Set Review: Urza’s Saga, Part 2

Today’s piece is the second half of a set review that started here. In the previous installment we covered all the rare Lands, Artifacts, blue, and black cards. Today we are covering Green, Red, and White. The results are actually better than you would expect!

 

We are gonna start off with some quick acknowledgments:

  • I was not nearly as right about the Super Bowl as I was about the Pro Tour. Also, I was totally right about the Pro Tour. Boom, roasted.
  • That being said, be ready to get out of any Eldrazi cards that you don’t just want to own for the rest of your life. The difference between this deck and something that is just good is that the fundamental engine of the Eldrazi deck does something that Development just doesn’t allow any more. Nature abhors a vacuum, and WotC R&D abhors anything that subverts the fundamental structure of the game.
  • We are going to finish Urza’s Saga today, but I’m starting an exciting new series next week. I’m really looking forward to it, and so should you.

Antagonism: This card isn’t pushed enough to be punishing in EDH. Compare this to something like Stranglehold to get an idea of the bar it needs to clear.

Bedlam: Another instance of “printed only in Saga and 7th”. This card is actually surprisingly good, as it can represent an instant kill (assuming you have already done the hard work of getting an army in place), and can break up a lot of the gridlock in multiplayer games. As an enchantment this card is hard to get rid of, and can always be sacced and brought back with something like Starfield of Nyx. Foils are only available in the more questionable 7th Ed art, but those are somehow only $4. An interesting long-term target.

Brand: I know there are functions for this card, but it’s ultimately too narrow to have a financial impact.

Bulwark: Another red enchantment that is way too fair and not impactful enough even with the potential of multiple “triggers”. How many turns of this doing little to no damage are needed before this is good enough to be worth five mana and a slot in your deck?

Crater Hellion: Sold out on SCG, but two semi-recent printings (none available in foil) really do a lot in terms of limiting upside. Not sure whether these are sold out as an indicator of demand, or just because nobody has bothered to upload more.

BRIEF ASIDE: One of the reasons why I make sure to note that a card is sold out on StarCityGames is because SCG is on a whole other level in terms of “visibility”. There are people out there who don’t know about TCGPlayer, Cool Stuff, CardKingdom, whoever- but they know SCG. It’s not always reflective of price or any other type of factor, but it is certainly a tribute to their ability to promote to all levels of the Magic-playing populace, even outside of the more enfranchised spheres.

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Visibility is a crucial factor in betting on older Magic cards.
Visibility is a crucial factor in betting on older Magic cards.

Electryte: Cute, but not good enough to be played anywhere. Also possibly the name of a pokemon.

Fault Line: An instant speed Earthquake for just an extra R. I’d play this in Commander for sure, although there is a long list of red X spells that are as good as this or better. How often if ever is this better than Bonfire of the Damned?

Gamble: A Legacy staple that has no chance of ever fitting into modern design/development philosophy. Unlike some of the other cards we’ve liked so far (Lifeline, Yawgmoth’s Will, Tolarian Academy, etc), this is NOT on the Reserve List. According to PucaTrade, there is a little over one copy traded per week, which is actually better than I expected.

Lightning Dragon: The prerelease promo is $8 because it’s a promotional foil copy of a dragon, but the set version doesn’t have any draw in 2016. Our bad dragons now are so much better than our borderline ones were back then.

There have always been Dragon collectors in Magic, but I can't figure out why.
There have always been Dragon collectors in Magic, but I can’t figure out why…

Okk: Pairs well with Jotun Grunt in the worst Zoo deck ever. At least this one gets cast off of Burning-Tree Emissary.

Rumbling Crescendo: Nah.

Scoria Wurm: five mana for a bad 7/7 is not as flashy as it used to be.

Shivan Hellkite: The foil version from Tenth is worth a look. This is the kind of card I always liked pairing with Death Pits of Rath back in the day.

