All posts by David Sharman

The Watchtower 03/02/20 – Foiled Again

Yeah, it’s an over-used title and a worn-out trope, but what are you gonna do? Not read the article? Didn’t think so.

Anyway, there’s often a lot of discourse over foils in Magic, especially when it comes to competitive play. Foils can warp and thus be seen as marked cards, particularly if only certain parts of a deck are foil, and apparently this dissuades many people from foiling out decks. However, I think this complication is always made out to be more of an issue than it actually is. Countless players from all levels of competition foil out their decks without any problems, and we only really hear about the small number of cases where someone has come a cropper with bendy cardboard. Admittedly certain print runs (looking at you, FTV) are much worse than others, but for the most part there will be an alternative foil available.

I could ramble on for a while about this, but what I’m trying to say is that foils are fine, and they generally make better picks from a finance perspective, so here we go.

Spell Queller (Foil)

Price today: $25
Possible price: $40

Once a force to be reckoned with back in its Standard days (so much so that the UW flash deck it occupied had to be taken down a notch by the banning of Reflector Mage), Spell Queller has since found a home first in Modern, and now Pioneer. Spirits is a deck that has waxed and waned from the Modern scene ever since it became a ‘real deck’ when Supreme Phantom was printed in M19, and has put up some decent results over that time. Spell Queller has deservedly always been a four-of in the archetype, and now that Spirits is doing well in Pioneer too, the deck has become very popular and lots of players need to pick up their spooks.

Spell Queller foils did see an inevitable spike after the Pioneer format was announced, but have since retraced and are in a nice spot to pick some copies up. Supply is low at just 22 vendors on TCGPlayer, with an additional nine prerelease listings. Starting at $25 there’s a nice ramp up towards $40, and with this just being a single printing foil that I don’t expect to see crop up again any time soon, the market price on these will climb pretty quickly once the cheaper singles get snapped up.

Assassin’s Trophy (Foil)

Price today: $25
Possible price: $40

I remember when Assassin’s Trophy was previewed 18 months or so ago, and oh boy do Magic players love their hyperbole. It was to finally be the end of Tron; Jund would be the best deck in Modern by a mile and it was just such a powerful card! Of course, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, Assassin’s Trophy was adopted in reasonable numbers into GB decks in Modern, has seen decent play in Standard and is a useful card in Pioneer.

Although it’ll be rotating out of Standard relatively soon, the Modern and Pioneer play coupled with a significant amount of EDH adoption (almost 13k decks, 18% of all possible decks) makes Assassin’s Trophy a cross-format all-star. Well, maybe I’m being a tad hyperbolic there, but the card’s definitely popular. You’ll find it in basically any deck that can cast it in Modern (albeit sometimes just relegated to the sideboard), and Sultai Delirium and Golgari Stompy are taking advantage of it in Pioneer.

Trophy actually follows a very similar price and stock level to that of the aforementioned Spell Queller, with 33 listings starting at $25 and ramping up nicely. This one does have the additional promo pack foil version to compete with, but I think all copies are heading upwards and should land around $40 in 6-9 months.

Ugin, the Ineffable (JPN Alt Art Foil)

Price today: $55
Possible price: $80

I’m rounding off today’s picks with a more pricey card than normal – foil Japanese alternate art Ugin, the Ineffable. These alternate art cards have been in very low supply since War of the Spark was released, and we’re not getting any more of it.

New-gin has become one of the tools of choice for Eldrazi Tron in Modern, usually just as two to three copies but pretty much always a player in the deck. He might not be as innately powerful as Old-gin (yeah that doesn’t really work does it?), but he comes down earlier, can still blow stuff up and helps to power out the rest of your colourless spells too.

I was actually quite surprised by the level of EDH inclusion for this card – a touch under 8000 decks, which puts it well into the top ten cards from War of the Spark (and it’s definitely got some tough competition). I guess it being colourless means that players can drop it into any deck, but it is of course most popular with the colourless commanders.

With a grand total of fourteen foil copies available on TCGPlayer, I think that $55 is a lower price than it should be for this card. I doubt we’ll see another printing of these alternate art cards for a very long time, if ever, and so although this could be a longer hold (12-24 months), I’ll be damned if it doesn’t get there sooner or later. If you wanted to go for the extra extra pimp level, there are only five copies of the alt art prerelease foils on TCG, ranging from $92 to $150 – and those ones are super ultra rare.

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 02/24/20 – Don’t Forget About Modern

Modern has been taking a bit of a back seat recently, with the main spotlight having been on Pioneer for a while now. Despite this, there are still Modern tournaments going on and the format is still moving prices, if somewhat more slowly than it used to. There is also a certain amount of overlap between the formats and their archetypes, and so finding the cards that are being heavily used in both is sure to be a winning strategy.

