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.

Minor Devotion

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By: Cliff Daigle

A while back, I said that the Gods of Theros make for terrible EDH generals. I stand by that statement and the rationale behind it.

I’m here to tell you that the gods of Born of the Gods (and probably the ones of Journey into Nyx) are quite the opposite and you should respect their value, especially in foils.

Purphoros, God of the Forge

The ‘minor’ gods in Born of the Gods are much more flavorful than the ‘major’ gods of Theros. The five mono-color gods had a static and an activated ability. Only Purphoros and Thassa have abilities worth triggering on their own, and those are less than stellar. Thassa getting there with a Mutavault in Standard is pretty amusing in a control shell, I have to say.

Our allied-color gods have only one ability, and have higher devotion requirements, but to make up for that they are much more “build around me” abilities. I could see myself building an EDH or casual deck around any of these legendary enchantment creatures because what they do is powerful and unique.

I am an advocate of patience. I would tell you to trade away any and all cards you open at the prerelease. I have been doing that for years and it’s served me well. That being said, I can’t wait for the prices on these gods to drop to the $5 range, at which point I’d snag all I could. I doubt they will all get that low though, especially Xenagos. I’d be happy to get him at $10.

My sneaky prediction is that Phenax ends up as the surprise card of the set. People love to mill! People really love to mill in lots of formats, and if you think I’m not going to work on a Doorkeeper, Wall of Frost, double Returned Phalanx, Phenax curve, you don’t know how much I love janky Standard decks. Maybe I need to add green for Prophet of Kruphix.

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Quick aside: I’ve told you to get your Prophets while they are cheap. They are up $1 since Inspired was spoiled as a mechanic. I’m not kidding about how good this card is in casual formats. It’s still going to get opened but if you’re looking for a safe long-term speculation, here it is.

Prophet of Kruphix

Right now, you can pre-order Phenax on TCGplayer for $8 or so. That’s a decent price point and I suspect that’s where he will be for a while yet. With Born of the Gods being labeled as a comparison to Dragon’s Maze, there may not be a lot of incentive to bust open boxes for value. Travis just this week expressed his disappointment quite eloquently, but I think that these minor gods will be casual stars for a while.

Foils of Phenax will especially be in demand, and for the other gods too. EDH decks will love Karametra’s ramp into a huge Genesis Wave or some such. Mogis fits right into lots of aggressive decks AND attrition decks. Ephara plus Sacred Mesa is going to have me grinding my teeth in jealousy during four-player games.

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I’m leery of price points on prerelease weekend, but if I cracked a foil God, I’d make sure everyone in the room knew it. Someone is going to want that card a bit too much and I’d ask at least $25 for any of them, and depending on how eager that someone was, I’d try to haggle for more. I’d aim for $40 if it’s Xenagos in foil. Hey, speaking of…

Dear lord, how many awesome haste enablers can I cram into a red/green deck? Is this timing restriction genius or what? I do wish he could target himself, but with Burning-Tree Emissary around I can see why that’s a touch too good.

I don’t think there has been a card that does what Xenagos does. There have been haste-granting cards in these colors before (Fires of Yavimaya, Sarkhan Vol) but none that were indestructible. He only grants haste to one creature,, but somewhat makes up for that with the power boost. I’m looking forward to trying him as part of my mostly-creature decks, though I’m not sure if I’d rather have him or Urabrask the Hidden.

So in short, if this does end up being a lightly-opened set (though it looks like a blast to draft!) then the gods will be even more valuable than their current prices indicate. I feel good comparing them to the Praetor cycle from New Phyrexia, even though that was a spring set and this is a winter. Their prices may be under $10 now, but they will creep up over time due to their casual impact.

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Five things Owen taught me in one match

By: Cliff Daigle

At GP Sacramento last week, being 4-1 and having made several mistakes along the way, I sat down across from Owen Turtenwald, a former Player of the Year with several GP wins to his name. I tried not to be intimidated, but instead, I wanted to see what hints and tips I could glean from someone who makes a living playing this game. He didn’t disappoint.

