PT Finance 101 and Deal or No Deal

Good morning, and happy Pro Tour Friday! These weekends are some of my favorite all year. Even though we live in a time of plenty in terms of streaming Magic, there is just nothing like watching a Pro Tour. We’ll get to a couple of smaller topics as well, but I want to discuss what I am going to be doing this weekend, and what you should be doing also. We are also going to talk about my new favorite game in the whole wide world.

Pro Tour Finance 101

Before we begin, there are a couple things to know about Pro Tours to understand why they are unique. First of all, they have the highest stakes of any Magic tournament (outside of the new Worlds format, which is a closed event and only hosts 24 players), and they have very low attendance compared to most Grands Prix. Pro Tours are also in a weird space where they are open to the public, but are largely not considered public events. If you live near a city hosting a Pro Tour, it is cool to go check out, but there are largely not going to be the kinds of things catering to you that a GP might feature (don’t expect that $5 Commander pod to fire, for example). This used to not be the case, and for a while Wizards tried to offer other events to draw in people who weren’t local, but it largely didn’t work. Pro Tours were also briefly closed to the public, although that only lasted for maybe a year.


The reason why I stress the attendance aspect is because it directly impacts the amount of vendors interested in coming to the events. While big events like GP New Jersey or GP Las Vegas are great opportunities to buy and sell, Pro Tours are largely the opposite. According to the Wizards website, there were at most two vendors at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. There were three vendors at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, but none of the big names you would have expected to see made the trip to Hawaii. The last Pro Tour I personally attended was PT San Juan1 (what we would today call “Pro Tour Rise of the Eldrazi”), and there were actually a few big vendors there, but there was also the WPN Championship and a few other unique events happening there that same weekend.

A lack of on-site vendors means that players will often need to bring entire sets of Standard (or more!) to be personally prepared, or expect to pay a hefty premium to get the cards they want at the event. Add to this the fact that Pro Tours are occasionally held in somewhat exotic locales, and the scarcity becomes even more of a factor. Now, crazy “on the floor” prices for events are not anything new—but what they highlight is demand.

Widespread demand for a card means that several different testing groups have all “discovered” it, and that it factors prominently into the environment that is expected for the weekend. While the floor price most likely won’t stick in the outside world, the old one is sure to go up.

Something that is important to understand about Pro Tours is the impact that a restricted playerbase can have on a tournament. Since many of the elite players travel and prepare for the tournament far in advance, they are more likely to properly assess the hierarchy of threats in the format and develop a control strategy that is able to foil those threats. When given the opportunity, many of the world’s best players will opt to play a control strategy, as it typically is able to reward skill more than an aggressive approach. Perhaps to put it more accurately, better players will play decks that allow them to leverage their skill to an advantage. The upside here for us is that typically the cards that reward that style of play are more difficult to assess during spoiler season, and may currently be underrated.

Here are a few cards I am watching this particular weekend and why:


Dragonlord’s Prerogative: I’ve been talking this up for a while, but the truth is that it needs to show up this weekend if it is ever going to. The “if dragon” clause doesn’t actually hurt you if you can’t meet it, and in some matchups it is going to be largely irrelevant. It’s good on rate, and buying in at the floor feels like a good opportunity (waka waka!).

Ojutai Exemplars: This card could very well be one of the best threats in Standard, or it could be a total bust. While the price has stayed pretty close to $7, the buylist price has actually risen since release. This could be indicating that demand for the card is strong and dealers don’t want to get caught with it out of stock.

The downside here is that if you go too deep on them, you’re going to be stuck with a bunch of copies of a white mythic four-drop that cost you $7 each. I’d snatch up a couple in trade as a hedge, or take a flier on a couple off of PucaTrade, but I’m not comfortable enough dropping about $30 on a set.


Pitiless Horde: Just like Prerogative, this card is so cheap that it won’t really destroy you if you don’t hit the mark on it. It’s a flexible threat that can be cast on curve in an aggressive deck, or very quickly close out the game in a control list. Black also has a lot of really sweet cards right now, so even a light splash for Thoughtseize is enough to cast this card reliably. Also, it matches up well against Ashiok, which seems like more than mere coincidence.


Dromoka’s Command: In case you haven’t heard, I really like this card. I’m not sure about the financial upside here, since I’m not sure how much higher the price can go right now, but I wanted to be on the record that this card is bananas.

Dragonlord Atarka: This has sneakily gone up a couple bucks in the last few days. This is the kind of card that seems like an ideal target to try and cheat into play—and seems absolutely busted with multiple copies of Rescue From the Underworld. Of course, that is most likely not what is happening here, since a RG Dragons deck won the Standard Open last weekend (with two of these maindeck).


Siege Rhino: Haters are gonna hate, hate, hate, but he’s just gonna siege, siege, siege.

