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

The Fateful Eight

We’re pretty well set in Zendikar right now, and so far, we don’t have many updates about Commander: Legends. 

What’s coming, though, is that in about eight weeks, you can buy Commander Collection: Green, an eight-card reprint set available in foil and nonfoil. We know the cards, we know the dates. We also know that the distribution model is surprisingly clear-cut, though actually getting the cards is going to be trickier than you think.

First, the basics. Eight cards, December 8, 2020. All WPN stores can get the regular version of this, and I found it pre-ordering online for $50 pretty easily. What you can’t easily find is a preorder for the foil version, only available at Premier-level WPN stores. As a point of reference, there are 48 of those stores in the continental US.

Just as an idea, if I saw the premium version on sale for $150 or less, I’d buy it. Two of these cards have never been in foil before, there’s new art on all of them, and the super-limited quantity is very attractive to collectors.

Let’s talk about these cards and where I expect prices to go. 

Bane of Progress (nonfoils are $8) – There’s no foils of this, and it hasn’t been printed enough to bring the price down farther. It’s at that sweet spot where one printing every few years keeps the supply and demand balanced. The price has trended upwards, even given the loss of a dollar since the Collection was announced:

I’d expect this version of the card to start out at $8 and trend upwards. Preorders for the nonfoil generally bear that out, but this is one of the first-time foils. I can’t find anyone preselling individual foils, so my guess is that these start at $30, spike to $50+, and settle in at about $40. It’s entirely possible that I’m way off, though: There’s only going to be a few thousand foils in existence.

Command Tower (nonfoils are $1, foils are at $90/$150) – The nonfoil should be a buck, given that all the other versions are the same. Maybe $2, if you’re lucky. 

The foil version, that’s primed for a huge ticket. We’ve got the Judge foil for about $150, and the Commander’s Arsenal version for $90. Given that, I’d say $100 is a safe bet and maybe $200 is possible. The CA version is most likely the rarest, based on numbers and age, but the allure of this super-rare and newer version will have an effect too. Plus, people have shown that the CA foiling process is too close to the FTV process and is therefore less desired. The only thing stopping me from going further on that is that Commander Legends is going to have foil Extended Art versions of the Tower. That’s going to soak up some of the demand and some of the money.

Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury ($13 foil, same for nonfoil) – So the original version in C14 was nonfoil, but the Commander Anthology gave us regular-size foil versions. We can compare apples to apples here, and I wouldn’t expect the prices to be high on this. Somewhere around $8-$10 for the nonfoil, and something reasonable like $20 or less for the nonfoil. I’m not expecting people to pay a huge bonus for something still in the same frame. The original isn’t a huge card in Commander but it is listed in 5000 decks online.

Omnath, Locus of Mana ($30 nonfoil, $45 FTV, $120 pack foil) – This price is reflective of a tiny supply: original Worldwake (January 2010), and FTV: Legends (August 2011). That’s nine years, and it was a mythic in the original! The Commander demand isn’t high enough for this price. I’m expecting a pretty severe correction here, and if you have spare Omnaths, I’d be a seller. It’s going to be hard for the nonfoil to hold a price of $20, as people buy their set and sell off what they aren’t using. The foil should be somewhere in the $60-$80 range, I think, even with new art and the appeal of being in this set, the demand just won’t be there. 

Seedborn Muse (nonfoils $10-$17, foils $25-$200) – There’s a lot of outliers here because the original printing was waaaay back in Legions, that’s 2003 and older than a lot of current players. This is one of the iconic Commander cards, being in 29,000 decks and causing endless eyerolls. It’s also quite the rollercoaster when it comes to reprints, see if you can spot the reprint timing:

Each time it was printed, it recovered. Seedborn is a card that works in so many decks, I imagine a lot of copies that get opened don’t make it to the market. Price-wise, I expect the nonfoil to be around $7 but then climb upwards again until its next reprint. For the foils, we have a lower boundary of $25 from Battlebond and the $200 from Legions. I suspect the new foil will be above the 9th/10th edition prices, but not too high. Somewhere around $75 sounds right after the dust has settled.

