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

Bursting the Bubble

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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.

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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.

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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.

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at MTGPrice.com - it's free!

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The Big Show

By: Cliff Daigle

GP Richmond is this weekend, and in case you hadn’t heard, it’s going to be the biggest Constructed event ever, and possibly the biggest Magic event ever. It’s closing in on the 4500 set this past summer at GP Las Vegas! That’s a ton of people coming to play, and if you’re going to it or some other large event, I’ve got some helpful ideas.

I’m always on a budget. I want to be on a budget for everything that isn’t cards, so I can go forth and buy the card that catches my eye. For instance, that sweet French Foil Angel of Despair, pimping out my Kaalia deck just a little bit more.

When you go to a big event, there’s a few tricks to keeping things at the right price, allowing you more time, money, and energy for playing Magic. Some of these are going to be self-evident, others might be things you haven’t considered. I offer this advice in the hopes that casual and competitive players alike can maximize their enjoyment.

Tip #1: Pack lightly.

If you’re going to a mega-event, the chances are that you’ll be there all day. You’re going to be hauling your backpack/duffel/luggage around for hours on end, so don’t overload yourself. Keep the binders and decks to a minimum. Unless you’ve planned to meet up with seven other people, leave the Cube at home. Bring three EDH decks, tops.

I’d also suggest that you make sure the things you need to play are easily accessible. Separate compartments, top-level organization, whatever method you use. Don’t be that person who sits down and then needs five minutes of digging to find your deck box for this event.

Tip #2: Bring your meals and drinks.

At GP Sacramento, the food inside the venue was around $8 for a sandwich and $4 for a bottle of water that is sold in packs of 36 at grocery stores. Large sodas, heavy on the ice, were $6.

Maybe you’re interested in losing an hour or two of side events and trading to leave the event and find a meal. Maybe you want to get away and take a break. Get a soft sided lunchbag, add a couple sandwiches, and go to town.

Preparing food and drink ahead of time is going to save you a lot of money and a lot of time. At a big event, every place within walking distance will have packs of players filling the lines and increasing wait times.

Tip #3: Security

Wall of Denial

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: you will have ZERO recourse if your cards are stolen. Unless you mark your cards with your name, Magic cards are less traceable than cash.

Everyone knows that Modern prices are going up across the board. It used to be that only Legacy and Vintage players had high-value cards, but pimped-out Commander decks have all sorts of goodies too.

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Thieves know when they see a good target. When you play that foil Gaea’s Cradle, or flash a binder full of fetchlands, the mark is set upon you. Don’t engage in multiple trades at once. Don’t trade while playing a game. Don’t just hang your bag off the back of your seat.

It is cheap enough to look into renter’s insurance, especially through your auto insurance company. It’ll probably be less than $50/month, and you’ll need to update your card inventory regularly, but this is the only form of protection available.

Also: your car is not protection. There are many cautionary tales on various forums, Reddit and Twitter about thieves who broke into cars just for the cards. When one Modern deck can be worth $1000 or more, understand that a lot of people get very unscrupulous.

Tip #4: Pre-register

On-site registration is being phased out for GP-size events, but signing up ahead of time is a worthy option for many GP Trials and PTQs. You’re going to be doing a lot of waiting during events. Spare yourself the line at the beginning of the day.

Related to that is filling out your deck registration sheet ahead of time. It’s printable, available all over, and an easy way to prevent game losses due to sloppy paperwork.

Tip #5: Plan out your side events

I’ve never made Day 2 of a Grand Prix. I’ve made the Top 8 of a PTQ exactly once. So I’ve had a lot of chances to play in side events.  Organizers will usually publish the schedules ahead of time. You will be able to plan out how many sealed events, drafts, or other constructed events will be available to you.

The scheduled side events are always notable for the prizes, and the formats. This is where you can randomly win a Commander’s Arsenal, or black Comic-Con planeswalkers, or uncut sheets.

There are also occasions where it’s just good value. Channelfireball has done this at the last two Limited GPs, running a ‘second chance GP’ sealed for $20. It’s hard to argue with a good price.

I am addicted to any event where $10 drafting is available. I will rare draft like a fiend at these, no matter the deck or format. It doesn’t matter to me if the prize is packs or a free draft, it’s the most fun way to open packs.

Tip #6: Buylisting

I always browse the buylists of vendors before big events. I will be interested in unloading old cards, or accessories, or picking up/dropping off orders.

At this weekend’s GP, prices are going to move a lot. This may be a time for you to cash out, or perhaps you want to listen to Travis and actually pick up more Modern pieces.

