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.

Casual Stars in M14

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By Cliff Daigle

I’ve given out a lot of general advice and it’s high time I get to some specifics.

Since I play mostly EDH I want to share with you what will be some popular cards for such decks. These are the cards to take the long view on, not accounting for Standard spikes in price or the dips and dives they will face in rotation.

To put it another way, these are the cards that will eventually be cheap, which you should pick up at a low price and put away for a while.

How long, you ask? Let’s take a look at one of my favorite examples: Lurking Predators.

Lurking Predators. Jan 2012 - Aug 2013
Lurking Predators. Jan 2012 – Aug 2013

If you’d bought this as a bulk rare in 2009-2011, which it was, then you’re happy to sell it to a buylist for $1.50 to $2, or more depending on the site.

The trick is being that patient, but if you can do it, you’ll be paid off. This is also the type of card that someone who started in the past couple of years will be overjoyed to pick up for their casual deck, because it’s just that amazing an effect. Thespian’s Stage is another example of something you should get right now while it’s cheap, even after the change in the Legend rule caused an uptick in its price, due to its interaction with Dark Depths.

Thespians Stage. Jan 2013 - Aug 2013
Thespian’s Stage. Jan 2013 – Aug 2013

Another trend which can be a good predictor of casual appeal is a big gap in price between foil and nonfoil. If the foil is going for more than two or three times the price of a card, pay attention. Thespian’s Stage and Boros Charm are excellent examples.

With all this in mind, let’s talk about M14 and the cards which will ask a good price on casual appeal. I’m going to skip a lot of cards, because I want you on the lookout for cheap cards in the next few weeks, not the expensive ones.

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Some of these are still surprisingly expensive, so I know I’m going to have to wait for more M14 to be opened and the prices to fall further. Aside from Garruk, it’s unlikely that these see Standard play.

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Devout Invocation – I want to say this card is a trap, because it’s best when you already have a bunch of creatures. That said, it’s a mythic and will always have someone wide-eyed over what’s possible. Pick this up when it’s bottomed out as bulk.

Elite Arcanist – When it hits bulk, I’ll be in. Every Time Warp-type effect in EDH makes this an infinite-turn combo, and in a Teferi deck, game over.

Galerider Sliver – With every set that Slivers are in, the decks get better and better. I’ll be on the lookout for rare, low-priced Slivers, especially this and Megantic.

Dark Prophecy – This is an effect that can be overpoweringly good, even fatally good. It’s a combo enabler, but as an effect that you have to do, your combo better not go too long.

Rise of the Dark Realms – A casual king, this has been noted so much as a long-term spec that perhaps it’ll never have the chance to hit the floor. Still, once it’s under $1, I’ll snap it up.

Ogre Battledriver – Sure, we have similar cards in Magic’s past (see: In the Web of War, Urabrask the Hidden) but bonus points if you get this back from someone else’s graveyard when you cast Rise of the Dark Realms. Keep in mind that as a Duels of the Planeswalkers promo, there are extra foils of him out there.

Scourge of Valkas – This card is the tipping point for me, I’m going to break down and build the Bladewing the Risen EDH deck. Every Dragon with a tribal effect is worth picking up on the cheap, but Dragons and budgets don’t always play along. Dragonspeaker Shaman is around $3! Plus, if you have a Dragonstorm that finds the Scourge and another dragon or two, you’ll get extra triggers.

Garruk, Caller of Beasts – I don’t think this will ever be cheap, but its power level in casual formats is fairly ridiculous. I pray it never finds a home in Standard, because I’d love to see it drop under $10.

Primeval Bounty – There’s a list of enchantments that will take over a game without doing anything immediately, such as Lurking Predators, Guild Feud, and Deadbridge Chant. This is a worthy addition to that list, and you should be happy to put these away for a while. I’m surprised at how slow this price is dropping, so I may not have a chance to pick these up as easy as I originally thought.

Darksteel Forge – This got a Planechase reprint and the price barely nudged. When it gets to the bottom, nab what Forges you can in trades, because every casual artifact deck wants to play these.

Ring of Three Wishes – I do not expect this to go very high. I do expect I can get it from people for a quarter or less, and trade it away in a while for a buck or two.

Remember, you’re playing the long game with these cards. You won’t be getting a significant bump for at least a year, unless some incredible combo pops up.

If there are cards I missed or you want to compliment/berate me, I’m on Twitter as @WordOfCommander and I love to be told how right/wrong I am.

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Trading Strategies for Events

By Cliff Daigle

Large-scale Magic events offer the chance to get a lot done without spending lots of money.

