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

Hitting the Floor

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By: Cliff Daigle

Magic has hit the sweet spot in terms of how often its flagship, expert-level, story-filled expansions come out. We get three sets a year of varying size and draft format.

We know that the rotation out of Standard in September will offer us some tempting targets in trade, but here at the end of June, we face a different schedule: the end of a block being opened in Sealed and Draft. Theros block is pretty much gone, with Magic 2015 a month away and Conspiracy being an absolute blast to draft. 

I refer you to the 6:2:1 model I posted about a few weeks ago. Even that small amount is about to be done, and that means supply is at its highest. Granted, there will be some players who crack boxes looking for singles, or retail stores that do the same, and there’s still redemptions online (until MTGO shuts down, I suppose) so the supply may creep upward a little, but not significantly.

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The more money cards there are in a set, the more likely it is to be opened for the value of the singles, though this late in a set’s life, that’s a terrible and unprofitable plan under almost any circumstance. Better to spend a known amount of money and get exactly what you want, rather than open 36 packs and not even get a set of a certain uncommon.

So with this knowledge in mind, let’s look at what we should be trading for over the next few weeks. Theros block cards that have nowhere to go but up.

The Temples – Any temple under $5 is worth trading for. I will not be surprised if the UW Temple ends up in some Modern control lists, because free card selection is that good. Whatever the next block brings, there will be multicolor decks and the free scry has been shown to be worth it in Standard. I have trouble thinking that any temple will be under $10 around thanksgiving. Maybe the least popular of them all? Five dollars in trade right now will even be worth it in a year, because these are very good in the casual format of your choice

Thassa, God of the Sea – All of the Gods have reached a floor as the supply gets to its greatest point. Now, as cards are put into casual decks (and not traded away) that supply will get small and the price will start to go up. Thassa is the most likely to hit, because it’s the easiest to cast, has a free effect that’s very useful, and has already seen Standard and Modern play. I really like picking up any of the multicolor Gods that are under $5, as small set mythics they are going to go up in a spike or in gradual terms.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver – If Jace, Architect of Thought taught us anything, it is to pick up planeswalkers when they are cheap. Ashiok gives an inevitable way to end a game in any format, and remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Nephalia Drownyard was used as a finisher for control decks. I like picking this up around $8.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion – If you even think you might be playing with her in the next year, pick these up now. At $20-$25 there is no lower price for her. She’s just too good, offering protection from creatures big and small. It’s not hard to imagine her hitting $30 or more in nine months, like Domri Rade did.

Xenagos, the Reveler – Notice a trend here? This is a card I’d trade for based on the casual appeal too, because that +1 ability is a multicolor Gaea’s Cradle. A free stream of hasty attackers is usually a good thing, and it won’t take much to make it break $15 before too long.

Anger of the Gods – $2 for a cheap and thoroughly effective sweeper? Yes please. I will not be surprised if this starts seeing more Modern play, due to the need to exile things like Kitchen Finks.

Hero’s Downfall – $7 for what is basically Murder, with some added and very useful flexibility. It seems high, I know, but unless they print this effect even cheaper, this is as good as it gets. Dreadbore doesn’t see as much play, and I expect Downfall to break $10 during Tarkir block.

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Mistcutter Hydra – Regular or foil!! Doesn’t matter at all. This is the sideboard tech of choice in many Standard and Legacy lists. Can’t be countered, hasty, protection from blue. Checks every box for being a control player’s nightmare, as they always have to have a plan in place if/when this gets played. I would trade for these now, and trade away the nonfoils in a year, and keep the foils for longer. Nowhere to go but up!

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx – I’ve preached this before and now this is at $5. It’s a shame that I don’t like to buy cards, because this is a steal now. Pick up as many of these as you can and just be patient. Even if they don’t go up during Tarkir block, the casual power of this card                                                              will allow it to increase over time.

Thoughtseize – Best disruption spell ever, now at its lowest price. If you can find them for trade, snap them up. Rarity is irrelevant here, we’ve seen how big the Modern demand is and this card was the most-needed reprint. Remember, it was $80 for a moment before being spoiled.

Courser of Kruphix – Yes, it’s $15 now for a rare. It has a backbreaking effect against aggressive or midrange or control decks. It gives card advantage, lifegain, and a cheap-yet-hard-to-kill body. This is going to be a big deal for the remainder of its life in Standard. $20 or $25 is not out of the question.

