Tag Archives: Shadows Over Innistrad

PROTRADER: The Next Big Move

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Okay, so today is the street release for Eldritch Moon, but we aren’t going to spend much time talking about that set. Instead, I want to talk about Kaladesh – or more accurately, the rotation accompanying it.

I can’t tell you how many times I was asked last week at FNM about “what’s rotating out”. Okay, so it was probably somewhere around four or five times, but still– that’s a lot of times to be asked the same question by a small crowd of people, especially when the answer is a pretty simple “nothing”. For whatever reason, the new (simplified!) rotation schedule has not yet trickled-down from the enfranchised players at the top to the lower-information players at the bottom1.

This really got me thinking however, and I think this is the best time to begin optimizing for the upcoming transition. One of the interesting, non-partisan elements of the current election is the discussion over how the transition will be made next January, even if the Democrats end up keeping the White House. It’s been compared to a new CEO taking the helm of a giant corporation, except that it’s unarguably even larger in scope. Both of the major parties have spent the last several months discussing how the protocol and procedure of such a move would take place; this isn’t as a means of political bluster, but as a way to avoid any costly hiccups or oversights. Stability and continuity is going to be the name of the game. Why should we approach Standard any differently?

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I mentioned the non-rotating rare lands a couple of weeks back, and this is certainly the foundational level of looking ahead. Being able to actually cast your spells is pretty important, and even though both cycles are going to have a tough time breaking into Modern, it’s not crazy to think that either SoI’s or BFZ’s lands could be commonly played in full sets. The Shadows lands all have a full year left in Standard, so the appeal of buying in at roughly $2 each now seems like it could easily pay off at some point in the next twelve months. My favorites here are undoubtedly Fortified Village and Port Town (White is VERY strong right now, and surprisingly deep in terms of deckbuilding options), but it’s worth mentioning that the red ones feel at least somewhat artificially depressed- don’t forget that R won like 3 Pro Tours in a row and could easily win another in the next year.

Building off of the revolutionary concept that Lands are good in Magic, the next look is to finding dynamic, standalone threats. It you look at winning games from the “Top Down” perspective advocated by Pat Chapin, then look for the things that are going to win you games either in immediacy or in essence just by casting them. One of the first things on my list here is actually a new card, Elder Deep-Fiend. This card saw a pretty interesting bump during preorders, and is probably going to see a small price shrink in a month (unless it is literally half the top 16 or more of PT:EMN, which is possible). Right now, it’s like the 2015 Minnesota Vikings or 2016 Jacksonville Jaguars2, a darling among the pundits that is going to have to prove the larger pools of doubters that they are legit. Emrakul is in this conversation to a degree, but she is definitely priced too high at $15, and I’m happy to wait that slump out.

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Ulamog at $12 is only slightly more appealing, but World Breaker at $5 seems like the smarter play. World Breaker in application seems to certainly do enough to get the job done, and in conjuction with Drownyard Temple is able to take over most situations. The deckbuilding costs with splashing green for World Breaker are not terrible, since two or the best creature lands (Hissing Quagmire and Lumbering Falls) are simultaneously in G and the two best control colors. Staying in green, Cryptolith Rite seems like a solid buy at just under $3, especially since it’s high water-mark was more than twice as much. Cryptolith Rite is going to be in Standard just as long as Westvale Abbey (a tricky call at ~$7, but a powerful and broad threat nonetheless), and the two cards certainly pair well together. The trick here is to look for things that are good on their own, without relying on potential synergies that may prove too hard to bet on with yet-to-be-known mechanics from future sets.

A big reason why this is so important to focus on now is because Eldritch Moon rares/mythics are currently all at inflated values. The potential to convert something like a Liliana, the Last Hope into twelve or thirteen Fortified Villages seems like a trade that won’t be possible in a few weeks. Gisela, the Broken Blade was one of my favorite cards coming out, but I’m not sure how long she can maintain $24 without having that crucial fourth point of toughness. Spell Queller, the fifth most expensive card as of me writing this, is over $12 and still just a rare — I expect that value to crater as the set gets opened en masse. Heck, even Ishkanah, Grafwidow is floating around $10, and that card’s best home is probably Gauntlet Legends: Dark Legacy3.