At every large tournament I go to – be it a Pro Tour Qualifier, a Grand Prix, or something really huge, like Gen Con or SDCC – I bring the cards I want to sell, and a list of things I want.

Depending on the size of the event, organization is key. At a Pro Tour Qualifier, you’ll get a couple of vendors and comparing buylists is easy. Most vendors will have a buylist printed out that you can use to compare those numbers. But at larger events, there might be a dozen or more different companies who want your business, and you need to be ready to browse. A list of the things you brought to sell is vital, and if you’re looking for a certain card, then it’s important to know if you’re going for cash or credit.

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Different vendors give different amounts for the same card, and different trade bonuses if you want store credit. But even on a 30% bonus for credit, you’re still under retail value of a card, so don’t do this lightly. I’ve done this to get some sweet cards and finish foiling out decks, but I’m not happy about it.

A more recent trend is the rapidly growing market for Magic accessories, like playmats, dice, and life counters. Not every vendor is into those things, but research and preparation is going to pay off. You’d be surprised how many vendors are going to offer you cash for things as common as a spin down D20. Before Grand Prix Anaheim, Star City Games put up a banner saying that they were buying spindowns. A little research and a lot of contacts with my friends, and I ended up selling SCG about $100 (cash, not credit!) worth of dice.

The main event may or may not be right up your alley, but the side events offer a range of formats and pricing. While I do not advocate buying single packs just for the value of the cards inside, I love drafting. Sealed is fun too, but drafting is second only to EDH in my personal pantheon. I have gone to Grand Prix just to enter side draft after side draft. I’m paying for the tournament, not just the packs, and in some drafts, I’ll get passed valuable cards.

Sometimes the value is in the event itself. When my wife and I went to Worlds in 2011, they were giving out a Pro Tour foil Ajani Goldmane with every event entry. Dealers were only giving $3 cash, but in a $10 draft, you’re paying $7 to open three packs. That’s hard value to walk away from, especially since that was Innistrad.

Once you’re done drafting, you can take the good cards and trade them to players or dealers for more of what you really want. Again, an example from Worlds: I did ten drafts that weekend, and had a Liliana of the Veil, a couple Garruk Relentless, a Snapcaster, and a few of the rare Innistrad lands. I traded all of those to a dealer for a Diamond Valley and could not be happier.

Be advised that there is often a saturation effect, especially with smaller vendors: At the end of a three-day Grand Prix, some will be lower on cash and already bought a thousand Steam Vents, so they will lower their buylist on the one you just opened.

I’m preparing to go to GP Oakland next month, and I’ve got my lists ready to go. If you’re there and want an EDH game, shoot me a tweet @WordOfCommander. I’d love to get in a game with you.

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The Singular Art of Patience

By Cliff Daigle

Welcome back, dear reader.

If you have read other things I’ve said then you’re aware of my driving principle when it comes to acquiring cards for casual decks: Patience.

If you have ever bought something online, you’re aware of the value of patience. Next-day shipping from a retail website might be $25, while mere First-Class mail is $5 or less. To be patient, for just a couple of days to a week, in this case is worth a cool $20.

I’ve been in positions where I could not bring myself to be patient. I once had to have some Goblins in a couple of days because I wanted a Krenko deck to be ready for FNM. The shipping costs of my cards were more than the cards themselves were worth. But in that case, it was worth it to me not to wait.

Retail stores work the same way. Sure, you can often get a lower price for an item online, but when you measure the cost difference against the time difference, sometimes you just take it home that day.

Magic: The Gathering cards are similar. I’ve said before that prices all drop over time, but that’s only on average. Sometimes, waiting on a card to go down is a bad play, because the price goes up. Just look at Voice of Resurgence:

Voice of Resurgence. May 3 2013 - Jul 25 2013.
Voice of Resurgence. May 3 2013 – Jul 25 2013.

The Voice’s price has climbed steadily, and is the chase Mythic. Right now, preordering it at $20 looks like a steal. But note that the price has hit a peak and is creeping downwards. Patience past the initial craze has already paid off some.

Now, let’s look at Ral Zarek:

Ral Zarek. May 3 2013 - Jul 25 2013.
Ral Zarek. May 3 2013 – Jul 25 2013.

If you waited a week after release, he cost you $30. If you waited a month, he cost you $15. If you wait longer, he’ll probably go under $10. Patience is usually the better financial plan, if you can stomach the wait.

When you’re trading, patience is a key virtue as well. I love trading, the knowledge that both of us can get what we want and be happy with the exchange. Unfortunately, there are times where someone is belligerent, telling me what I have to do. If they have a rare foil, I’m not above giving more than I originally wanted, but if we are talking Standard cards, then I’m likely to walk away.