Mana Confluence – It’s down to nearly $10 and that is too low. The supply is too low, just for the casual demand. I would pick up as many of these as I could, $15-$20 sounds right to me, though that could go higher if the Modern combo decks start using this.

Master of the Feast – Three extra draws to get the right spell. They are dead otherwise, and this is a low-risk pickup right now. I wouldn’t mind having a couple of extra playsets, in case something combos well with it in Tarkir.

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Targets of a Conspiracy

By: Cliff Daigle

We have the full spoiler, and it’s a doozy!

Sure, there are some splashy mythics and some high-dollar cards, as well as reports that Conspiracy will be a more limited set than we believe. Wizards is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to numbers, but it seems likely that we’ll get a big burst at first, followed by a second wave not long after. They know Conspiracy is competing with Journey into Nyx, I don’t believe they want it competing with Magic 2015 in mid-July.

Conspiracy appears to be a small event, this might well be the trial balloon. Is there a market for a product like this? It might be the closest Wizards gets to an official paper Cube product. Just like with Modern Masters, there’s value when things are unique. If you can get a box anywhere near MSRP, grab it and put it away. We’ve seen what sealed product can do over time and while it takes time to appreciate, it’s a very safe investment.

This weekend, there are release events for the set, often as draft-till-you-drop-or-we-run-out sort of things. I always love serial drafting, and in a set that’s designed to tweak the draft experience, this is going to be a lot of fun. And afterwards, the second level of fun with the leftover cards: trading.

So what should you be trading for at events this weekend?

Conspiracy-Watermarked Foils

This covers everything from the Cogwork Spy to the Deal Broker, as well as the Conspiracies themselves. Any of these cards I’m going to be chasing HARD in foil. I strongly believe this is a long-term growth set of cards, because the effect is so unique and it’s going to be quite a while before they get printed again, especially in foil.

Marchesa, the Black Rose deserves special mention here. Multiplayer games are won by those whose resources are resilient, and Marchesa gives a very strong layer of resistance to mass removal. I think she’s going to see a lot of EDH and casual multiplayer play, and I would go after foils of her.

I think that there is a lot of growth potential in the rare Conspiracies, too. Worldknit says “Draft me, and then take the best card in each pack, regardless of color!” Getting a second opening hand with Backup Plan is truly amazing. Many Cubers are going to want most, if not all, of the Conspiracies. Some of the hidden agenda cards are going to be less sought-after, but Cubers are often completionists. Go ahead and have a full set ready for them to get from you.

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Also for Cubers are the cards like Cogwork Librarian that alter how drafts proceed. I will be picking these up in foil and non-foil, the regular version will not be going for much right now but there is nowhere to go but up. My example is Shadowborn Apostle. Sure, it’s a common, but when a large supply is needed from a short-run set, dollar commons are not unheard of. I’ll be chasing just about all of these types of cards in either version, from the commons to the rares. I dearly love Deal Broker, and I wish I could play seventeen of them.

First- or Second-Run Foils

 

Exploration and Wood Sage get their first foil treatments, and Exploration especially as part of a Legacy deck will be a sought-after foil. I wouldn’t go too crazy, but keep in mind that Conspiracy is not going to be opened very often, so the supply of foil rares is going to be low. Those who have high-end Legacy decks will be unfazed, so I’d max out around $60-$80 in value.

This set offers the sweet Terese Nielsen art of Swords to Plowshares in foil, and this is a card I’d love to have in a shiny form. You’re allowed to ask for at least $60 in trade and offer even more. The new art on Rout is notable, but I wouldn’t expect many people to upgrade an already-foil to this version. Don’t overdo it. Stifle is a card that needed a reprint for Legacy and here it is, in foil or non. It’s a good pickup as the price falls, and then will regain value in the coming months.

Foil Hydra Omnivore is going to be an interesting price to follow. There will be a small supply of this in foil, and it’s currently a $5-$10 card because we love our multi-headed beasties. I’d trade for the new ones at $5 as a long term prospect. Altar of Dementia is not going to keep its price, but the foil will be something else. It’s never been foil before and it’s a great finisher in token decks. Trade for all the Reflecting Pool you can, in foil or not. It’s just too good.

