All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a husband, father, teacher, 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 write intermittently at wordofcommander.blogspot.com and can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

PucaPicks for 2/2/2017

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I’ve turned the corner on PucaTrade, admittedly because of my experience and not because of larger factors.  Five weeks ago, I was at 20,000 points and my bounties got picked up by random people, including an Invention for a 70% bounty.

I mentioned last week what changed: I decided to give up on the hustling of Discord or forums and such, and I started sending out a trade every two days.

I’m not going to offer the same huge bounty this time, but I am willing to send out the leftover cards from my Grand Prix sells box in oder to build up points again. I like using PucaTrade for low-level speculations, many of which are worth going after today.

To be clear: If the only way trades happen is for me to send trades, then it’s a race that can never be won. The site wants a constant churn, a flow of cards in and out. At this point, it’s not effective to build a stack of points up and then just wait. I have a high number of lower-value stuff that packages well, though, and I’m happy to build back up. I’m not going to try for the super-high-value cards, but I like Puca as a way to move cards that don’t otherwise have a good outlet.

Aether Revolt is out and getting opened and some prices are stabilizing, so let’s dive in!

Aether Revolt box – 14314 points – It’s worth mentioning that if you want to change actual dollars into Pucapoints, this is a very cost-effective method. Spending about $90 cash will get you about 1.5x that in points, and while some individual cards have a better ratio, this will happen pretty quickly and easily, and that’s before unofficial bounties come into play.

Heart of Kiran – 1538 – This is currently the most expensive card in the set, and that’s a little disheartening. This set overall is very low-value, which is actually really good for us. Cheap cards offer a lot of opportunities. This card SHOULD be very good. Two mana, 4/4 flying vigilance, is amazing. It’s got a Crew cost of 3, which makes it sort of bad in creature-based decks, but if you can afford the loyalty, it’s stunning. I can see this being good in a Planeswalker deck, alongside mass removal, but that deck hasn’t shown up…yet. I don’t like to pick up cards that are this expensive based on what could be, so for right now, this is a sell.

Walking Ballista – 1236 – We forgot that Hangarback Walker is a good card! It costs XX and can get bigger, and yet we totally forgot how good it can be. I think this is good enough and versatile enough to really shoot up in price sometime in the next 18 months, but I want to wait another couple of weeks before getting this. I’m hoping for the price to drop to about 1000 points, at the time Modern Masters 2017 comes out.

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Tezzeret the Schemer – 1175 – He’s falling fast, and requires the right deck. That screams out sell him now, and that’s what I’m doing.

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Herald of Anguish – 882 – I think this is a worse Demon of Dark Souls, and while it can cost less to cast, the immediate impact isn’t there. I expect to see this fall farther, and right now, I’m sending this out.

Ajani Unyielding – 838 – If you can get him in play, he’s game-breaking. He’s worthy in Commander too, and I think this is about the perfect price.

Paradox Engine – 811/1802/4949 – It’s an engine in search of a combo. Clearly it needs mana rocks/creature-based acceleration, but it’s going to be broken in some format. We saw several attempts at this when Jeskai Ascendancy was revealed, and this is copies 5-8 for the deck that wants such. I love the card, and I think the pack foil is gorgeous, but I’m just holding onto this now instead of buying or selling.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade – 651 – I’m a big, big fan of this card. It’s instantly one of the best cards in my Experiment Kraj Commander deck, turning all sorts of things into mana producers. I think that after rotation, the black-green decks will adjust and start casting Winding Constrictor into Rishkar, for a 4/5 attacker on turn three backed up by a 4/4, each of which taps for mana! I can’t deny the power, and I’m picking these up now.

Disallow – 650 – I don’t think this has legs for Standard, so I’m selling this now. I think Commander is keeping this afloat at this moment, so I’ll love getting this in a few weeks for 400 or less.

Metallic Mimic – 473 – What I love about this as a speculative card is that if a deck breaks this card, it’s going to be a four-of. It’s got to be in play early and before the broken cards land, and that deck isn’t here yet. I’m selling this until it gets to two or three hundred points.

Foil Mechanized Production – 1100 – Alternate win condition! This is several times the nonfoil price, and that screams ‘casual players love me!’ That’s a sound that I love to hear, because it tells me what I should be paying attention to. This is another card looking to be broken, and I’ve got this on my want list at this price.

Planar Bridge – 373/1266/5005 – I know this is a good Commander card. I know it’s got potential in big mana decks, and while I want it to be good, I will not be picking this up quite yet.

