All posts by David Sharman

The Watchtower 09/28/20 – Back At It Again With The Competitive Formats

Following straight on from last week’s article, I’m back this week talking about more competitive Magic cards. Zendikar Rising has continued to make waves in Modern and Pioneer (as well as completely annihilating the Standard metagame, oops?), and if I’m honest there’s some pretty exciting stuff going on in those formats at the moment. Modern and Pioneer, that is, not Standard…

As well as a couple of new decks being formed, we’ve also seen a surprising number of cards from Zendikar Rising being adopted into current top tier decks, with impressive results for the first week or so of brewing. Last night’s Manatraders Modern tournament saw the ‘landless’ Undercity Informer combo deck make top 8 featuring a full suite of the new MDFC bolt lands, as well as Death’s Shadow making good use of the new Scourge of the Skyclaves and Agadeem’s Awakening.

Skyclave Apparition (EA Foil)

Price today: $10
Possible price: $25

As a Spirits player in both Modern and Pioneer, I was pretty excited when Skyclave Apparition first got previewed. A 2/2 flying Spirit for 3 mana that is really a better Oblivion Ring on a stick was definitely something to get hyped abo- hang on what? It doesn’t have flying?? But it’s a Spirit! And look at the art, it’s blatantly floating!

I, like many others, was caught out at first by this one, and a lot of people dismissed it as a roleplayer due to the lack of evasion. But if we dig a bit deeper into the card, I think it’s secretly really good. First off, we can exile any non-land, non-token permanent CMC 4 or less with it. Other than a couple of problematic things like Primeval Titan, that hits pretty much every relevant permanent in Modern and Pioneer, which is a great start. But the best bit is that your opponent never gets their thing back if Skyclave Apparition leaves play; they only get an Illusion token for their troubles. Imagine being able to exile a Tef3ri or Uro with this, and they’ll only be left with a textless 3/3 if they deal with your Spirit.

Outside of an actual Spirits deck, Skyclave Apparition has already popped up in multiple 5-0 Modern Death & Taxes lists, as well as featuring heavily in the sideboard of Humans decks. It’s a good replacement for Deputy of Detention, which although can sometimes get extra value by removing more than one permanent, is quite susceptible to removal (especially with all the Lightning Bolts flying around in Modern at the moment). Skyclave ensures they won’t get their Seasoned Pyromancer or Liliana back, which means you can generally run it out without much fear – and if you are playing it in a Spirits shell then you have things like Rattlechains and Drogskol Captain to protect it.

Enough of my fawning over the card though, let’s have a look at some real data. If we take a look at some EA foil rares with similar play patterns from older sets, we can easily see that $10 is just too cheap for this card. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell EA foils are over $25 with a sharp ramp towards $40. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and Thassa’s Oracle, although having slightly larger play patterns than I expect to see from Skyclave, are $60 and $40 cards respectively. I think my point is evident; this is a great card in multiple formats and $10 is definitely too cheap for the EA foils. I’ve already ordered my personal copies up to play with, and will probably be picking some extras up soon as well.

MDFC Bolt Lands

Price today: $10
Possible price: $20

As I mentioned in my intro, the new MDFC bolt lands have spawned some new decks in Modern. You can now play a ‘landless’ Goblin Charbelcher deck with 20 or so MDFCs to function as your mana sources, including 4 each of Turntimber Symbiosis and Shatterskull Smashing. As well as this, there’s the Undercity Informer combo deck which mills itself out and puts a bunch of Vengevines and Narcomoebas into play to attack for lethal.

Aside from the combo potential of these lands (which is definitely nothing to be sniffed at), what they really offer is our favourite thing in MTG Finance: open-ended synergy. A lot of decks in almost every format are now able to play some of these almost for free, replacing a basic land here or there to offer a slightly more painful manabase, but giving access to some powerful late-game spells as well. How many times have you drawn a land late in the game that you wish were a spell? Well now it can be both.