Happy Drafting!

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The Foil Gap

By: Cliff Daigle

For many people, there’s no point or value in dealing with foils. They are just shiny versions of a card that is needed for a deck. If you don’t care, though, you’re missing out on a financial opportunity, especially for the casual markets.

Interestingly, foils were introduced before Cubing was invented, and before EDH was formalized…and those formats have really driven foil prices up.

Because two of the major casual formats require only one of a given card, the thinking is that you might as well make it foil. Foiling out a deck or a Cube is an undertaking, a project that people feel passionate about. Combine those factors, add a touch of collector fever, and you get casual cards that are FAR more valuable in foil than regular.

There is another factor at play when it comes to acquiring foils as long-term investments: reprints. The only time that foils were done in large amounts was the Premium Deck Series, and the all-foil Alara packs, ideas that won’t be used again. This means that reprints will either be nonfoil, judge foils, or in new art when they are put into boosters again.

Your investment in foils will be rather safe…and might go up a lot!

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The Fountain was ticking upwards despite being in Return to Ravnica, because the original set foil was that much rarer.

Even Modern Masters hasn’t made a dent in most foils.

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This is notable because the original set foil has the same art and the same wording…but costs twice as much just for a different set symbol! That’s the power of being a collector.

Generally, the foil to non-foil multiplier is two to three times the price. If a card is $1, the foil should be around $2-$3. Mythics may or may not have a bigger gap. The more formats a card is played in, especially Eternal ones like Legacy, Vintage, or Modern, the more the gap will be due to players wanting to pimp out their decks.

Let’s take a look at one of the biggest gaps in recent years: Abrupt Decay.

The regular one is about $13 right now, while the foil has a value of $90. Ninety dollars. You could have bought this for $30 for more than a year after its debut. I know for a fact that multiple people were trumpeting Decay as a foil spec and now the ship has sailed. This high gap is because of the eternal playability of the card, because it’s nearly universal and dodges all the counterspells that are played in such formats.

Today, I want to go through some cards that have a larger or smaller gap, and explore if that is going to get better or worse over time.

Shocklands ($10-15/$30-50) – Considering that these got a little bit of a bump in nonfoil, thanks to Dragon’s Maze and some Event Decks, the price on foil shocks has not gone up significantly…yet. These are a very good candidate to start an upward trajectory. Not a huge spike, but a gradual increase as they are put into Cubes/Commander decks and kept there, lowering the supply. I’ve been trying like hell to trade for these before they go any higher.

Boros Charm ($3/$10) – The gap is normal, but the use isn’t. This sees a lot of Modern play as a two-mana, four-damage Burn spell. It’s also amazing in casual formats for saving everything of yours from sweepers. I’ve got a spare foil playset in addition to three foils in different decks, and I’m happy with this potential.

Chromatic Lantern ($4/$24) – SHHHHH! Not everyone is aware that this is such a sought-after foil. It’s only the best fixer ever, and colorless, and an accelerator. I’d be on board with picking this up now, as there’s a good chance it clears $30 before the end of summer.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($7/$41) – This little lady sees play all over the place. She’s not an EDH fixture, but there are hatebear decks all over Eternal and this is one of the best, making Brainstorm a 1U spell and adding mana to the ‘free’ cost of Force of Will. This is another that’s only going to go up, because as a small set between two large ones, there’s a rather short supply of her in foil.

Thespian’s Stage ($1.50/$14) – Look at the price difference between the foil and the regular. Nine times the price gets my attention. That’s a sign of strong casual appeal. If you only need one of a card (for an EDH deck or a Cube) then you might as well make it foil. I do not expect this to go much lower, because all of its appeal is casual. Only cards with high prices due to Standard are going to crater at rotation.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel ($.50/$4.50) – Your eyes do not play tricks; that is indeed a $4 foil common. Zombies are one of the most popular casual tribes out there, and this guy is amazing. What makes this stand out just a little more is that Zombies and black decks are very good at mass reanimation, especially in EDH. If the Merchant comes back at the same time as three or four other Zombies, the devotion will be good for seven or so. I’ve drained an EDH game for fifteen each, and it was worth being targeted for the rest of the game. The foil is $4 now, but it’ll creep up over time.