Deathmist Raptor: The card started presales around $5, and is now three times as much. If there is going to be a deck that takes full advantage of this card, it is at least being tested in preparation for this weekend. If it doesn’t appear, or the deck puts up an overall poor finish, these may begin to slip.


Dragonlord Ojutai: This card has gotten expensive quickly. It definitely seems like a potential new UW Control finisher, but those typically only have one or two in the deck, not four. I actually expect this to start to go down, but if it does hit this weekend, I expect the deck to have four Dragonlord’s Prerogative in it.

Descent of the Dragons: Somebody is going to have an early feature match playing the deck that runs this and Battlefield Thaumaturge, and the hype train is going to briefly go crazy. The second you see this in round five or whatever, be ready to sell your Thaumaturges (if you have them). Neither card is something I like long-term, and the deck is, in all likelihood, not very good.

If you have any cards that you are watching, or want to talk about one I picked, let me know in the comments!

Deal or No Deal”

Pack Wars is a game-play variant that has a lot of different rules depending on who you ask. My favorite version, however, actually comes from the sports cards community: any number of players open a pack, and the player that opens the most valuable card wins all the packs opened that round. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with prices and bust extra packs. It’s very quick, though, and the suspense doesn’t build much (you pretty much know if you’ve won or not when you see your rare). Last week, my long-time friend (and local game store owner) Eric and I came up with an elegant solution that we call “Deal or No Deal.”

There are two ways to play—head-to-head or multiplayer. I think the first option is the most intellectually enticing to me, but the second one is what we have played the most. Either way, I’m getting ahead of myself, so here are the rules.

Head-to-Head Rules: Two players split the cost of a single booster pack (packs are $3 at Eric’s, so each player would pay $1.50). Open the booster without looking at the contents, remove the token2, and shuffle the pack. You may have a neutral third party randomize the pack if you so choose. Then, place the contents face down and spread out. Roll a dice to determine who goes first (or something more creative if you so choose). The first player will pick one card and reveal it and move it to the side. Now the second player makes their selection, reveals it, and moves it to their side. This repeats until all of the cards have been selected. The cards you picked, you own. Hopefully you got the better picks! The idea here is that if you play twice (or an even number of times), you have the potential to “break even” by getting a rare half of the time, but you could also win twice in a row!

Multiplayer Rules: Same basic thing, but each player contributes a pack. This way, there are multiple rares in the “pool,” a higher percentage chance for a foil, and more tension. It is also possible to get multiple rares for your $3 (or whatever your particular cost of entry is), so there is the sneaky potential for value. This mode is a lot of fun, because you can track how many rares have been revealed, and it seems there’s always one that doesn’t get turned over until the very end.

This game solves some of the inherent problems with other Pack War games. In the “best card wins” arrangement, the winner is simply whoever opens the best pack—you know right away that your Harbinger of the Hunt isn’t going to take down their Dromoka’s Command, and typically the only “excitement” is seeing which bulk rare has the highest TCGplayer median price. This also doesn’t have the value negative center that “Flip It or Rip It” has—it merely redistributes the pot, not destroys it. Next time I play, I’m going to record a round and post it.

Well, that’s all for this week. Good luck this weekend, and come on, Dragonlord’s Prerogative!



P.S. I’m interested in doing a mailbag article soon because they are less work because they are fun and people love them. Got a question? Submit it in the comments.

1 I went as a railbird, not a participant.

2 Obviously this is difficult to do if you are using Innistrad and Dark Ascension packs, since the check cards have Magic backs. If you are doing that, I say leave it in. Suspense!

12 thoughts on “PT Finance 101 and Deal or No Deal”

  1. Hi, I am a budding 17 year old MTG Financier (Man, sounded alot better in my head), and I’m currently trying to get into Legacy. Now I was told multiple strategies, but I want your take on it. Should I just build up my collection to an amazing amount and just go on from there? Or just deplete my $700 trade binder as an expendable resource to get as many duals as possible before buying out?

    Thanks for the time,

    P.S. Love the article, keep it up!

    1. So a lot of different people have their own opinions on how to “get in” to Legacy, but I think it is actually a complex and nuanced answer that is in part determined by where you live. If you live somewhere where there is an established Legacy environment (even if it’s just Legacy Night at the LGS), then my suggestion is to just build SOMETHING and slowly tune it into what you want. I’ve been playing essentially the same Legacy deck for about five or so years, but the more you get to play, the more you can determine what you want. Don’t buy 1 Force of Will and then be like, okay, once I can afford 3 more, I can start to maybe know what kind of deck I want to play! Play with shocklands, play with Spell Pierce over FoW (if you want to play blue), and play games with a deck in progress rather than watch and wait. My first build of my Legacy deck had Vampire Hexmage AND Gatekeeper of Malakir, so I’m not a man blinded by pride. There are tools out there to fight the good fight, and eventually you’ll realize you’ve picked up what you need, not what you thought you wanted. If you don’t have a community to jump into, then try building one with friends. Don’t sweat not having a blinged out Esper Stoneblade deck.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

      1. Yeah this is some great advice! I have a literal zero when it comes to the number of Legacy players in my town, but what I hope is that when I move to my nearby city I have a deck to play with. But your “Budget” outlook is pretty awesome! I can start trading towards some of the smaller parts of my deck and use other cards as filler. I am hoping to get an Esper Stoneblade deck, coincidentally, and would you have any suggestions on good budget fillers in the deck?