We sat down, shuffled, presented. I gave my benediction of “May you draw mana in the appropriate ratio” (a phrase I stole from an old friend named Brian Smith) and he said “Good luck.” The gentleman next to me said, “That’s a great thing to say, to hope for good mana.” I said that I hate losing to lucky topdecks.

Owen said “It’s about sportsmanship. There’s no reason to be a bad sport.” And you know? He’s right.

Financial Lesson #1: Don’t be a jerk.

Tymaret, the Murder King

I’ve sort of been a jerk in the past in terms of trades. I’m a touch pushy, I’m constantly asking for trades, and right now, I’m dismissive of most things in binders. Mainly because they are of no interest to me or I know they are out of my price range. The point is, I can spare a moment and be more polite about things. It could only make things better.

In game one, turn two, he plays Stymied Hope to counter my turn two play of Tymaret, the Murder King. I said, “Has that been good for you today?” He smiled and said, “It’s been okay.”

Why on earth am I asking this guy if that card has been good? He countered my play and scryed, he’s maindecking it, he’s gotten full value – from me! – and I actually have to ask if the card has been worth playing? I recognize that there are situations where it would not be optimal. I imagine that if he’d had better choices, he would have been playing them. But all that said…it was there and it was very effective.

Financial Lesson #2: Believe the pros!

This applies all over the place. Owen Turtenwald doesn’t need to justify a card’s inclusion in the maindeck. Other financiers don’t need to justify themselves to me or to anyone. Heck, I don’t need to justify myself to anyone else. All I can do is listen to them or show others what I do, and let the rest of the world make up their own mind.

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I get aggressive and bring his life down while trading creatures. Our boards clear, he plays a Keepsake Gorgon and I do the same. He goes monstrous on his and points to my Gorgon, to which I reply, “That’s an invalid target.” He blinks and looks at the text again, where it says “destroy target non-Gorgon creature.” He nods and looks at his hand again before passing the turn.

Financial Lesson #3: Don’t Panic!

Polis Crusher

I’ve never made a mistake with the aplomb he just showed me. I have a bad habit of cursing my fate to the heavens and questioning why Polis Crusher is the only Monstrous card that has an ability which triggers on damage being dealt. It’s my fault for not reading the card.
This applies in the financial realm as well. You’re going to be wrong about a card. You may well be wrong about large quantities of a card. When you’re wrong, accept that, figure out why you were wrong, and apply that lesson in the future. I try to do that, as I did with Primeval Bounty and the rest of M14.

So he’s got a monstrous Gorgon, while mine isn’t. We each play some creatures and rebuild the board. I need to get aggressive again, so I attack with my gorgon with monstrous mana open and with a Coordinated Assault in my hand. He makes some blocks, his gorgon blocking mine, and I monstrous to kill something else because it was a threat. Know what I didn’t do? Play the Coordinated Assault!

Financial Lesson #4: Think about your plan, especially if you want to change it.

Maybe you change your mind on a speculation. Maybe you’d resolved to hold for two years but find yourself waffling after just one. Maybe something happens and you decide to go all-in on one card.

Whichever avenue you take, be aware of why you’re changing your plan. Nothing is set in stone, but recognize if you’re making a mistake, acting hastily, or being irrational. It’s very easy to be irrational in the current Magic market, with a different card spiking every other day, simply because people think it MIGHT be good in the next set.

I attack Owen down to five and bring back the Murder King with lethal on the board. He calmly plays a Gray Merchant, casts Pharika’s Cure on Tymaret, and is comfortable at 11 now. He ends up taking that game.

So I’m following my plan of adding a third color and changing my lands and cards, going bigger: twelve cards in, twelve cards out. I stack up my deck and shuffle, then present. He does the same. When I look at my opening seven, there’s cards I know I sideboarded out. Oh hell.

