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

What I have and Haven’t Bought

Every once in a while, it’s good for me to be transparent about the purchases I’ve made. Generally, you can expect that I’ve been making purchases of things I pick, or at least I tell you what price I’m looking for. I want to tell you about the things I’ve picked up that I didn’t necessarily write about. 

I’m also going to make a distinction between the things I buy for speculative purposes (the things I intend to resell later for profit) and the things I’ve purchased for my own Commander decks. 

Did buy: Most Dragons for my Ur-Dragon deck

As a five-color deck, I get to have my pick of all the dragons ever printed. My deck is heavy on the slam and roar and attack, nothing too fancy. Because of The Ur-Dragon’s ability (and btw he’s overdue for a reprint in some way) to lower casting costs on Dragons, it’s really easy to overlook what it does. 

Especially when I’m adding Iymrith, Desert Doom for $18 and Ebondeath, Dracolich for $15 in borderless foil. It’s possible that those drop down another buck or two, but I’m not going to sweat that too hard. Vendors and dealers have gotten their allocations and are cracking like mad, so there’s still space for the chase versions to go a little lower when individuals get their sealed product this week, and usually put it on the market the second weekend of availability. 

Ebondeath is a card I might go a little deeper on if the borderless foil starts knocking on $10. It’s recursive, which is good, but it’s also a Dragon Zombie, an intersection of two extremely popular tribes. $15 is a bit high for my taste when I don’t have any special reason to like a card, but recursive threats in good tribes catch my eye.

Didn’t Buy Yet: Tiamat

There was a point this past weekend, on 7-23, when Tiamat in borderless foil could be had for $50. It seems odd to me that the chase mythic of the set would be a five-color Commander, which hasn’t yet been the case with other Commanders. The foil is back over $70 this week, but I’m expecting this price to tumble back down. Right now, we’re still seeing people buy this card in a hurry to upgrade their Commander decks. I respect that, but I’m not going to spend $70 when a couple weeks’ patience will save me $25 or more. 

If you don’t believe me, allow me to share the graph from a card sought after much harder than Tiamat at the beginning, and also in a set that’s relatively underpowered: Phyrexian Foil Vorinclex.

There’s a whole lot of copies under $160 for this card, there’s not just one outlier making things difficult for the algorithm. The hype has died down, and while I know I could get the best price by waiting three months, I’m willing to pay Tiamat’s price in about 3-4 weeks because I really want to play with the Dragon God.

Did buy: 2x Champion’s Helm (Invention) at $60

Granted this was about a month and a half ago, and the price is a little higher now, but there aren’t a lot of cheap Inventions left in the world. This one is near and dear to my heart, as I have lots of Commanders who love hexproof. This has had exactly two printings: Commander 2011 as a nonfoil, and then this as the only foil version out there. There’s a lot of good Equipment out there for Commanders, but one mana for a big buff and that wonderful, wonderful feeling of hexproof is high on the list for me. 

Did buy: 16x Foil Unholy Heat under $4

There’s more copies out there on TCG under $4, but I don’t like buying single cards and having to unpack them from shipping. It’s worth a little more money from me to get several at once, rather than save 15% but have 16 different envelopes to open. That’s something I do–if you don’t mind getting more letters, then rock on.

Unholy Heat has taken Modern by storm. Dragon’s Rage Channeler already pushes you to want delirium, Mishra’s Bauble doesn’t really cost a card in enabling that status, and if you get there, the rate on Unholy Heat is the best ever. And it’s an instant, and can even take out planeswalkers! I have high hopes for this card, common or not. 

I don’t think these are going to spike or anything, but this is the cheapest they will be going forward. Go ahead and get the ones you want/need.

Did buy: 12x FEA Path of Ancestry for about $4 each

I’m unlikely to go deeper on this, because I worry that Commander Legends 2 will have this as a reprint next year. We aren’t going to get CL2 in 2021, but it seems a lock for 2022. Path is a five-color utility land that really rewards tribal decks, and even though the basic one comes in most Commander decks, there have only been two foil versions. Over on EDHREC, it’s registered in 53k decks, proving what a staple it is. 

Didn’t buy: FEA Hobgoblin Bandit Lord at $3.20 each

While I adore this card and what it does for Goblins decks, I’m not ready to stock up on things from AFR. We’re only a week in, and it’s got plenty of time for the price to trickle farther downward. I do note that there are cheaper individual copies out there, and CK has a set of 8 for $2.50 each, which is a more appealing price. Even with all that, the first week of a set is not the time to be purchasing the long-term specs, so I’m staying away for now.