Karn, the Great Creator

Price today: $4.50
Possible price: $10

Pretty much right from the release of War of the Spark, Karn started to do big things in Modern. He was immediately a four-of in Eldrazi Tron and has since been a consistent pillar of the deck, whilst also popping up in some other archetypes too. Since the banning of Mycosynth Lattice, the deck has dropped in power level slightly – but it’s still putting up some reasonable results and shouldn’t be dismissed by any means.

In the past couple of weeks, a new Karn deck has been emerging: Dice Factory. The deck gets its name from the sheer number of dice you need to keep track of all the charge counters you accumulate across your board, using cards like Surge Node and Coretapper to power up the likes of Astral Cornucopia. The deck can then use Paradox Engine with Mystic Forge to play most of your deck, generate a huge amount of mana and fetch a Walking Ballista from the sideboard to ping your opponent to death.

Karn has also now started to show up in Pioneer lists too, like this one from Twitch streamer Aspiringspike. Having easy access key sideboard cards like Damping Sphere, Pithing Needle and Tormod’s Crypt can be crucial in matchups against Breach and Inverter combo, whilst also just being a fast aggressive ramp deck on top of that.

The main point I want to make here is that Karn is a very powerful Magic card that can quite easily slot into a lot of different archetypes where you might not normally expect him, and I think he has a lot of potential in multiple formats going forwards. At $4.50 I don’t think he’ll get any cheaper than this, so pick some copies up now and I think they’ll easily land upwards of $10 in 12 months, maybe sooner.

Ranger-Captain of Eos

Price today: $9.50
Possible Price: $20

When Modern Horizons was released last year, Ranger-Captain of Eos was one of the more hyped up mythics, along a similar vein to Seasoned Pyromancer. Initially, Ranger-Captain saw play in Death’s Shadow variants (being able to search up the namesake card and protect against removal etc.), as well as sometimes being adopted into Humans. However, since the inception of the Pioneer format, Modern has somewhat taken a back seat and this has had a negative effect on a lot of card values, especially those from Modern Horizons.

There is renewed hope for Ranger-Captain of Eos though! There has been a lot of debate about how good the Heliod/Walking Ballista combo is in both Modern and Pioneer, but the deck has been putting up solid results in Modern so far. Ranger-Captain can go and find Ballista whilst also protecting the combo, with some lists also playing a Viscera Seer for another avenue of infinite life.

Ranger-Captain has seen a slight uptick due to its inclusion in these decks, and I think it has further to run. The Heliod deck has proven itself to be a player in Modern, and we could see Death’s Shadow and Humans run it back with the Captain at some point. Supply on these isn’t too deep considering they’ll generally be picked up a playset at a time, and this might be a slightly longer hold depending on how many other Modern decks it can find a spot in, but on a 12-24 month horizon (hah, get it?), it’s a card that definitely shows promise.

Merchant of the Vale (Showcase)

Price today: $1
Possible price: $3

To round off today’s Modern picks, we’re taking a look at Showcase Merchant of the Vales. The Haggle side of it may only be a poor man’s Faithless Looting, but it’s one of the best options that Modern Dredge has access to at the moment, and Dredge has quietly been putting up some good results recently.

I’m slightly of the opinion that Dredge is never really going to die, short of Wizards actually just banning the mechanic itself. Time and time again they’ve taken cards away from Dredge (Grave-Troll twice, Looting, and you might count Hogaak and Bridge from Below in that list), but it just keeps bouncing back. Merchant of the Vale has replaced Faithless Looting, and lists are now all playing a couple of Ox of Agonas as well as another draw/dredge engine.

An interesting point to note about common Showcase cards from Throne of Eldraine is that they don’t show up in regular booster packs. The non-foil commons were only available from the Collector Boosters, which means that they’re a lot more scarce than they otherwise might be. Although this means that the foil multiplier is lower than normal, the non-foils are generally more attractive for tournament play, and this means that they will most likely be in much higher demand than the foils, even if the foils aren’t costing much more.

Starting at just under a dollar, I can see this as a decent buylist play a little way down the road. Pick up the copies you can find between $0.50 and $1.50, and I can see buylists hitting $3 in a year or two.

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 02/17/20 – Slowing Down

Sometimes it can seem that the world of Magic: The Gathering is running at a thousand miles an hour, and it’s felt a bit like that recently. Over the weekend we had coverage of Worlds going on, alongside a new Secret Lair drop (I’m a big fan of this one) and the release of the Standard Challenger decklists to consider – all in the space of a couple of days. Before that we had two consecutive weekends of Pioneer PTs, more Secret Lairs and Unsanctioned previews revealed (and I’m gonna be needing some of those full art basics).