Sneak Attack: Another red Legacy staple that is not on the Reserve List. Honestly, I could see Gamble and/or Sneak Attack in a future commander product, since they are played in multiple formats and styles of archetypes.

Sulfuric Vapors: Another card that just doesn’t do enough. Also, why is every red rare an enchantment that costs 4?

Viashino Sandswimmer: Hard pass.

Wildfire: A good card that has too many other printings.

Abundance: This card doesn’t technically win you games, but it does a lot to help you not lose games. I love the old frame and the way it makes this art look, but the Tenth Edition version is a little bit cleaner and easier to read. The foil is $30+, so there is room for the non-foils to creep up. Demand is likely only for commander, which means one copy is enough for most players.

Argothian Enchantress: The Enchantress archetype isn’t as much of a thing now as it has been in the past, but this card is often a 4x staple. I wouldn’t be aggressive in acquiring these, as Enchantress isn’t likely to surge in popularity anytime soon, but don’t pass up on a deal as these have pedigree.

Argothian Wurm: Nope.

Child of Gaea: There are too many other better Elementals.

Citanul Centaurs: This looks like a character that would be voiced by H Jon Benjamin. Hopefully that makes it into the Magic movie.

Citanul Hierophants: probably one of the fairest ways to generate a lot of mana in your deck. This propels you into the late game, but it doesn’t do anything else when you get there.

Endless Wurm: Nope again.

Exploration: Conspiracy did a lot of damage here, especially in terms of introducing foils. I love this art a lot, though.

Greater Good: This is probably the ideal green EDH enchantment. I was high on it years ago, but I don’t think I ever expected it to get as high as it is. I don’t know how many reprint outlets it has these days, and all of the printings are pretty old by now. Buy them if you need them, and pick up any deals if you see them. I don’t think these will get much cheaper, although a commander reprint will likely torpedo non-foil prices.

Greener Pastures: This card would probably cost G if it was designed today.

Hidden Herd: A bad Wild Nacatl that is slightly unreliable, especially late.

Hidden Predators: I feel slightly bad about Hidden Herd being rated poorly, but I don’t feel nearly as bad about bashing this. A total trap.

Hidden Stag: The worst of this cycle. The weird part is that the “hidden” aspect here is worse with the advent of Abrupt Decay.

Midsummer Revel: More junk. There are a lot of junk rares in this set, which discourages me from buying packs of this set.

Vernal Bloom: 7th and 8th foils are at ten, but these are certainly the most appealing non-foils. I think the foil versions are probably a little low, especially for 7th.

Whirlwind: Too narrow.

Angelic Chorus: Probably about right at $4. The foils from Tenth are probably underpriced at $15 looking at Abundance and some of the other cards we’ve discussed in this series.

Catastrophe: Another really good card in multiplayer that is probably close to correct in price.

Elite Archers: garbage.

Faith Healer: An interesting element that could surge alongside things like Starfield of Nyx. Definitely a long shot, and probably only good in niche, pet archetypes.

Glorious Anthem: Too many printings and not enough application to see any price movement here now.

Herald of Serra: Like Lightning Dragon, this is an under-costed version of an old card that is just not really good enough in the formats its allowed to play in. Pass.

Intrepid Hero: An underrated EDH card. Also, in this art the hero looks like a King of the Hill character.

hank-hill-animorphs

Opal Archangel: Not even close.

Opal Titan: closer than Archangel, but still on the outside looking in. 2WW is a tough club to break into.

Pariah: Foils from 7th and Tenth are pretty high, which is interesting because this card seems relatively underpowered. I think demand is probably non-existent, so I would just make a note to snag foils if you see them underpriced.

Planar Birth: I love lands in graveyards more than most people, and I have no use for this card. Hard pass.

Remembrance: This card suffers by being useless in the format that would be most inclined to playing it. Too much mana anywhere else.

Rune of Protection: Lands: Take that, Stalking Stones!

Serra Avatar: This was a card that was once a huge casual favorite, and now has too many printings and too much competition to be worth anything.