I call a judge and ask if I can sideboard. It’s no longer a game loss, thankfully, but I’d like to go back to 40 cards. Unfortunately, I’ve presented my deck and that’s my deck for this game. I was too busy replacing the counterspell, the Gorgons, the Merchant, everything. I got sloppy and careless and ended up playing a 52-card deck with 23 land, losing after drawing eleven of them.

Financial Lesson #5: Pay attention!

Primeval Bounty

So much is going on, with spikes and articles and counterfeits, that it’s easy to get distracted. It’s possible that while I’m at my day job, cards are going crazy in value. I have to prioritize, though, and focus on what’s important.

Things are no longer under the radar. In fact, we have access to a ridiculous amount of information. If you’re following several hundred people on Twitter, you won’t catch everything being said. Perhaps you should make a new account just for Magic-related tweets (including mine, @WordOfCommander) and assign your interests to different usernames.

I’d like to thank Owen for also telling me that I could still make Day 2 as a 4-2. I dropped after that round, mainly because I wanted to get some EDH games in, but also because I could feel that I was tired and making silly, sloppy mistakes. If we end up playing again, Mr. Turtenwald, you may well win but at least this time I will have more cogent questions and reasonable plays.

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Reprints That Will Happen

By: Cliff Daigle

I know we are all abuzz about the Born of the Gods spoilers, but today I want to address two topics that came up last week: counterfeits and reprints.

Reddit and Twitter and all plenty of other folks were up in arms about the Chinese company making very high quality fakes for not much money. These were Power 9 cards, fetchlands, duals, and all sorts of old and new cards that would fool anyone while inside a sleeve. There are indications that these have been trickling onto the market already, especially via eBay.

For a casual player, I recognize that the impact is minor. We tend to get cards and then keep them indefinitely. Our powered cubes, our foiled decks: these are the reason cards get scarce. It doesn’t matter much to me when cards go up in value, because it’s in a deck and is likely going to stay there.

The danger comes when we want to sell out or extract some increased value. More than once in my life, I’ve sold cards to pay for needed things, like a new transmission or student loan payments. Counterfeits threaten that value, and while Wizards is taking a step with the foil stamp soon to be added in Magic 2015, this is not the last we’ve heard of this problem.

Clone

To those of you who want to buy a set of power and all ten duals for pennies just so that you can have official-looking cards without the official price: shut up. You don’t understand the impact of what you are saying. A flood of indistinguishable counterfeits would be deadly, since no one would buy boosters to get cards for Standard when the counterfeits can be had for next to nothing.

In happier news, we are getting Modern Event Decks soon. No word yet on what’s in them, but we know the MSRP is going to be $75. We are all still guessing at what will be included, which colors and type of strategy, but Zendikar fetchlands have been a very popular guess, even if we don’t know how many of each will be in the deck.

It’s notable that Wizards is doing a single event deck. The Standard ones have all come in pairs, and frequently had a problem where one deck was more valuable than the other. This led to a glut of the lesser decks on shelves, and stores didn’t want to reorder both in order to get the in-demand one. They’ve announced that they will reprint this deck to meet demand, so there’s a chance that everyone who wants one can get one. (Just a chance!)

This first event deck will be a bit tentative as Wizards figures out what they are doing. However, you should expect more of these to come down the pipeline, as they seek to reprint cards and increase the availability of certain Modern staples.

Reprints have changed in a lot of ways since the early days of Magic. No longer do we have black border (original printing) vs. white border (core set reprint). Foil-only printings are a thing, as well as being able to buy a product and know for sure what cards it contains.

Most interestingly, reprinting a card these days doesn’t automatically cause the value of the older card to tank. This was not always the case.

In the past, there was a set called Chronicles. This set was designed to increase the number of certain cards in circulation. This was 1996, and Wizards had a lot of growing pains left to do. The secondary market was ill-formed and not well-connected. We all got our prices from Scrye or InQuest.

Chronicles destroyed the prices of many cards, but it’s worth mentioning that at this time, price and supply wasn’t centralized and shared online as it is now. It also needs to be noted that the summer of Fourth Edition/Chronicles/Ice Age is when Wizards finally got their logistics in line. Stores would get all they asked for, without needing to inflate their order.

