I Like Liking What I Like

Last week I tried something radical and new and talked about cards I liked out of the new set and no one fired me. It turns out my guess is as good as yours when it comes to cards I’m not sure about and you’re not paying me to hear guesses that are as good as yours. Actually, you’re not paying me at all. This website is paying me. And it’s not like you’re directly paying the website because this is free to read. So you’re not even paying me indirectly. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not accountable to you in any way. I’m FREE! I can cast of these shackles and live totally uninhibited! Rules are for losers! Clothes are for slaves! ANARCHY!

You read this column because, hopefully, I think of things you don’t think of, either because I spent more time thinking about it and you used that time better by having a social life or working an actual job or because I have insight into a format you aren’t interested in but still want to profit from. Insight comes to us in a lot of different ways, including input from readers, input from people who have tested cards I haven’t had a chance to test and from my own testing. Accordingly, playing some cards has changed my opinion on some of the stuff in this set and my updated opinion comes just in time for the cards to be available for purchase after the prerelease and the prices to have been updated accordingly. I like some of what I like, don’t like some of what I liked, like some of what I didn’t like and don’t like some of what I didn’t like. Those are the only positions I can think of. I should be able to find a few examples of each of those.

Cards I used to like but now extra like

I thought I liked this card a lot and I was surprised to learn I like this a lot more after playing with it. This looks weak for Limited at first but it’s actually just nuts. This puts you behind curve, I guess, but if you can’t play behind curve to ensure you never run out of gas or draw too many land then I guess your deck is too good to ever lose. This overperformed in Limited but it’s also just stupid in EDH. You have to play it in decks with green which is fine because having the Scry in a green deck means you can improve your draws. Besides, green decks already have a ton of extra mana so you’re just going to draw a ton of cards with this. Green is already the best color in EDH and now it got a card that honestly white needed a lot more. The rich get richer with this card which is fine with me. At $1, this is going to be a cheap pickup in the short term but in the longer term, this is a $5ish card unless it’s reprinted. It could even grow from there. I realize it could take a minute because this is a non-mythic not only from the post-mythic era but in a new era of bulk rares I’m defining as the post-Masterpiece era. Masterpieces make boxes attractive and that means bulk rares are going to be crushed into powder and will take longer to materialize. If you’re still too impatient, consider the foils, which are currently about $7. This strikes me as a $20 foil if this card ends up in a lot of decks, which it might do. This might not end up a staple for the format, but there are plenty of decks that could use the draw-smoothing this gives you. You’re going to draw a lot more quality for your green mana with the scry, also. $7 foils seem pretty good to me, and the non-foil copies seem like they have upside. I’d trade any card that’s $5 because of Standard that will be $0.10 a week after rotation for a pile of these. I would use this to shore up trades off by $1. I would go after foils of this, but you might have some time (watch to see if this takes off; it shouldn’t but it could). Playing with this, I see this is better than I thought, and I liked this card quite a bit.

People are calling for this to be banned already, which is funny. What’s also funny was the EDH rules committee’s announcement concerning the ban list, specifically –

Some folks have talked about a preemptive banning of Paradox Engine, but we won’t do that. Every card – even Griselbrand – gets to be legal for at least a little while, as we prefer to look at actual play in casual settings over theory. I’ll note that the last time we saw this much speculation about a preemptive ban was Shaman of Forgotten Ways, and that card turned out just fine.

Paraphrased, that’s “A lot of you are very vocal which is great, but you’re also dipshits, which is not great, so why not leave the bannings to us because as much as you insist you know better than us because your little kitchen table group unbanned black Braids and banned Cultivate, we actually know what we’re doing and most of your suggestions are terrible.