Serra’s Liturgy: I regret promising to do EVERY rare.

Soul Sculptor: Not competitive.

Worship: This actually spiked pretty recently, because unlike most of this set it has application in Modern. I don’t think it’s really playable, but I think it’s probably a big enough casual favorite that the new price of $10ish isn’t too high to slide dramatically. The “spike” was more realistically a price adjustment, because these were basically free for a long time, despite being a life-long member in the “Underworld Dreams Club of Cards Casuals Like”.

Thanks for reading! That was definitely harder to get through than I expected. I’ll see you next week!

Best,

Ross

 

UPDATE!!!! So the announcement of Eternal Masters doesn’t change my impressions of these cards in terms of playability, because the set doesn’t sound like it is introducing any new pieces. However, the potential for a new reprint pipeline does mean that any card that is expensive just because it is older and hard to find is likely to tank. If this set drives demand for Legacy or a yet-to-be-announced new constructed format, then it’s likely that early-identified staples actually go up in price (Force of Will, Wasteland). The safest play in terms of respecting all of the options is to target the niches- all of those 7th Edition EDH foils that we talked about, as well as waiting to see what cards don’t make the cut. EM1 can’t reprint EVERYTHING, and I expect this first version to include some casual/EDH staples (my best  guess? Greater Good) to try and hedge the audience appeal. Also, there seems to already be a run on Reserve List cards (including Great Whale, which we discussed last week), but this is reactionary action that is likely to burn quite a few people. Avoid it as you would The Noid.

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Looking Behind to Look Ahead

It’s that time of year again. The time to look at the past to see where we might be headed into the future. I’m going to list all the articles I’ve written over the past year below that have generated a good discussion, so that we can review them one more time to know where we might be headed in the future. My hope by doing this is to see what predictions have gone wrong for me, which have gone better, and which we can learn from to see how we can approach Magic finance.

Battle for Fatpacks

This article takes the top spot for most comments of the articles I’ve authored in 2015. I’m not surprised that it generated so many comments – after all, we thought items like fatpacks were immutable to market pressure because Wizards could just print more of them… but we learned very quickly that wasn’t the case.

Looking at it again, the article was meant to highlight that this was a highly unusual case for fatpacks because they usually just sit on the shelves at your local game store, gathering dust until someone wants another box for their collection and also decides that they should get a few packs at the same time. Unfortunately, until we get more of the same type of fatpacks in Oath of the Gatewatch we’re still going to see $60+ prices on these guys. Even after more land packs are introduced, I’m not sure if the fatpacks from BFZ block will ever fall below retail due to the huge demand for full art lands.

Modern Masters 2015 Controversy

My next most commented article, this piece highlighted the extreme divergence from a value-centered Modern Masters 2013 set to a… let’s be generous and say limited centric experience for those opening Modern Masters 2015 boosters. Specifically, the rares of Modern Masters 2015 were a total trainwreck in terms of value. It had more than double the amount of bulk rares that Modern Masters 2013 included. Thus, many players were frustrated with the fact that pack prices increased while the value of opening single packs over boxes (basically, drafting the set) decreased.

Out takeaway here is that Modern Masters sets will keep giving us stuff like Tarmogoyf and Cryptic Command but otherwise will start focusing on limited more than the value of the rares included.

tarmogoyf

In Modern Masters’ Wake

This blurb was a catch-all of the comments I had concerning prices after the release of Modern Masters 2015 and leading into the Grand Prix that followed the release weekend. I noted that cards like Primeval Titan didn’t shift much in price after the release, while others were on their way up and up hard. As we all remember, Snapcaster Mage experienced a humungous spike because of the omission of Innistrad from the set. Other random cards, like foil Omniscience, also spiked at the time since they too managed a reprint dodge.

Of course, since then many of these cards have settled down from their post-release spikes but could yet again see another resurgence in price as the next Modern season approaches. Modern is quite an unpredictable beast, so it will be hard to tell which cards will spike the hardest but we’ll definitely be seeing higher prices on many Modern staples as the season approaches more closely.