Sol Ring (nonfoils about $2-$3, foils from $40-$500) – The nonfoil should land in the area of all the other nonfoil Commander printings, maybe a little higher. They are just everywhere! The foils, though, there’s some competition going on. The FTV is $45 or so, with the Magicfest version right there, but the only other foil versions are the Judge foil at $400+ and the Masterpiece at $500+.

I don’t think this is a $100 version, especially if we get an EA foil version in Commander Legends. Somewhere around $60 feels right for this.

Sylvan Library ($40 for nonfoils, $110 foils) – I’m not counting the Legends version yet, because it’s so old and so rare, it warps data. The Library is in a whopping 40k Commander decks online, about 1 in 5 decks that can run it do so. This $40 price makes you feel real good if you bought in during EMA:

A solid riser and a Commander staple, with foils from EMA and Commander’s Arsenal. I suspect this version will be the most expensive foil, both because not many are going to be printed and because lots of people who buy this set are going to slot the card into a deck. I’m hoping the Library falls in price back down to the $20 range, so I can make a ton off of it again.

Worldly Tutor ($30 for nonfoil) – This is no slouch in the Commander world, being in 26k decks, pretty impressive for a card that was only in Mirage and then an uncommon in 6th edition. The current price feels like it has room to drop, given that it puts the card on top of your deck instead of in your hand. Tutoring effects have gotten better, but there’s a lot of combo potential with Worldly Tutor. 

I am pretty sure that the nonfoil will drop to $15, give or take, but the foils are another matter. I won’t be shocked if those crack $100 in the initial frenzy, and die down into the $80 range.

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.

What makes a Bad Spec?

Dear reader, this has been a long time coming. It’s a joke that many like to make, that there are no bad specs, only ones that haven’t arrived yet. However, between my bad moves and those that others have posted about, there are some rules for the things to avoid at all costs.

This is not a comprehensive list of all bad specs, but the guidelines for the things I’ve seen go bad and the things that haven’t arrived yet. Some of these, I’ve done, and regretted ever since.

One thing I’m not listing here that I’m sure you’re thinking: I’ve left off mistakes around banned cards. Anticipating bans was, until recently, not a great endeavor. I freely admit that I’ve got a stack of Prophet of Kruphix in my failed spec box, hearkening back to it being the best creature ever. Could I have anticipated that it was too good? Possibly. I’m not going to be cruel to those who got hit with the banhammer, though.

Mistake #1: Buying too late/FOMO

This is the main thing I see in the world, and it’s something I get asked about a lot by my friends. “This card is spiking hard right now! Do I buy it?” 

Invariably, my reply is no. It’s exceedingly rare to buy in on a card when it’s started a fast rise from its low point, yet still buy in low enough that you can exit with profit made. Let’s look at an example of a fast rise:

There are slower rises worth getting in on. When Field of the Dead rose to $5 off of EDH play and Modern use, despite the bans, that’s a card worth thinking about because Wizards rarely reprints banned things and this had room to grow.

The meteoric risers, though, those you want to avoid, because you don’t know what the price will be settling at. There are other places to put your money, I promise.

Mistake #2: Confusing high demand with low supply

There are two basic reasons why a card is expensive: Either lots of people want it and are willing to spend for it, or only a few people want it and there were only a few copies of the card in the first place. There are a lot of old cards which don’t have a huge supply, and very slow demand over the years has made that card expensive. Most of Portal: Three Kingdoms falls into this realm, as an example. The cards in that set are crazy expensive because they are incredibly rare. When reprinted, and given even a moderate boost in copies, that tends to tank the price. Originals might hold their price, as part of a very rare set, but the new ones are going to be a fraction of the cost. This is why 7th edition foils command such a premium–there are not a lot of collectors who are determined to get a full set of the first Core Set in foil, but there’s enough of them to create some incredible price gaps.