I don’t think Paradox Engine is going to be banned. It has more upside than Prophet of Kruphix but takes a lot of work to get going and if you don’t do anything, it doesn’t do anything, unlike Prophet. It doesn’t give your spells flash or untap your lands, two things that Prophet did that made it so degenerate. Is Paradox Engine the best EDH card in the set? I think it might be. Is it bannable? Doubt it. Scoop these up with confidence, but with the price going down by $1 since the weekend, I would wait a minute. I don’t see Standard spiking this like it did with Panharmonicon, so this could get very affordable, even as a mythic, and I want to pick them up, then. I would say peak supply is when this will be the most affordable, so as long as someone doesn’t put up results with this in the mean time, I say we wait. At $7 and $24 for the foil, this has clearly been identified as an EDH card. Considering Panharmonicon is an $11 foil, I might wait on foil Engine, too. I know that Engine is a mythic, but I also know it used to be more than $11 so I’d say let’s wait on engine. Mythic or not, I think the price will get lower.

Cards I used to like but now don’t like so much

I used to like this card. Then I played with it.

I thought I would be OK with it only triggering once, only on your turn, and only if you made something happen. I was not OK with those things. I didn’t think this would be exactly Lurking Predators, but this isn’t Lurking Predators the same way Call of the Wild isn’t Survival of the Fittest. Oh, and one of my readers told me this is going to be jammed in one of the Planeswalker decks, further limiting its potential. I liked the look of this card, but similar to how Bestiary plays much better in practice, this so much worse. I said to trade for these and sit on them so hopefully no one bought in for cash, but I have really soured on this card. Whiffing on it happens, failing to trigger it happens and it doesn’t punish your opponents for playing a ton of spells. Free permanents off the top is great, but this underwhelmed me.

I was in Walmart looking for Atraxa decks (This used to be more of a thing – I found plenty of Mind Seize decks in Walmart weeks after the sets came out) and noticed that the promo in those store repacks that have a draft set plus a foil rare was Thalia’s Lancers. I don’t know if this is going to impact the set foil, prerelease foil or non-foil the most, but I do know that a very good card that can fetch things like Paradox Engine has been dealt another blow. Sometimes Wizards likes the same cards I do and makes them promos. I expect a promo Leovold, just in time for that price to go down anyway, but I didn’t expect this. It makes me like it a lot less as a spec moving forward, unless you snag the promos for cheap. They’re like $10 a playset on eBay right now, though, so I’m not sure how much cheaper we expect them to get or how high they can go after such a low vote of confidence from the market. This feels bad considering how hyped I was for this card, but let’s not pretend circumstances don’t change later. This kind of thing happens, and if you hadn’t noticed we’re getting additional supply we didn’t anticipate, I’m glad I pointed it out.

Cards I didn’t like but now maybe not like less so

I feel like I may have underestimated this card. Last week, I feel like I made a good case for even the foil versions of the unexciting, mono-colored commanders from Kaladesh still not moving much and me not being excited a ton. This isn’t quite Rashmi, but it’s also not quite whatever that mono green thing that makes tokens that’s so durdly I keep having to look its name up but don’t even care enough to do that this time, you know the one I mean. The old broad. Anyway, I don’t know why I glossed over this card because this is basically a Kressh, the Bloodbraided that can go in Golgari decks and in Golgari decks, this is dumb. You can trigger this a ton with Grave Pact effects and your kill spells. You can play my favorite C16 card, Curtain’s Call, and get two counters on this. This card is dumb and it’s $1. Yahenni still isn’t my favorite Aetherborn (Gonti 4 LYFE) but this is still a fine card and I liked it a lot less initially than I do now. I think this being a $12 foil that I whiffed on tells me I probably misjudged it by evaluating it in the context of what the Kaladesh mono-colored commanders did. I don’t think this will be a $12 foil when it’s been enough time since the prerelease weekend as it has been now since Kaladesh (does that sentence make sense to you? It does to me) but people are clearly somewhat interested. This isn’t Baral or Sram but I liked those and was wrong about this one. I’d keep an eye on it, and $12 for the foil might look appealing in a year or two when this is $20 in foil. That’s a maybe, not a definitely, but I think these can go down then go back up and probably higher than they are now, so try to snag foils near the floor.

