Unlocked Pro Trader: A Fundamental Lack of Excitement


Last week I may have come across as unkind to the (I’m assured) tens of thousands of people who have been clamoring for a commander for their walls tribal Commander decks and who can’t wait to build Arcades the Strategist decks. Basically every wall popped already and it’s basically too late to buy those. It will be weeks until

A) Anyone actually builds the deck

B) EDHREC has data on what they’re actually building and we see what the rest of the infrastructure of the deck looks like.

The cards that are even a hair less obvious that the kittycatastic picks like Wall of Reverence will be free to be picked up for a while. Every half-assed armchair speculator on the planet knows to pick up cards named “Wall of” when a card like Arcades is spoiled. There are really two tiers of “events” in EDH Finance. I’m going to avoid giving them a number or letter identification because last time I did that, I not only invented a tier in between them, I confused which was which week to week. Let’s avoid that. Here are the two tiers.

Tier “I don’t play any EDH and this seems like a good buy to me”

Tier “I understand EDH and this seems like a good buy to me”

The difference between these two tiers matters, a lot. Tier “I don’t play any EDH and this seems like a good buy to me” cards will always spike harder and faster. The number of people who don’t play EDH plus the number of people who do play EDH will always be larger than the number of people who play EDH because of course it will be. Therefore the larger group has more buying power and the lack of understanding of the format will cause them to buy indiscriminately and that’s not always (but is usually) easy to predict. Am I saying only dumdums who don’t play EDH bought Arcades Sabboth cards? Certainly not. I imagine the deck will be the most popular commander out of M19, which, if you checked the full spoiler for M19, is not even saying anything. I am saying I saw someone in a finance forum said something to the effect of “If Doran decks didn’t make Wall of Kelp go up, I don’t see why Arcades Sabboth decks would” and that is part of the problem.

There’s another, probably even bigger problem.

Enthusiasm is “Clumping”

Ideally, every set is an event. Every single product release (Not that the Spellbooks or anthologies could) would ideally make new deck archetypes that would make a lot of cards go up, preferably ones that had no use before. That’s the goal, anyway. In an ideal world, a new release would give builders an array of decks to choose from and individual taste would take over. People would build what they liked and everyone would make some money from people who have been sitting on cards for decades and are happy to have the price they have the cards marked to the people who buy those underpriced cards and make some money flipping them to the people who waited to the stores who take a cut of the sales.

What has happened lately is that there have been consensus “best” decks from a given set and everything else is ending up overshadowed to such an extent that the most popular deck is orders of magnitude more popular than the second most popular. You have time to figure out what the decks will play but sometimes you have to guess pretty early which of the decks will be the one that “really” matters. That can be tough sometimes (I thought I only liked Tatyova because I’m that kind of builder but Tatyova is far and away the biggest surprise from Dominaria, coming in ahead of even Slimefoot, a much touted commander) but sometimes the wisdom of the crowds can help. That is to say, the “obvious” deck that is so obvious that even people who don’t play EDH see it coming ends up the most popular. What do we do in that scenario?

The Guessing Game

I get a little… sarcastic when things are really obvious (KITTYCATS U GUISE!) and that makes some people think I don’t think there’s money to be made. That’s not the case. I think lots of people will build the stupid walls deck and I think lots more will speculate on Walls of Kelp (even though it didn’t go up at all when Doran was printed) so there’s money to be made if you’re quick. I don’t like to be quick. If I wanted to be quick, I’d watch the Pro Tour on the weekend after a new set came out and buy stuff when it was featured on camera and sell the cards that actually showed up. That’s how we used to do it right before I quit finance for non-EDH formats (would you like to know if I’m happier, richer and less stressed now? I’ll tell you anyway. The answer is yes to all) and I assume people are still at it.

Sometimes obvious is the Arabho deck no one built, but sometimes obvious is Najeela. How much better is Najeela doing than any other deck from Battlebond?

The absolute figures don’t matter, look at the proportions. Najeela is roughly as popular as the next four most popular commanders or combinations combined. Gross. we talked about the coin flip deck being dumb and obvious but Najeela seems to have struck a chord with people. If I had been forced to guess with a gun to my head what this set’s most popular commander or combination would have been a month ago, I would have said Okaun and Zndrsplt and I would have been wrong.

So what gives? Is Arcades Zndrsplt or is Arcades Najeela? Is it both? The answer to that question is so simple you’ll be mad at yourself for not thinking about it.

The Answer

The answer is, who cares?