An example of this is dealing with speculators. You might be someone who traded for a bunch of a certain card because you were sure it was going to go up. I’ve dealt with people who act like their card has already gone up or down to an expected price, and that was irritating until I realized I could just walk away. (Excerpt from the conversation: “Your Sphinx’s Revelation is not going to be worth my two Deathrite Shamans after rotation.” “Rotation for these two cards is 18 months away!” “I know, that’s my point.”)

Let me be clear: I’m all for speculation. I like the gamble, the idea that we can predict these things. But dealing with unpleasant people is generally not worth it.

Patience, in the casual realm, is also about managing your needs and expectations. It’s not always useful to go after a card in foil just because it’s in a deck. (Full disclosure: I chase foreign foils more than I should for my EDH decks. I try not to overpay, but the craving to own the sweet rare foil is strong. Gogo Foil Russian Doubling Season! (сезон удвоения foil))

Nor is it necessary to chase a foreign foil simply because it has worth. Keep in mind that Wizards wants to support all formats, not just Standard and Modern. The more people that play, whatever the format, the more cards they sell.

This is why reprints will require patience. It seems a safe bet that almost everything not on the Reserved List will get printed again. I couldn’t say when, but especially for Modern-legal cards, nothing is safe. The use of Modern Masters, as well as preconstructed decks like the Commander or Planechase sets, shows us that Wizards knows that people want these older, rarer, more expensive cards.

The Onslaught fetchlands, Thoughtseize, the Shadowmoor filter lands, even Force of Will…these will all get printed again. Perhaps not in Standard-legal sets, but there will be more.

Just be patient.

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The case for singles in M14

By Cliff Daigle

So now that Magic 2014 is out, what’s a casual player to do?

Here is a tip that I’ve learned through hard experience: In most cases, buying a box to open the packs is a terrible idea.

There are reasons to buy lots of packs, mainly the fun of opening 36 or more at a time, but financially, they aren’t a winner. If you want to buy a box, throw the loose packs onto your bed and roll around in them, and revel in what *could* be in those packs, then by all means do so. I may or may not have done similar things.

Just don’t kid yourself about the value and the money you spent.

There’s ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that you often don’t get a playset of a certain uncommon in your 36 packs, much less multiples of a certain money rare. And while most boxes have a foil rare or mythic, it’s not always true. I’ve opened such foil-rare-less boxes.

We have another issue present, when you buy loose packs from Amazon or a store that doesn’t store packs in the booster display: box mapping. By calculating a print run, you can open just a few packs in a box, take the money cards, and sell the packs you know contain chaff. It’s real and it’s effective. I haven’t done it, but the math is there and the YouTube videos are certainly convincing. Look up the user MTGBoxMapper if you really want to see why you shouldn’t buy loose packs.

Here are the exceptions to my policy of ‘no packs’: Sealed and Draft events. In this case, you’re paying not just for the packs, but for the tournament and the chance to win more. I like these formats more than Standard, but they are more expensive. I recognize that a lot of cards are not money cards, yet they are very good in Limited formats. I don’t mind paying for the experience of playing, especially because Standard isn’t always fun for me.

My wife and I have indulged in two-person drafting as well. We buy six packs, shuffle up the cards, and engage in a two-person draft, usually with the Solomon style but sometimes wegoWinston. We can usually get two drafts out of the same six packs, but again, we are buying the experience, not the value of the cards.

Everyone has a story of some amazing pack they opened. At the Magic 2013 Celebration, one of my prize packs had a Thundermaw Hellkite and a foil Jace, Memory Adept. But I’ve also opened an awful lot of bulk rares, so I try not to let the outliers affect my perception.

Make no mistake: Opening a pack of Magic: the Gathering cards is a gamble in strict financial terms. You’re scratching a ticket/pulling off the packaging in hopes of something more valuable than the cost of the ticket/pack.

The emotional thrill of opening packs is exactly the thrill you get from roulette or slot machines or anything that casinos make a mint off of. I know a guy who is addicted to buying $8 packs of Worldwake, because once in a while, he opens a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and it only cost him $8! What an amazingly lucky guy!

Except I know that for every post he makes on Facebook showing his $150 card that cost him $8, he’s bought at least 30 other packs that cost him $240, and the other cards he’s opened don’t come close to the $90 gap.

If you have to have certain cards, get them as singles. Don’t buy the packs and hope to get lucky. Be discerning, and target only what you need. Trade for it if you can, but don’t gamble your cash on packs.

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