All posts by David Sharman

The Watchtower 02/03/20 – Post-PT Analysis

They say that hindsight is 2020, and in retrospect it might have been mildly foolish of me last week to promise you some non-Pioneer specs in this week’s Watchtower. Most of you are probably aware that we’re fresh off a double Pioneer PT weekend (that’s Players Tour now, not Pro Tour), with tournaments in both Brussels and Nagoya. Coming into the weekend, Inverter Combo was the hot new thing, and although it was practically a meme deck just over a week ago it turned out to be the second most played deck at Brussels, slightly behind mono-black in first. Most of the rest of the decks were what we’d expected to see from the format, with a couple of wildcards overperforming in Bant Spirits and Delirium.

In my best attempt to be true to my word last Monday, today I’ll be looking at some specs that are relevant to both Pioneer and other formats as well.

Traverse the Ulvenwald (Foil)

Price today: $11
Possible price: $20

Although showing up in relatively low numbers over the weekend, Sultai Delirium eventually took down PT Brussels in the hands of Joel Larsson, beating one of the first pioneers (yes, I know that’s not very funny) of Inverter Combo, Piotr Glogowski. Traverse the Ulvenwald was played as a consistent 3-of across all the Sultai Delirium decks, and showed up as a 4-of in the Simic Delirium decks that were present in the tournament as well. The card is a multi-use tool in the decks, both being used to fix your mana in the early game, and to fetch threats like Emrakul or Ishkanah later on when you have Delirium enabled. Usefully, it can also find Adventure cards like Murderous Rider // Swift End too, giving it even further reach.

Traverse has also long been a staple in four colour Death’s Shadow decks in Modern, filling a similar role to that in the Sultai Delirium deck, albeit more streamlined and aggressive. Being able to go and fetch a Death’s Shadow as early as turn two is some pretty powerful Magic, and although we often see a mix of four/five colour and just straight Grixis Shadow in the Modern meta, the green decks are prevalent enough that Traverse is in reasonable demand.

After the PT weekend, supply of Traverse foils is wearing thin. With only 22 listings on TCGPlayer at the time of writing, there’s a steep ramp from $11 up to $18, and I don’t think that’ll last too long. Delirium is a deck that’s almost certainly safe from and bans in Pioneer and seems pretty safe in Modern too, and having the Delirium mechanic makes it a more difficult card to reprint than it otherwise might be. Heading towards PT Phoenix in a few days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Delirium decks become more popular after the results we’ve just had.

Sram, Senior Edificer

Price today: $5
Possible price: $8

A very surprising deck to do well at PT Nagoya was Sram Auras, piloted by Ken Yukuhiro all the way to the finals where he lost out on the top spot to Kenta Harane on Bant Spirits. As far as I’m aware, this deck was an unknown quantity coming into the PT, with only two people on the deck at Nagoya and none at all at Brussels. The deck is fairly analogous to Bogles in Modern, except without the Hexproof creatures. It makes up for this by using Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Karametra’s Blessing as protection for whatever you’re throwing all your enchantments on, backed up by the powerful draw engines of Sram, Senior Edificer and Hateful Eidolon.

The fact that only two copies of this deck were registered across two PTs over the weekend, and yet a copy still made it into the finals of Nagoya, shows us that the deck definitely has some legs (and that Ken Yukuhiro is really good at Magic). This looks like a new archetype that could be a real contender going forwards in Pioneer, and I’ll be on the lookout to see if any copies show up at PT Phoenix this weekend.

Sram is also a popular card in EDH, with almost 700 copies registered as a Commander on EDHREC and in more than 5600 decks as one of the 99. Non-foils start at $5 on TCGPlayer and Card Kingdom, and foils are in very low supply now with only five listings on TCG and none on CK (although they do have some promo copies). Sram Auras is definitely a deck to keep an eye on this week, and I wouldn’t mind picking up both non-foils and foils of this card. If it doesn’t get there in Pioneer, EDH demand will keep growing for the card and push the price up longer-term.

