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

Ixalan at Rotation

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Preview Season is upon us! Again!

I am rather burned out on trying to chase spikes before they happen, having missed the opportunities based on Hogaak, and I’d like to take a breather, a calmer look at other value sitting right in front of us: rotating cards.

That’s right, rotation is just three months away. All of Ixalan block, Dominaria, and Core 2019 are going to leave Standard, and that represents some real opportunities to maximize value. There’s a large group of players who are Standard-focused, who want to always move to the new hot deck, and who, like clockwork, sell off their decks when rotation happens or is soon to happen.

We can see that decline on a couple of cards already:

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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.

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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I like Oathbreaker and you should too!

I have to admit, I didn’t give Oathbreaker a second thought when it came to my mind. I dismissed it as the new Tiny Leaders, as a flash in the pan.

I’ve come around, dear reader, and give me a moment to explain why.

Tiny Leaders, Brawl, and now Oathbreaker are trying to solve the main problem of Commander: games frequently become attrition wars that take forever. A variant of Commander that’s faster but retains the spirit of the original format will take off like mad.

If you’d like a refresher on the topic, Jason wrote about it a month ago and I would also direct you to the homepage. (I really appreciate that Sol Ring and Mana Crypt are on the banned list.)

Oathbreaker is the best so far at being the ‘quick Commander game’ variant, and we need to start paying attention.

Tiny Leaders flamed out because it got solved relatively rapidly, Elfball Ezuri and ‘I just want to die please end this tempo game’ Geist of Saint Traft decks quickly established their dominance, and because the format is restricted to the cheap spells, only the things that are cheap and powerful will cause innovation.

Oathbreaker also gets around one of the main restrictions in Commander: that only a handful of planeswalkers are legal to be your Commander. Yes, those are some powerful planeswalkers indeed, but players are enamored enough with the characters created that there’s been some pushing on the Commander Rules Committee to legalize all planeswalkers. So far, they’ve resisted (probably a good thing, especially given Teferi, Time Raveler) and now the presence of this alternate format is a real winner.

One of the things I like, and also am wary of, is the wide variety of interactions between the planeswalker and the signature spell. I don’t feel like doing the math, but it’s somewhere been a ton and a whole giant googleplex of potential interactions. Some very fun things are possible. Some very broken things are possible.

The combo I heard about immediately:

And then your deck is all lands. Yay?

Sure, there’s problems here. Everyone sees it coming, you can’t have countermagic, your face is now the magnet for everyone who can attack, etc. But it represents the problem of having a certain instant or sorcery always available to you.

With all that said, I like the format and am trying to turn my Warrior tribal Commander deck into an Oathbreaker deck. The aggro of Zurgo Helmsmasher just wasn’t getting there in the 40-life format, and I’m hoping that this is a better home for what I want to do.

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EDHREC has jumped into the format, and we have some early lists. Unsurprisingly, there’s one Big Baddie who is all over the place: Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God.

The top spot, though, the most-built combination of a planeswalker and a single spell is likely going to surprise you:

Oh yeah, let’s get our howl on. There’s not quite enough Werewolves for a full Commander deck, Ulrich is a mediocre Commander, but this sort of lower-life, smaller-deck format is exactly what this tribe wants. Cheap, too, since Huntmaster of the Fells is the most expensive creature and if you avoid some obvious/expensive staples (Sylvan Library, etc.) you can build a good, synergistic, and fun deck. Moonmist as the signature spell is exactly what this format is about, too.

Financially, I’m into the key cards of the deck. Immerwolf is one of those, and as a $4 (in foil) uncommon that simply MUST be in any self-respecting Werewolf deck, I’d start there.

Tribal decks in general are going to be a popular choice, since you don’t need the same huge number as in Commander. There’s a few cards in particular that deserve to be thought about, especially because we know they aren’t in a Modern Masters this year, so they have to dodge Commander 2020 and Core Set 2020 (The Core Set not having a specific plane means they can toss in anything that won’t unbalance Standard too much, a potential pothole for any spec purchases!)

Can I interest you in some free creatures?