I think that the main targets here are Agadeem’s Awakening and Turntimber Symbiosis. Agadeem’s Awakening is already being played in Death’s Shadow lists and other Lurrus builds in both Modern and Pioneer, and Turntimber Symbiosis is slotting into Primeval Titan and Devoted Druid decks. On top of this, I think that they go right into a lot of EDH decks to replace a basic land or similar. I think that Emeria’s Call and Sea Gate Restoration will mostly be reserved for the combo decks (but also see some EDH play), with Shatterskull Smashing landing somewhere in the middle of the five.

The fact that these are mythics means that their price isn’t going to dip as easily as a rare might as we head into peak supply. I like picking up Agadeem’s Awakening and Turntimber Symbiosis at $10 or lower, and if they trend down then pick more up as cheap as you can find them. The applications for these lands are only going to increase moving forwards, so keep an eye out for any new tech utilising them.

Seasoned Pyromancer

Price today: $28
Possible price: $60

Rounding things off today with a more familiar card, Seasoned Pyromancer was one of the cards from Modern Horizons that I think Wizards absolutely nailed in terms of power level, and that’s backed up by the amount of play it’s seen without being dominating. It’s a superb value engine and has found homes in the RG and Jund midrange decks in Modern, as well as being a great later-game play for Burn and Prowess decks to filter through cards.

Seasoned Pyromancer has already made people a decent amount of money since it was printed last year (although it feels like it was longer ago than that), but I think it’s still got room to grow. If we compare it to another mythic from Modern Horizons, Wrenn and Six is still a $50 card despite having arguably narrower applications in Modern and being banned in Legacy.

There’s a steep ramp formed from $28 on TCGPlayer, with just 20 vendors before it hits $50. It’s already more expensive than that in Europe, with the cheapest copies over $35, and although supply is deeper, this is indicative of more competitive play starting up again outside the US. Once paper play picks back up in the States, it won’t be long before the cheaper copies drain out and push this card over $50. It’s an open-ended value engine that probably doesn’t have a reprint due for at least another year, by which time you can be in and out on this with a healthy profit.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

The Watchtower 09/21/20 – Pushing Paper

A tier 1 ramp deck? In MY Standard format? It’s more likely than you think. Turns out Lotus Cobra and Omnath are busted in Standard and there will never be a good aggro deck again – who could’ve predicted it? Zendikar Rising has already shaken up not just Standard, but older formats as well. So far we’ve seen a landless Belcher deck storm the MTGO Modern leagues with a tonne of the new MDFCs, as well as UB 8-Crab Mill taking first place in the Modern challenge – and we haven’t even hit actual release day yet.

Outside of the US at least, paper tournaments and LGS play have started picking up again, which means that cardboard for more competitive formats is starting to move again – so let’s take a look at where we stand.

Eladamri’s Call (Foil)

Price today: $10
Possible price: $25

Eladamri’s Call has long been a staple in Devoted Druid decks, to fish out whichever combo piece you need at the time. It’s also in 21k EDH decks registered on EDHREC, popular with both the competitive and more casual commanders…but we know all this. So why am I talking about it now?

Well, it’s started showing up in a lot more Modern decks over the past couple of weeks. There’s a new Titan variant on the block, with no Amulets but 32 lands and a bunch of creatures that help ramp out an early Titan. Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, Elvish Reclaimer and Eladamri’s Call are all 4-ofs in the deck, with extra 1-of utility creatures for Eladamri’s Call to find when needed. There’s also a Valakut package along with 4 Flagstones of Trokair; this deck really has a lot going on.

We’re also seeing new Devoted Devastation builds featuring Lurrus as a Companion, which honestly really doesn’t require much sacrifice from the deck at all to play. The decks are a streamlined combo, with 4 Eladamri’s Call and 4 Finale of Devastation to help find your pieces. Finally, the Soulherder deck has also been putting up some decent results here and there, also playing 4 Eladamri’s Call and a popular tier 2 choice.