In terms of more recent cards with this problem: Mana Echoes is a card I don’t want to spec on, even though I’m really high on most of Double Masters. Let’s take a look at the price chart for Mana Echoes:

Clearly, the original copies took a dive when the new version showed up at mythic. Being at mythic is likely why the drop is only this much so far. I suspect it’s got farther to drop, because it’s a card that doesn’t have a huge demand pattern. It’s only in about 3500 decks online, and that’s troubling. It wants you to play a tribal deck, and in red. Plus you need to use a ton of colorless mana, and that’s not an easy set of characteristics to match.

Mistake #3: Fringe card in a new deck

I have a dozen foil copies of Eldrazi Mimic in my spec binder. I bought these relatively cheap, at $3 or so, when they were new and after the initial rush had worn off. I saw what the Eldrazi decks were doing, it was the cheapest of the cards, being so new, and I dove in.

And that was four years ago.

I haven’t had a chance to sell these for anything like $3 yet, so these are going to sit, stagnating, soaking up money I could have used more proactively, instead of spending $60 on the worst four-of in a deck that caught a ban right after I bought in. There’s a chance they will be good again, but four years is a very long time. 

Mistake #4: This ‘should’ be good! (aka The Gut Feeling)

In July 2019, we got a hint of the mechanics for the Commander decks that year. We found out the themes would be Madness, Populate, Morph, and Flashback. I wrote a whole piece about cards to run out and buy in anticipation. One of the cards I highlighted was Avacyn’s Judgment in foil, figuring that it ought to be in the deck and having the foil is where I wanted to be, as people built around the new Madness commander.

So I followed my own advice, and bought about 50 copies of the card, averaging a dollar each. And here’s the graph:

I’ve made nothing from this, and again, it’s just sitting there, a brick of wasted potential. Combine this spec with the Mimic, plus a couple others, and I could have had a dual land, or anything else with a strong growth curve. 

It’s harder to highlight where I went wrong on this card, though. This is an awesome effect, but people weren’t in a hurry to foil out their Anje Falkenrath decks. The deck never really caught on, being listed only 1700 times on EDHREC. It’s the #49 commander for this color identity, but maybe if the commander had been the flavor of the month, the spec would have paid off better.

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.

The Gist of The List

Zendikar Rising has arrived online, and paper versions can be played with this weekend, prerelease style. Vendors have started to get their allocations of cards too, and are cracking them to fulfill presale orders on Sept. 25.

There’s one subset of this experience that has more significance than new cards: The List, that set of 300 reprints that is only available in these Set Boosters. We need to talk about what’s on The List, how the prices will be affected, and what to expect going forward.

First of all, let’s examine MaRo’s words about Set Boosters. I like the concept, it’s for people who like cracking a pack for the experience, for the neat things. Drafting isn’t always conducive to that behavior, and now we have an in-between for the workhorse Draft Booster and the super-bling Collector Booster. 

Plus we have a 5% chance of a minigame!

The List represents an extension of the Mystery Booster experiment: how many copies of a card need to enter circulation for the price to actually go down? I’ve written before about the joy of the Mystery experience, and I sold out of the playtest cards too early, but the concept is great. Reprints are good for accessibility.

Mystery Booster: Convention Edition represents a good reference point for this level of reprint. If you’ll recall, there were 14 slots of regular cards and one slot for the Playtest cards. Each of those slots pulled from its own sheet of 121 cards. So to get a Mystery Booster edition of Purphoros, God of the Forge, you’d have to open, on average, 121 packs. 

Mystery Booster was first revealed in November 2019, and that engine really got going in the following four months, coming to a screeching halt in March 2020. You can see that the original Theros copies did take a hit, being down about $7 from its high around $23. That’s for a mythic from Theros, and while there’s been a Secret Lair, there hasn’t been a lot of reprint to this and the demand is middling, being in about 18,000 Commander decks online.

Let’s look at a true Commander staple. “Did you pay the one?” is asked by 64k decks online and likely it’s used even more often that than that, causing chaos, eye twitches, and lectures from the table:

Rhystic Study hasn’t flinched at all. Jumpstart hasn’t made a dent either. It’s just going up and will keep going up. Clearly the demand for the card has outpaced this meager increase in supply. It’s quite possible that if Rhystic Study had NOT been in Mystery booster, it would be a $35-$40 card. We can’t know what the price would have been, but a slow increase during the reprint time is a sign of strong demand.