Decimator of Provinces has already seen a slide down to about $5, and even though I think it’s probably safe there for a while (unless the card proves to be literally useless immediately, which I don’t think is possible), I think more mythics will be joining it by slipping down a few bucks in the short term. Consequently, cards from most of the other sets in Standard (not just DTK and Origins, which are entering their senior year) have had a small dip in value, making this the best time to buy most of the cards from any set BESIDES EMN.

Speaking of Origins (kinda), the slow burn on Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is incredible to me. I’ve officially started targeting them aggressively, and if they get much lower than their current $30, expect to see someone with the capital stage at least a partial buyout. This card plays perfectly with the environment of the next few months, and is a proven player in Standard AND the Eternal formats. Ask yourself this- is there any point in the next 5 years where I would rather have a Tamiyo and a Grim Flayer OVER a Jace? This price drop feels like what happened years ago with rotations, before players realized that good cards were good even after they left the marquee format.

What do you think? Which cards do you think are safe or appealing in three or six months? Which EMN rares are best to trade away now?

Best,

Ross

1[‘condescending smirk’ emoji].

2DUUUUUUUUUUUVAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL.

3The PS2 version, obviously.

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Customer Service in #MTGFINANCE: Part 2

Written By:

Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns
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Welcome back, friends. I spent the last weekend moving into a new apartment, so I didn’t have a whole time to spend on Magic. Thankfully I’ve still got some decent ideas leftover from last week’s article, so we’re going to talk about customer service in this industry a bit more. I’m sure you all want to hear about Craig Berry and the whole Reserved List buyout, but Corbin has already covered that extensively in an interesting interview with the man himself. I’d really recommend checking that out.

Last week we went over a couple of the scenarios where things can go wrong in the process of buying or selling a Magic card, and the proper procedures for both the buyer and seller to resolve things as peacefully as possible without resorting to insults and witch hunts. I’d like to start this article on a brighter note, and provide sellers with some ideas that can be used to really brighten a buyers’ day and earn those coveted five-star reviews that we all want to secure. As such, this article will be a bit more “seller focused” because that’s where I have more experience.

Freebies

Maybe this is getting to be more common practice, but I don’t buy enough singles online to personally know whether or not that’s true. What I do know is I’ve really started to enjoy shipping small little tokens of appreciation with my orders, often in the form of literal Token cards. While I’m not about to become Santa Claus and start throwing in the Wurm tokens for Wurmcoil Engine, a single Plant token for their Nissa, Voice of Zendikar can go a long way.

LifelinkDeathtouch

Seriously, these things are $3 each.

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On a similar note, how many of you ship out the appropriate checklist card when you sell a double-faced card? While they only go on TCGplayer for pennies, you save someone from having to pay $.25 or $.50 at their LGS if you just throw in the appropriate checklist card. While someone purchasing an Archangel Avacyn is probably playing with opaque sleeves at a competitive event, there are a non-zero number of people who prefer to avoid the judge call entirely and just use checklist cards in their opaque sleeves while reserving the actual card in a clear sleeve in their deckbox for an easy flip back and forth.

awake spooke

My favorite card to ship with the matching checklist is definitely Startled Awake. Do you know who’s casting this card? I’ll give you a hint; they probably don’t play with opaque sleeves, if any sleeves at all. That person will be ecstatic that they don’t need to hunt down the checklist card. Now that we’re on the subject, I’m absolutely fine with holding Startled Awake at the $3 they’re at now.

startled

It’s not quite at the point where I’d actually feel comfortable listing it on TCGplayer, because that flat .50 fee per transaction makes selling cards under $5 less than appetizing to low level sellers. Remember that there approximately the same number of these in the market right now as there are Archangel Avacyn. This is a casual all-star with ridiculously low supply, which helps beat the test that Breaking // Entering fails to pass. Being a launch promo during Dragon’s Maze kind of kills all of the potential that one had. Anyway, where were we?

breaking

Wrong Address

Oh, right. Customer service stuff.  Now here’s a situation that’s never happened to me and I’m very thankful that I haven’t had to deal with it. Every now and then, human error gets the best of us and two orders get shipped to the wrong addresses. The Modern player who ordered four Life from the Loams gets sent a foil Kaalia of the Vaast, and vice versa for the aspiring Commander player who just wants to bash with dragons and angels. Just great. So what do you do? Do you ask them both to ship the cards back to you? You could just ask them to ship to each other…..