We have had more than a few reprints lately. Some have caused prices of originals to tank. Many more have seen the new ones be cheap, while the original stays near its pre-reprinting price.

Tarmogoyf

Example #1: Tarmogoyf

This and Dark Confidant were the banner reprints from Modern Masters, and their price hasn’t really budged. I know MMA was a limited run, but I really wish we could compare the quantities sold of MMA to Future Sight to Ravnica.

Darksteel Forge

Example #2: Darksteel Forge

Now it gets interesting. The Planechase reprint didn’t hurt the value much. Being in Magic 2014 took half its value away…but note the gap between the two older versions and the M14 version. Is it worth a few bucks to have a different set symbol and different flavor text?

Akroma's Memorial

Example #3: Akroma’s Memorial

As one of the most unfair casual cards out there, the original was pushing $10 before it was reprinted in M12. The new one bottomed out right afterwards, around $3. But lo and behold, both the Future Sight and the M13 copies are around $8 now.

thoughtseize

Example #4: Thoughtseize (Lorwyn)

Look at the graph for this card for 108 weeks. Last January it saw a big rise, reaching $80 before the reprint news. It’s back to $40, while the Theros version is just $15. The big question is how that price will change over time. We are about to embark on Born of the Gods, but Theros packs will be opened until summertime. Magic Online redemption is going to be a factor, but how much with the price changes and event entry/prize tweaks?

 

With these examples in mind, let’s look at some likely reprints and if we should be afraid of the impact on value.

Graven Cairns

Filterlands – These will get printed again. I’m not sure when, but they are from an underbought pair of sets, especially the enemy ones of Eventide. They see a little Modern play, but they are probably the best lands in casual decks for their ability to give double of a color – we dearly love big splashy spells. I’d see these taking a dip at reprinting but not by much. Grab them when you can.

Arid Mesa

Zendikar fetches – At reprinting, they will lose 20% or so of their value. There’s too many Modern players who would be snapping these up to keep the Zendikar lands down for long. The casual appeal of these is also very high–we all have shocklands to fetch now! An easy call to say the price will stay stable/rise. I do not think that there will be enough Modern Event decks to meet everyone’s demand, so if these lands are in that box, the originals will at least hold their value.

Windswept Heath

Onslaught fetches – I’d call these the safest of all the cards on this list. A reprint won’t hurt the prices of the originals very much, because the old frame will keep them as a more unique version. If these were printed in a Standard-legal set, I’d expect the demand to be very high at first, as Modern players added them to decks left and right.

Lurking Predators

Lurking Predators – If this gets reprinted, the price will tank. It’s a fun card, but the supply will be far greater than the demand. Get only what your EDH decks need.

Gauntlet of Power

Gauntlet of Power – Wouldn’t this be a fun addition in Theros block? Gauntlet of Power would make devotion better and easier! If reprinted, I think a lot of the price would depend on the art used. I really like the Time Spiral art. Expect this to hit $5 if reprinted, so be cautious.

Darksteel Plate

Darksteel plate – I was really surprised that this wasn’t in any of the Commander 2013 decks. It is a great EDH card and that’s the only place it sees play. If it gets a reprint I’d expect the value to plummet and then very slowly rise again over time. Not a safe investment.

Vedalken Orrery

Vedalken Orrery – If you don’t want to mess with lands, this is up your alley. Do everything at instant speed! This is another card which won’t get affected by a reprint, because people are going to play the heck out of these. Another fairly stable card.

Riptide Laboratory

Tribal lands – I mean the Onslaught ones, à la Riptide Laboratory (Look at the spread between the foil and the nonfoil!) or Unholy Grotto. If reprinted these would tank and not climb for a while. The tribal decks have theirs already, and so a new round of these lands would be lots of extra supply. Be wary.

