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

Chicken or Egg? Omelette!

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By: Cliff Daigle

In case you didn’t know, I play a lot of commander games. I love the interactions of 99 cards, I love offbeat tribal decks, I love seeing the unique creations we build in the format.

We’ve had two generations of the preconstructed commander decks, and each time, we have gotten some legends who truly deserve to be built around.

One thing that has happened with each set of decks has been that some of the legends included in the precons have gotten a lot more attention, focus, and decks built in their honor. From the 2011 set, I’d have to say that Kaalia of the Vast and Riku of Two Reflections got the most decks built around them. All of them got tried but these two did some unique things. Kaalia is a way to cheat costs on some popular and overcosted tribes and Riku copies spells and is a combo-enabler, traits which led to some enjoyably degenerate decks. 

Animar, Soul of Elements has seen a recent spike to near $20, indicating that I’m not the only one who enjoyed chaining together creature after creature. (Want some real gas? Put Animar in charge of an all-Artifact-Creature deck. Start with Frogmite, add a Vedalken Archmage, chain all the way up to Blightsteel Colossus. Affinity never had it this good!)

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In the newest incarnation of preconstructed decks, there’s been one clear winner: Nekusar, the Mindreaver. This card has led to price spikes in lots of other cards, such as Wheel of Fortune and Forced Fruition.

However…there’s an added wrinkle. Nekusar just happens to be one of the legends included in the same Commander deck as True-Name Nemesis.

TNN is still a $40 card, despite the deck itself being found at big-box stores randomly for $30. Is it possible that Nekusar decks are becoming so popular not because of the legend’s power or flavor, but because people are buying the deck for the Nemesis and then have a pile of cards to work with?

Wizards is about to change their distribution model too. Instead of retailers getting one of each C13 deck, they will get two Mind Seize and three random decks. More supply is coming!

This represents an opportunity, even if we missed out on some of the already-spiked cards. Perhaps Underworld Dreams is going to spike next, as a backup. Maybe it’ll be the new Hag who also damages opponents who draw cards.

For an example of what I mean, look at the price of Avacyn, Angel of Hope. Released within a few months of Kaalia, the two of them are the best of friends. Avacyn is a pricey card, especially in foil, though she sees no play in any Constructed format. Avacyn’s only drawback is her mana cost, and luckily, that is what Kaalia is best at dealing with. Nekusar and Forced Fruition work together in a similar way; it’s hard to imagine a curve of five into six that will result in more shenanigans, since every spell played means seven damage.

The Nekusar decks are going to get a real tool in the Magic 2015 enchantment Waste Not. It’s cheap and it rewards you for making others discard, which many of the Nekusar effects also cause. It’s not as direct as something like Megrim or Liliana’s Caress, but it enables so much more.

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Seizan, Peverter of Truth is creeping upward, and I’m really surprised to see Memory Jar at its current price. I have had a good time trading for Jars at $4-$5, or the FTV foils at a couple dollars more. Eventually, Nekusar players will catch on to the power of not just drawing, but discarding too.

So if Nekusar is the first general to cause spikes in price, because of True-Name Nemesis, which generals will cause other spikes? Let’s look at one general from each deck.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic: likely Exquisite Blood, perhaps foil Vizkopa Guildmage

I love lifegain decks. I’ve had one myself, based on Vish Kal. I like that this Esper deck gives you three very different generals to play with, and Oloro has the unique effect of free lifegain no matter the zone he’s in. What do we do when we gain life? Anything!

For my money, this is the most likely general to cause price increases, for two reasons:

1) It’s free lifegain.  If you’ve ever piloted a lifelink deck, you know that’s the trick: gaining the life. It’s not about what tricks you have, it’s about having the trick AND some way to gain life. This is automatic, costs nothing, and works all the time, unless he got shuffled in somehow.

2) Toxic Deluge is one of the best sweepers in Legacy. It can go early and late and have exactly the effect you need, and there’s no resistance or protection from having negative toughness. This is the package that the still-pricey Deluge is in, and could get the same bonus that Nekusar got for being in the TNN package. More copies of this deck being bought means more of Oloro, and more people seeking lifegain synergies.