How Cheap Can These Cards Get?

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is officially released today, so we’re able to buy those cards from vendors. As always, I’m expecting most cards to take a tumble as they become widely available, especially because they seem underpowered compared to other sets currently in Standard.

Underpowered usually means cheap, and AFR has one of the lowest aggregate values I’ve seen at release. As a result, people are expecting less of this set to be opened, and that makes sense, especially with Modern Horizons 2 right there, pouring value into your wallet if you’re buying as a distributor. 

So if a set is under-opened…that means it’s likely under-valued! Time to look at AFR from a long-term perspective, looking for cards that will likely have some casual appeal. What can we get cheaply now, and if stores are reopening and events are happening in paper, what might be good in a few months when Standard rotates?

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter ($10) – Modern Mill is a real thing, and this is a four-of in that deck. It’s not a great card for Commander, as that’s a land where lots of big-mana spells are at, but mill cards have always had their fans. It’s both severely irritating and glorious fun! This is a card that I’m hoping will fall to the $1-2 range, but that’s likely too much hope. Casual and Modern demand will likely keep this close to $5, and that’s more than I want to pay. In three months, when the set is at maximum supply and we’re all drooling over the first of two Innistrad sets, perhaps it’ll be $3, and that’s when I’d like to acquire a lot of this card. I’m going for the basic versions, mind you; a card bought four at a time asks for the regular nonfoils.

Old Gnawbone ($21) – I get why people think this card is awesome. When you hit someone for some damage, you get a bunch of Treasures! What’s not to love? The problem is, if you are hitting someone for a bunch, you’re already winning, you’re already ahead. I don’t need more mana when I’m already getting in for damage! This is very much a win-more card, and Commander is a format that loves to win more. The price on this will drop by at least half, and likely farther for the basic editions. It’s a big green flyer, and there aren’t a lot of those, but the ability is not as good as it seems. I’m expecting this to really fall over the long term, probably to $5 or less.

Circle of Dreams Druid ($9) – This is already great, though the mana cost is a big deal. It’s a fixed Gaea’s Cradle, and the last fixed version of that, Growing Rites of Itlimoc, has a curve that we would do well to anticipate: 

I’m not saying this is a $20 card right now, especially in the basic nonfoil, but it is a card that when it’s cheap (Not if, when!) we want to stock up on. I’m hoping it drops to under $2, but casual demand might keep it higher than that. There’s a chance it shows up in Modern and Legacy Elves, but those decks already have access to Elvish Archdruid, a strictly better card in 100% Elves decks. Not sure how many more they’d want to run, but the kitchen table crowd will keep this from being bulk.

Tiamat ($19) – This is a fantastic card, and one I can’t wait to play with. However, it’s a very specific tribal card (albeit one of the best tribes) and works best as a Commander, or as a member of the 99. The most important detail though is that the basic version has fallen in price, and Thursday night a copy was sold on TCG for $17.50. The fall is real, and ongoing. The borderless foil copies are going to fall some too, there was a copy that sold on Facebook during the prerelease for $150 but there’s copies on TCG right now for $50 or less. That’s the trajectory it’s on, and it will bottom out like every other card, probably at $7-$10 for the basic and $30 for the borderless foil.

Demilich ($18) – The good news is that this is going to be in some of the most popular decks around, the assorted UR spells/blitz/burn lists that are lighting it up in Legacy and Modern. There have been some lists that use this as a four-of, which is the kick a card like this needs, but at least it isn’t legendary. Please keep in mind that its attack trigger isn’t a free cast, you still need to pay the mana. I think there will be enough builders to keep this near $10, but it’s already sliding and it might well end up closer to $5. Arclight Phoenix took a long while to claw back up to $10, and this is nicely analogous.

Teleportation Circle ($1) – This will be a bulk rare, but it’s one that I’m going to go in on once it’s officially bulk. Conjurer’s Closet was $7 before the Double Masters reprint:

Yes, this is not an artifact but it costs one less. Flickering things is already a big thing in white decks, and there will be a time where this card buylists for decent money. I’m not too proud to buy at a dime and sell for a dollar.

Treasure Vault ($8) – I’ve got my eye on this as an untapped artifact land. There’s only two legal in Modern right now, this and Darksteel Citadel. It’s not making waves in decks with Arcbound Ravager yet, but if this gets cheap and then a real affinity deck takes off, this will have a chance to shine very very brightly. 

Granted, I don’t think that happens anytime soon, but I think the Vault will be down to a couple of bucks and at that point, I want to have some copies in reserve.