In today’s article I want to take a step back and consider some cards slightly outside of the fast-moving metagames of Standard and Pioneer, looking at some longer timelines and more stable entry points – a good thing if you don’t want to be spending all your time trying to keep up with MTG finance.

Dryad of the Ilysian Grove (EA)

Price today: $12
Possible price: $20

Modern is being absolutely dominated by Amulet Titan at the moment. We haven’t had a Modern Grand Prix in a little over a month now, but if we take a look at the SCG Team Open results from the past two weekends, Amulet Titan took four of the top eight slots at Philadelphia and another three at Richmond the previous week, in addition to consistent MTGO results. Since the introduction of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove to the deck, it’s moved the archetype away from trying to set up lethal through a huge double-striking Primeval Titan and pivoted towards being a dual Amulet and Valakut build.

The Titan decks we’re seeing now are effectively a combination of the older Titan Shift decks (often winning by casting Scapeshift) and the more classic Amulet Titan versions that used Slayers’ Stronghold and Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion to kill. Dryad is playing multiple roles in the new decks, enabling extra land drops each turn as well as being a Prismatic Omen on a stick, which means that the deck doesn’t need to play any actual mountains to enable Valakut kills pretty quickly. It’s also just a 3 mana 2/4 that can block really well.

When a Modern deck is as prolific and powerful as Amulet Titan is currently, we do need to take into consideration a potential ban. If the archetype keeps putting up results like this then a ban could be on the table, but if I’m going to be honest I’m not sure what the ban would be. Wizards have shied away from banning Prime Time in the past, choosing to axe Summer Bloom instead so that the archetype isn’t completely shut down. We could see this happen again if they choose to ban something like Azusa or Valakut, most likely leaving the deck alive but just less powerful.

However, even if we see something banned from the archetype, this is a card that’s already been adopted into almost 2000 EDH decks according to EDHREC, making it the most popular card from Theros Beyond Death to make it into the 99. I imagine that it’ll be a staple of multicoloured decks ad infinitum – it fixes mana and ramps at the same time. Extended art copies of Dryad are starting at around $12 on TCG at the moment, not too far above the regular copies at $8. Even if we do see an Amulet Titan piece banned in Modern, I don’t think Dryad’s time will be done in that format, and so I can see these EA copies making it above $20 within the next 12-18 months.

Drown in the Loch (Foil)

Price today: $3
Possible price: $8

Drown in the Loch is a very flexible spell that’s currently seeing a reasonable amount of play across Pioneer and Modern, and even showing up in Legacy too. Certainly in Modern with the abundance of fetchlands, Drown is a card that’s going to be turned on a large proportion of the time, and it’s most popular in Death’s Shadow and Whirza decks. Shadow decks have, by and large, remained fairly consistent in construction for a while now, occasionally switching up some of the spells they play depending on the metagame. Whirza decks have gone through another evolution since the banning of Oko, and for the most part slimmed down to be just Dimir colours, still playing the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo but otherwise just being a solid midrange deck.

Over in Pioneer, Drown in the Loch has become a staple in Dimir Inverter. Most decks will only be playing 2-3 copies but the card is always there, and I think Inverter will stay sitting at tier one for the foreseeable future. Not that Legacy moves cards prices too much any more, but Drown is also becoming a relative staple in Grixis / four colour control decks in that format.

This isn’t a card that’s going to jump overnight, but I think if you stash a few of these foils away you’ll be pleasantly surprised 12-18 months down the line. If we take a look at Mystical Dispute, an uncommon from the same set, foils are sitting at around $7.50. It is being played more than Drown at the moment, but it shows that Drown does have the potential to get up there too.

Nyxbloom Ancient

Price today: €6 ($6.50)
Possible price: $20

This pick is a slightly different one to normal: it’s an arbitrage pick. Generally speaking, the market for EDH-focused cards in Europe lags behind the market in the States, as EDH isn’t nearly as big or widely played in the EU as it is in the US. This often creates excellent arbitrage opportunities to buy cards in Europe and sell/buylist in the States, and today I’d like to highlight a particularly good opportunity that exists at the moment.

Copies of Nyxbloom Ancient are currently available on Magic Cardmarket (effectively the European version of TCGPlayer) for €6 (around $6.50), and if we look at the lowest price on TCG, it’s almost $12. That’s a huge gap, and even if we take a look at CardKingdom buylist, that’s sat at $7 cash / $9.10 credit for your bog-standard version. This is a super powerful card that’s going to be a forever staple in green decks, so not one I’d like to miss out on.

Making moves like this does require a certain amount of setup. Cardmarket doesn’t allow shipping to the US; you need an address in Europe, so the best thing to do is to find an arbitrage partner residing in the EU that you can arrange to bounce shipping off. If you’re based in Europe (like myself), then you can ship directly to US buylists or find yourself an overseas partner to sell cards on TCGPlayer for you.