Prossh, Skyraider: Breath of Fury, In the Web of War, Goblin Bombardment

The trick with Breath of Fury is that you don’t need to be attacking the same player over and over again. All it takes is getting through once, and that enables you to start chaining sacrifices and attacks together.

In the Web of War is so amazing. It’s two mana more than plain Fervor, but the instant bonus and haste is incredible, especially if you spent a lot of mana on Prossh. Sure, you can sacrifice tokens for all sorts of effects (I love that Goblin Bombardment was included in this deck) but why not do what comes natural, and send those Kobolds to do some work. Sacrificing can always be post-combat.

Gahiji, Honored One: Aurelia, the Warleader, In the Web Of War

Gahji would be great in a token strategy, but doubling his effect with either Aurelia or ItWoW is what we love to do as Commander players. Sure, it’s a bit of a win-more play, but getting twice as much for each creature seems like a lot of fun to anyone.

In the Web of War is in the perfect place for a spike: It’s from an older, underprinted set, it is available for cheap in lots of places, and fits either of these strategies remarkably well.

Roon of the Hidden Realm:  Minion Reflector and Strionic Resonator

First of all, my apologies to anyone who knows the Phasing rules. I’d originally been trumpeting the utility of Teferi’s Veil, but it turns out that Phasing doesn’t trigger leaving or entering the battlefield effects. I’m not sure how I got that so confused, but that’s my bad.

Instead, here’s two other cards that will combo well with either Roon’s ability to flicker or with creatures that want to be flickered. Both cards allow you to double up on the enter/exit abilities of any creature for an extra two mana. The Reflector is especially spicy, since no tapping is required. This means you can use the Reflector as often as you have the mana and the ability to flicker!

Both cards come from a less-opened set. Shards of Alara was forever ago, with a significantly smaller print run, and M14 had pressure from Modern Masters lowering its expectations. The Resonator already has a devoted following, but if Roon becomes the new popular kid, lots of others will jump on the Strionic bandwagon.

The best part of compliing this list was thinking of awesome cards, and then seeing that they were already in Commander 2013. It’s pleasing when Wizards can jump on a theme this way.

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Fear and Finance

By: Cliff Daigle

I have extolled my viewpoint as a casual financier before, but to summarize, I don’t like to buy cards. I like to trade for my EDH cards, and I have had a string of a few years where I’ve slowly built up the value of my collection this way. I don’t speculate on cards in the sense that I will go buy a stack of them, but I will trade for them when the price is right. I like to plan ahead, trading for things when they are cheap and trading them away when they aren’t.

I’ve rung the bell for Thespian’s Stage and Prophet of Kruphix over and over. Both of those are buylisting for a lot more right now than they were early on. I should know–as part of selling out some Commander decks, I got $2 for Prophet and $1 for Stage.

Over the past few months, I’ve traded for 50 Prophets and 40 Stages. Non-foils, at least. I’ve got a couple of each in foil but those are in decks and not part of my plan. I’m expecting those cards to grow in the next year, dip a little, and begin a long-term increase in value because they are amazing in casual formats.

But if these are casual cards, what happens if they get the EDH ban?

What about if I had a playset of foil Deathrite Shamans, and now they aren’t Modern-legal? It was going to spike so hard eventually! What if I trade for 20 Birthing Pods, and when Journey into Nyx comes out, Wizards bans that card from Modern too?

Welcome to the fear.

There is always a chance that your plan doesn’t work. This is true in any setting, Magic or not. The unexpected will happen. Your car will break down. You will have an injury. Someone else’s bad day will turn into your bad day.

There is not much you can do to prevent the unexpected, but managing your fear is a necessary part of financial planning. Your can’t-miss spec…will sometimes miss.

If you’re feeling the cold grip of fear, there are two ways to stay warm:

#1: Diversify

Here at MTGPrice, you’re going to get all sorts of tips and tricks. You don’t have to take all of our advice, it’s up to you. But you should do more than zero in on one card and buy only that card. You want to have a few things lined up, stored away for when their price increases. 

The amount of diversification you do is proportional to the amount of money you’re comfortable spending. There are people with the bankroll to decide on a card, and then spend $50, or $100, or what they want to. My policy was simpler on these two cards: I’d take all that someone wanted to trade.