Collected Company

Price today: $15
Possible price: $20

Another break-out deck from the PTs over the weekend was Bant Spirits. Last week we had seen the more linear UW version of the deck putting up good results, favouring a more consistent manabase and more aggressive slant to the deck, often playing a full suite of 36 creatures and 24 lands. However, although UW Spirits was a popular choice on day one of PT Brussels, it was really pushed out of the day two metagame – in fact only five of the 23 decks made it through the cut. Bant Spirits on the other hand, despite only having seven copies registered on day one, managed to put five of them through to day two. I can’t say that I know the matchups well enough to provide a good reason for why Bant was much better than UW in this metagame, but the numbers are there to prove it.

Since the inception of the format, Collected Company has been a card that people have been trying to build decks around, but up until now it hasn’t quite hit the mark. It was a very powerful card during its days in Standard and has a proven record in many Modern decks, including Elves, Druid Combo and the original version of Bant Spirits.

Now that Company decks are putting up good results at the highest level of competition, more people are going to be inclined to adopt the archetype and try different things with it. The Company version of Heliod Combo can definitely be refined, and I think Spirits will continue to perform well.

Collected Company peaked at $25 during its standard heyday, and after a spike at the announcement of the Pioneer format has since settled down to around $15. With players needing four copies at a time for their decks and only a single printing in DTK, I don’t expect it to be too much trouble for CoCo to see a $20 price tag again, with the potential for even more growth than that.

With that, I’ve learned my lesson from last week and won’t be making any promises as to the contents of my next article, especially with PT Phoenix coming up in a few days. It’ll be very interesting to see if the metagame shifts much between PT weekends, so keep an eye out for any new tech or breakout decks.

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 01/27/20 – It’s Another Pioneer Episode

I know I focused heavily on Pioneer a couple of weeks ago, but this week we’re heading into a triple Pioneer GP weekend which means there’s going to be a big spotlight on the format, and we could definitely see some more price spikes. I was planning on talking about Inverter of Truth today, an integral part of the so-called ‘Splinter Twin’ deck with Thassa’s Oracle and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, but it seems the best action on that has already gone. Never fear, I’ve got some different picks lined up for you to take a look at instead!

Stonecoil Serpent (EA Version)

Price today: $6.50
Possible price: $15

Izzet Ensoul was one of the earlier decks to do well in Pioneer – it was fast and aggressive, but also had multiple angles of attack and could close out games with Shrapnel Blast after getting a couple of hits in with an Ensouled 5/5. However, once everyone realised how broken Oko was, artifact-based decks just weren’t a viable thing to be doing in Pioneer. Walking Ballista? It’s an Elk. Darksteel Citadel? That’s an Elk too. Everything’s an Elk. Even you.

But now that he’s gone and the deer have been set free, we’re seeing Izzet Ensoul come back to the forefront of the meta. One of the most powerful and flexible cards in the deck is Stonecoil Serpent – it can be played as a 1/1 on turn one ready to grab some scissors on turn two, but is also great in the late-game when you can pump more mana into it. The best thing about Serpent is the abilities on it, and the fact that people always forget about at least one of them (the number of times I’ve seen people chump attack their fliers into it is quite something). The Trample is great for getting through damage when it’s been Ensouled, and the combination of Reach and Protection from multicoloured makes it one of the best Niv-Mizzet blockers in the format, as well as fading key removal spells like Abrupt Decay and Kolaghan’s Command.

I really like buying the non-foil Extended Art version of Stonecoil here, for three reasons:

1) There are far fewer copies around than the normal versions, and are only a few dollars more.
2) EA cards are one of the most tournament-friendly ways for players to pimp their decks out without using foils.
3) They really do look great.

The EA Stonecoils were once up at $15 due to their use in Ensoul and Hardened Scales, but have since fallen by the wayside a bit. I fully expect them to be able to reach that price point again, and if you fancy foil EAs at $22 I wouldn’t blame you – they’re in even shorter supply and also look fantastic.