Original Planeshift NM foils of this card barely exist, and A25 and MH1 copies are drying up too. Starting at around $10 on TCGPlayer, there are only 12 sellers with NM A25s and 13 with MH1s. They’re the same art and border, so relatively interchangeable here, but both are headed over $20 in fairly short order. The refreshed Modern demand backed by EDH play means that without a reprint in the next few months (which seems doubtful), the cheaper copies of this will be snapped up and it’ll be $25 before long.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den (EA Foil)

Price today: $30
Possible price: $50

Speaking of Lurrus, despite the change to the Companion rule after Ikoria’s release, Lurrus has remained the most popular of the Companions, both as a Companion and as a maindeck card. Incredibly, it’s actually sitting as the third most popular creature being played in Modern right now (the top two spots being taken by Uro and Monastery Swiftspear), and takes seventh place in the Pioneer ranking too.

In decks like Devoted Devastation it can just be a fairly free inclusion in the Companion spot, and decks like Bogles and the BR Prowess deck have been playing it for a while now. In Pioneer the WB Auras deck is still playing Lurrus and putting up results here and there, as well as the Young Pyromancer / Dreadhorde Arcanist builds utilising the card to good effect. Overall, it looks like Lurrus is here to stay, with it and Yorion really being the only two companions to survive the nerfing.

I didn’t want to pick regular copies here, mostly because more often than not players are only going to need one copy of this card to play as their Companion, which doesn’t move the needle nearly as much as if people need playsets. Extended Art foils, however, are in much lower supply, with only 16 listings on TCGPlayer. There are only a couple of copies under $30, and this is one less common instance where they’re actually more expensive in Europe. This could be indicative of lower Collector Booster supply in Europe, but also that players are picking them up for tournament/LGS play now that COVID restrictions are being relaxed in Europe. Either way, I think that getting these at $30 in the US is a sure thing to hit $50 within 6-12 months.

Thoughtseize (Borderless Foil)

Price today: $33
Possible price: $55

Moving onto an even more popular card, Thoughtseize is currently the second most played card in Pioneer and fifth most played card in Modern. That’s card, not just spell, by the way. It’s long been a Modern staple and has been at the forefront of Pioneer since the format’s inception, played in almost every deck that can cast it in both formats.

Borderless box topper foils from Double Masters featured a stunning new art for the card, and so besides original Lorwyn foils (which are obviously the best correct choice), these are probably the ‘most pimp’ copy for players looking to upgrade their decks – and they can do so at not such an unreasonable cost.

The foils are still running pretty close in price to the non-foils, and besides any curling worries (which I haven’t seen much of from 2XM box toppers), the foils are going to be the obvious choice for a lot of players. That’s going to push foil prices up above non-foils, and slowly but surely inventory is going to drain out. We may well see more future printings of Thoughtseize, but it went almost three years between the IMA and 2XM prints, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least another two years go by before it’s printed again. And even when it is reprinted, I doubt we’ll see it with the box topper treatment again, so these borderless beauties will probably be safe. It might be a longer road on this one (think 12-24months rather than 6-12), but I have no doubt that these will get there.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

The Watchtower 09/14/20 – Looking For Lows

Zendikar Rising release is just around the corner, and now that we’ve had the full set spoiled – sorry, previewed – I want to take a look at some of the best cards from the set that I want to be finding low points to buy in at. Because of the fact that we have non-foil Expeditions as box toppers in every box, that’s going to suck up a decent amount of EV and push regular card prices down, and as with Battle for Zendikar I expect that this is going to be a highly opened set, crushing prices even further – but that just means better opportunities to buy cards.

I think there are going to be a load of good targets here and I’m itching to spend money on this set, but need to be patient for the most part and wait for peak supply on the big hits. I’m going to focus on just a few of (what I think are) the best ones here and set my entry targets, but will be keeping a close eye on prices so that I can start buying when things bottom out.

I’m not going to waste your time here talking about the super-obvious targets from Zendikar Rising like the Pathway duals and Lithoform Engine, but instead I’ll go the next level down and talk about some of the best cards you might have missed. There are plenty more that I don’t have the space to write about here, but I’m sure I’ll hit on a few in the future. Oh, and for context, I’m talking about all these cards from an EDH standpoint.