I’m not good enough with this format to tell you what to do, but seeing all these prices go up, it’s hard for me to look at my EDH decks and not think about selling some pieces.

At a minimum, think about buylisting things you open in drafts and the like. If you do several drafts in a row, you can make back most of the cash you spent, or choose store credit and snag that sweet foreign foil you’ve had your eye on.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your GP, be it Richmond or anywhere!

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Divining the Gods

By: Cliff Daigle

Journey into Nyx will have five more Gods, in color pairs that haven’t gotten their indestructible legendary enchantment creature yet.

Having seen what the first five multicolored gods can do, I feel this is a good time to take a guess on what their counterparts will do in the next set.

The five Gods in Born of the Gods have the following abilities: UW draws cards, UB mills, RG grants size and haste to one creature, RB makes them sacrifice or take damage, and GW ramps. Those seem like abilities natural to that color pair, so I’m taking a guess based on what the other five pairs are traditionally good at.

There is value to be gained in planning ahead here, because if we can anticipate what pairs well with those gods, we will be able to sell into the hype when those cards spike. For example, see this graph for Trostani, paying attention to the spike right around when Karametra’s card was spoiled. Trostani’s price has only come down slightly since.

Capture

These are not going to be long term targets. I am planning on selling or trading most of these right when the hype is at its highest. These are not the only cards that might spike, but I’m looking for ones I can pick up relatively cheap in trade, and then sell when their price goes up.

Let’s start off with a standard combo I might actually sleeve up:

R/W: Iroas

Spec: Aurelia, the Warleader

Backup: Assemble the Legion

Aurelia plus the Boros god is a combo I can’t wait to play, and it doesn’t matter what the god’s static ability is. Aurelia does 80% of the work for devotion, and the only thing better than attacking with an indestructible creature is doing it twice in a row. Aurelia has that magic fourth toughness, meaning Bile Blight or Lightning Strike won’t cut it. I suspect that Iroas will cost four, but if it’s at five because of an awesome ability it creates a sweet five-into-six mana curve.

My guess is that this God will grant a bonus to attacking creatures, à la Orcish Oriflamme. Iroas has been called the God of victory, though, so there may be some kind of bonus when you destroy somebody else’s creature, or something with fighting.

G/U: Kruphix

Spec: Prophet of Kruphix

Backup: Prime Speaker Zegana

Before Born of the Gods was spoiled, I was telling you to pick up Prophet at two dollars. It’s gone up nearly 50% since then. I’m still on board for picking it up around three dollars.

I devoutly hope Kruphix will do something with +1/+1 counters, like double the counters on target creature at the beginning of combat. It’s more likely to do something tricky, like tap or untap a permanent at the beginning of each upkeep something along those lines.

Prime Speaker is not the combo you wanted to be. Because its ability checks as it comes into play and the god’s devotion checks only after the permanent is in play, Zegana will not draw cards from the god’s power. That’s not going to stop people from wanting to try the cards together, though, and you should be ready to move a few of them when there is demand.

R/U: Keranos

Spec: Ral Zarek

Backup: Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius 

This color combination likes spells, but we haven’t seen much to give us a frame of reference. Ideally, it would be cheap and give a bonus to spells. If it cost 1UR and made all instants and sorceries cost 1 less, that might be too good in Modern Storm. We haven’t had many copy effects; maybe this one will be three mana to copy any instant or sorcery.

I would really like to see something amazing, like having it deal damage to a creature or player.

I suspect that this card will be a bit more control-oriented, and in a slower deck Ral and Niv-Mizzet might be quite the thing. History tells us that spell-centric decks (outside of Delver) aren’t usually good enough in Standard, and so this is the speculation I’m least enthusiastic about.

G/B: Pharika

Spec: Lotleth Troll

Backup: Vraska the Unseen

We don’t know much of what she will do. It’s likely that there will be interactions with the graveyard, my guess is that we will see something that brings back creatures from the graveyard to the hand. It’s a reasonable combination of these colors, and not an overpowered effect. Pharika might also do something that echoes being the god of gorgons, perhaps destroying anything that blocks one of your creatures.

Lotleth is heavily dependent on which ability Pharika has, because pitching cards to the troll and bringing them back is an insane loop. It’s a very cheap pick up right now so you’re unlikely to lose. This card would be a lot better if Detention Sphere were not seeing heavy playing in most Azorius builds. With the addition of the G/B scryland and Pharika, people are going to want to build those decks and take advantage of Vraska, as well as Abrupt Decay, a card I like to go up a lot over time. Be prepared.