Modern Masters 2015 – Release Weekend Update

This article highlighted all the issues I researched concerning the release of Modern Masters 2015. I think this article, along with my one about the general value of rares you can expect to pull out of a pack, are quite telling in terms of the quality control of the set.

You can check out the article for specifics, but there were a ton of issues with the green packs that Wizards created for this Modern Masters release. Collation issues, in pack damage (something also seen with foil Expeditions *sigh*), and other mishaps like order allocation scares were enough to get people like myself to notice and comment. Hopefully this year we’ll experience less issues with premium set releases, though based on Expedition damage issues I’m not sure if the quality control measures have been fully implemented at this point.

Goodbye to Theros, Hello to Holds

Here I commented on which cards from Theros block were the best targets to hold moving forward. I still maintain that Thoughtseize is the strongest target since it is the best discard spell in the Modern format at rare. Foils are still a great pickup, since they haven’t moved in price since I commented and I believe that they have nowhere to go but up until the next reprinting.

Check out the article for more thoughts on where I think certain Theros staples are heading in the future.

thoughtseize

Magic Origins Clash Pack Review

My most exciting clash pack review to date, this review generated buzz since it contained Windswept Heath! Now that we know that precon products like clash packs will contain in-demand Standard staples, as well as event decks containing mythic rares, I think it is a wake up call to us all that Standard staples are not great speculation targets anymore – not unless you pick them up in preorders before the set is released, and it is always a difficult thing to predict the metagame.

We all have our stories of failed speculation targets, and mine are also included among those. What this clash pack has taught me is that I need to be even more careful when picking up Standard cards for future gains, and I think instead I will need to think about their appeal in Modern and beyond (as well as foil pros and cons) before acquiring any Standard legal cards moving forward.

The Spread on Fate Reforged

Though I looked at Fate Reforged as a whole in this article, I’ve more highlighted the fact that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is an unusually popular casual card – so much so that it continued to demand a $30 and higher retail tag even after the set had saturated the market. I’m not one to say I told you so but… Ugin is now a $50, and won’t go down until Fate Reforged rotates from Standard.

Foil Ugins, on the other hand, have dropped in price considerably since I wrote that article. Since Standard players rarely have need of foils, the initial Commander got-to-have-it-now hype has died down and you will be able to get a great deal on a foil Ugin over the coming months as Fate Reforged rotates from Standard.

The Timeless Adventures of Monastery Mentor

The other incredible mythic rare from Fate Reforged, Monastery Mentor, also deserved his own article from your’s truly since I believe that he has great eternal appeal based on early results from tournaments after Fate Reforged was released.

A nice win for me, my own copies that I procured back in April after I wrote the article have appreciated well. According to the price history, that was the low point for foil mentors and they’ve gone past $70 each retail since then. I hope you all were also able to pick up foil Mentors throughout the early stages of last year before they crossed $50 or even $60.

Jace, the $40 Origins Mythic

Here, I spent a great deal of time considering Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and why his price history was mirroring that of most broken planeswalker of all time, Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Even now, I fear that I underestimate the power of little Jace in eternal formats. He seems to keep exceeding all of my expectations for what a Standard legal card can become value-wise. Now, I’m thinking that his price will never go below $30 since the demand he sees in Modern (along with a short print run of Origins) will forever keep him in the low $30 range until the inevitable reprint happens.

Jace

Tradewind Rider – Riding the Tides of the Trade

Finally, the last article I want to talk about it has a more personal touch to it than many articles I release for MTGPrice. The article poses the question “Is it worth it to trade anymore?” based on several premises such as the time to trade, more cutthroat approach to trading, and condition-based trading that seems to be happening these days.