Thieving Skydiver

Target buy price: $1
Possible future price: $4

This isn’t one of the big splashy mythics, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m quite excited about this card. There are very few blue EDH decks that I can’t see this having a place in, because low cost mana rocks are perhaps the cornerstone that most EDH decks are built on. Being able to steal a Sol Ring, Mana Crypt or Mana Vault for only three mana and getting a semi-relevant body alongside that is just so much value – and the best part? You don’t even lose the artifact when Skydiver dies. You just get to keep it. You could even steal a Skullclamp and kill your Skydiver straight away just to make a point. It’s the perfect way to punish that player that seems to always have the turn one Sol Ring and turn that to your advantage, whilst hopefully not painting too big a target on your own head.

Currently preordering for around $3 on TCG and €2 on MKM, I think that this has the chance to get down close to $1. I doubt that many people are going to be picking this up for competitive play, and at a rare I don’t think it’ll quite hit bulk status but it should get lower than its current price at peak supply. I’m looking to pick a stack of these up and find a buylist exit in 12-24 months, and will probably grab some of the EA foils when they bottom out too (hoping for around $10 or lower on those but really can’t say for sure right now).

Ashaya, Soul of the Wild

Target buy price: $5
Possible future price: $10

Now this one is much closer to a big splashy mythic than Skydiver, and has an interesting new effect on it. We’ve had plenty of cards in the past that turn Forests (or other lands) into creatures, but the closest we’ve got to turning your creatures into lands before now was Life and Limb, which only worked for Saprolings (and turned your lands into creatures too which is always a very dangerous thing to do in EDH). Effectively tacking a Llanowar Elves onto all your non-token creatures makes for a serious amount of ramp, and as well as that Ashaya is probably going to be a 6/6 or bigger most of the time. I think that this is a powerful card that’s going to slot into a lot of green decks, and EDHREC is already backing that up, showing it as 2nd most popular card from the set so far.

TCG preorders for Ashaya are silly high and spread thin right now, but over in Europe these are going for €4 already. I don’t know if it gets lower than that really, especially in the US where EDH demand is much higher than in Europe, so I’m quite happy to pick these up around that mark and just buy more if they go any lower. I’d be a little less excited about this if it were a rare, but at mythic I feel like demand is going to be strong enough to push this card up towards $10 in around 12 months, maybe less.

Moraug, Fury of Akoum (Showcase Foil)

Target buy price: $15
Possible future price: $30

We’re definitely into splashy mythic territory now, and WOW is this card good. Reasonable stats as a 6 mana 6/6, but the Landfall ability on Moraug is pretty wild. Whenever you trigger Landfall you get an extra combat step, and your creatures all untap and get buffed for each extra one. So play a fetchland, and you get 3 total combat steps. Got something that lets you play extra lands? There’s a good chance that everyone else at the table is going to be dead by the end of your turn.

I don’t think that this is going to be hugely built as a commander because all the extra land effects you really want to be playing are in green, but I do think that this is going to end up in a lot of RG+ decks as a really strong finisher. Imagine dropping this with an extra land or two the turn after you play an Avenger of Zendikar!

I’m specifically calling out the showcase foils here because the showcase art is honestly stunning, and so I think a lot of players will be drawn to it over the normal version, but I like picking regular copies up if they fall to around $5 as well. As with all my picks today, these are already available way cheaper in Europe if you have access to that market – and if you don’t, then watch out for one of the group buys coming soon in the MTGPrice Protrader Discord…

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.

The Watchtower 09/07/20 – The List That Must Not Be Named

Over the past couple of months we’ve been seeing another wave of Reserved List spikes, and although some of them make sense due to demand, mostly from EDH, (Mox Diamond, Gaea’s Cradle etc.), a lot more have just been pure speculation and targeting (Radiant, Archangel, Singing Tree etc.). I’m not here to advocate Reserved List buyouts, and I’m definitely not here to talk about whether or not the Reserved List should exist. What I am here to do is talk about which cards on the List are mostly likely to spike next due to EDH demand coupled with the ongoing Reserved List targeting, so that you can pick up anything you might want to play with before it gets really expensive, and make some money on the way up.