I don’t know what this will do financially, but there are a ton of ways to untap artifacts, especially artifact creatures, and I think this is super. Is this Archivist or Azami? It’s hard to tell, but I think being able to draw a ton of cards when you have Clock of Omens, Unwinding Clock, Paradox Engine, etc. and still draw when you have Intruder Alarm and Mind Over Matter if you pick the right artifact is underrated and while this might end up a bulk rare, this did a lot of work at the prerelease. I expected it to do work at the prerelease, but I didn’t expect to look at it for EDH. I’m not saying buy these, but I am saying this overperformed and it’s worth looking at. Only 8 decks are running this on EDHREC, 5 of them Breya, but considering 130 decks are running Quicksmith Genius (although looting for no mana without tapping the creature is pretty good in Daretti), this could get some love, soon.

Cards I no liked and now I still no like

I agree with everything people who like this card are saying about this card. It’s fetchable with Trinket Mage, it’s stupid in Vintage, it was great at the prerelease with Scrap Trawler. I get it. I just don’t know if the limited amount of play it’s liable to get in EDH due to it not interacting with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed the way Triskelion does. This does have other interactions, though. I’m agnostic to what Vintage could do to the price of foils. I could speculate on that but I have no confidence in the conclusion I’d come to. I don’t know whether Modern wants this, I’m suspecting not. I feel the same way about Standard. A lot of people are pumped about this card and I am not among them. I understand everything people are saying in support of this card, but I don’t find any of it super compelling, with respect to non-foil copies, anyway. I’m prepared to be wrong, here and if you think I am, the foils are like $2 more than the non-foils. I think $6 is really high for this unless Standard does something with it.

There you have it. I think there are some actionables here, especially if you like Walking Ballista and think that a 1.2x multiplier is probably not correct, meaning either the non-foil or the foil price will correct soon. I recommend playing with cards before you pay cash on anything, or talk to people who have played with them. Sometimes cards work out much differently in practice than they do in theory and your opinion on cards my change quite a bit. I’m disappointed not to like Aid From the Cowl anymore, but I’d be more disappointed if I spent $200 on a bunch of copies. I’m building a few decks out of new cards from Conspiracy, C16 and Kaladesh block and the more testing I do, the more I’ll discover that might not be obvious at first glance over the set. Remember, this is EDH finance and we have a LONG time to get ahead of price increases. Until next time!

17 thoughts on “I Like Liking What I Like”

  1. A penny for your thoughts on Secret Salvage? I think I found an uncharted way to use this card with extreme benefits, but also don’t want to embarrass myself.

    1. Secret Salvage is cheap in foil right now. I feel like I mentioned it somewhere, but can’t remember where, now. Maybe on the BSB set review? I like it a lot as a cheap foil because like homeboy mentioned, it combos with Hedron Alignment in durdly casual decks (though that likely doesn’t help the foil) but it’s also an all-star in Relentless Rats and Shadowborn Apostle decks. Shadowborn Apostle is another foil to watch since people who want them want like 20 of them and it’s not getting reprinted in all likelihood. I don’t think the demand for Secret Salvage does much for non-foils but I like the foils a lot.

      1. Bots don’t care about your critiques or read your comments.

        The website is supposed to have some way of stopping or removing spam like this… I wonder why it’s getting through?

  2. RE: Walking Ballista

    The best argument against Ballista ever doing anything is the price graph of Lodestone Golem:

    Like Golem, you can argue this is a card that is amazing in very limited places (Vintage) that are not enough to absorb the supply a standard set provides. You might be right.