Spire of Industry – 364/851 – I love these foils especially. This seems like an auto-in for artifact-based decks, and it’s got excellent potential in Standard right now too. Seems like an easy pick to be 700-1000 points in six months. Both are on my want list now.

Lifecrafter’s Bestiary – 144/400 – I can’t believe these foils are this cheap, and this is the easiest pick this week for me. Have you played with this? Against it? It’s going to be a top-five Commander staple before you know it, and I want all copies right now. Foils especially, but nonfoils for 100 or so points is a fantastic deal. Grab all you can, keep them in great condition, and thank me later.

Whir of Invention – 139/467 – I like getting these cheap right now. I’d love picking this up for even less, especially foils, but if you like open-ended cards, this is your cup of tea. I like getting a stack of these right now, and I am indeed trading for them.

Winding Constrictor – 108/1201 – I love everything about this card, and the foil price is not a surprise to me in any way. I spent the weekend chanting ‘Kill the snake!’ in Limited play and it’s an amazing Commander card. I wouldn’t be surprised if it made Standard waves either, or was an FNM promo sometime soon. I don’t see any prices spiking, but I like having the foils for long-term stability.

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Grand Prix Preparations

I’ve been planning for Grand Prix San Jose for about two months.

I have registered for the main event, I have arranged for a place to crash, I have made sure that the kids will be okay while I’m off drowning in Magic cards and events for a whole weekend.

There are some concrete, direct things you should do as part of the big event experience, and I’m here to share a few tips and tricks for what will make the event best for you.

#1: Sell Early!

I’ve got a box of cards that I’m going to buylist, mostly commons and uncommons from a collection I bought in December. Guy came into the shop with two boxes of loose cards asking $20, I snap bought, and got to work picking. (Luckily, I was in the midst of writing up older sets’ pickable commons and uncommons in my PucaPicks series on Thursdays, available to Protraders, so picking was quick for me.) I’ve also got a bunch of Commander 2011 cards that I’m ready to sell, and when I get to the event I’ll know if I want cash from a vendor or store credit, depending on what they have at what prices.

I’ve found that when bringing a lot of things to sell, I want to do that early in the weekend, when vendors have more cash and more time. I’ll have it sorted, unsleeved, and ready to work quickly. This isn’t #mtgblueprint stuff, just a general note about when to sell large amounts of cards.

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Individual cards are different, and can be sold whenever. I’d sure be cashing out on Walking Ballista ASAP though.

#2: Pack Lightly!

I’m going to bring one, maybe two Commander decks, and one trade binder, and some sleeves for the main event. That’s it. I want to make sure that my bag isn’t overly full, and while I’d love to play a lot of Commander or Cube, there just won’t be time.

#3: Plan on the unique side events.

Selling a stack of cards is going to empower silly things for me, like Full-Box Sealed, an event which I was at first dismissive of but I have to admit that it sounds more and more awesome. Ridiculously overpowered Sealed, with the possibility of adding value to opening a single box? Sign me up.

Chaos drafts are appealing, or double-prize queues, Frontier events, or single-match drafts…the list goes on. Look at the event website and figure stuff out ahead of time.

I can Cube or Commander at other times, but this event has some stuff I can’t do at other times, and that’s the experience I want to maximize.

#4: Socialize as much or as little as you wish.

This one took me a while to figure out, because I didn’t notice what I was doing. If you can play events with friends, that’s really great and something you should do. Mainly, though, you should absolutely not take any time away from stuff you want to do in order to wait for someone, especially when dealing with food or breaks.

#5: Bring water, and pack food whenever possible.

Self-explanatory. Packing a sandwich and chips is pure value, both in terms of the money not spent at lunch and the time that is saved at the venue. Save your budget for breakfast, dinner, or cards instead.

#6: Sell your playmat, and don’t pick up extra life pads.

If I can get $5 or $10 for the mat at the event, I’ll usually take it. I realize that there’s the potential to make a few dollars more if I wait and eBay it, but unless the playmat is something special (truly awesome card, or double-sided, etc.) it’s not worth the hassle of storing the mat and carrying it around. I do the same thing with leftover cards. I keep rares and some uncommons, the commons I’ll leave for someone else that has the time, energy, and space to pack 5k boxes full of bulk commons. It’s just not worth it to me.

#7: Don’t over-plan!

