All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a father, teacher, cuber and EDH fanatic. My joy is in Casual and Limited formats, though I dip a toe into Constructed when I find something fun to play. I play less than I want to and more than my schedule should really allow. I can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander. Try out my Busted Uncommons cube at http://www.cubetutor.com/viewcube/76330

Mechanics Revealed!

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One of the things that is pretty amazing about Wizards is their knack for keeping us going on the hype train. They have a dozen sets/releases/specials per year (Is it more? Less? I’m not sure anymore!) but we almost never have a chance to feel bored. Ready to take some time off and have the holidays? Here’s the mechanics from Ravnica Allegiance, just to wet your whistle and get you thinking.

Let me tell you, there’s some speculating to be done here.

I’m going to look at each of the guilds and their mechanics, and identify some picks that I think will have potential, given what we know. I’ve pulled some interesting targets out for Standard and for EDH as well.

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Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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Known Information

I have to admit, every time I hear about the MTG Finance ‘cabal’, those ‘shadow manipulators,’ I’ve got to laugh.

I don’t know of another group (granted there might be others, but they charge more, like a bookie’s sports line or a stockbroker’s private group) who does more to be transparent. I’ve been part of this site for more than five years, and I admire the way that we all make it super damn obvious what we’re doing and why.

You’re allowed to be annoyed when a card becomes unaffordable for you, but it’s not our fault if you don’t want to listen. We (James, Jason, Travis, me, plus the long and impressive list of others who’ve written for this site) want you to gain value and avoid losing value in your collection. That’s all we do, and we’re very open about our thought processes.

So this week, I want to go over my information sources, some of these are super obvious and some might not be. None of these are going to cost you much, either.

First of all, the obvious: Be a ProTrader! You get these articles before others, including the indomitable MTG Fast Finance podcast. MTGFF is a lot of fun for me when I fill in, and it feels good to be able to pontificate about the cards I like without worrying about my word count.

MTGFF also combines the ‘what has happened’ with the ‘what will happen’ without throwing too much other data at you, and rarely goes over an hour. I know some of you listen to podcasts all the time, but for those of us who do so sparingly, brevity is a gift.

Also, in all modesty, our track record is pretty impressive.

You should also be following all of us on Twitter. We all have our Twitter names in our articles, and if you don’t want to pollute your main feed with a ton of Magic, use the list function. I like keeping my feeds separate for Magic, and sports, and politics, and faces in things.

We lead the way. Come along, and make some money.

Twitter is an amazing resource, really. It’s an instant source of news, with rapid feedback, and for a lot of us, a fun way to interact with fans and readers. There’s a lot of the site that’s annoying, yes, but use that block and that unfollow liberally.

My personal tip: mute ‘RL’ and ‘Reserved List’ tweets. Saves me such a headache every time someone wants to revisit settled history.

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There are several non-Wizards websites that I often consult (aside from this one, naturally). I refer to mtgtop8’s ‘staples’ section when I want to gauge the playability of a spec. It’s super helpful to know how many Modern decks are playing Engineered Explosives (21%!!) and how many copies each. (1.6, so 1-2 in the sideboard of a ton of decks)

If I’d thought about it, I would have known that Noble Hierarch was the most-played creature in Modern, but finding that tidbit just makes pulling the trigger on a playset so much easier.

Another great function here is the lists of what’s won tournaments, including the sideboards. This is useful for a number of reasons, including being able to quickly see that two Arclight Phoenix decks made the top 8 of GP Portland last week. I know I wrote about the Phoenix as part of Standard+ last week, but all signs point to it being a staple that only gets better with each cheap spell printed.

You’ve seen me refer to EDHREC, or heard us mention it on the podcast, but really, spend the time and go explore the site. It’s got a limitation in that you have to want to upload your deck online, but people who do that are more likely to be the ones who buy cards online. My kind of people, frankly.

Being able to see what the hive mind is thinking in Commander is super-useful. Lots of people approach the format as experiential, as some way to be incredibly unique. For instance, a friend of mine had a Stonebrow, Krosan Hero deck that he called ‘The Juicer’ due to every card featuring mega-buff male chests. Think The Brute and you’re there.

Most folks, though, want to optimize a deck or at least find the sweet combos. You’ll see a lot of repeats (Eternal Witness everywhere, lots of decks with Mirari’s Wake, etc.) but you’ll also be able to see what might spike next.

An example: everything with Proliferate went wild when Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice came around, but it took time for The Chain Veil to pop too.

Chilcott with his Atraxa deck (artists’ rendition)

Finally, I want to give some love to a site that I use more than any other, and I have for years: whatsinstandard.com is a godsend for people like me who know things but have trouble with the specific details of what is known.

I want to give credit to the creator by name. I think it’s Ben Carlsson, but if I’m wrong and misread GitHub, forgive me, and correct me so I can correct this.

I found this site back when we were going to have 18 months and rolling rotation in Standard, and I could never keep track of anything. That’s a real liability for me, and messes with my ability to plan. Finding this simple, easy, and clear list of what people could play and for how long…I refer to this site weekly, if not more often. It’s bookmarked on my phone, too, because I can’t always remember which year what sets are rotating.

Everything that’s Standard-legal right now, for instance, rotates out in about 10 months, except for Guilds of Ravnica, which has 22 months to go. Enormously useful and easy to grok. Thank you, What’s In Standard?

Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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A Moment of Silence

Frankly, even calling it MODO is antiquated of me. ‘Mit-Go’ doesn’t sing the same way as shorthand for ‘Magic Online Digital Object’ or whatever it stood for.

I had a whole piece written about Ultimate Masters, ready to go, and then they drop the ten-million-dollar bombshell on us.

First of all, go read the announcement. It’s dense. Read it again.