The piece probably strikes most of you as something that an old curmudgeon harpening back on the glory days of Magic trading would spew, and there certainly is quite a bit of complaining to back that up. Maybe I’ve been neglecting to fully utilize and learn the new tools of the trade that have been given to the player community. After looking at this article again I want to make it one of Magic related news years resolutions to finally not be frustrated with the way trading happens for me these days, and instead to embrace technology for the additional opportunities it grants me rather than the slow-down it seems to have become. Puca banning users from selling points hurts trading on that exchange somewhat, but even then I still think it is a great way to pick up Commander and Cube staples that I have a hard time finding locally.

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Standard Deck Value Check

There seems to be an uproar this Battle for Zendikar standard season with the price of Standard decks. Never before since the original Zendikar block have Standard decks reached heights bordering on $1,000 – at least during the first few weeks of the set’s release. However, the price of decks has settled back down even though everyone is playing three or four colors since we have fetchlands and fetchable duals in Standard.

Looking at the price of top decks of the format, we are safely now below the $1,000 mark.

Price of Standard Decks as of 11/21/2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 5.37.32 PM

Unfortunately, many of the decks are still over $500 with two of them (Dark Jeskai and GW Megamorph) even bordering on the $700 mark which I still think is way too expensive for Standard. As others on MTGPrice have pointed out, this boils down to a combination of fetchland reprints and the last Magic Core Set being released. The reason that the Core Set is important here is because it is released right in the middle of the summer, which is a known downtime when it comes to players purchasing cards, which lead to the price of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy reaching the lofty heights of $80 and up for a short time.

Now as we approach December, the price of Standard decks are starting to settle down again but they still feel expensive to me. Where are the current values of the decks now?

Abzan Aggro

Since Abzan Aggro now contains a full playset of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, we know who the main offender is here. Also, Den Protector is still around $13, which is lower than its previous high of $16 but still very expensive for a rare. Its unusual for rares to maintain a price this high for very long – I mean, even Snapcaster Mage wasn’t much more than $20 during its lifetime in Standard, and it was one of the more dominant cards of the format. I’d keep a close eye on Den Protector since Dragons of Tarkir will be Standard legal for longer than Khans and Fate, so Den Protector might break $20 if it continues to be a strong inclusion in green strategies moving forward.

Hangarback Walker is also a good chunk of the price, even with an event deck printing to help get copies out there. I feel like we’re going to encounter another Thragtusk situation here, since even that had an event deck printing and still reached highs of almost $30 during Innistrad Standard. Funny how some of these situations mirror Innistrad Standard so closely, but I guess history is doomed to repeat itself until we are fully into the new Standard rotation schedule that Wizards has planned out for all future sets.

Ultimately though, the largest chunk of the deck’s value is of course from the lands. Playing twelve fetchlands, four manlands, and a few of the new battle lands, that is close to $250 tied up just in the mana base. This isn’t a good thing, definitely not from a player’s perspective, and I’m hoping it is going to get better once the fetchlands rotate from Standard.

Dark Jeskai

Jace, Vrn’s Prodigy takes up a huge chunk of the deck where four of them will cost you almost as much as the fetchlands in the deck priced together. It is pretty funny of me to say this, but I would much rather trade four Jaces for twelve fetchlands than I would ever want to keep holding four Jaces. I think he is going to drop like a rock when he rotates from Standard, and many players are going to be (rightfully) pissed off when he starts plummeting in price back down to the $20 or lower range again. I realize that Jace has plenty of eternal appeal in Modern through Legacy, but do you really think that is going to make his price continue to command $30 or higher upon rotation? I’m not that confidant, especially when I know fetchlands have proven to be very lucrative in the past.

Speaking of fetchlands, I think the ones in this deck in particular (Bloodstained Mire, Flooded Strand, and Polluted Delta) are still pretty lowly priced considering how the Zendikar fetches ultimately ended up in the $50 and higher range once Modern became a thing, and blue ones reached heights so high that people’s heads were spinning for a while. Do I think we’re going to see $80 to $100 (or above) Polluted Deltas eventually? No. But I do think they have a great chance of hitting at least $50 during the height of Modern seasons in the future. Not this Modern season of course, but a few years down the line you’ll be very happy that you stocked up on blue lands in particular once Modern ultimately becomes the eternal format of choice.

