You are probably wondering why you didn’t get an article out of me last week. There’s a very simple explanation for that – I didn’t write one. I fully intended to, I was even looking forward to talking about more EDH goodness and to encourage those of you who are ProTrader members to hit the forums more often. There are a lot of single card discussions being generated about Standard and Modern cards but nothing really for EDH. Are our cards not worth money? Do they not gain? Prick them, do they not bleed? Well, OK, EDH picks aren’t sentient, but they’re worth discussing and if you’re a ProTrader, hit the forums and help me get some EDH pick discussions going. If we’re good I can see about adding our own category just for EDH picks. We’re people too, dammit.
So since I had a lot to talk about last week, why didn’t I? Well, the answer is pretty simple – I was somewhat preoccupied. I write these on a Monday and last Monday at 3:11 AM my wife and I summoned our first Planeswalker. We named her Liliana, which I realize is a basic baby name at this point. “What’s wrong, Jason? Was the hospital gift shop out of ‘Khaleesi’ license plates so you audibled?” Look, in my defense, there’s a bit of a story behind it. Basically, every name my wife liked was terrible. Like… terrible. One a scale from 1-10, the names were “If you name a boy like that, they will have to remove the underwear from his asscrack surgically.” I’m kind of glad we didn’t have a boy because she likes the name “Rowan.” Not like the Magic card, that’s “Rowen,” but like this guy.
Not happening. Her picks for girl’s names weren’t much better, frankly. I mentioned Liliana and she actually liked it. It was basically the only girl’s name we can agree on. Are there a lot of nerds naming their kids after Magic Planeswalkers these days? Yes, I guess there are. But there aren’t any in my town and she’ll be the only one in her class with that name and I can live with that. Those who think I lack originality should remember they picked their kid’s name out of a book and if you make fun of my daughter’s name within her earshot, she’ll make you discard a card. My kid is the best.
Temporary disruptions to my writing schedule aside (my sleep schedule is permanently disrupted, but I was on standup comedian time anyway, so it didn’t take much) we have some stuff to discuss, so let’s, you know, do that.
I’m a chemist by training, so I think in those terms sometimes. It isn’t always relevant to MTG Finance, but in one way I think it can be. As an EDH financier, I like to make calls that are a ways off. First of all, outside of new sets making profound things happen, most of our calls are long-term, slow-burn (what am I, Styx?) cards. For every Sage of Hours shooting up overnight because of Ezuri, we have 10 Primal Vigors, chugging away because fewer are being opened and more are being jammed in decks because Primal Vigor is very good. We could transition into a discussion about a spike versus a correction versus inevitable price increase based on supply and demand but this isn’t that kind of article. I’m even going to talk about specific cards in a minute so hold onto your hats, nerds. Thinking about how EDH cards increase in price got me thinking about the concept of upside and upside got me thinking about chemistry.
Exposure is a word I like to use in relation to upside. The more upside a card is exposed to, the more chances it has to go up. Think about it – which card is exposed to more upside, Mutavault or Sliver Hive? The cards play very differently but they also behave very differently. Mutavault was a juggernaut of a card and if it hadn’t gotten reprinted, it would have continued to climb in price. Any cool tribal card can give Mutavault (or maybe this $7 beauty)
some upside whereas only cool new Slivers have a chance to do anything to the price of Sliver Hive. This is one way to think about how much more upside Mutavault is exposed to. The price reflects not only the disparity in utility but also in the different strategies Mutavault boosts (it doesn’t suck as a vanilla stand-in for Mishra’s Factory, either) even though in a Sliver EDH deck, Mutavault is pretty meh and Hive is pretty outstanding.
When I was an undergraduate, one of the last projects I worked on was Grubb’s Catalyst, a catalyst for which Robert Grubbs was awarded a Nobel Prize. Grubbs’ catalyst is special because it helps certain chemical structures undergo a process where closed ring structures like you see on the left become more “open” structures like the one on the right. I’m super oversimplifying (if you want to learn more about ROMP there are good resources out there) but the gist of it is, this catalyst can make closed ring structures which exist discretely as their own little unit open the rings which creates two bonding sites where there used to be 0. Suddenly these rings can be chained together where they previously could not. The difference in potential between a closed ring and a structure that has a huge increase in new bonding sites is gigantic and that’s why this catalyst’s discovery was worthy of a Nobel prize. More bonding sites means more exposure to potential “upside” if you really stretch the metaphor. I think about EDH cards that have potential to affect Modern or maybe even Legacy the same way.
Let’s go back to a card I mentioned above, a card that sold out so fast that some sites are still telling our algorithm that it’s $1.
This was growing. If you picked these up at $0.50 you’re really glad today but you were even glad last week when some sites had them at $2. A quadruple up is never a bad thing, after all. Tribal stuff in fun in EDH and casual and new, good tribal cards get printed in every block. This card was going to climb steadily and those $0.50 investors would have felt great when this hit $3 later this year.
Was Descendants’ Path a good spec? Yes, of course. Almost all tribal stuff is and we have EDH and casual to thank for that. If you bought in at $0.50 and outed them for $1.50 to a buylist you’d clear some real money after fees if you bought in deep enough. Best of all, these were very easy to trade for and I got these in bulk all the time.