I learned this lesson when planning vacations. If I plan on doing something every single day, then I won’t have time for appreciation or relaxation, and isn’t that the point? I want to leave time for variation in the things I want to do, or maybe I’m going to go on a tear in the Main Event and I won’t get to any of it. (Is the EV of two extra drafts on Sunday worth the stuff I’m missing out on? I hope to find out!)

Big events can be stressful, but they can be a lot of fun. If you are heading to the GP, use the hashtags and see who else pops up!

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PROTRADER: PucaPicks for 1/26/2017

So, dear readers, there’s a big deal on PucaTrade that I want to address this week: Promoted Trades.

Here’s the official link and also worth a read is the FAQ.

What’s this mean for you, the dedicated PucaTrader? What’s it mean for the future of the site?

Read on, because there’s a lot to unpack and a lot to think about.

First of all, I want to address the first thing that comes to my mind. This is an official bounty. It’s exactly what people have been doing for some time, and if you’re already offering a bounty (as I am) then this might seem silly.

However, if you are one of the surprisingly many people who’s been stiffed on bounties, then this is a really big deal.

I asked around for stories of people who have been promised bounties but they were never sent, and there’s a surprisingly large number of such people. There’s a factor at play in that there’s many times more successful bounty trades (for instance, all the ones I’ve ever sent and all the ones I’ve ever paid) who I didn’t ask for, but I thought the numbers would be much lower.

That’s the kind of experience that will turn someone off from PucaTrade, or any similar site, super quickly. Official bounties, now called promotions, offer users exactly this experience, only now it’s enforceable and official.

Before, there was no way to get the points promised, it was all on the honor system. You could reassure yourself a little by sending messages back and forth, but in the end, it was about trust and some people got burned.

PucaTrade is based on a trust system, because you have to trust that this imaginary currency is worth something. Other people will want these points, we hope. We trust that PucaTrade won’t just shut down and take our points with it. Trampling that trust is something that can ruin not just one user, but everyone who that user talks to.

It’s also worth considering how this has already taken 661k points out of the system, and this is with a relatively small number of cards available as promotions. I’m looking forward to the implementation of promotions for at least all Masterpiece-series cards, past, present, and future. Taking points out of the system is what needs to happen, because right now, Pucapoints aren’t worth much.

I am just a little worried that they are doing this so piecemeal. They aren’t implementing this for all versions of a given card, just certain ones. While that’s annoying, it does provide them a data point for comparing how many people are using this system so far.

I confess that I don’t like the fee. I get why they are doing it–they are always on the lookout for ways to remove points from the system–but it’s a fee on top of a bounty that must be paid, effectively increasing the bounty that much more. I think that PucaTrade would be better if it untethered from actual finance sites and built its own algorithm for what a card is worth. They are just too slow to adapt sometimes, and that’s problematic for me.

I also don’t like when there is a gap between a card’s value in Pucapoints and full retail. Big gaps represent a disparity in knowledge, and that smacks of trading like a shark to me. PucaTrade is giving us a graph, but like most of their data, it’s an incomplete one.

So far, we have a chart of what’s been promoted and traded the most, and their data shows that the promoted versions are trading much more briskly than their un-promotable counterparts, but that’s not really a surprise. I really wish we had data on the quantities of the promoted cards traded before and after the feature went live–that’s the thing I really want to see people doing, is trading high-value cards that they weren’t willing to trade before.

Saheeli Rai is not a shock as the most-traded promoted card. She’s spiked, so people that got her cheap are ready to unload her at a premium, but she offers a two-card infinite combo in Standard, and it’s been a while since that was a thing. Lots of people that have her plus lots who want her is going to result in a lot of trades anyway. Thought-Knot Seer, Windswept Heath, and Darkslick Shores are less than half Saheeli’s trades of 27, but are the only other ones over ten since the feature went live.

I think that promoted trades are a great idea. I don’t like the bonus fee, but if it is for a card I REALLY WANT then I don’t mind. I want more data too, but I’ll take what I can get.

I also want to add my recent experiences with PucaTrade. I’ve been carrying a balance of about 20,000 points for a few months now, and reciprocal trades in Discord didn’t really make a dent in that, and also were annoying to try and hustle for. So I stopped all that, and instead I have been sending out a small trade every 2-3 days, and I’ve gotten a rush of random sends.

I think that the sending of cards out has kept me in the ‘active traders’ setting, which has helped my visibility. I also think that my stated bounties are part of the reason why, but I’ve been at these bounties since Thanksgiving with no effect. (I was offering 20% on all, 40% on foils, and 75% on Inventions.) I’m going to revise my bounties, since I’m getting shipped an Invention Platinum Angel, and I am pretty much drained dry at the moment.