What about weaker demand? Let’s take Recruiter of the Guard, which was a rare in Conspiracy 2, so there’s not a lot out there. It’s in about 9,000 decks online, but can be a very useful combo piece in the right deck:

We see that it was riding high, hitting nearly $30, but the reprint has lowered it to the $14 range, beginning in November when the first Mystery was getting opened.

That makes sense, thinking about the use cases of the cards. If you open a Rhystic, you think, “Hey, I have a Commander deck that can use this! Let’s sleeve it up.” If you open Recruiter, it’s much more narrow in application and you’re more likely to sell/trade it. The effect is more and more noticeable as you go down the list of Mystery Booster cards and cross-reference that with amount of play on EDHREC. Constructed staples (Manamorphose, Path to Exile, etc.) stood a decent chance at recovering until the pandemic shut down paper play, but casual cards are still selling well all over the Internet.

So now that we have an idea of what happens to prices when there’s 1 copy in about every 121 packs (roughly 1 per five boxes), let’s look at Set Boosters and The List.

We get a card from The List 25% of the time. Literally a 1 in 4 chance. Then you have the 1 in 300 chance of getting a specific card. Statistics and probability are not the same as reality, but on average, you’re going to have to open 1200 packs to get one of a certain card from The List. At 30 packs/box, that means 40 boxes. That is roughly nine times less common than Mystery Booster’s rate of giving you a certain card. 

Nine times! And this is for a subset of boosters that I’m sure people will draft with, when there’s stores open for drafting and if the boxes all arrive on time!

It’s also worth mentioning that according to BenB over at Star City Games, Wizards put the word out that The List’s frequency would be affected by the rarity of the cards involved. More of the commons, less of the mythics, like usual. 

However, the unboxing videos so far do not reflect this, so more data or more clarification is needed. The List is unbalanced, having 35 mythics, 139 rares, 85 uncommons, and 41 commons. That doesn’t reflect price, as Rhystic Study is at common. 

My point here is that I’m not worried about The List as a reprint engine, at least for Zendikar Rising. If I had a stack of The Chain Veil in my spec box, I’d still be fine with a hold, or go ahead and sell some. The key, as always, is to look at how popular the card is. The List is going to be more of an exercise in reflecting how people think about a reprint as opposed to adding a meaningful number of cards to a certain supply. 

Being on The List means less than being an Invention. Less than an FNM promo. Less than a Buy-a-Box. Less than Mystery Booster. I’m not going to let The List affect me until I see some data otherwise, because the information we’ve been given works out to a very small quantity and therefore shouldn’t affect prices.

This may change going forward. Wizards might decide that this is too incremental, and juice the drop rates, or decrease the number of cards on The List, or add foils to the mix. Can’t predict what they will do in the time of COVID-19. But if you have cards from what is now The List, I wouldn’t panic. You’ll be fine.

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.

The Mythics of Zendikar Rising (part 2)

Last week I got into the mythics some, and we’ve gotten the whole set revealed now, including the eleven mythics we didn’t know about last week. So let’s see what’s worth a preorder!

Please keep in mind that I’m talking about the regular nonfoils here, not the Showcase versions or the foils.

Tazri, Beacon of Unity ($3) – Ouch. I think this Tazri is overshadowed as a Commander by the original, which let you go find the Ally you needed most, rather than needing mana to look at the top cards and hope there’s two Allies in there. The ability is good, but $3 in preorder season is a pretty clear indicator that this will be bulk pretty quick, barring some amazing synergies that sets will bring in the next two years.

Ancient Greenwarden ($24) – Currently the most expensive Z3 card, because players are going absolutely bonkers to acquire this for whatever Landfall shenanigans they want. Double Field of the Dead triggers? Don’t mind if I do. Twice the Valakut damage? Seems legit. I don’t think this will hold as the most expensive card long-term, but the combination of value engines that this offers is hard to ignore in Commander.

