The Math on Kaldheim

There’s a lot to unpack in Kaldheim, in terms of how rare the rarest cards are, and considering Commander Legends just taught us a very Jeweled Lotus lesson, let’s pay attention, yes?

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Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

Unlocked Pro Trader: No Rest For Tiny Bones

Readers!

I know we love to talk about how we like second spikes, but we’re about to see a very interesting set of second spikes that could teach us a lot about mtg finance if we pay close attention. Today’s case study pertains to a commander that everyone wanted to build and no one wanted to play. Did the prices fall off because people got sick of the deck before they even sleeved it up like they seemed to with Xyris? Did they just not get to play the deck because of Covid? What can we learn about mtg by looking at two similar and profoundly toxic decks, the second of which may be so toxic that it punches straight through how boring it is and gets adopted by griefers the world over? I’m going to tell you that, damn, give me a minute. It takes me a paragraph or two to get situated. First paragraph and I’m already pretending you asked like five questions already.

I kid, I am actually glad I’m pretending you asked all of those questions because those are the same questions I asked myself when looking at a new card from Kaldheim that I legit wrote another “I hate Nevinyrral article” about on Coolstuff. If you’re reading this on Thursday, it came out today, go to Coolstuff and check it out. I feel a little silly trying to make the case that you might want to read my article in the body of one of my articles that you’re reading, but life is messy sometimes. Just click this link then click the one with my name on it. Thanks for the support!

OK, we’re back. Do you like how I dunked on Tergrid? I think I made the case that it’s troubling because it is so seductively powerful and has a much better payoff for the toxic discard and sac effects than Tinybones did that it’s bound to be a much bigger problem. I think the deck is going to be really unfun to play against, like Tinybones, but unlike Tinybones, I don’t think it will be unfun to play with. Tergrid makes symmetrical discard effects like Bottomless Pit into asymmetrical value engines and it’s shocking that this is not at mythic. This is a finance article, why do we care about what the stupid card does?

Here’s Why

This post-Tinybones decline was more precipitous than we’re used to seeing. Can a decline be precipitous? It makes me think it means “headed toward a precipice” but it also means steep. That’s a steep decline if you ask me – from $10 on its way to $7 or maybe even $6 when it got the call that it was back in the game. Didn’t even have time to report to the minor league club and there was an injury call-up. This new deck could make Necrogen Mists go even higher than $10 on CK considering no one could get their hands on Tinybones, those that could had to pay like $50 for it and anyone who built the deck was immediately hated out or got bored.

Tinybones is still on top, but it is closer than it was, and Neyith came out of nowhere. Neyith was behind all 4 of these other commanders, plus Emiel, plus Sethorn which was itself behind Kels. What people brewed waiting for Jumpstart product that came half a year later and what they built when they had the product differed a lot. It makes sense.

Before we talk about the cards that are going in Tergrid that weren’t in Tinybones, we should figure out what happens if Tergrid is as unfun as Tinybones and whether we should avoid decks that people aren’t super into building in the future. Let’s take a look at some cards that 100% went up because of Tinybones. Necrogen Mists was one, what’s another?

Pepperidge Farms remembers when Bottomless Pit was $15 on TCG Player an we have the data to prove it. A $15 price tag on a niche uncommon was never going to be sustainable, but it hit $5 on Card Kingdom before it sold out and by the time everyone restocked, no one cared. You can get Bottomless Pit for $1.50 on Card Kingdom, like 25% of what its buylist price was during the throes of Tinybones fever. I think it’s a buy if Tergrid is here to stay, but it may take more than one deck to make it stick above $5. I think Tergrid is more devastating and easier to get than Tinybones and I think it could help people out who bought Pit at $4 trying to get that fabled $15 and ended up holding the bag. Is that you? Shhhh, be quiet, put your hand down. You don’t have to admit it in front of everyone, just do something about it. You have another chance to break even, maybe better, and you should take it.

Here’s a very interesting case and I think it highlights the difference between a Saga rare and a Stronghold uncommon. Oppression, despite not seeing a ton of new play outside of Tinybones, never saw a drop-off in its price and it’s a solid Hamilton on TCG Player. Not just that, the solid Hamilton on TCG Player is its all-time high.

Freaky. It seems like there are so cards that just needed a nudge. Want to see something even crazier? Oppression got a reprint.

Figure that out.

It seems like the next time we get some Tinybones-tier card that makes people look at older cards that were too symmetrical and punishing to get a serious look, they may be safer if they’re old rares, even with reprintings. I’m looking at Yurlok, I guess. Is Citadel of Pain the Bottomless Pit in this scenario?

Not yet, but it’s too soon to tell.

This former bulk rare never retraced, either. It is looking more and more like Bottomless Pit suffered from a conspicuous buyout that sent people scrambling to the LGS to find the $0.75 copies to try and buylist for $8 that a slow, steady climb experienced by Lethomancer didn’t trigger. I also think people didn’t realize there were quite so many Bottomless Pit effects and if they didn’t check EDHREC to see what was going into Tinybones, they might not have known of any. Whatever the case is, I think Lethomancer is on its way farther up, not down. I think a lot of the Tinybones specs are in play, and I think another class of cards is on the way up, too.

A These Cards On Thy House

It’s Pox o’clock, baby!

This makes them discard AND sac creatures so with Tergrid out, you’re going to absolutely house the opposition. This is a ridiculous blowout and it’s why Tergrid is going to be so much better than Tinybones. Tinybones made everyone have an empty hand except you got to Phyrexian Arena on every end step but everyone hated you and blew their topdecks trying to take you out. Tergrid just straight robs them of a fighting chance. You can get hit by symmetrical discard effects and it doesn’t matter because you’re getting a ton of free perms.

Here, a foil spec idea. Don’t say I never did anything nice for the people who like foils for some reason. This is off of an all-time high of around $15 so a second spike is going to be… well, precipitous. Or not, what do I know about foils? This is also a $4 foil in Conspiracy and M12 but the art sucks.

I am going to be watching Death Cloud very closely. We are seeing two factors fight each other and I want to see who wins.

Factor 1 – There are 2 printings of this card, the second of which is Modern Masters.

Factor 2 – This seems almost tailor-made for a blowout scenario like Tergrid being in play. It’s irresponsible to build Tergrid without Death Cloud.

This card flirted with $5 without a brutal card like Tergrid to give it a boost, so I think sub-$3 you are in excellent shape.

Oppression didn’t go down post-Tinybones, I really don’t expect this price trend to do anything but get… precipitous-er. This is on its way to $10 anyway, and I’m glad Tergrid made us notice.

Here is the Tergrid page, you can figure out what you think will go up and argue with me in the comments for omitting something you like.

What would have happened to Tinybones cards if not for Tergrid coming along within 6 months? It’s hard to say, but I do think Tergrid could make the ones that didn’t retrace go up even more, you know, p-wordly and I think new ones like Pox and Death Cloud could be along for the ride. As a financier, I hope Tergrid demand is organic and the specs pay off and you have plenty of time to get out. As someone who likes to play EDH, I hope no one builds this bull$^&* deck and Wizards stops making cards like this.

That does it for me! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to argue with me in the comments or on Discord. Until next time!

The Watchtower 01/18/21 – Buying Bricks

I talk a lot about foils in my articles, especially FEA cards and in general, the most premium versions of things. This is because in today’s era of huge print runs, a lot of the time the easiest things to make money on are the cards with the lowest print runs and thus the shallowest supply, which is more often than not the most expensive version of a card.

But, as I alluded to in my article a few weeks ago, there’s money to be made elsewhere as well. When we talk about buying ‘bricks’ of cards in MTG Finance, we’re generally referring to acquiring a large stack of the same card – somewhere in excess of 30-40 copies. The most common plan for these is to sit on them a while and then sell to a buylist, but sometimes you’ll do ok selling singles as well. So what are my latest brick targets?


Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge

If you’re reading this article then you’re probably plugged into the world of MTG Finance, which means that you’ve probably seen the wild spike that Wheel of Fortune experienced over the weekend. A week ago this was a $300 card, and now even LP copies are selling over $700. We see runs on Reserved List cards happen every now and again, and we’ll probably see a mild retrace on Wheel as people rush to list their copies – I certainly don’t think that this is really a $1-2k card…yet.

But as prices for Reserved List cards like this skyrocket, EDH players are constantly in need of substitutes that they can play instead of splashing out on a real Wheel – and so we come to Valakut Awakening. I’ve already gone on many times about how good these MDFCs are, and this is no exception. I’ve called the FEA copies as a spec before and I’m back to say that I think you could do well to pick up a bunch of the regular non-foils as well.

Valakut Awakening doesn’t put cards in your graveyard like Wheel, if that’s something you need to do, but it is instant speed, gives you card filtering choices and is a land on the other side when you need it. The EDHREC numbers back this up, with it being the third most popular card from the set at over 5000 decks recorded running it. You can pick these up as low as $2 on TCGPlayer, but if you want to grab a ton at once then you’re looking closer to $3-4. CardKingdom are already paying $3 cash on their buylist for these, which shows how popular it is, and I think that given a year or perhaps even less, you should be able to double up or more to a buylist here.

Thieving Skydiver

Price today: $2
Possible price: $5

This is another one that I’ve picked the FEA version as a spec before, but again I think that the regular non-foils are going to perform well too. It’s the second best performing EDH card from Zendikar Rising, and it’s one of those cards that you can easily drop into any and all of your blue decks to great effect. Stealing artifacts is huge in EDH where people are dropping Sol Rings and Mana Crypts all over the place, and you don’t even lose the artifact if your Skydiver dies.

People who own multiple EDH decks that run blue are most likely going to want multiple copies of this card, and once you start to need 3, 4 or more copies of a card for your decks then you’re probably going to want to buy the regular versions over EA or FEA to keep costs down a little. 

Supply on these is definitely deep at the moment, but given enough time it’s not going to stay that way. You can pick up a ton of copies at $2 on TCGPlayer, and CardKingdom is already paying $1.70 credit on them which again shows that they’re needing to pay a premium to keep them in stock. They’re a little cheaper in Europe with stacks available around $1.50, so that’s an even better option if you can get them. I think that we could see a $4-5 buylist by the end of this year, and for such a new card I don’t expect a reprint for a little while yet.

Akroma’s Will

Price today: $4
Possible price: $10

Hopping over to Commander Legends now, which is still just about in the brickable category, although supply is draining fast on the more popular cards. Akroma’s Will is one of the most popular white cards from the set and for good reason – it’s effectively a Heroic Intervention and Flying Crane Technique rolled into one, but for only four mana. It’s flexible and powerful, and a tool which the majority of white decks would do well to be playing.

I’m honestly surprised that these are only $4 at the moment – but as I said, supply won’t be around long and that price is going to push up. You can still get a decent chunk in one go from a couple of vendors on TCGPlayer, which I think should pay dividends in 6-12 months. Given that these are going to be pushing $10+, you may end up having a better time selling these as singles rather than to a buylist, but either option should turn out just fine.


David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

Save Your Money!

People, I can’t say it enough: Don’t preorder new cards. 

This may seem counterintuitive to you. After all, new Magic sets are chock full of new interactions, sweet characters, and mechanics begging to be exploited with old cards. 

Please, please, please. I’m begging you. Resist the urge to buy things right away. It’s terrible value and you should only do it if you play enough in person to make it worthwhile. 

Maybe you don’t want to believe my experience. That’s okay. I’ve got the receipts. 

It’s been a long-standing phenomenon in Magic that when a set comes out, it’s at its most expensive. You can get into the economic principles if you’re so inclined, but that’s not my area of expertise. I’ve simply been around enough new sets to know that things are almost never worth buying right away, except in the case of the most format-defining cards, or the biggest cross-format stars. 