If you don’t want to try and guess and pick winners and losers before you’re ready because the obvious cards are going to spike and the cards for the non-obvious decks could end up in so few decks that they’re only a fourth or fifth as popular and therefore will experience far lower gains, what can we do when a set comes out? My advice? Blue chips, baby! M19 has a lot of mythics and some of them could end up spawning decks (although most of the Legendary creatures in the set suck and the decks will suck, too, meaning Arcades is likely this set’s Najeela, although Nicol Bolas is pretty hot… sorry for the really long parenthetical. This is quickly going from parenthetical to paragraph. Paragraphetical) but if we don’t want to play the “order within 3 hours of the card being spoiled or every order will get cancelled) game, what can we do? My advice for a set like M19 is look at the rest of the set and think about what’s there and not there. “Think about what’s there and not there” is a confusing sentence. How do you look at something that isn’t there? I almost just wrote “look at what’s there” but I thought of a card I think has upside based on NOT being in M19 and… you know what? I think I’ll just start with that one.

The Part of the Article Most People Skip To Because It Has Graphs

This graph doesn’t really show this card dipping when… board game of Ixalan (I could easily look it up but you know what I mean and it doesn’t matter. It’s the board game, which was a great idea) came out but it did and it’s basically below where it was before it went up on the basis of Commander 2017. Tribal Lords are great and this can be a Lord for a tribe that doesn’t have a ton of support. In fact, tribes that are popular and have a lot of support tend to be the ones that end up in supplemental product which means this has a smaller reprint risk because are you going to jam this in a Zombie deck when there is Death Baron, Zombie Master and like a half dozen other Zombie Lords? Nah, player. You’re going to put this in Nephilim tribal or something goofy like that, or you’re going to put it in a core set. This wasn’t in the core set. Meanwhile tribal stuff is going to come out in every set and you have a year minimum before we get another chance, M20, to reprint this in a core set, the most likely reprint avenue for it. This is basically at its floor and M19 is giving us a bunch of tribal stuff with garbage Lords. Take the hint.

This card IS in the set.

This flirted with $100 on some sites in its history and now look at it. It’s a $25 presale on TCG Player. I think this goes lower, both by and for a little bit, and when it does, you just put your money in this. Do I buy walls cards or do I buy Nicol Bolas or Vaevictus Asmadi cards? What if you sat this one out and concentrated on a card with low supply and high demand that is printed at Mythic in a core set which is likely to sell way less than sets like Dominaria, be drafted for like 2 weeks and which is playable in more formats than just EDH? This is a slam dunk. I don’t know what percentage gains you’re going to get, but what if after fees it was a mere… 10%? Talk to someone who invests on Wall Street and tell them your worst case scenario is 10%. They’ll tell you to take out a second mortgage on your house. I’m not saying take out a second mortgage, but I AM saying you’re not going to sell that Wall of Kelp for $38 but you WILL sell Crucible for $38 in 6 months to a year.  Focus where your money will do you the most good.

Everything that was said about Crucible can basically also be said about Omniscience, currently a $10 preorder on TCG Player. Do you think this will be $30 in a year? I do not. Do I think this will be $10 in a year? Also no way. This is the 75th-most-played Blue card on EDHREC which doesn’t sound great if you don’t have some context, the context being that 74 is Teferi and 76 is Hinder, a card that used to be much better and is probably an example so I’ll tell you 77 is Peregrine Drake. This lost 2/3 of its value. Do you think it will not recover any of that? I think if this is $10 retail, it’s like $4.50 buylist and if you can buy a card that used to be $30 for $4.50, you do it because I don’t think there is a scenario where you lose. Before this was reprinted, dealers thought $24 was a reasonable buy price. Here is what I think the future of Omniscience is. Feel free to argue with my crude graph.

That shape is Omniscience flirting with $20 in about 18 months. Is that super optimistic? Sure. But if you open something like Resplendent Angel, Tezzeret or Apex of Power, you’re much better off trading into something like Omniscience and I think that’s fairly obvious.

if you don’t want the stress of picking winners and losers, having to get in and out of your spec at blinding speed or betting the same way as people who don’t know enough about EDH to properly assess which commanders will make cards go up (not a knock on them as people, just as stuff-knowers in this instance) you can always opt out. Well, not always, but in this instance, I’m opting out. The next set will be a not core set and will have some stuff that will make EDH cards go up, hopefully in a manner that is predictable but not too obvious and I’ll write a normal article. Until then. Until next time!