Path gets a lot of hype for big stuff like Eldrazi but it’s a card any tribal deck loves. Best friends with Mutavault, a card that ought to be in more decks but is pretty low in price due to all the GP versions floating around.

How about uncounterable creatures?

Cavern is a card I’ve mentioned before and just six months ago it was $45, right at release. If you need it, get it now, because it’s going to be $100 again relatively soon. There’s just too many different audiences that want this card, and hopefully this time they put it at rare in some set. Another printing at mythic will cause this same dent but not a meaningful reduction.

One more tribal card, a personal favorite:

This feels so very good to have in play. It triggers on token versions too, so if you have a blue/white Warriors deck, that Secure the Wastes is going to be good for a new hand. It’s the most expensive of the Kindred cycle, and for very good reason.

Some other cards to watch in this vein: Guardian Project, Metallic Mimic, Urza’s Incubator, and absolutely Path of Ancestry. Depending on what does and does not get printed by the end of August, these are the cards I’m watching and I’m getting ready to buy.

Oathbreaker’s focus on planeswalkers makes it a natural home for Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, but I’m not ready to dive in on that yet. Narset, Parter of Wills is a card you should buy right now, for Oathbreaker reasons and for ‘taking over all the formats’ reasons. There’s no format where she’s bad, and I do believe that she’s the most expensive in-print uncommon we’ve ever had. Even Fatal Push didn’t get to more than $30 foil when it first came out, and Narset is at $50 in English foil.

If Narset decks take off in Oathbreaker, please spare a thought for Font of Mythos, Geier Reach Sanitarium, Jace’s Archivist, Lore Broker, and my personal favorite pick since it’s on the Reserved List: Anvil of Bogardan.

It’s spiked a couple of times and trickled back downwards. Right now there’s 110 copies on TCG but only 20 are Near Mint. Won’t take much to get this card to double up or more.

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.

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The Plan for Modern Horizons

All right, everyone, the full spoiler is out this morning, and while I’m sure there’s a couple of doozies that they’ve been holding out on, we’ve got most of the set known and it’s time to make some plans.

The set goes into prerelease next weekend and full release after that. Let’s keep in mind some basics, and then get into what we ought to be doing, using other Modern releases to guide our thinking.

So the set is the same size as a Standard release, but the big differences are going to be the price and the size of the print run. There is no MSRP on this product, but with boosters being $6.99 on MTGO, that’s a reasonable starting point. As usual, there’s 36 packs to a box, and with a distributor price higher than normal, the box prices are somewhere in the $200-$240 range, often depending on is the Buy-A-Box NONFOIL Flusterstorm is included.

If you look at the preorder prices for the set, you’ll notice that there’s a whole lot of pricey cards. That’s to be expected when the pack price is nearly double: a higher cost associates with higher prices in general.

The other key logistical detail is that we’ve got Core Set 2020 releasing on July 12. Traditionally, previews for a set start three weeks before prerelease, as they did with Modern Horizons. That schedule means that preview season would start on Monday, June 17…three days after Modern Horizons was released.

I would guess that the preview season for 2020 will be shorter by a week, but that’s about the most they can do, short of dumping it all on us at once. I’m not ruling anything out, though.

So we have a more expensive set, only relevant to Modern, and with an abbreviated run. This is a formula for some incredible profits. We know that this set is going to increase interest in Modern by adding new cards and hopefully new archetypes. Modern Masters sets have had a predictable price curve:

This is for Noble Hierarch, one of the most-played creatures in Modern, and a card with multiple printings. Every additional printing the price has gone down right away…only to creep back up again. For fun, let’s look at the graph for the Conflux version:

Oh yes, that means I love buying cheap Nobles right now. The high-end ones are a ceiling on the price, but the box topper especially has room to grow to the $150 range.

This is the pattern: Everything from Modern Horizons is going to get somewhat cheaper as the set gets opened, but within a couple of weeks of Core Set 2020 coming out, supply will be mostly maxed out, and that’s when it’ll be time to buy.

I don’t know which of the cards are going to make the biggest splash in Modern or Commander, but there are a few that I’m targeting.