Before you buy that new card, understand that for 99% of the cards, you should wait two weeks, at minimum. Let’s take some quick examples from early in Zendikar Rising:

Ancient Greenwarden has some delightful Commander synergies and is probably worth a look at buying, given that supply is at max right now. Preorders were all above $20, some as high as $25. 

Forsaken Monument is a card I like right now, especially in FEA around $13, but the regular versions were going for $17 at the start of the set, a full $10 higher than they are now.

Let’s take a trip back farther, to Throne of Eldraine. How about a low-circulation card, only available in a Commander deck, which might run out? 

Nope, dropped like a rock. How about a regular mythic, The Royal Scions?

Ouch.

Now, on a long enough timeline, some of these can look solid. For instance, from early 2018, here’s the graph for Bramble Sovereign:

It was preordering in the $15-$17 range, so you had a chance to preorder at that price, wait 18 months, sell at $22, and make $2. Nothing to trumpet, but hey, profit is profit.

One thing I want to make clear: I’m talking about the preorder prices for the regular frame, nonfoil versions of cards. Stores generally aren’t preselling the premium versions of cards, because it’s difficult to know what you’ll get in the boxes you open, especially during a pandemic. The presence of special frames and foils will generally drive down the price of the nonfoil regulars, as the collectors with more to spend will go after those versions and leave the more basic ones behind. 

In Kaldheim, we have some pretty bad offenders, and hopefully, you’re not thinking about buying these until the dust settles.

Koma, Cosmos Serpent ($8) – I freely admit that this is a limited bomb, requiring an answer before that first upkeep trigger. It’s got some potential in Commander, but in the best Commander colors, it’s got some big competition. It’s going to drop, by at least half. If you have to have it right away, recognize the extra that you’re paying.

Esika, God of the Tree // The Prismatic Bridge ($10) – I love this card and I can’t wait to add it to my Ur-Dragon deck. The problem is, I’m going to need precisely one copy. Its color identity means that it’s five colors or bust, and that’s a niche market indeed. I can absolutely see a world where the foil showcase of this goes for $25+ and the regular nonfoil is under $4. Please don’t overspend on this when you don’t have to.

The World Tree ($7) – It takes a lot for a land to hold a price above $4 as a rare. It needs to be popular in more than one format, it needs to be useful, and pop up all over the place. Just like Esika, this is five-colors only, and yes, it’s a very sweet land for those decks. It’s not going to see any Standard play, and it’s got a big price drop coming. Please be patient.

Tibalt’s Trickery ($8) – This seems bad to me. Yes, it’s a red counterspell, but they are going to get something after all. Chaos Warp has a 33% chance (or so, most decks are around a third lands) to just whiff and give the controller a land to replace what you shuffled into the deck, but Tibalt’s Trickery guarantees a spell. I imagine this will see more play than it should, but price-wise, this is going to fall like a rock and you definitely don’t want to be an early adopter here. Wait till it’s a $1 card.

Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor ($19) – This seems absurdly high, even for a mythic that switches between being good early or good late. Yes, if you cascade into this card off of something like Shardless Agent you can choose to cast the backside, a decently-powered seven drop of a planeswalker, but that’s a pretty niche application. I think this card has potential, just not $20 a copy potential. More like $10, or $7.

Eradicator Valkyrie ($6) – Is this a decent card? Yes. It’s got good stats and an ability that can be relevant, but isn’t Rankle, Master of Pranks just better in every way? Lifelink is good, but this is destined to be outclassed for a long time. I think this falls a long way, approaching bulk mythic status.

There are some cards in this set that I think are fantastic, and I can’t wait to buy up some cheap stacks of cards in six weeks or so, but please, save yourself the money and don’t preorder anything.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

MAGIC: THE GATHERING FINANCE ARTICLES AND COMMUNITY