I do think there’s a chance that Prophet gets banned in Commander within the next year. It’s not overtly overpowered, as it is a creature, and enables creatures, but in effect, you’ve got multiple Time Warp effects. You get to take a turn every time someone else takes a turn. You get to cast creatures and instants, with all of your mana, on each of your opponents’ turns. While that isn’t much of a strategy in and of itself, it doesn’t take much to get out of hand. Perhaps most obnoxious about the card is the time factor, since one player’s extra turns means that much more time that player has to do things, the more time other spend waiting.

Just imagine you have Prophet out, with a Sprout Swarm in your hand. Everyone is going to want you dead, simply because you’re spending more and more time playing with yourself and building an army.

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So if Prophet of Kruphix gets the Commander ban, the long-term prospects take a dive. I wouldn’t try to hold the card past Christmas 2014.

Thespian’s Stage is a card I feel is also dripping with long-term potential, but it’s quite unlikely that it gets banned in EDH. This is my way of managing my risk. I don’t have all my money tied up in Prophet, so if something goes wrong with one of these two, I have other options.

#2: Consideration

This is not an action to take, it’s more of mindset to have. When you choose what cards to buy in on, you do so after some amount of thinking about it. 

That reflection should also be present when you’re worried about those choices.

Remind yourself that seemingly every card that is ever played in Modern is $5. And it could go up higher! Tell yourself that Deadeye Navigator, Kiki-Jiki, Palinchron, and a host of other cards aren’t banned yet in Commander either!

This is also when you make ‘just-in-case’ plans. For instance, I’m going to be content to sell most of my Prophets during the next block, minimizing my risk on the rest. Or if it gets banned before I sell, I’ll be able to look at other cards and feel not-quite-as-bad. Even Primeval Titan is still retaining value, despite not making Constructed waves and getting banned in EDH.

I hope you’re able to stock up on cards with less anxiety, and if you need some tips, I’m a believer on these two cards.

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Neat Tricks with MTGPrice.com

By: Cliff Daigle

If you’re reading this, then you’re already aware that MTGPrice is the best price tracking site around. We are more than a set of numbers though, and today I’m going to walk you through a half-dozen tricks that will really enhance your experience with MTGPrice.

Trick #1: Price lookup history

If you use MTGPrice on a mobile device, usually while trading, you’ve probably had to look up several cards in a row. It can be quite annoying to have to look up prices a second time, as terms of a trade change. Here’s a tip for making that process faster and easier.

Since we put the price into the title of the page, all you have to do is look at your recent history in your browser. I have an iPhone, so when you go to the Safari history you see the list of cards and their prices in chronological order that you looked them up.

Until we have an official app, this is a really great tool when you’re working with a group of cards at once.

Trick #2: The Slider

For comparing historical trends, our slider is top-notch. We post our graphs in articles all the time, but seeing the drop from pre-order prices to bulk status reinforces how right you were to sell, sell, sell!

Conversely, you can see long-term trends this way. I know that there are lots of cards that have spiked in the past year, but there’s others on a slow upward trend. The really valuable tool is comparing very similar cards, like the Zendikar fetchlands or the Scars fastlands. While the price of the blue fetches is sky-high, it’s only a matter of time until the other fetches catch up.

#2 – Set Prices

If you look up one card, then you can click on the name of the set that the card is in. That gives you a list, sortable by name, price, and buylist price. This is incredibly valuable information, especially if you’re trying to trade for things that are going to sell easily for good money.

We also get that list ready pretty quick when a new set comes out. I use it as a tool for the early weeks of a set when I want to draft for money or make trades for the future.

#3 – Buylist comparisons

When you enter the cards you own into your collection, there’s a tool for getting the instant cash value of your collection. I realize it hurts to see the retail value of your collection, and then see that you’d get 60% of that in cash, but that’s the nature of the market.

Beyond that, when you’re looking at the price of an individual card, you click the ‘sell to’ button to show what different vendors are paying for that card. If there’s one vendor you prefer, you can check on them, or see what the trends are for that buylist price. Has it gone up and down a lot? Is it consistent? This will let you know.

#4 – Time Slider

For both the buylist and the value, our sliders can track the past two years. This is long enough to show a trend, a banning, or other spikes/drops. Two years is helpful for tracking the effect that Standard rotation has on the price of a card.