    Even so, I am pretty confident that Ballista will be much better than anyone here is giving it credit for. Setting aside everything I said last time I commented (mostly about Eternal applications) the following are also true:

    (1) Ballista is a 2 mana outlet for turning +1/+1 counters directly into damage without any mana input. There only three other cards that do this, each of which is worse if this is your desired application: Deathbringer Thoctar (expensive, RB); Molten Hydra (taps to use ability, R); Trike (expensive). If your deck makes lots of counters — perhaps you’re comboing off with Mimeoplasm — this card is the best at what it does.

    (2) The recent scalable artifact creatures we’ve seen have all been good value. Hangarback Walker foils flirted with 50 buckos before settling back at 12 or so. Endless One was a in prerelease, but even so pack foils stayed at 5 dolla.

    Looking at Hangarback and Golem, the price point for foils of Ballista, long term, looks like it has to be somewhere between $8.00 and $12.00. As someone who wants a playset to actually use, I’m pretty confident buying in that range.

  3. Regarding Walking Ballista, Jason it was utterly broken for me at pre-release (along with Harvester). I was overly, although I think correctly in the end, skeptical of Hangarback’s price…but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t dominant for a peroid of time in Standard and I think it hit $20. I think the Ballista is similarly powerful, and again it way over performed for me. If RW vehicles becomes a deck (a lot of 3/1 creatures), than the Ballista is super exciting. It also naturally combos well with GB Delirium and Liliana Last Hope. And you play EDH, how about any and every Nykthos deck!?!?! It could be a final burn spell for Affinity (though unlikely), but it truly was a phenomenal mana sink late in limited as I just pinged creatures and opponents to death (made combat super tricky, even with just 1 counter let alone multiple). U can also use it to Improvise and still put a counter on it (or vice versa). I think Ballista hits $10 in the short term and I see it being a casual favorite. I don’t see why any Nykthos player wouldn’t want 2 in their deck or 1 foil for EDH or Cube.

    How about Foil Pacification Array as a prospect?? I’m thinking about using it alongside Reverse Engineer and Metallic Rebuke in a control build in Standard. The ability is a bit expensive but it can serve as an early mana rock and late game “removal spell”. Ironically it would have been great vs Emrakul…I still think Wizards badly screwed up with the bannings but life goes on. More importantly, is it EDH playable?? I think it’s severely underrated right now, am I wrong? What are you thoughts man.

    1. Pacification Array could see play, but it would likely be Standard and I don’t know how much upside the foil would have. We played Tumble Magnet, though, so who knows?

      1. FWIW, Tumble Magnet was once a $6-$8 foil. I assume it was from mostly Standard play in the Caw-Blade days, though it could’ve also been a popular cube card at the time . Also, was Pauper (and foiling Pauper decks) a thing then?

    2. The card is amazing. It’s actually going up. Non-foils are up to $6.00 – $8.00 now as of 11/19/17.

      However, that upwards trend is highly vulnerable to whether it sees play in major tournaments, like any Standard card. Look at Chandra last season. She’s an objectively great card and sees plenty of play, but deflated when she did not crush tournament tables.

  4. This card is a 0 cost win con with mikaeus out… i was very happy to pull it at prerelease. This card is probably the best card in the set for limited play. Not sure if it will see play in standard but i will be surprised if it doesnt considering how synergistic it is.

    1. I’d imagine it will, it’s a main-deckable answer to the Saheeli-Felidar Guardian combo. Could show up in G/W tokens, G/B counters, and there’s a crazy 3-4 color Rites deck that looks promising that can put it to good use (it involves Paradox Engine, Servant of the Conduit, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, and Greenbelt Rampager for several infinite or psuedo-infinite combos, among other things).

    2. Except… not really. You forget that Mikeaus gives non-humans +1/+1. So, if you cast Walker for 0, or if it comes back with Undying and you ping something, it just does as Memnite impression. You need a sacrifice outlet to go infinite.

      This is different from Trike. With Trike, you can pull two/one (depending on whether it’s gone Undying once already) +1/+1 counters off to ping something, then use the remainder to ping the Trike itself. So, you don’t need another sac outlet.

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