Esper Tokens / Esper Control / Esper Dragons

      

Again, we have Hangarback Walker, Gideon, and the manabase taking up the majority cost of the Esper Tokens deck too. The cards are the same, just assembled in a different order alongside of choices like Secure the Wastes and Wingmate Roc to help generate creatures as the game goes on. I expect Gideon to keep dropping until around February / March of next year, once Oath is released and players have their eyes on new cards coming out from the new set. If he still continues to be a powerhouse, he could retain a high price due to the lower power curve of Battle for Zendikar overall but even then I still think he is due for  drop as we proceed through the winter doldrums.

Besides lands, Little Jace and Ugin are the big offenders from Esper Control, along with Dragonlord Ojutai for those decks that may maindeck him or bring him in from the sideboard for certain matchups. Ugin is interesting to me – his price isn’t going down any time soon, yet I can’t help but feel he will take a hit in some way upon rotation even though he is one of most popular casual planeswalkers to come along since the release of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker – you know, being Bolas’ counterpart and all. I like holding onto extra copies but we all know that the even deck / supplemental product printing for Ugin is going to be a matter of when, not if. I think it is best for extra copies be moved, especially since we are in the hype of R/G Ramp that is jamming a full playset within the main deck.

Finally, Esper Dragons is definitely packing the Dragonlord Ojutai’s, along with again Little Jace and the lands to accompany the deck. The pieces are again just reconfigured to make the maximum use of the “dragons matter” spells from Dragons of Tarkir, which we’ve all seen are excellent when used to their full effect. Dragonlord Ojutai is without a doubt tanking upon Dragons of Tarkir rotation but could see a huge spike when Khans and Fate Reforged rotate, since he is one the powerhouses that is remaining to help the Esper Dragons deck continue to be a force in the metagame. Keep a close eye on him and sell into any hype he might see when Khans/Fate Reforged rotate in the upcoming months.

GW Megamorph

     

We have a mix of high value cards here in the form of Den Protector, Deathmist Raptor, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Dromoka’s Command, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (along with of course lands, but at this point I believe that goes without saying). Interestingly enough, none of these cards are rotating at the next rotation schedule, so I think GW Megamorph should be heavily watched to see where the core pieces of the deck are going in price since fetchlands are going to rotate soon too. I wonder especially if Dromoka’s Command is in for another spike – copies were super cheap after the event deck printing, and they have rebounded nicely over the past few months as Dragons of Tarkir is drying up and players have been focused on the expedition lottery in Battle for Zendikar.

I guess what I’m saying is that GW Megamorph is still going to be a huge force in the metagame even once rotation happens, so I expect at least one, if not several, of the cards to experience spikes (at least in the short term) after Khans and Fate rotate.

4C Rally

Finally, the last somewhat expensive deck is 4C Rally which makes use of Collected Company and Rally the Ancestors to defeat opponents by overwhelming them with creature value. Little Jace again is a huge offender in this deck and even Collected Company is still commanding an $8 price tag – certainly better than the$16+ it was once it exploded into Modern, though still one of the more expensive pieces of the deck. I definitely think it can potentially be higher priced once rotation happens. Collected Company is the card to watch from this deck, as Modern demand in addition to Standard demand could propel it past $10 again despite the event deck printing.

Wrapping Up

     

All in all, yes – Standard is expensive but at least we’re not shelling out $1,000 for decks at this point and they are only going to get cheaper once the fetchlands rotate from Standard. Keep an eye on all Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins staples, as the upcoming rotation will not be affecting them negatively in price and several of the current staples will probably see significant gains once the new metagame shakes out. As always, I love to hear your thoughts in the comments so let me know what you think about my analysis and what your own has been since Battle for Zendikar has been released.

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