Wurmcoil Engine

Wurmcoil Engine – even as the prerelease promo, this has an impressive price. Only Emrakul does better price-wise as a promo. This card is probably one of the best colorless creatures ever, making it an awesome fit into most casual decks. It shows up in some modern Tron lists too. I doubt this would get printed again in standard, but in a duel deck, it’ll fetch $10 pretty easily. These are a good bet to keep most of their value.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

The Eldrazi (Ulamog, Kozilek, Emrakul) – Amongst the most mana-intensive creatures ever, these are in demand for multiple reasons. Rise was a VERY popular set, fun to draft and packed with value. Inquisition of Kozilek is a $7.50 uncommon, simply as a budget alternative to Thoughtseize. The three giants are nearly immune to having a reprint hurt their value, as seen by the have extra copies of Emrakul (prerelease promo) and Ulamog (FTV:Legends) floating around. EDH players love the immunity to mill strategies, as well as huge monsters, so I would call these a fairly safe bet to keep most of their value if reprinted.

One last tidbit today: for you Nekusar, the Mindrazer players. If you like Wheel of Fortune, don’t forget to add discard effects too, including the classic combo of Megrim and Memory Jar. In fact, the new Waste Not is going to positively sing in those decks. Enjoy!

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What is Patience Worth?

By: Cliff Daigle

With Born of the Gods spoilers on the horizon, I’d like to take a look back at some of the cards that have slowly gone down in price, and point out that I am a big advocate of patience.

For those of you who don’t want to re-read something, the short version is that if you can wait on acquiring a card, the price will almost always go down, especially for cards that have very high initial prices. As a primarily casual player, I’m more than happy to be patient on picking up cards for decks or cubes at 50% (or less) of the price than the card debuts for.

As always, if you require a card immediately, it’ll usually cost you more. There’s a different art required for determining when a card will go up, and that’s something we will discuss soon.

Let’s start with the poster children for initially high prices that almost always go down over time: Planeswalkers.

Capture

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: Look at this graph. She was over $40 at the beginning! I personally opened two early on and sold them each for $25 to buylists. She shows up occasionally as a one-or-two-of in some control lists, and while she’s fantastic at that, she doesn’t see enough play to keep her over $20 in the long term.

Where she does see play is all over the place in casual formats, and this being her third incarnation, I imagine there are some all-Elspeth decks running around. (Chandra and Jace have her beat at four each.) She’s consistently good in token decks, board-wipe decks, etc. I like her long-term chances. I doubt she’s hit bottom yet though, and I’m going to wait till she does before picking up what I need. 

Xenagos, the Reveler

Xenagos, the Reveler: Once $30, now pushing $10, he looked like he’d slide right into G/R Domri decks with an endless stream of tokens and mana acceleration. Again, though, he’s seeing just a smidgeon of play and has fallen faster than Elspeth, since he’s best in a creature-heavy deck. Where he’s really going to shine is in casual decks that love creatures. His ability is an upgrade over Gaea’s Cradle! You can abuse/re-use Cradle easier, but this level of mana ability is a rare and wonderful thing.

Xenagos is pretty affordable at this point, and I think we’ve found his floor. It’s difficult to have a planeswalker stay cheap. Tibalt is the exception–even Chandra Ablaze has found her price climbing upwards.

Master of Waves: An interesting case. He was not very expensive, and then the blue devotion deck blew up, and now he’s creeping back downward. I really like it as a pickup in the $10 range, since I believe that the devotion deck will get some fun tools with Born of the Gods and Journey into Nyx.

As an aside, I don’t believe that devotion decks will be big in a year. I think there will be another mutlicolor block, since that seems to be the pattern set. Return to Alara? Nonetheless, I’m looking to pick up devotion cards now at a low point, waiting for it to blow up again.

Thoughtseize: Wow. This was a $70 card! The new printing was around $30 at release, and now is $15 or less. There is HEAVY speculation that this price will go up in Modern PTQ season, but I’m not convinced. The printing of this at rare means that there are swarms of copies out there, not to mention the Modern players who already have their playset.

I’m always going to preach the long game. There’s money to be made in short-term transactions, but an approach to most cards, especially at the beginning, should be “Sell now, buy later.”

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