WRONG.

Do not do this. Ever. Nope nope nope nope nope. Do not ever put yourself or the buyer at that kind of risk. You don’t want to be giving out other people’s addresses, and you don’t want buyer A screwing up the shipping process while they end up getting their card safe and sound, while buyer B is screwed over. You also shouldn’t be sending them money to cover the cost of the PayPal shipping label. Here’s what you need to do to make this right on both ends: It will cost you a decent chunk of money, but it’s your fault multiplied by two in the first place.

1. Print out a total of four shipping labels to start with. One of these is going to buyer A, and one is going to buyer B. The other two shipping labels are addressed to you as the seller.

2. Place the necessary shipping materials inside each of two bubble mailers. That includes one other bubble mailer, the necessary sleeves, toploaders, and/or a team bag. Whatever is needed to safely package the card and return it to you.

3. Ask each buyer to safely and securely package the order just as it came, and then reseal it in the bubble mailer they received, taping the pre-paid shipping label to the envelope. Those mailers go back to you as the seller, so that you can then re-ship the correct orders to the correct buyers.

None of this can be done without tracking, because this gives buyers an opportunity to lose or even steal cards without you being able to provide evidence of what happened. Cover yourself every step of the way, and take the loss like an adult.

Of course, the exact method listed above can easily cost you $10 in shipping materials alone. For this reason, it’s only really worth it for you to do if the cards shipped to each party are valuable enough to care about being tracked. In the case of smaller orders (think $4-5), it might just be easier and cheaper to just purchase a replacement copy of each buyer’s order, and ship it directly to them via PWE, then tell them to keep the misplaced order as compensation for the trouble.

Endgame

So what’s the end goal here? As a seller, I’ve technically given you a bunch of ways to lose money in the past two articles. Paying buyers for condition discrepancies, lost orders, and throwing in free cards? Who would want to do that? If you ignore the whole “hoping for repeat customers” reason, there’s still tangible benefits for having a high feedback rating on TCGplayer.

If you start selling a decent number of cards on TCGplayer, you might want to work your way up to “Gold Star Seller” status. I’ll let you read TCGplayer’s description of what that entails.

downloadstar

That middle statement is the really relevant part to us. When you’re looking to buy on TCGplayer, you can set a filter so that you’re only looking at “Gold Star Seller”s.

star

Alternatively, you can use positive feedback from eBay or TCGplayer as references when starting to sell via Facebook or Twitter. One of the downsides of trying to start out selling on social media is a need for checkable references for accountability. Being able to prove your reputation and connect it to a “tangible” online store that can receive feedback and be named in case of trouble can help get you started in the market of Facebook and Twitter, which is where I always recommend trying to pick up singles at less than TCGplayer low prices.

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Azorius Basterds

I told you last week I was going to write about the cards likely to be in the Azorius deck so we could sell them if necessary or at least be thinking about cards likely to pair with them that have low reprint risks. The good thing about this is that it’s essentially a thought exercise to move the really obvious stuff. Anything subtle won’t matter as much because the prices won’t likely move that much and selling and rebuying usually isn’t all that worth it unless the price is going to move a lot. Basically what we’re doing is preparing for the decks to come out and recalibrating our expectations based on what we saw with Commander 2015 since I expect Commander 2016 to be a lot more similar to that than it will be to Commander 2014.

I was thinking “Why did I commit to write this stupid article in May when the set won’t be out until October? What was I thinking?” and I almost concocted some excuse to get out of writing it this week. Isn’t it way too early to be thinking about this stuff now? It took me about an hour of procrastinating coming up with a new topic to realize that there is no such thing as too early. We’re predicting based off of no information, remember? We don’t even have the spoiled Kalemne like we did last time to tell us that there were going to be things called “Experience Counters” and also that Boros was going to be hot garbage because Boros is always hot garbage.