I’m going to leave you with a set of speculations that are rather safe, and have big-time potential. Foil Onslaught fetchlands. If these ever get put into Standard, that makes them Modern legal as well. The old frame will command a premium, and foils of that doubly so. I know there are judge foils out there, and those are spicy too if you don’t want to shell out $400+ for a foil Polluted Delta. The supply on these is very small, and there are already Legacy decks shelling out for these. Even if they never make it into Modern, they are going to be a safe place to stash value for a while.

Join me next week when I cover what you should be going after in Conspiracy!

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Joining the Conspiracy

By: Cliff Daigle

I know that most of you here are enthusiastic Magic players. You’re likely to do a lot of trading, buying, and selling. You attend a range of events, from FNM to PTQ, GP and other large events. Wizards knows this and does things to make Magic an awesome game for you.

They also understand that a huge part of the playerbase is not here to gain value, or to win a tournament, or even to win a game. Many players are here because this game is a social interaction interwoven with a card game, and this interaction is tremendously fun.

That’s how we get Conspiracy.

I’m here to tell you that Conspiracy is draft- and multiplayer- based, and in a way that is going to be very, very fun. You are going to see people want to draft this set on a basis that I don’t think has been matched. Modern Masters may have come close, but the value on that set made it sought after in a different way.

I’ve been lucky enough to draft almost every set of Magic. I’ve drafted Unglued and Unhinged. I’ve drafted the Ice Age block. I’ve helped build Reject Rare Cubes for drafting.

Nothing is going to come close to what Conspiracy offers. The mechanics that alter the draft, even going so far as to add a ninth booster pack to the eight that are circulating. You get to peek at another pack, or see what else has been taken.

The gameplay mechanics are fantastic too. Will of the Council allows for democracy, unless you have Brago’s Representative and then you’re a dictator. None of the choices are ever weak either. You’re going to get a great effect no matter the vote, and ‘helping’ others decide how to vote is going to be a game within the game.

Dethrone is a simple and effective tool for deciding who to attack. I’m salivating at the thought of what effect is going to give other creatures dethrone. If we’re really lucky, we will get an effect that can be passed from player to player. “At the beginning of each combat step, all creatures controlled by target player gain Dethrone” would be something amazing to put on a creature. It’s super helpful that Dethrone triggers on the attack, not on the damage.

Parley is just a great way to peek at what other players will have going on. Reveals and bonuses are a way to make the information palatable to those players because you’re usually getting much more of a bonus.

I want you to go to the release events. Just play. Play as much as you can. This is a set that will reinforce the vast array of player types that Wizards has learned to accomodate. The same company that rules the Modern banned list with an iron fist also creates a set where Deal Broker is a card.

There are going to be some unique cards available in Conspiracy, and with the presence of foils, might be incredibly pricey. Of note so far will be only the third foil printing of Brainstorm and the first non-promo foil of Swords to Plowshares. Exploration, an Urza’s Saga rare that did not get the reserved list treatment, will have its first foil. Dack Fayden in foil will also command a hefty price tag, but if you’re looking for a lower bar of entry on your speculations, I’d suggest going after foils of the cards that affect the draft, like Cogwork Librarian.

Conspiracy is going to have a big effect on Cubes this way. Some purists won’t want to touch these sorts of cards, and I suspect that more will add them with gusto. Even the foil common versions will be worth a surprising amount after we’ve moved on to Magic 2015 and the Khans block.

There’s one more thing to note about prices and Conspiracy: We’re going to have an effect on Journey into Nyx – Born of the Gods – Theros drafts. If your FNM is doing Conspiracy instead of JBT, that’s going to keep Theros block cards a little more scarce. Modern Masters interfered with M14 this way and led to a dearth of Mutavault. It’s possible that Conspiracy makes Journey into Nyx cards even rarer than my 6:2:1 article would indicate. It’s possible that if Conspiracy sells well and get reprinted, it will affect the summer sales of M15 as well.

I’m seeing preorder boxes for pretty close to MSRP. Some are even below, as if this were any old booster set. This is not the usual 36 packs, and if you get the chance to put away a box or two, it will be an easy way to grow your money over time. Booster boxes usually are, but ones that offer a unique and fun format, AND AT THE SAME TIME are stuffed full of value, should be treated with respect and purchased freely.

And if anyone asks…I didn’t tell you. Shhh!

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