Leyline of the Void

Price today: $9
Possible price: $18

Leyline of the Void has had its fair share of days in the sun, most recently during Hogaak’s reign of terror over Modern last year. Incredibly, even as mainly just a sideboard card, it was the most played card at Mythic Championship IV, showing just how powerful it can be against graveyard-heavy strategies. Dredge is still a good deck in Modern, and might be getting better with the inclusion of the new Ox of Agonas from Theros Beyond Death.

Leyline of the Void hasn’t been particularly relevant in Standard, but it’s still a powerful hoser in Modern and has started showing up relatively frequently in Pioneer too. Mono-black aggro is still one of the best decks in the meta, and Leyline is good both in and against the deck. It’s generally seen with 2-4 copies in the sideboard, for the mirror match as well as against other graveyard-based decks like Dredgeless Dredge, Breach Lotus Storm and Golgari Soulflayer.

For a card that used to be well over $50, the reprint in M20 (along with Hogaak getting banned) tanked the price quite a bit, and now they’re sitting at around $9. I think this is most likely the floor for this card, and it’s going to creep up steadily until it’s doubled before you know it. Particularly for Modern and to a lesser extent Pioneer, it’s a card that is mostly played as a 4-of, which means that supply will dry up much faster than an EDH-only card, for example. If you think you’re going to play with this card at some point in the future, pick your copies up now. If you’re not, pick some up anyway!

Paradise Druid (FNM)

Price today: $1.50
Possible price: $3

I’ll round today’s article off with a small-ball pick: Paradise Druid. Yes, it’s an uncommon, but this is a card that’s seeing quite a lot of play in multiple formats. It’s a Standard staple (although that won’t be moving the price much), but it’s also become a key card in a couple of Pioneer decks too. Niv to Light and Ascendancy Combo decks both use it in the same role as Sylvan Caryatid – a hexproof dork that makes any colour of mana. Without Birds of Paradise in the format, Druid is the next best thing after Caryatid, and having Hexproof means that it can reliably survive to produce the mana you need in these four and five-colour decks.

We’re also seeing a small amount of play from this card in a new Standard deck – a Bogles type shell with Setessan Champion. This plus inclusion in around 3000 decks on EDHREC means that a fair few players need copies of this.

As FNM promos go, this is one that a lot of players will slots into one or more of their EDH decks, or complete a set to play with in Standard or Pioneer. This means that there are lots of copies being played with and fewer copies in the hands of vendors, making for a shallower supply. If you grab some of these at $1.50 and give it 12 months, I could see buylists heading towards the $3 range for a nice double up.

That’s all from me this week, and I promise I’ll have some non-Pioneer specs for you next Monday.

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 01/20/20 – Specs Beyond Death

Theros Beyond Death is upon us, and despite the official set release not being for another four days, everyone is well underway trying out the new cards on Arena and MTGO. Now that we have sets coming out earlier on the online platforms than the paper release date, it’s more difficult for us as speculators to get in on the cards that perform well early on before they see a price spike, and that means that we need to be even more on our toes when it comes to evaluating and acquiring the new cards. With that said, I think there are a few cards from THB that are definitely worth paying close attention to.

Klothys, God of Destiny

Price today: $10
Possible price: $20

The first card I want to take a look at is Klothys, God of Destiny. At first glance she already looks pretty decent – an indestructible enchantment that can make you mana or drain your opponent each turn, and if you get up to the required seven devotion she can start throwing hands. But once you start thinking about the play patterns that this card can enable, I think it’s even better than it seems. Albeit costing two more mana, she’s rather reminiscent of our old friend Deathrite Shaman – she can exile lands from graveyards to make mana, and given enough resources can provide a four point life swing every turn. I’d pay 3 mana just for an enchantment that did that, so the fact that there’s also an indestructible 4/5 body attached to it that can smash face later in the game is just pure upside.

The one caveat with Klothys is that there isn’t really an obvious existing shell for her to slot into. Despite this, I think she’s more than powerful enough to see play in any or all of Standard, Modern and Pioneer; she made the Arena Decklists top 10 list for Standard play and has been talked up by the Pioneer Cast too. She’d be great in an aggressive Gruul shell in Standard or Pioneer, and could possibly even find a home in Modern Jund, feeding on fetchlands and offsetting Dark Confidant triggers.