Forsaken Monument ($12) – This is a Caged Sun for colorless decks, and those are the decks capabel of some truly degenerate things. It’s yet another combo card for Basalt Monolith to generate infinite mana, but mostly this will get used to empower mana rocks all over the place. Please don’t overlook that this card is likely to bump Honor-Worn Shaku again, making that card tap for two colorless per legendary permanent–and this one is legendary! I think $12 is an almost-decent get-in price, but again, I’m being patient and letting the early adopters spend the big money first. I’d prefer to get copies between $8 and $10.

Leyline Tyrant ($14) – It’s a 4/4 flyer for four that’s got two different upsides. Neither is easy to exploit on its own, but the two abilities synergize really well. If they kill the dragon, then they suffer the death trigger for whatever mana you were building up. There’s some neat things to do with this, and I’ll enjoy seeing people try to build around Irencrag Feat, but this is a middling mythic at best and the price will fall by about half. Stay away for a while.

Lithoform Engine ($23) – We know that Rings of Brighthearth has quite a history: 

That history is buoyed by there only being one printing in Lorwyn, and then an Invention. Yes, the engine is restricted to one use a turn (unless there’s an untap trigger being copied) but the flexibility is truly impressive here, even down to copying permanent spells. Those are creatures, enchantments, artifacts, you name it. Don’t go copying legendary things, though. This flexibility is powerful but still requires a focus, and a tax of two extra mana. I wouldn’t be shocked if this was $20 around Valentine’s Day, but I’m expecting it to fall to $15 after the initial rush cools off.

Moraug, Fury of Akoum ($19) – Using a fetchland to get two extra attacks is good, there’s a whole lot of combos you can work out to get a landfall trigger in each main phase you get and I’m expecting a whole lot of Moraug builds to show up on EDHREC soon. That’s not going to be enough to keep this price this high, and a drop to $12 or less is coming.

Scourge of the Skyclaves ($10) – Don’t look at this as a Death’s Shadow that’s been both fixed and upgraded. Think of this instead as an enabler for Nethroi, Apex of Death decks: because this has a negative power, you can use it to bring back a whole lot more with Nethroi’s Mutate trigger. That’s a niche case, but it’s a cool niche case, and Commander players are addicted to such things. This about the right price, given the assorted use-cases, which includes the kicker as a one-shot kill with other ‘half your life’ effects.

Agadeem’s Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt ($8 or so from what I see) – I mentioned last week that I love these modal spell/land cards. It’s hard for me to imagine a card I want more in Commander: It’s either a land early, which Commander decks can never have enough of, or it’s an eleven-mana, reanimate-five-giant-beasts spell. That’s the best kind of modal spell, something that’s good early (the land, can even be untapped if needed) or good as a late topdeck. I’m pretty convinced that these mythic lands have a long-term home in Commander, as they are generally too expensive a spell to be good in Standard, but I’d want the prices to come down a little before I buy in. I’m hoping this falls as far as $5 so I can purchase a large amount.

Sea Gate Restoration // Sea Gate, Reborn ($9) – The modes are pretty far apart, but I’d prefer if the spell side was just ‘draw four cards’ or something. As a topdeck, it’s pretty lame, but this is still an improvement over your ordinary Island. This is too high a price, and I expect it to drop to $5 or less, and I’ll have to do a lot of thinking then about buying in.

Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass ($6) – If this could hit players, this would be one of the greatest cards ever. As it is now, it’s decent to fair, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. I’d be happy with this card if the spell side was a five-mana Lightning Bolt, but this X spell is a good grab off the top to deal with several problems on the board. Six bucks feels about right.

Turntimber Symbiosis // Turntimber, Serpentine Wood ($15) – This is instantly a staple in Green Commander decks. You up your land count by one when needed or have a big spell to slam down. The top seven should be good to you, and even if your only hit is a small one, you get an upgrade! There’s almost no feel-bads with this card, which is a rare thing. I won’t be shocked if this starts to go up immediately and keeps climbing from there. I can’t wait to stock up on assorted versions of this card.

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.