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.

Graduating from the School of Mages

Believe it or not, there’s still a whole week until we can get the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards into our hands. It’s been up on Arena and MTGO for a week now, but still one more week for the paper versions! Granted, we’re not expecting this set to realign everything in Standard, and Modern Horizons 2 still has a lot of our financial attention.

Instead of trying to predict what will happen to Standard or the prices of AFR (hint, everything is going to fall) I want to look at the set that we’re leaving behind and evaluate what’s at its lowest point.

First of all, let’s take a quick peek at the current nonfoil prices, from top to $6:

Yes, there’s a couple of rares and an uncommon on that list. This set hasn’t exactly lit anything up, financially speaking, but that’s where some of the biggest value can lie, especially because paper events are going to take off again sometime soon. If these prices are where they are now, where might things go once an actual GP happens?

Let’s take a moment and look at the graph of Expressive Iteration: 

This uncommon is selling for more than 95% of the set’s rares and mythics. It’s not the first time something like that has happened in Magic’s history, but given the pandemic, and the small number of paper copies opened, and the prevalence of UR spells/tempo/blitz/whatever you want to call it, you’ve got a perfect storm for an expensive uncommon.

Expressive Iteration also has the FNM-type promo, and that’s one of the most expensive Promo Pack cards I’ve seen in a while. The presence of those versions might be what’s keeping the regulars and the pack foils under $10.

Here’s the question, though: What’s going to happen to these prices during the run-up to the first Modern GP? Iteration is a four-of in what looks to be a very popular deck, and a powerful one too, given the results on MTGO. We’re also getting Demilich in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and that might be the final piece of the puzzle, one more solid and cheap creature for the spells deck.

I think we’re about to be in a world where Expressive Iteration is the most-played card from Strixhaven. Once paper events fire up again, I don’t think any copies will be under $10. Keep in mind that Strixhaven won’t rotate out of Standard until October of 2022, giving it a lot of time to shine. A reprint seems quite possible, but for right now, I think you get your copies cheap. 

The other card that sticks out from this list is Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands. It’s only in 6600 EDHREC decks so far, but that’s a very high number for a card that only came out three months ago. It’s colorless, so can be put into any Commander deck, which means you have to have a reason to leave it out. It requires a tax, or an answer, things that I love doing to other people at the Commander table.

It’s already this popular after such a short period of time, and that bodes well for its future pricing. Archaic is at its lowest price so far, and I don’t think it’s done falling.

I would want to see the price start to trend back upward before I buy in on copies. There was a window to buy foil Extended Art copies around $20, and now those are up to $26. The nonfoil regulars being as low as $6 are a good sign, and looking at the most recent TCG sales, it’s got a lot of velocity. The 25 most recent sales for the regular nonfoils were all yesterday (It’s Thursday as I write this) and that bodes well. Lots of people are buying this, and that eats into the extensive amount of copies available. Give it another couple of weeks, I’d say, and you should be able to get some large quantities at $5 or perhaps even less.

Prismari Command is on here, at least the EA version, and that’s a card not seeing much Modern or Legacy play. It’s a very popular choice in Historic decks playing flavors of UR or Jeskai control. 

There’s a huge question about Historic vs. Pioneer that I don’t want to get into right now. Suffice it to say that Wizards has a strong interest in growing both formats and probably merging the two at some point. Standard will always be rotating and refreshing itself. Modern has a huge variety of decks and multiple sets that combine new cards and new reprints into the format. 

Historic and Pioneer represent a way to keep using your Standard cards even after rotation, which is a bigger deal online in Arena than it will be in paper. Remember at the end of 2019, when Pioneer combos and spikes were happening daily? Wizards would love to recapture that magic.

Prismari Command might be a key piece of such decks, and there’s a big gap between the FEA price ($11) and the pack nonfoil price ($4). Commander play isn’t a huge factor, at less than 4k decks, so you’re hoping for a lot of decks that want the mana and the draw two/discard two effect. The most basic version of Command was down to $3 about a month ago, so buying in now isn’t as attractive, but I think there’s a lot of room for growth, especially if lots of red-based decks switch to Dragon’s Rage Channeler over creatures with just plain Prowess.

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 Math of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms

Yes, with another set comes the need to look at booster pack formulations and see what’s out there. We have an article about how to get the special Monster Manual versions of cards, or the Dungeon Modules, and we’re going to figure out how to get the cards that we want. 