Seriously, why does Boros always suck? It doesn’t even make sense flavor-wise. Gruul is the knuckle-dragging, cave-painting, feces-throwing throwback group and their slogan is “Not Gruul? Die!” but when you ask them “Hey, what do you as a clan do?” they have a good answer. “Me am so glad ask. Gruul smash monster with big club and make die. Gruul am also big mana rampy big monster time. Gruul am best clan landfall and burny face and Gruul monster am has best power and toughness to casting cost ratio for big smashy smashy. Mostest trample. Bestest haste. Most spell punish with Ruric Thar and Vexing Shusher. Not Gruul? Eat a $^%” If you ask Boros the same question, the answer is something like “We at Boros like to either attack with soldiers or put equipment on our soldiers before we attack with them. Either way, really. Sometimes we attack with angels and soldiers.” Boros sucks. “Am carry tree branch for use as wand. Am important to keep it touch with deep Gruul Shamanic tradition pass down 100 generations. Why Boros no have Shamans?”

Barring any sweet spoilers (If someone else spoils it, it’s a spoiler. If you get it early and you’re asked to be the one to reveal it, it’s called a preview. Brainstorm Brewery got to preview Fevered Visions. It was a way better preview card than most of the other spoilers) we don’t know much about Commander 2016 except what we know that the last few weeks I’ve assumed we’re getting the ally-colored decks and we’re operating under that assumption. So yeah, Gruul are the stupid cavemen of the Magic world but they’re still richer and more interesting than Boros. But let’s spend the rest of our limited time together for the week talking about Azorius because I said we would do that last week and I made a really lazy pun for a title but if I change it I’ll have to come up with another lazy pun and just because it’s lazy doesn’t always mean it’s easy. I can’t be making up all kinds of pun titles all day willy nilly. I’m sticking with the pun which means I’m sticking with the title and that means sticking with the indicated subject matter.

Who’s Your Azorius and What Does He Do?

Untitled

That’s sort of legible, right? If not, here’s the wiki page I got it from. You may recognize it from being linked by me on a weekly basis.

Azorius has fliers, things with flash and like, birds and wizards and shit. It’s pretty cool, I guess.

Before I go into what I think is going to be in the decks, a brief aside. I’m up at like 6 AM EST, usually writing this article and that means it’s like noon or something in the Netherlands so Sander Van Der Zee is always tweeting at me while I’m writing. He mentioned that it was possible we’d see either a flicker theme or subtheme. I didn’t really think that was the case and I’ll get into why in the next paragraph. For now, though, let’s stick to what I was talking about.

You know what, no. Let’s start that next paragraph right now and address why I don’t think we’ll see too much flicker. First of all, they did it already. The Evasive Maneuvers precon featured Roon, Derevi and probably some terrible dragon (I don’t remember and I don’t care enough to google it. I spent over a minute trying to find the name “Evasive Maneuvers” because when I google “Derevi precon” the results that come up are other people calling it the Derevi precon because that’s how few shits anyone gives about the name of a precon) whose name I don’t remember because all I can remember is the name Arcades Sabboth but I know that’s not right. Arcades Sabboth was terrible. Nicol Bolas and four turds, that’s what that cycle was. Anyway, they already did a pretty heavy flicker theme there. There were great cards for it and Derevi has been terrorizing people since, although he got banned in French because he’s just that annoying and linear.

I think a subtheme is pretty unlikely because Azorius has unique attributes and it can stake a claim separate from what Bant was up to by emphasizing some of its core strengths like flying creatures and really stupid, clunky counterspells like Overrule. Some of the best creatures to flicker are green, although Brago is a fine commander in his own right. If there is a flicker theme or subtheme like Sander thinks, I expect Brago to be the third commander.

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I’m graphing the $14 foil here because the $1 non-foil is boned if it’s reprinted but the foil could have upside if people play it more. Brago is shown in the literature for Conspiracy 2 getting shanked in the neck, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in the set which means there is a slight reprint risk for the foils if you ask me. This is basically an all-downside scenario. If Brago isn’t in Conspiracy 2: foil hat boogaloo, the foil could have upside but only if Brago is in Commander 2016. I think that is an unlikely convergence of realities.

Sander could be right and there could be flicker in the deck, but I’m banking on Azorius doing something new which means we have to look at what it actually does.

Flash and Flying

Luckily I think there is a card in real need of a reprint which is decent in EDH, fits the theme of a deck like this and which would be a good candidate for the new price-point for reprints, which is quite a bit lower than the $47 or whatever Wurmcoil was at when it was reprinted in Commander 2014. They’re not doing one big, huge reprint like that, or at least they didn’t in Commander 2015, preferring a lot of $8ish cards. That being the case, there is still a card that needs more printings and is afforded the perfect opportunity by an Azorius deck in Commander 2016.

