Unlocked Pro Trader: Why DId It Have TO Be Foils?

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Readers!

Many of you know I’m not a huge fan of foils when I give spec advice because I think they’re harder to move than people imagine, have a higher buy-in price and there are fewer copies so fewer people can take advantage of my advice. I also consider buying foils as a way to mitigate reprint risk to be kind of intellectually lazy and I tend to avoid calling foils as a rule unless I have a very specific card I really like, such as Arcane Denial or Dramatic Reversal. However, today I’m going to get into some foils and we’re all probably going to make money so it’s probably fine if everyone but me feels good about that. Let’s talk about why I want to talk about foils at all, first. 

A new set came out and when that happens, I look at the new commanders as they start to get popular and try to predict what’s going to go up as a result of those cards getting bought and adopted. The longer after the release weekend we get, the less and less meat there is left on the bone. That’s fine because there is still some time, but I think we’ve had even more time to address something that’s readily becoming very obvious and we still haven’t.

Korvold Isn’t Like Other Decks

When you look at the decks per week snapshot, basically every week the number 1 deck of the week is Korvold, no matter what else happened that week. We got sort of numb to seeing it at that number one spot, and sort of ignored the numbers at the bottom that showed just how much more Korvold was being built. Luckily I take a screenshot most weeks.

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December 3rd, 2019. 101 decks
January 28th, 135 decks
February 4th, 142 decks

Watch Kenrith, Golos, Windgrace and Chulane fall way off in real time. As the weeks go on, the number of Korvold decks built every week actually increases. Korvold is unstoppable. Since it wasn’t obvious what a juggernaut Korvold is by looking at him in first place every week, let’s look at some other measures.

Number one this month with 20% more decks built than #2. Want to know where he ranks in the past 2 years?

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20th. Korvold is the 20th most-built commander of the last two years and it’s only been out since October of 2019. Korvold is a beast and maybe we take another look at the cards in the deck, specifically some foils. We’ve probably missed a few boats but I’m sure there are plenty more.

SPECS!

Wait, did you just skip to this part because I labeled it “specs!” because that’s not cool.

I’m just kidding, I don’t care. I’m as excited to tell you about this as you are to hear about it.

My aversion to foils has bitten me a bit here. See that sharp incline? That started back in October, the month they printed the Brawl decks. I’m no astrophysicist but I think it’s possible the two events are related. Players went and did what I’m talking about doing months later. The news isn’t all bad – these are gettable under $10 and you should scoop every sub-$10 copy you can find, so that’s neat. Also, cards with more than one printing won’t be as sensitive to a change in demand but will still have upward velocity. Again, not an astrophysicist, but I think we’ll know upward velocity when we see it.

Victimize foils from Conspiracy flirted with $10 a few times before the rug got yanked out from under it by a reprint nerfed the price back in 2016 and then Korvold seemed to make it hit $8 before it tanked again last year. I think with new decks like Erebos and Kroxa and the continued demand from Korvold, we could see this hit $8 again.

This hit $7 a few times even after it was printed at foil in Masters 25. I think this is an $8 card in the near future given its ubiquity.

There isn’t a ton else, so I want to reserve the rest of this space to talk about why these weren’t discussed months ago.

One reason I tend to avoid foils is that the prices move much faster, both up and down. I know how to do Mtg Finance stuff well enough that I could stay abreast of those changes but given how slowly I list stuff for sale, I don’t like dramatic price swings. I like cards that are cheap and then I buy them and then they go up, and then I don’t list them and then they go down a little and I go “man, should have sold those” and then they go back up and I still don’t sell them and I don’t ever sell them and would you like to buy some copies of Curse of Opulence because I feel silly trying to sell them on Twitter.

In order to know which foils to buy from the Korvold deck, we would have had to have known back in October that Korvold would crack the Top 20 of all time on EDHREC (we don’t display data older than 2 years by default to keep things fresh so a bunch of Oloro decks don’t block out all of the signal from new cards). Anyone who says “You claim to be good at EDH but didn’t see Korvold would be that popular?” also said the same thing about Vannifar, so let’s maintain perspective here. If you had that feeling about Korvold and you recognize that feeling next time it comes around and want to try and capitalize, here’s what to look for.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting (A Deck To Be The Next Korvold)

Recent foils are just as capable of jumping dramatically as older foils. Take a look at Mayhem Devil, a cards that’s basically only in Korvold decks.

Mayhem Devil came out in War of the Spark, 5 months before the Brawl decks. Here’s the trajectory of the foil.

Smooth, steady, organic. I’m sure people notice this but it didn’t trip any “email me when a card dectuples in a day” google alerts or anything so for the most part, this was just a thing that happened because all of us can’t watch all cards all the time.

We would have had to have correctly predicted Korvold could sustain this level of play to justify buying a foil that’s only in one EDH deck, and I didn’t have that kind of trust. I will admit situations like this are a big weakness in the method I use which requires a lot of patience and data, but I was patient and didn’t buy a ton of foil Bounding Krasis, another card that seemed as sure to hit at the time as foil Mayhem Devil.

I don’t mind ignoring really volatile cards that are difficult to predict before we know which decks are really dominant. No one predicted Vannifar would be built less than Lavinia and Nikya, not even me, so if we can take guessing and bias out of the equation, our hit rate really improves. We miss a few Mayhem Devils but we miss a lot more Bounding Krasis and that itself is a win.

That does it for me this week. I’ll be back next week to talk about cards that haven’t already gone up, which has sort of been my niche for a long time. I hope you’ll join me and I hope you didn’t bulk out any foils Deathreap Rituals or Pawn of Ulamogs. Until next time!

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