CE and IE Dual Lands

Prices today: $130-360
Possible price: $200-500

Collectors’ Edition and International Edition cards are a bit of an odd one. For those that don’t know, they are square-bordered cards with gold borders on the back (this is different to the gold-bordered World Championship Deck cards), printed as a Collectors’ Edition Set and not intended for tournament play. Around 10,000 Collectors’ Editions were distributed in the US and Canada, and around 5000 International Editions were distributed in Europe. They’re technically not legal anywhere, so why are CE Underground Seas $360?

There are two main factors here: these are cards for collectors; and a lot of people don’t mind you playing them in EDH and casual formats. I’ve played with an IE Scrubland in an EDH deck for a couple of years now, and nobody in any of the playgroups I’ve played with has minded me using it – anecdotal evidence, I know, but I’ve heard similar things from a lot of EDH players. They’re still official Magic cards, and so people tend to take quite a different view of them than they do with proxies. It’s also worth pointing out that in black sleeves, they’re very comparable to Beta cards because you can’t really see the square borders, and other than that they look the same, giving the Beta look whilst costing less than Revised.

As ABUR duals push upwards, these CE and IE duals remain a more affordable option for those looking to upgrade their EDH manabases, and are going to be dragged up the curve alongside their round-cornered counterparts. This is potentially an interesting arbitrage opportunity, as IE supply is very scarce in the US due to the cards never being distributed there, whereas IE and CE cards have relatively similar amounts of supply to each other in Europe. I doubt that many players in the US will pay the premium for IE over CE, but collectors looking to complete sets might.

Volrath’s Stronghold

Price today: $80
Possible price: $150

I was actually a little surprised when I checked the EDHREC numbers for Volrath’s Stronghold, and found that this was only in 8000 decks, because the power level of the card is definitely way above that. Being able to recur multiple threats from your graveyard, controlling your draw step and maybe pairing it with something like Shriekmaw makes for some real shenanigans, and definitely paints a target on you in a game of EDH.

Stronghold was a $40-50 card until this summer, and looking at a card that’s recently gone from $40 to $80 can definitely make you not want to buy it. But realistically, along with most cards like this, Volrath’s Stronghold is far from being done. There are only 13 NM listings on TCGPlayer for the card, and NM copies of the older cards are becoming more and more scarce as they’re absorbed by players, collectors and speculators alike. LP copies aren’t actually a lot cheaper at $70, so I’d definitely be buying the NM ones here.

MKM has NM copies from €55, but supply isn’t particularly deep there either. I don’t think it’ll be very long at all before we see this card over $100, and given it 6-12 months I think we’ll see $150+. After that, who knows?

Yavimaya Hollow

Price today: $80
Possible price: $150

I’m sure that Yavimaya Hollow has been talked about on the podcast and/or in articles multiple times before now, but even at $80 it’s still got room to grow. A lot of my discussion here would be similar to what I’ve just said about Volrath’s Stronghold, so I won’t spend too long on it. It’s a great utility land that should probably be in all mono-green EDH decks, and quite a lot more beyond that. Providing protection for any of your creatures from a good chunk of the removal going around in EDH is strong, and having that attached to a land and cost only 2 mana is even better.

NM copies start at $80, with LP going from $65 – looking quite similar to Volrath’s Stronghold again. MKM is actually more expensive for this one, starting at €80 for NM, but has a lot of cheaper EX copies (LP in US = EX in EU). Notably, Yavimaya Hollow does also have foil versions, being from Urza’s Destiny – the second Magic set to contain foils. Foils are super scarce, especially in decent condition, but if you can get any LP or better around $350 then I think you’re looking pretty good to ride that to $500+.

David Sharman (@accidentprune on Twitter) has been playing Magic since 2013, dabbling in almost all formats but with a main focus on Modern, EDH and Pioneer. Based in the UK and a new writer for MTGPrice in 2020, he’s an active MTG finance speculator specialising in cross-border arbitrage.