Foil enemy Talismans (no price as yet)

We’ve got a couple of folks preselling these on eBay in the $10 range, and I think that’s fairly reasonable. I’m hoping to come down to the $5 threshold, as they are only uncommons but we are not getting one foil in every pack. These are slightly worse than the Signets, but this will be their only printing and the only foil. This is a long-term hold.

Scrapyard Recombiner (currently about $3.50)

There’s 140 Constructs in Magic, but the most relevant for us are Walking Ballista, Steel Overseer, Hangarback Walker, Kuldotha Forgemaster, and if you’re feeling spicy, Metalworker. That’s a list of some of the best artifact creatures you could have in Commander, and if this gets as low as $2 I’m going to pick up quite a few.

Echo of Eons ($38)

This is the card that I think will get broken first, in Legacy or Modern. This is just ridiculous, to be able to discard it and have the Timetwister effect ready to go. They just gave us Narset, Parter of Veils to go with this! I wish this was cheaper, because I’m not sure how far down it can go. I hope it becomes quite cheap, especially in foil, but it won’t. I’m likely to pick up a couple playsets when it (hopefully) hits $15-$20.

Plague Engineer ($4)

I’ll be interested to see where the foils of this land, and how many copies get played in assorted sideboards. Being three mana is a real drawback, but it’s instantly lethal to Thalia and Hierarch in the Humans deck, which is likely the best tribal deck in Modern right now. Being able to kill relevant cards and develop your own board is a formula for success, and I’m going to want a healthy supply of these going forward.

Goblin Engineer ($5)

There is a lot of talk about this being a fixed and shifted Stoneforge Mystic, and that’s not far off. This is an amazingly flexible card, and one that’s only a rare. Getting Swords of whatever and whenever is always going to be fun in Commander, but the Modern card that loves this guy is Ensnaring Bridge. Having this range of freedom, getting one thing back over and over, is going to have a lot of game for some decks and i’m a big fan.

Foil Everdream (no price yet)

This is quite likely to be the card I buy the most of from this set. I’m hoping it’s a dollar foil, though I’d be content at two bucks. It’s breathtaking to play with. How about 2UR to deal three and draw a card? Or 2UU to draw a card, scry 2, and then draw a card? 2UW to exile target creature, they find a land, and you draw a card? This is a card that will have you gnawing at the table in frustration because the spells player is so amazingly far ahead in terms of cards and you’ll never ever be able to keep up.

I think that people don’t yet know how good this is, or they recognize that adding three mana to stuff in Modern is bad. I can’t wait to see this in every Commander deck that runs lots of spells, and that makes it a solid long-term investment.

Snow-Covered Lands (fifty cents to $1.25 or so)

Finally, let’s talk snow. There’s not a lot of reasons to go heavy snow, but if you freeze all your basics, you can add some very powerful effects. We have one ETB tapped cycle of allied snow lands (did we get more this morning??) and that makes it difficult to go ham on cards like Dead of Winter. We know Gates Ablaze is good and this is better. I’m not sure that there will be some awesome snow deck in Modern, but the good news is that when you go to your store and do a draft, you’ll be able to trade for these pretty easily or even scoop them up in the leavings if you go to the MagicFests where this is the Sealed format.

Pick up all the spare snow lands you can. Don’t forget the people who like to maximize their advantage by playing snow lands in a Commander deck and then using Extraplanar Lens to great effect. You’re stocking up to feed their needs later.

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.

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Value in Guilds

One of my guiding principles in buying, trading, and selling cards has been the belief that attention and new things can really distract us from potential profit.

For instance, right now we’re all loving the new Standard format and Modern Horizons is making things go absolutely bananas. This is wonderful, because there’s a lot to look at and some profit to be made.

I want to look at the last two sets especially, because they have more than a year remaining in Standard. There’s two characteristics that have to be true for me to want to buy a card at this point:

First of all, I have to be content with the card as a long-term hold. It’s entirely possible that none of these hit and I’m stuck with copies for a long while. This is tricky for me, because generally, I like foils a lot more for long-term holds, but being able to put them in the long term box and move on with my life is important.