What took this from a good spec to a great spec was people playing it with tribal eldrazi in Modern. All of a sudden people were flipping an Emrakul off of the top way too early because Eldrazi can cost 0 mana these days. Turn that 0-drop Mimic into a 15/15 and threaten lethal, all because of Descendants’ durdly Path. When Modern players decide to start doing the kind of unfair stuff we do in EDH, they’re going to need our cards and we’re happy to sell them to them, provided we were invested first. Modern playability exposed Path to a ton of upside and that paid dividends this weekend.
It wasn’t just tribal cards, either.
Modern Price Trends
Hope you got your copy for your Daxos deck, because this went from about $3.50 to about $35.00 over the weekend. Multiple printings made this a real risky gainer and the fact that you have to keep it and creatures around made it a tough way to stay alive in EDH, but this was always a solid card. Would it have gone up over time as a result of EDH and casual play? Maybe, but I didn’t like the price trend of “super flat for like a decade” enough to include it in the same breath as Daxos when I wrote about Daxos a half dozen times or so between here, Gathering Magic and spoiler coverage. It is a good card (good enough that I bought multiple copies of an Urza’s Saga precon to make sure I had multiple copies for my white weenie deck back in 1998) but kind of wasn’t going anywhere – until you factor in the Pro Tour. Suddenly the card is sold out and Modern, not EDH or casual, got it there.
So what are some other EDH-tier cards that could get a second look based on things happening in Modern?
Expose evil is an okay card in Limited but nothing special. What is relevant is an artifact token that can be used not only to draw a card, but also, as one excited redditor puts it, to build an archetype around.
This is a bulk rare right now and with any amount of upside from turning investigation tokens into Blightsteel Colossus this could be a real card. It’s old enough that cards in this set are valuable. Personally, if a deck with 4 Polymorph and 4 Shape Anew to get Blightsteel wasn’t doing it before, this won’t make it happen in Modern. Polymorph is just better because it can get Eldrazi and make the game end a lot faster and I don’t know about this. Still, if anyone builds the deck, this bulk rare has some upside. Even though I’m not excited at the prospect of this as a spec given the clunkiness of builds like this which already exist and are already clunky, EDH and Modern both influence the future of this card rather than just EDH like for a card like Rite of Replication (I mean, for now). This is a good thought exercise to get us looking at EDH playables (My Sharuum loves Shape Anew for funsies) that are also fringe Modern playables.
Jor Kadeen’s right-hand man here has a decently-high buyin price to be sure, but also has a lot of playability in both formats. The Puresteel deck is fun but is a known quantity although it’s a bit of a Dr Dre right now – not gone but forgotten. That is, until someone got people excited again.
Top 8 at SCG Regionals isn’t exactly on-camera Day 2 of the PT, but it’s online and it’s exciting. While this isn’t necessarily a home run, it’s also a fringe-playable card that has upside based on two different formats. EDH seems to print new equipment and new Kor to wield them in both regular sets and supplementary product with relative regularity and Modern having a deck (though what Tier?) means it gets bought as a 4-of by people playing that deck. Again, whether or not this is a spec I’d spend money on remains to be seen, but what is clear is that this kind of thing makes cards spike hard overnight and being able to see them coming by checking fringe decks like this helps you buy ahead of time. People who buy ahead of time don’t get their orders cancelled. People who buy ahead of time have copies in hand to list at the new price when the card spikes and people are panic buying.
We’re used to doing broken stuff in EDH. Modern is so unused to truly broken plays that they see fit to keep Emrakul legal, a card that is no fun for EDH because of how many lives it ruins and how easy it is to get into play in EDH. A steady gainer (until the reprint absolutely pantsed it) like Eldrazi Temple is a great EDH spec until another reprint takes it down or something like this happens. Both are somewhat likely which is why MTG Finance has risks. But when Modern starts looking to do broken stuff, they’ll be coming to EDH, not standard for their goodies. We knew about Goryo’s Vengeance and we loved it, but Modern made it the price it is today. What else could be fringe playable in Modern and suddenly become as broken there as it is in EDH?
Could this see the $5 it once was again? EDH can make this climb a bit but it’s not going to send it into the $10 range the way Modern could.
Imagine my delight when my favorite EDH spec was mentioned as a way to deal with Eldrazi in Modern. I’ve been on this since they were a buck or two and I’ve got a pile going that will make me very happy if Modern makes this a $10 card, but I could also just wait a few years for EDH to hopefully make it hit the same mark. Either I win big by getting lucky or win as big over a longer time by being smart. Either way, looking at cross-format playability is a surefire way to make some money.
Next time you see a card that is talked about in Standard like it has potential bottom out, think about it. EDH is going to make this card gain over time. You have a minimal investment, virtually-assured growth due to power level and all the time in the world to watch this grow. You also have a non-zero chance of something making this go insane in Modern and all of a sudden you dectuple up on every copy. EDH will make you money, Modern can make you money. Put the two together and get some real work done.