 W/B: Athreos

Target: Obzedat, Ghost Council

Back up: Whip of Erebos

A lot is going to depend on how much this god costs to cast. If it is four, then the Ghost Council is going to blow up. There’s already a combo with the Council and the Whip, and it seems like Athreos will fit right in.

My prediction on this god’s ability is that it is a reprint of Sanguine Bond, only better in multiplayer. I think it will cost five though, and that will make it slightly more awkward to cast on a curve. An ability of “Whenever you gain life, each opponent loses that much life” would be very strong in casual and constructed alike. Another strong contender for Athreos’ ability would be Syphon Soul on upkeep, very straightforward and again, scaling well in casual play.

I do not think that Blood Baron will go up significantly, regardless of Athreos’ ability or cost. It’s already fairly high-priced, mainly because of the set is in.

There you have it, a set of three-month targets. I’m looking forward to seeing what these Gods do, and seeing how close I was to the finished product.

Happy Trading!

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Modern Staples

By: Cliff Daigle

Brace yourselves, I’m about to express a contrary opinion.

I don’t think shocklands, Thoughtseizes, Abrupt Decays, or Scavenging Oozes are going to see massive spikes in value when the Modern PTQ season hits. I also don’t think these will get affected by rotating out of standard.

Travis made a good point a while ago about how rotation out of Standard is no longer a sudden event causing prices to drop. It’s a far more gradual process now, with people getting value from their cards well before rotation. In the past, the PTQs in summer were all Standard, which kept some demand in place for those cards. Now? Who the heck knows.

Today, though, I want to share with you some ideas about why certain staples are going to stay financially stable at rotation.

#1: Modern is year-round, even if the PTQs rotate.

Wizards has gotten everything it wanted and more with the introduction of Modern as a format. It’s non-rotating, so there isn’t any turnover, aside from bannings. Interestingly, this means decks don’t get worse – the card pool improves but individual matchups can worsen.
Modern is not yet at the level of Standard when it comes to being played often at FNM, but all it takes is once a month to start getting a player base interested. Once that happens, people can tune their decks for a long time and gain enormous insight and experience with those cards.

#2: We have pet decks.

In Legacy or Vintage, you chose a deck and built up to it. The price was high but the cards were good forever. Modern has a lower cost to enter (not by much!) but a lot of players simply bring a deck they know from Standard. The unbanning of Bitterblossom might well signal the return if the Faeries scourge, a deck that was deemed too good at the beginning of Modern.

I don’t play a lot of constructed tournaments, but there was a 5-color cascade deck in Modern that was a blast for me. The cascades all ended in Supreme Verdict, Blightning, or Esper Charm. Awful mana base, slow as heck and often dead to Kiki/Twin, but nonetheless a good time for me.

Our pet decks often just get better in Modern. If you liked playing UW Delver of Secrets in Standard, wait till you add red for Lightning Bolt/Lightning Helix. Snapcaster never had it so good!

#3: Anticipation removes the rollercoaster.

One of the problems with sets being Standard-legal for two years (one for Core sets) is that there is time to add cards to Modern. We will know within a year if a card is good enough, and plan accordingly. There are exceptions, but as the years pass, the metagame and the pros figure out most of the interactions.

So what does this mean for you, the casual Magic finance here?

There are two main takeaways here:

First, If a card sees Modern play before it rotates out of Standard, don’t expect the price to fall at all. Our case in point would be Snapcaster Mage. He sees a lot of eternal play, and so his exit from standard saw barely a blip. 

Deathrite Shaman is going to be an interesting case. It’s too good for Modern but sees little Standard play. The price will be dependent on casual and Legacy play when it rotates this coming fall. I really don’t know what will happen to the price of regular Deathrites, but foils should stay consistent–people love to spend money in Legacy!

Second, when a card spikes in Modern, do not expect the price to fall back down slowly, even if it sees no play. I still can’t believe what Genesis wave got up to, and I have even more trouble believing that it has not yet come back down.

On a related note, the growth of modern has seen its staples continually increase in price. (Liliana of the Veil at $80?) Wizards is going to monitor the price of entry into Modern, and will use the tools at its disposal to help maintain card availability. I don’t know when it will happen, but we will see all of the fetch lands get reprinted at some point. Event decks, special issues, there’s lots of ways that cards can get printed again and those will be used.

Modern Masters was quite a success, on a ‘fun to draft’ scale as well as the ‘carefully reprinting cards’ basis. I would expect another round of that eventually, and probably with a larger print run.

I hope your PT speculations pan out! My prediction is that some weird and niche deck will light the world on fire. Something weird, like the Miracles deck or Eggs. Past in Flames/Young Pyromancer/Burn at the Stake combo? Who knows.

Have fun!

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