Right now, it seems like they are pushing hard to reward people who are either new (New Traders being the default on sending) and Active Traders (People who keep points flowing) while not giving a lot of benefit to those who have built up a lot of points.

It’s quite worrisome that in order to get my value in PucaTrade, I had to send out more cards. The value of my points did not change, but what changed was my visibility–a trait which has me concerned. If the only way I can get the cards I want is to send out cards, how can I ever get out of the system?

Beyond that, though, it’s the meddling and the impact that have me thinking. This is interference. It takes deliberate effort to send a regular user a card. Imagine if the default setting was to send to Gold members, and you had to choose to send to Silver or non-paying members.

I like promoted trades, to review, but I would love to hear from other people on the comments or on the forums. Can we replicate my experience? If you’re sitting on a significant amount of points, start sending a card every other day or so and let’s see if we can duplicate what happened to me.

Oh, and if you’re at GP San Jose this weekend, find me on Twitter (@wordofcommander ) and let’s play some games and make some trades!

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Trading for banned cards?

The recent bannings have opened up some unique opportunities, but of the five cards, three are not as appealing as two are.

Gitaxian Probe: It sees Legacy play but that’s not enough to hold up a price it used to have, but luckily this means we are spared a reprint of the Probe in Modern Masters 2017 this March. There’s no value to be gained here.

Reflector Mage: I like foils in the long term, as something to drive Commander players crazy, but as a recent uncommon, it’s not good enough for other formats. Pass.

Golgari Grave-Troll: Poor guy. Banned, then let loose at the same time as Cathartic Reunion and Prized Amalgam, then banned again. Too broken for the format, and then they made sure, and now it’s likely forever. Plus, he’s not good enough for Legacy Dredge, so I’ve got no interest.

However, I admit this: I’m actively trading for Smuggler’s Copter and Emrakul, the Promised End.

I’m not afraid of doing so, either. I’m not buying copies hand over fist, though playsets of Copter can be had for $17 and that’s a very steep decline from where it’s been.

I like trading for a few of these gradually, because I want to pick up these two cards at their lowest point. Allow me to explain.

Smuggler’s Copter is a fantastic card. The first time Wizards does a new card type, they push one or two of the cards, and that’s how we get Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or the Copter. They just didn’t know how overpowering it was going to be. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is close, considering how easily that can take over a board,

The Copter is intriguing to me for three reasons: First, it’s at its cheapest right now after the bannings. It was sitting pretty around $12, and now it can be had for $4-$5 each. The fact that it didn’t drop further is partially price memory, but partially optimism.

The second and third reasons are a pair of formats: Modern and Frontier. Copter hasn’t made a big splash in Modern yet but I want to be ready if it does. It’s popped up in a few lists, but nothing earthshattering has happened with it so far. It’s possible that the card is too consistent for Standard, but not good enough to make a splash in Modern.

Even though I’m not convinced of Frontier’s long-term potential, it’s already caused some spikes and I think there’s value to be gained here. I will let others make predictions about the format, but I don’t need to believe in the format in order to gain from its existence. I will note that the comparisons to Tiny Leaders feel appropriate at this point.

Emrakul, the Promised End is a different animal. No one is trying to break this card in older formats, but it’s a fantastic long-term gainer and it seems unlikely to be reprinted for quite a while. It’s one of only three Eldrazi with flying, and one of them is banned in commander, while the other is Eldrazi Skyspawner.

There is no shortage of decks in Commander that want to cast this card. Controlling someone else’s turn is incredibly powerful and shouldn’t be underestimated, and thankfully it’s a cast trigger, not an enters-the-battlefield trigger.

Emrakul is also a major character, the headliner of a small set, and one that was overshadowed to some extent in Eldritch Moon because Conspiracy 2 came out just a month and a half later. This impacted the amount of EMN that was opened and that’s also why Liliana, the Last Hope has stayed over $30. She’s not in a lot of decks, but she’s a fantastic card that was in a less-opened set.

(As an aside, the small sets are really getting treated poorly. We are barely going to have six weeks with Aether Revolt before Modern Masters 2017 shows up, and that’s just mean.)

I would gladly trade for foil versions of Emrakul, TPE right now, too. The multiplier is right about where I’d like it to be, not too high and not too low. I would expect steady growth from both prices as people trade for the card and they get put into decks and out of circulation.

I’d like to hear if you agree or disagree. Let me know in the comments, or head over to the forum!

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