Now, let’s talk what it means for the MTGfinance community.

A momentary rant: Why on earth does Wizards always have to step on one thing with news of the next thing? Do enough people watch the gamer awards live that they felt it was worth overshadowing Ultimate Masters’ release weekend? This is a huge change in a lot of ways. Why a Thursday night, when we’re all salivating for our value-filled UMA drafts?

Well, we’ve finally arrived. Arena debuted in alpha version last September, with just Ixalan, and a little more than a year later, they are ready to warp the entire Organized Play structure around this new program. I’m relatively certain this was the plan from the getgo, and it’s something that’s been discussed here and other places.

Arena is more fun to play and watch. It’s just plain faster, too, and that’s not something to overlook. Arena is not going to replace ‘tabletop’ Magic (as they insist on calling it, when ‘paper’ has been the vernacular forever) but it is going to spell the slow ending of Magic Online in its current form.

Happily, Florian Koch just wrote about how the MTGO economy is on the decline, both due to the ascendancy of Arena and the value-killer that has been Treasure Chests. All told, the future is very clear: You’re not going to get your money back from Magic Online. I’d expect a sell-off this weekend (you know, instead of playing the heck out of UMA on its release weekend!) of impressive proportions.

I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to get what you could, 25% of your invested money is still 25% you’ll get back. Magic Online won’t be dead tomorrow, but in all the changes announced, there’s not a single word of support for that program.

I would view it this way: It’s a way to play your favorite format (Pauper, Modern, Vintage, Legacy, Momir Basic, etc) just about anytime, including playtesting for big events that are coming up. It’s not a place to put money you want to get back. It’s already a lot cheaper to play those formats online than it is in person, and we’ll see how the economy shakes out once the crush ends.

Hopefully, you caught wind of this article too, where Elaine Chase confirms that Arena isn’t going to get older sets, and that they are figuring out what the non-rotating format will be in Arena, which she called ‘Standard Plus.’

This would appear to be the death knell for those who championed Frontier as a format. The new format starts with buddy lands and shocklands as the foundation. No fastlands, and no fetches.

Kaladesh through Hour of Devastation got wiped as part of the transition to the open beta, and frankly, I think they will keep Arena going at Ixalan and everything after. Kaladesh contains both fastlands and the Energy mechanic, problems they don’t want to face. Amonkhet block has the difficult-to-interact-with Gods, and we’ve seen how oppressive the red decks are with those sets available.

It’ll be easier to just cut those sets entirely, and that’s the gameplan I’d forecast.

What does that mean for us, in the MTGfinance world? We can’t profit off of cards on Arena, but we know that paper Magic is still going to be a huge part of the business, and let’s think about what is good right now in Standard, and Standard+.

I hope they do better than Standard-Plus for a format name. I don’t have confidence, though, turning Grand Prix into MagicFest is a worrisome sign.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is likely the best planeswalker in the new format. Karn, Scion of Urza is good too, but Teferi will just end the game while drawing you cards and freeing up your mana.

Implacable death lizard indeed!

Carnage Tyrant at $30 might be the most solid buy right now. Big and hexproof and possibly the single best creature in the new format.

Search for Azcanta, that control staple, is down to $17 and will likely be a big player in Standard+, given that the red decks are, so far, manageable. In that same vein, I do love Treasure Map in the $5 range, and Legion’s Landing at $7.

I still can’t believe this is only two mana.

I think the card with the most to gain long-term is going to be Arclight Phoenix. It’s already a very good card, one I was super-mega-ultra-wrong about at the beginning of Guilds of Ravnica, but there’s a principle that applies to the Phoenix, and a class of cards that gets better with every set.

Every set, there’s going to be some sort of cheap spell(s) in red, and in other colors. That means over time, in the new format, the spells and accessories surrounding the Phoenix can only get better. At worst, it maintains, but every incremental improvement will add up, and I fully expect that Standard+ will have Phoenix as one of the top-tier decks.

It’s around $28 now and while I don’t think it’ll hit $100, I won’t be surprised when it’s $50 this summer. When the new format is officially announced, the powerhouse cards of the current format are all going to spike, and this would be one of the biggest.

Also, I think that we’re going to get the new format announcement before rotation happens. Might even be six months before that, but I’d expect official word around the beginning of summer. I am not planning on being able to let these cards get cheap as rotation looms, and then they announce the new format, causing a new spike. Safer to confirm early…but with Wizards, who the hell knows.

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Buying up the Guilds

Here we are, the time that is often the doldrums of Magic news and sets. Thankfully, Ultimate Masters has been completely spoiled for a couple of weeks, the preorders are settling out, and I’m frothing at the mouth to get some drafts in.

What I don’t want to overlook is that we’re still in the first couple months of a new Standard, and specifically, Guilds of Ravnica cards have just short of two years to go up and down in price.

Generally speaking, cards from the big fall set tend to trickle downward in price for three to six months after their season ends. (Season meaning when it’s being opened at GPs and FNM drafts, etc.) That was with the Big Set-Small Set-Small Set model, though, when there was still a little of the big set being opened.

Now, with every set being its own block, the timeline appears to be accelerated. I don’t want to pick up cards that are rotating out next October, but GRN cards are in the sweet spot where the supply is nearly maxed (Ultimate Masters is going to suck the wind right out of those sails) and pretty soon we’ll all be ravenous for Ravnica Allegiance previews.

For example, Vraska’s Contempt:

The little removal spell that could.

This hit a low of about $5 at the end of Ixalan season and then bam, jumped up as a premier removal spell in the format.

I want to identify those cards now, instead of waiting. I especially love getting them now, as there’s nearly two years for a deck to hit big. To the cards!

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn how ProTrader can benefit YOU, click here to watch our short video.

expensive cards

ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

 

Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

Please follow and like us: