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.

Five Things to be Thankful For

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By: Cliff Daigle

Thanksgiving was last week, and I hope you had a pleasant holiday.

The festivities got me thinking about Magic, what we should appreciate about it, and the people who make it.

#1: Wizards is made up of people who love to play Magic.

This may sound a little self-evident but it needs to be said and appreciated: the employees of WotC are frequently people who really love to play this game. Because they love to play it, they don’t want to mess it up. This leads to a game that is continuously new and consistently interesting.

#2: Those folks at Wizards actually listen to the community.

It doesn’t always feel like they do, I know. However, every tweet I’ve ever mentioned Helene Bergeot in, she’s replied to. The recent outcry over Magic Online’s stability problems is a reflection of the continuous demand for a more stable game and interface. It used to be that prerelease weekend was easy money: you’d enter an event, crack your packs, play your games…until the event invariably crashed, at which point you’d apply for and get a refund. I’m told MTGO very rarely has those sorts of issues now – I haven’t played online in several years.

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#3: They have an incredible lead time for new cards.

I write something every week. It takes me a couple of hours. Perhaps you work in a field where you need to create some form of content or project on a regular basis. Imagine working in an environment where you get YEARS to get that content right, and you’ve got a peek into how R&D works at Wizards. I’m sure they feel the pressure of time, but designing and developing the cards is not a fast process, especially when it comes to figuring out how cards fit into every one of the formats we play.

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#4: The variety of supported formats

The good people of Wizards of the Coast know that you really, Really, REALLY wanted that legendary Green-White-Red beast for your beast tribal EDH deck. They gave minotaur players a White-Blue-Red legend in the first Commander preconstructed decks. They will eventually give you the legendary werewolf you want so very very very badly. They will shortly have horde Magic decks as part of the Hero’s Path. They gave us Archenemy, and Planechase, and Vanguard, and all sorts of ways to play this game.

#5: The community

If you’re reading this, then you’re part of the community. You are reaching out to learn new things, either with a financial bent or just in general. You want to expand your knowledge of this game in order to maximize the enjoyment you get. That’s all we can ask for. Magic is a fun game, something that creates personal connections, and when you strive to know more, you’ll pass that on and help others in the same way.

My on-topic tip for this week is Master of Waves.  I told you before that you should stock up on Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx while it’s easily available and cheap. It will not remain that way for long, nor will the Master. His hype and previous price spike will make it easy to trade these away for $20 or more within a year, so if you can pick them up now in the $11-$12 range, you’re setting up for long-term gains.

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Cents and Sensibility

By: Cliff Daigle

I made it to an FNM a couple of weeks ago, and had a powerful lesson in value.

Here’s my trade partner, telling me he wants to build a Standard dragon deck. I try to steer him into EDH dragons, preferably with Bladewing the Risen, but he’s having none of it.

He takes an assortment of dragons out of my binder and I know none of them are expensive. There’s an M14 Shivan Dragon in the stack! Why did I even put that in a page? How long has that been sitting in there, dead weight in my binder? Bladewing the Risen

He breaks out his smartphone and begins building the trade. $1.20 here, $2.10 there…then he adds the Shivan and says “Whoa. Your side of the trade just went up to $90.”

I tell him to check editions. I could see an Alpha or Beta Shivan being pricey. That’s iconic art and if you played before 1998, Shivan was the finisher of casual decks everywhere. As a teenager, I referred to the Melissa Benson art as “Mr. Happy.”

He taps his phone a couple of times and squints. “Thirty cents is the mid.” I tell him I’m not surprised and we move forward.

He ends up taking a couple of other things as well, and I get a Nykthos for my trouble.

This story has two takeaways.

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First of all, don’t ever underestimate how the small cards can add up if you’re trading with someone who likes to put every price in. Frankly, I would have just added the Shivan to a trade and called it worthless. That thirty cents; it’s value I never ever ever would have expected. No one is actually buying Shivan Dragons from M14. 30 cents is less than the stamp it takes to mail it. It’s bulk – but I’m getting more than bulk rates in trade.

Second, you want to take every chance you can to turn ten dimes into a dollar. Whenever you can turn ten one-dollar cards into one ten-dollar card, do it. The reason you want to do this is because you’re rarely going to meet people who want all ten of those cards and who will give you retail value for them. Thespian's Stage

If you’re speculating on cards and don’t want to trade your specs away, I get that. I’ve got 23 Thespian’s Stage that I wouldn’t trade for five Temple Gardens. I’d think about it, but I’d probably decline.

But I would much rather have one Nykthos than a Shivan Dragon, a Scourge of Valkas, a Hellkite Tyrant, and some other dragons I can’t recall.

On a related note, I think Nykthos is a solid pickup right now around $10. We have had a taste of how good the devotion decks are now with only Theros available. How much better will those decks be with two more sets? We have a Block Constructed Pro Tour in May and I would guess we will see a lot of devotion there.

Also, I want to call attention to Xenagos and Elspeth: The two new Planeswalker cards are finally coming down in price. I’ve advocated patience with new cards before, and while they see a little play, it’s not enough to justify a high price. If Xenagos gets to $10, I’ll go after him with zeal – I’ve managed to get him into play in EDH and he’s a house. Elspeth has followed a similar trend of creeping downwards, due to low Standard inclusion. She’s another card that is outstanding in any casual format you care to name, as a token maker and as a ‘destroy all big creatures’ condition. It seems that it’s mainly casual demand keeping her price up, but one big tournament and she’ll break $30 again.

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Foreign Exchange

Spoiler alert: I’m going to talk about foreign cards today. I understand that not everyone has a fondness for foreign cards in EDH, Legacy, or any other format. Today, though, I get to talk about one of my favorite ways to make my deck a little more unique.

101  101

I love foreign cards, for a number of reasons. They are rarer, and therefore appeal to the collector part of my nature. They are international, and that appeals to the social aspect. To me, foreign cards of any language are just a little more fun.

From a finance perspective, it’s sometimes very tough to get a good idea of the price of a foreign card. Wizards has printed cards in many languages, but it is difficult to get an accurate read on what the proportions and amounts are. It’s generally accepted that Russian and Korean have less cards printed than other languages, and that scarcity makes it hard to find copies on the secondary market.

There is no hard and fast rule for which languages have which price increase – or decrease – and it’s important to know that many buylists treat foreign cards as LESS valuable. So while you have your sweet foreign card, you won’t be making any profit on buylists.

In trade, though, everything is fair game. Be greedy, but be aware of a real danger in overpricing your foreign foil: if you ask for too much of a premium, then you risk scaring them off to the easier trade of a regular English version of that card. Be realistic, be upfront, and be willing to haggle. Plus, you’re working from a small sample size–if there has been such a transaction, be aware of it and be ready to show it to others during trading. Polluted Delta

I’ve been through this recently. Earlier this year, a trader on deckbox reported that he had a Russian foil Doubling Season from the original Ravnica block.  We went back and forth on the value for a few days, and eventually settled on $80.  From there, the rest of the trade was easy.

When someone expresses interest in your card, the best thing to do is agree on an approximate value right away. Given that it’s also a complete luxury item, be prepared for a condition discussion that you may not encounter with run-of-the-mill nonfoil English cards.

eBay is not as helpful as vendors in this case. Vendors rarely want to leave money on the table, so the number they list a card at is often going to be on the higher end. At GP Oakland, I saw a foil Japanese Polluted Delta with an asking price of $2200. I can’t say for sure, but if you went to them and offered less in cash on the spot, you’d probably get it.

Finding foreign foils is a treasure hunt in and of itself. It’s not always easy to find foreign foils, even online. I’ve been on the hunt for a foil French Murder for a while, and as yet, have had no luck. Magiccardmarket.eu is the best resource that I’ve found, but because it’s a Eurozone site, they charge Americans and other continents extra for shipping. Big events can be helpful in locating this type of merchandise, but it’s still going to be hit-or-miss in terms of the traders and their stock.

Perhaps that’s the rub and the appeal of foreign foils to me. It’s hard to find them, so when I see one in a binder or case, I totally want to jump right on it. The thrill of the hunt can be worth more than the eventual possession.

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Replacement Effects

When you’re looking at new cards, the immediate impulse is often “Holy crap that would be amazing in my Standard/Modern/Legacy/EDH/Cube list, it works so great with this and that!” I’m sympathetic to this, since I have nine EDH decks, and that means every new card has a potential home.

However, Magic is a game of rules. EDH has a hard rule about 99 cards in the main deck, and only the bravest of souls play Constructed formats with more than 60 cards. For every new card that gets added to a deck, something has to come out. There lies the problem.

I have a very bad habit: I trade for cards that I think will be good in a deck before I think about what has to come out of that deck. This process of “making room” has several complications.

Quantity Conundrum

Conundrum Sphinx

In Commander or Cube, seems easy on the surface. You need one. Unless…you need several. Command Tower and its new cousin, Opal Palace, are something that can really go into any Commander deck.  Very few people can say they have only one EDH deck; we tend to have multiples. There are certainly exceptions to ‘staples,’ but you need to have a reason not to play something as universally good as Solemn Simulacrum in every single deck.

Alternatively in Constructed formats, you’re almost always forced to trade for a playset because it’s better to have that option. You want to be able to slot in the full four if needed. And even if a deck doesn’t play four copies of a specific card this weekend, it very well may next.

The Agony of Choice

In competitive decks, adding a card is often a matter of playing the “which is better?” game, with the loser being removed from your deck. There’s a certain amount of figuring out what to add or subtract for synergy as well. Depending on your deck, you’ll find out in the course of playing if a card needs to stay or go.

In the casual formats, a lot of people like to make changes merely for the sake of making changes. That is valid and can be a lot of fun, but you wind up making changes constantly. One thing that I do, and I know others do, is keep a separate box/binder for cards that are no longer in decks, because I might go back to that card down the road.

Metagaming

This is something I’m terrible at, and I refer you to others more experienced. Suffice to say that if there is some hot new card you want to be the guy running it the first week, but by the time everyone adapts to it, you may need to be off it in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Strategic Planning

I have a small binder full of cards that I traded for to put into EDH decks but never found their way there. I just wasn’t able to find something to take out in favor of the new cards! Primeval Bounty

Such wasted effort in a trade is something I want to avoid. I’ve learned that in Commander at least, it’s possible to plan ahead. Before I trade too hard for a new card, I sit down and look at the deck I want to put that card into. I have to decide what I would take out in favor of that new card – and if I can’t make that decision, then I’m not trading for that card.

Case in point: Primeval Bounty. In light of examining why the price of this card never fell as far as I thought it should, I decided not to trade for all three copies I planned on needing initially. I settled for one that I tried in three different decks, and came away unimpressed.

So when the next big thing hits (we aren’t that far from Born of the Gods spoilers,) be realistic about what you can use. You’ll save yourself some time and effort if you do.

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