For once, this is pretty straightforward, and I appreciate Wizards giving us a break from the wacky things they’ve done in sets to make certain things more scarce than usual. First, the basics: We have 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 60 rares, 20 mythic rares. That’s for the nonfoil, basic frames, and that’s what you’re opening and drafting if you’re doing this in paper.

Let’s start with the Showcase variants for this set, of which there are two: Monster Manual frames and the Classic Module treatment.

The Monster Manual is meant to be a throwback to, well, the Monster Manual from days of yore: 

Apparently these really pop in foil, but we will see. There are 16 commons with this look, plus 18 uncommons, 15 rares, and two mythics.

Then we have the Classic Module, which is only for lands: 

Since this is a lands-only treatment, it’s on one common, one uncommon, and seven rares. 

To go with the Showcase treatments, we get what we’re used to: Borderless cards with different art than their original card (5 uncommon dragons, one rare dragon, and eleven mythic dragons/planeswalkers) and Extended-Art cards (30 rares, seven mythics) to round out the set. Interestingly, the seven rare class cards don’t have any special treatments.

It’s pretty neat that there are four different treatments, but pay special attention to the lack of etched foiling here. We’ve got four treatments, and it’s either foiled in the traditional method or not foiled at all. No in-between of the etched versions to worry about.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on what you can find in a Draft Booster or a Set Booster. You will not find Extended Art cards, but you can get the other three treatments, in foil or nonfoil. Your odds are pretty terrible, though. 

We were told that 10% of Draft Boosters will have a rare or mythic with a different treatment. We also know that 33% of Draft Boosters will have a foil of any rarity replacing a common. Your odds of pulling an alternate-frame rare or mythic aren’t just 3.3% though. 

First, your odds of getting a foil rare or mythic in a Draft Booster are pretty bad. One in three, multiplied by the collation of rares/mythics to commons/uncommons gives you 5.3%. That’s the drop rate for foil rares and mythics, about one in every 20 packs. 

To get the variant foil frame in rare or mythic will be .53%, or roughly one in 189 packs, and that’s for any rare or mythic with a non-EA frame, of which there are 36 to choose from. So that Borderless Foil Tiamat will appear in one out of every 6,804 Draft Boosters, give or take.

If you want another way to talk about these numbers, you’ll get a foil rare or mythic rare in a variant frame about once per case of Draft Boosters.

When it comes to Set Boosters, your odds are improved, but I’m sad to say that I don’t have enough information to give you a percentage. You start with a guaranteed foil, but they haven’t yet published enough information about the collations for me to know how they got the 27% for two rares, 3% for three rares, and less than 1% for four rares. 

If more information gets published, I will update this section. 

Collector Boosters are the main event, though. First of all, it’s the only place to get Extended Art versions of cards, though as we’ve seen, the foil versions of the Showcase frames aren’t plentiful either.

The big draw is going to be that first slot. A foil rare or mythic of anything special, and this we can indeed calculate:

BorderlessClassic ModuleMonster ManualExtended ArtTotals
# of Rares17153053
# of Mythics1102720

Given that rares are twice as common as mythics, your odds of any specific rare from these four categories is 1/63, and for a particular mythic it’s going to be 1/126.

This is in line with the ratios from Standard sets, but keep in mind that there are often special cases, like a Mystical Archive or a foil Phyrexian Vorinclex messing with our perceptions of scarcity. Let’s do some comparing:

Odds of a specific rareOdds of a specific mythic
Forgotten Realms1/631/126
Strixhaven 1/154.51/309
Kaldheim1/641/128
Modern Horizons 21/126.51/253

I don’t want to compare TSR here (no Collector Boosters) or Commander Legends (see gimmick below) but you can see that Forgotten Realms is going to play out a lot like Kaldheim did, only without the Vorinclex to be the chase card.

Also, the way that the Mystical Archive skewed the heck out of Strixhaven bugs me. Just a whole lot of rares crammed into one spot. Should have been 1/159 for mythics and 1/79.5 for rares. 

I’ve talked in other recent articles about how this set is going to fall fast, given the lack of truly chase/powerful cards, and I haven’t seen anything in the distribution of the set to make me think otherwise. Commander Legends had a gimmick where in one slot, your Collector Boosters had only a 30% chance to contain a Foil Extended Art card. They have upped that ratio considerably, thank goodness. 

However, keep in mind that if a set is viewed as underpowered or low value, then less people will open it, making it more scarce. That’s a fine line to walk, and I think we will have our chances at buying AFR at very low prices. Just be aware of the complications, which we will address with individual cards as we go forward.

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.