Untitled

Bliggedy BLAM. This seems like a slam dunk reprint. The price isn’t quite out  of control like it was during its $15 days, but then you need to try and remind yourself that this is a freaking uncommon. Are there even loose boxes of this set laying around anymore or is everyone playing the foil ‘Goyf lottery? I remember being upset I had to pay $4 for one of these at a GP. It’s an uncommon. But “It’s an uncommon” isn’t a good defense for Modern cards anymore. Inquisition of Kozilek is uncommon, too. Uncommon is the new chase mythic. Or something. Look, this is an $11 card and it would be a good inclusion in the precon if there is a flash/flying theme or subtheme. Azorius likes making them not able to do stuff and this stops stuff. The only issue I worry about is that it may seem slightly dead in a precon-on-precon matchup since they likely don’t have a ton of ways to search the deck so that may disqualify this. It feels a little “off” in that respect, but diminishing demand coupled with any amount of reprint risk makes me think you might want to look at offloading these if you have any, no matter how slight you think the reprint risk may be.

Untitled

This guy has mostly recovered from the Modern Masters reprinting and is at or around the right price point for inclusion in the deck. This is a staple in Brago decks if you believe that subtheme is possible, but this is also a decent flier that rounds up other fliers in its own right. This is a possibility whether or not flicker is a factor.

If they go deep on fliers and put a ton of birds and Kangee, Aerie Keeper in, we don’t have to look at lists very hard to see it won’t matter much. The new cards will matter financially, but there is basically nothing in the current Kangee builds of consequence. Like, the most expensive card outside the mana base is Battle Screech from Judgment which got popular during Legacy Masters drafts online and people wedged it in the cube (I guess?). Like, Adaptive Automaton is expensive and that’s basically it. I am not even graphing anything from this contingency, that’s how little it matters. I mean…

Untitled

This, maybe. Did you ever in a hundred years imagine this was more than like a buck? I get these in bulk rares all the time. If there is a flying theme or subtheme, this seems likely to be in there. It’s slow but it scales nicely with you slowly amassing a ton of flying dudes and just smish smashing their face with a flyin’ lion. Seriously, they’re the pride of the clouds because they’re a pride of lions. In the clouds. They’re elementals. Some elemental zephyr wanted to manifest itself as something fierce so it chose something that doesn’t even fly because that’s how lame most sky creatures are. There are more geese featured on Magic cards than Tarmogoyfs. Let that sink in.

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I don’t know at what point this stops being speculation and starts being a wishlist, but this is a great inclusion in a deck with fliers. It’s a little harsh, but it’s also pretty easy to deal with, even by precon deck standards. Not only that, there is precedent for reprinting Magi in the Commander decks with Magus of the Wheel, Arena, Vineyard and Coffers already seeing print in Commander precon sets. I’d like Magus of the Tabernacle but this will do fine. It’s cheaper than a real Moat although not as good. Oh well, this has a shot at being in the precon and at $6ish currently, players won’t mind the price relief. Solid inclusion, should they actually include it.

There are some fringe possibilities like a heavy artifact/enchantment theme but recent Daretti and Daxos decks sort of lean toward ruling that out. This deck likely carves out a unique niche and gives us some new toys that play well with old toys. There isn’t much money to be made an lost if it’s a deck where they reprint Hanna, Ship’s Navigator (which isn’t on the reserved list though Orim and Eladamri are) and there is some sort of theme there since they can’t reprint Replenish, etc. All the cards we really want to see like Venser the Soujourner are too clunky to print. Most likely, we’re getting a sweet deck with lots of flying creatures and some new cards that will be very good commanders to build around and include that theme. It’s not the only possible outcome but it seems like the most likely. We’ll know more when cards are spoiled but for now, consider getting out of the riskier stuff and think about what pairs with it. Once it’s ruled out as a reprint, you’ll be ready to buy while others are still discovering the synergy.

Next week we’ll talk about some other color combination. Probably Dimir, I guess. Do you think it won’t be a ninjas/unblockable thing? Do you think it will be mill? Got any other wacky ideas? Bounce them off of me and we’ll see what we come up with next week. Until then!