Second, I have to believe that the card does something relatively unique in Standard. This can mean good removal, or a planeswalker that’s being held down by the current environment. To put it another way: What might be better when Ixalan/Rivals/Dominaria/Magic 2019 rotate out in four months?

One pitfall I want to avoid: A great selection of cards was added to the Challenger decks this year, so I want to stay away from stuff like Conclave Tribunal (easy $2 uncommon) or Experimental Frenzy (buy the foils!) so that’s ruling out a few cards right away.

March of the Multitudes ($4 nonfoil/$9 foil)

A banner mythic and the quintessential ‘win more in Commander’ card, I love a relatively low buy-in point. The foil multiplier is lower than I would have expected, but I have a big sticking point: Finale of Glory. Being an instant is a very good thing, and Convoke basically means you’ll double the number of creatures in play, but Finale is just better when you get to it. The creatures are bigger, and should 12 mana be hit, it’s hard to imagine the game’s not over.

If March falls to a dollar or so I’ll get in but the price is a bit too high for me right now.

Risk Factor ($5/$8)

That’s a really low foil price compared to the original price, and I have to admit that I’m surprised to see that this isn’t seeing any Modern play at this point. This is not a good Commander card, so what I’m asking myself is “What deck wants this at rotation?” Mono-Red is basically gone when rotation hits, but losing the low-curve threats might open up a little more midrange in red, and that’s when this can shine.

I’m in for a couple of playsets, hoping for the spike to $10 by Christmas.

Expansion // Explosion ($5/$9)

There’s an infinite combo in Standard, and it’s convoluted as heck. You need Ral, Storm Conduit in play, and two of these, or Ral used his -2, and you’ve got an instant on the stack plus one Expansion in hand. Basically you’re copying the copy spell infinitely, and dealing that damage with Ral.

I also like picking up Ral in the $2 range, because any deck that wants to combo off will want four of each of these. Explosion will always be Standard-legal with Wilderness Reclamation, which is a nice fallback position. Someone’s going to spike a big tournament with this wacky combo deck, and I want to be ready to sell the pieces of that deck.

Deafening Clarion ($1.50/$3)

Fiery Cannonade is good, but this is better and right now, we’ve got nearly-perfect mana for any color combination. We have all ten shocks and all ten checklands, which makes some decks run no basics at all. Jeskai Superfriends did very well the last two weeks, and this is one of the cheapest cards.

Even a minor bump will pay off quite nicely.

Thousand-Year Storm ($3/$8)

We’ve seen some decks trying very very hard with this card, and I always appreciate those willing to go the extra mile to get ten Shocks on the stack.

It looks like the red and white aggro decks will lose most of their good cards at rotation, so a janky combo card like this might be exactly what’s ordered. Plus, lots of decks have some random enchantment hate due to Search for Azcanta, and if TYS stays in play it’s going to be quite difficult to lose.

This is also great long-term, as being able to get 5+ Time Warp on the stack is exactly what Commander decks are looking for.

Trostani Discordant ($2.50/$5)

The good news is that this is a mythic card that is pretty cheap. The bad news is that as a legend, very rarely will the full four copies make it into a deck. Even the Selesnya Tokens lists would only run three.

However, picking up the foils at $5 is a pretty easy grab. Long-term, this has too many abilities not to be Commander-relevant and the foils will offer a much higher rate of return when they hit.

Ionize ($1.50/$4) and Absorb ($1.50/$5)

Right now, we have the mana to make three-color decks pretty easy. When Dominaria and Ixalan rotate in October, we lose the checklands, and I don’t know if we’ll get replacements in Magic 2020.

Control decks are also going to have Dovin’s Veto (an $8 promo right now, trade for them as soon as someone wins it at your FNM) and Sinister Sabotage as possibilities. What these decks want most, though, is a way to have the counterspell do something to help them win while keeping card parity.

I like Ionize best, because there’s a lot more copies of Absorb out there. Losing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is a huge blow, though, and I wish I knew which flavor of control deck will be the go-to after rotation.

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.

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