Another way to source cards from the EU (shill incoming) is to become a member of the MTGPrice Protrader service, and get yourself into the Discord server. That way you can get in on the group buys that offer EU pricing on cards from the latest sets, and take advantage of arbitrage opportunities like this.

I might write a full article on cross-border arbitrage at some point, but for now I’ll drop some of the best opportunities into my regular articles. If you’ve got any questions, hit me up in the comments, on my Twitter or in the 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 02/10/20 – Adventure Time

Another weekend, another Players Tour, and another breakout deck. Although Dimir Inverter had a big showing again similar to last weekend at Brussels and Nagoya, Lotus Breach was the talk of this tournament. Inverter took up a massive 20% of the field on day one (Bant Spirits was the second most popular choice at 13%), but the newly refined Lotus Breach deck had an incredible overall win rate of 62% and made it all the way to the finals in the hands of William Huey Jensen – albeit an unfortunate match full of mulligans.

Pioneer is STILL the new hotness in Magic, floating close to the power level of Modern but generally with more interaction and a constantly shifting metagame, making it both enjoyable and competitive. So what have I got for you today? That’s right, more Pioneer picks! So let’s go on an adventure and see what awaits us in the forests of cardboard…

Bonecrusher Giant (Showcase)

Price today: $4
Possible price: $8

Showcase versions of Bonecrusher Giant are still $4, and I honestly don’t know why. This card is a powerhouse that’s seeing a good amount of play in pretty much every format it’s legal in: it’s been a standard staple since it was printed, is a 4-of in Pioneer red decks, has slotted into red Prowess decks in Modern, and can also help take down a True-Name Nemesis in Legacy. The Showcase version at $4 is still cheaper than a regular Once Upon a Time – a card that is banned in half of the aforementioned formats – and I think this will be due to correct soon.

These Adventure cards from Throne of Eldraine have really proven to be powerful additions to multiple formats – their flexibility and power level mean that they’ve found homes in decks that were already good. Other examples are bountiful: Brazen Borrower has been doing well in Spirits decks (both in Modern and Pioneer) as well as being a Standard staple, and Murderous Rider is showing similar prevalence, not to mention Fae of Wishes (actually I will be mentioning it further down the page).

Although I’ve listed the Showcase non-foils as my pick here, I’m a big fan of picking up foils too. The foil multiplier on the Showcase versions is still lower than it should be for a card seeing eternal play and they can be had for as low as $7 at the moment, which seems far too low. Non-foils will probably be more popular however, especially for tournament play, and I think this is an easy double up within 12 months – maybe less.

Fae of Wishes (Showcase)

Price today: $1
Possible price: $3

Off on another Adventure we go, and Fae of Wishes has just had a big weekend with Lotus Breach doing very well at PT Phoenix. The deck has been through a couple of evolutions during its time in Pioneer, starting as just a Lotus Field storm combo deck before Underworld Breach had been printed. Now with the new Escape card it’s better than ever, and has been putting up great numbers to prove it.

Once (upon a time) Fae was a Standard-only card, but now it’s a consistent 4-of in arguably the most powerful deck in Pioneer, and it’s doing a lot of work for the archetype. We’re seeing sideboards of up to 12 or 13 unique cards for Fae to go and fetch, and all the usual suspects are there – wraths, removal, extraction effects – along with some extra spice like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries as alternate wincons.

You can own a Fae of Wishes for the low low price of $1, and I like picking these up in larger quantities with the look to buylist them in 6 months or so. Players will be buying them in playsets so despite the relatively deep inventory, it won’t take a huge number of people picking up the deck to get the price moving. The one caveat with Fae is that Underworld Breach does have a ban potential hanging over its head, but even if it does take a hit (which I personally don’t think is necessary), it’s already been proven that the deck can do well without Breach being a part of it.

Botanical Sanctum (Foil)

Price today: $14
Possible price: $25

Since Pioneer’s inception, the Kaladesh fastlands have been absolutely key to the manabases of any enemy-coloured decks, providing painless sources of dual mana early on in games.  Botanical Sanctum is currently the 8th most played non-basic land in the format – most popular of all the Kaladesh fastlands – and is present in many of the top decks: Lotus Breach, Bant Spirits, and Sultai Delirium. I doubt that this is going to change any time soon, and the logic here can be applied to the rest of the fastlands too in order of popularity (so next on my hit list would be Blooming Marsh).

Stock has really dried up on these with only 14 listings of NM foils on TCGPlayer, with prerelease foils in even shorter supply at only 7 listings. I don’t think there’s much of a reprint risk in the near future, and I think we’ll get reprints of the original Scars of Mirrodin fastlands before we see the Kaladesh ones again, so this seems like a pretty safe bet to clean up the last few copies and let the market do the rest.

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.