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Grinder Finance – Toronto & Milwaukee Analysis

Last weekend had Grand Prix Toronto won by Esper Dragons (notably the only copy to day 2 according to the day 2 breakdown here).  The SCG Standard Classic (which is notably much smaller than an Open) was taken down by a very odd Naya Midrange deck.  What does this do to the future of Standard prices?  Well there weren’t a lot of colors in the top decks.  That’s for sure.

nissa voice of zendikargideon ally of z

Nissa and Gideon combine for the one-two planeswalker punch that currently support the G/W tokens deck.  In Toronto, there were 10 G/W Tokens in the Top 32 and Gideon was played outside of that deck.  The top 32 had 40 copies of Nissa and 60 copies of Gideon.  That’s a lot for planeswalkers who prices have barely budged since the Pro Tour.  This pair of walkers are from the same block so I think it would be wise to invest in them as they won’t rotate until next April.   I think we will see them to continue to creep up by $0.30 per day until they pop.  Nobody is noticing their slow ascension but once people do it will cause a price correction.

sylvanadvocate

Next on our list of enemies is Tarmo…. I mean Sylvan Advocate.  This card was the highest played card on the weekend.  It showed up in staggering numbers at Toronto (69 copies in 32 decks) and almost as equally impressive numbers in Milwaukee (29 copies in 16 decks).  It has already had a dominant rise the weekend of the Pro Tour but it keeps showing up in numbers suggesting it might be one of the best cards in Standard.  It’s rare but possible for rares to hold values as high as $10-12 and this might be one of them.  Oath of the Gatewatch was a small set so there may not be a terribly large number of them in the wild.  If you are thinking of getting these to play with, you don’t have much to gain by waiting.  Advocate is showing up in multiple different types of deck lists and is a recipe for a fast rising rare.

Dromoka's CommanddeclarationinstoneOath of Nissa

These three cards show up across multiple archtypes.  Oath of Nissa is in G/W Tokens and G/R ramp decks.  Declaration in Stone is played in White Humans, Bant Company, and G/W Tokens.  Dromoka’s Command is having a last minute revival as the main form of removal for G/W Tokens and Bant Company.  I’m not terribly interested in buying into Declaration which seems to be finally dropping in price as supply increases and Dromoka’s Command that rotates in September.  Oath of Nissa feels like the type of card that will continue to be good card filtering into the next block and worth a pick up at $2.

archangel avacyn

Turns out there is an amount of extra text you can throw onto a Serra Angel to make it good.  Archangel Avacyn rounds out the best performing cards of the weekend putting 73 copies into 48 decklists this weekend.  There is apparently no stopping this train but the true value lies in the difficult of opening flip mythics.  Without MTGO redemption kicking in yet, we are unlikely to see a reprieve in Avacyn’s price.  It’s possible it might still not move that much given how much more the redemption supply will affect regular mythics instead of flip cards.  If you’re not a Standard player you can probably find a much better time to pick this up.  I’d estimate by the holidays of 2016 she will be a $10-15 card.
spirit_awakening_riley2

Modern

Thopter Foundryancestral vision

0 copies in the Top 8 of this open.  Some decks in the Top 32 played a few copies of Ancestral Vision but Thopter Foundry is no where to be found.  I think it’s almost safe to say that the Thopter Foundry unbanning is doing less than the Wild Nacatl unban.  If you’re holding copies of these hoping they will go up I think it’s time to sell.  I wouldn’t expect them to do anything but drop from here.

collected company card

This card is dominating Standard and Modern and has seen a big resurgence from it’s all time low during the release of the event deck including it.  If you’re a Modern player I would strongly recommending to wait for this to rotate before buying in.  I’m not sure it will continue to hold it’s current price tag.  It’s one of the few cards in the Abzan Company deck you play more than 1 of but that doesn’t mean it will maintain it’s $25 price tag.  If you want to play them in Standard and Modern I would rather buy foil copies.  There are a lot less of them out there and they’re unlikely to see as large of a collapse when Company rotates.

 

Final thoughts:

  • I’m going on a grinding binge.  I’ll be at GP NYC this weekend and hope to pick up some sweet deals at the vendors.
  • Green is really good in Standard.  We need to stop underestimating it.
  • White removal is still insane.
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