Right now, that means Innistrad block, which rotated a year ago. The most striking example of rotation affecting price is Huntmaster of the Fells. Slide its graph all the way out to 106 weeks, and remember when this was a $40 card.

#5 – Prices even though sold out

Finally, an overlooked feature is the ability to see what prices a vendor had for their card before they ran out of stock. We calculate the Fair Trade Price using what is in stock, but it can be very helpful to know what price was so good that they ran out! Sometimes this reflects a run on a card, or someone trying to run up the price by buying out a store’s stock.

When you click the button next to a vendor’s name, you’ll see what price they had. Again, if you like a certain vendor, you can focus there, or you can make a prediction on what they will restock the card at.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of some of our free features. Don’t forget about the lifetime Pro Trader offer! There’s a few spaces left and it is super cheap for all you’ll be getting!

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Bursting the Bubble

In the last few months, Magic: the Gathering card prices, especially for anything seeing play in Modern, have gone up and up and up.

These have not been steady increases over time, these have been spikes over the course of a few days. The examples are many and varied. Zendikar Fetchlands are now worth more than most of their color counterpart original dual lands!

I’m giving serious thought to this being a bubble of unsustainable growth.

Wizards of the Coast, in its shareholder meetings, has referred to Magic’s growth at between 20% and 25% yearly for the past four years. Each of the big fall sets has broken sales records, and while we don’t get specific numbers of packs/boxes sold, we can look at tournament attendance and see how many more people are participating than ever. 

Can this go on? There are individuals who make a living buying and selling Magic cards. These aren’t even commodities of value, these are collectibles that are used in a game. Counterfeiting hasn’t precisely caught up but it’s a real threat. I’m worried that even without this game becoming a public fad, there’s a real chance that we’re reaching saturation.

We have attempts at market manipulation. The subreddit for mtgfinance is cracking down on such behavior. TCGPlayer has long been influenced by a ‘race to the bottom’ price philosophy. In the current state of things, one site moving their price means that lots of others jump in as imitations. You may not agree with Starcity’s prices, but when they increase their sale price, others have followed suit before long.

We have more places to play and more formats to play. We have amazing choices for customizing our accessories and languages to play in. I don’t think that it’s all going to come crashing down, but I’m concerned enough that I feel it’s time to sell some stock. I’m cashing out some of my EDH decks, because some of the cards have gone high enough that I’d rather have the cash, instead of a deck I only play once every few months.

The casual formats have seen increases in value, but it’s Modern that has me most worried.

Wizards has more of an interest in keeping Modern healthy than it does Legacy or Vintage. Modern is a format that will not supplant Standard, but instead, they will work together. When your sweet cards are no longer Standard-legal, you’ll try to make them work in Modern. Wizards has put a lot of effort into this format, making it accessible to a range of strategies, and they use the banlist with an eye towards the health of the format.

What is not healthy for the format is the cost, and that cost has gone up much higher, much faster than I believe they anticipated. I’ve talked about reprints before, and with the recent price explosions, Wizards has to be thinking about reprinting lots of things. Chronicles was too much; Modern Masters was not enough. It’s anyone’s guess how long it will take to get these reprints on the market, but there is a consensus of thought that it will happen eventually.

So I’m selling some of my cards. I am cashing in on some enormous percentages. I have a Gaea’s Cradle that I got in 2011 for $60 in trade. I have a Bitterblossom left over that I got for $20. I have a lot of $10-$20 cards that I got for significantly less, and I’m moving out of them.

I’m not trying to cause a panic. I’m stating my opinion that casual players aren’t going to be able to hang with these decidedly not-casual prices. Just in the past couple of years, the cost associated with building a high-level Cube or foiling out a deck has gone up tremendously as more people chase that same goal.

I’m advocating that if you have put a lot of money (or at least, a lot of energy that has become monetary value) into a set of cards, you should think about how much you could get for it. How often do you play with your all-foil Cube? Would you rather have a new (used) car? Would you prefer to use that money as the security deposit and first month’s rent on a new place to live? Perhaps it’s enough to pay the down payment on a mortgage.

We want you to maximize the return you get on playing Magic. We want you to gain the most value possible.

It’s time to think about what that value can get you.

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