      2. So that’s actually a tough one to do, because the centerpieces of the list (Stoneforge, Jace, Batterskull, and Deathrite Shaman) are all pretty unique effects. If you are interested in the “play control aspect”, I’d suggest an aggressive form of the old UBx delver lists, with Delver and Tombstalker as threats, with cheap tempo cards like Spell Pierce, Daze, Thoughtseize, and Brainstorm to help fuel your draws. And Polluted Delta is cheap now!

        If you are looking to cheat equipment into play though, there’s no way around buying Mystics and a Batterskull. :-/

        If there aren’t active Legacy players in your area, you can try and hammer out a reputation as “Legacy Guy”- I did that years ago in my area, and people bring me the weirdest stuff, even still. It’s a great opportunity.

        Also, maybe start PucaTrading (if you aren’t already).

      3. Gonna just throw my opinion in here…how about using proxies for the cards you want to test? I have friends who have proxied upwards of 20 decks for both practice and to see what deck they wanted to acquire. None of us can afford to build 20 decks but my friends did a great job of printing out the card pictures and sleeving or taping the pic in front of basic lands. We left the proxy boxes at our LGS and we all just shared and practiced when we came to draft or play standard etc. So if you have a good printer just copy a few top 8 deck lists down and proxy up a few decks and teach your friends legacy or figure it out with them and then you can see both what you want to play and get a feel for the format (although people probably won’t be playing the decks correctly like Miracles or Storm). Some decks we proxied were Miracles, Storm, Death and Taxes, Shardless BUG, BUG Delver, RUG Delver (sorry sounds cuter than Sultai and Temur Delver, and shardless sultai just sounds aweful) and Lands to name a few.

        I have another suggestion regarding a Legacy deck: Esper Stoneblade or Deathblade are probably two of the more expensive decks strictly based on cost of the mana base. Be very realistic and practical and determine how much you are willing to spend on a Legacy deck. The one good thing is that dual lands are solid investments so you shouldn’t ever lose value buying in on the lands or a staple like Force. Blue dual lands are the most expensive because blue is the most popular color, however a lot of the most played blue cards are commons like Brainstorm, Ponder, Daze, Spell Pierce, Gitaxian Probe, and DELVER!!! So there’s some give and take. Burn and Manaless Dredge are quite cheap in comparison.

        Good luck Connor!

  2. I’ve been brewing a standard heroic/prowess deck with Thaumaturge, and it actually plays quite well. I started out with it jeskai, with ascendancy too, but changed it to just UW and it’s way more consistent now.

    If it was a modern deck I’d play Jeskai, but can’t do that easily enough in this standard given the mana base.

    BUT, favored hoplite turn 1, thaumaturge turn 2, and you can do crazy things like double artful maneuver on the hoplite, and it rebounds next turn twice, or dauntless onslaught and another creature on turn 3, etc…

    Thaumaturge allows some pretty crazy stuff if you play with it. And if he gets bolted, awesome. And, if he gets bolted and you can target him with an instant, he gets hexproof.

    Throw 4 monastery mentors in the deck, etc…

  3. [CARD]Den Protector[/CARD] is getting the pop today from pro tour. Played den in draft last week after first pack [CARD]NARSET TRANSCENDENT [/CARD] to no avail but it sure was fun. I traded narset for foil tasigur and regular tasigur as he is getting play in all formats.

    Also I have 40 monastery swiftspears at a .26 cost basis, I’m not yet on puca would these be a good way to start? Considering just holding for LT, as my delta is so great.

    1. Den Protector is definitely a breakout. Throw 4 Den Protectors and 4 Deathmist Raptors in with “XXX” and have yourself a blast!

    2. Swiftspears would be a good out on Puca if you could send them in sets. May not be worth all the shipping costs to send them all individually. 🙂

  4. Spencer Walker and BoltTheBird, both of you have been a great help! Today I got:
    3x Hymn to Tourach
    1x Counterspell
    3x Ponder
    1x Polluted Delta
    1x Flooded Strand

    And none of this wouldn’t have been possible without your help. Heck, maybe I should start a “Legacy Hero: Kid Edition”

    Thanks again guys,

    1. Hymn to Tourach is one of the best cards in Legacy – it and Wasteland (the first card you should look to get, in terms of expensive staples) are the great equalizers.

      I’d read that!

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