There are plenty of copies available at $10, and the gorgeous non-foil showcase version is only $15 too. If Klothys sees decent Standard play she’ll be a $15-20 mythic, and if we get a multi-format star then I don’t think $30 is at all unreasonable.

Eat to Extinction

Price today: $2
Possible price: $8

Eat to Extinction is comparable to Vraska’s Contempt from back in Ixalan; both 4 mana black spells that exile a creature or planeswalker at instant speed, with a bonus effect tacked on. The two life gained from Contempt helped shore the midrange and control decks up against what was a very strong mono-red deck in Standard at the time, enabling slower strategies to battle on in a field of aggro. Effectively surveilling one probably isn’t as strong as that, but does still provide some additional value for you, particularly if you’re looking to enable Escape cards.

Vraska’s contempt was selling for a touch under $5 on release of the set, but saw a quick climb up to $10 and even flirted with $20 at its peak in Standard. It’s not hard to see Eat to Extinction following a similar pattern, especially seeing as exiling rather than destroying is going to be more important than ever in this Standard format. With the Escape mechanic looking to do some serious work (Uro appears to be one of the best cards in the set) and multiple indestructible Gods running around, instant speed exile effects are going to be necessary and powerful. The fact that it hits planeswalkers too is important – even though Oko no longer holds his crown, Nissa and Teferi are still hugely prevalent in Standard, and having answers to them is a must.

Woe Strider

Price today: $1.50
Possible price: $4

For the first time since Nantuko Husk was reprinted in Magic Origins, Wizards have given us a free sacrifice outlet strapped to a creature in Standard. The premise of that effect is powerful in and of itself, but Woe Strider gives us a lot more on top of that. A 3/2 for three mana that brings along a 0/1 Goat is fine, but giving the card Escape as well and coming back as a 5/4 makes it a hard card to deal with. Not having to pay any mana or life in order to sacrifice creatures can make for a strong engine – so what can we combine it with to gain value off the ability?

Mono-black has already shown to be one of the early decks to beat in this new Standard format, and one of the breakout cards from the deck has been Nightmare Shepherd. Shepherd has already seen sharp price movement, but Woe Strider is still being figured out in these decks and so is lagging behind a bit. Pairing Nightmare Shepherd with Woe Strider and creatures that have enter-the-battlefield triggers like Ayara, First of Locthwain and the old devotion cornerstone Gray Merchant of Asphodel can quickly get out of hand, resulting in some, uh, Recurring Nightmares. If even that’s not enough for you though, try throwing a Bolas’s Citadel into the mix too. You can play your black creatures off the top of your library and use Woe Strider to scry away anything you don’t want, and it gives an extra three pips of devotion for your Gray Merchants, so you’ll only need two or three Gray Merchant triggers before your opponent is really rather dead.

I wouldn’t be expecting a huge spike on this one, but seeing as it’s currently only $1.50 I’d want to be buying a few and looking for a buylist out here – could be a nice double or triple-up.

A final bit of advice: when it comes to evaluating new cards, listen to the pros. Watch their streams and read their articles; they’re generally a lot better than financiers at evaluating whether or not a card will do well or find a home in a particular format.

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 01/13/20 – Pioneer Specs for a Post-Oko World

It’s now been almost a month since the long-awaited ban hammer finally came down on Oko, Thief of Crowns in Pioneer. Nexus of Fate also hit the chopping block, with Wizards citing it as the deck with the second highest win rate behind Simic Food, as well as Simic Food being one of its “only unfavorable matchups among top decks” – perhaps a somewhat preemptive banning similar to that of Reflector Mage back in EMN Standard. However, with no bannings lately and a fresh switch to a six week window for future bannings in Pioneer (outside of emergency bans), it looks like the format is really starting to settle down. That being the case, let’s take a look at handful of cards that might benefit from the current scenario, shall we?

Lotus Field

Price today: $6
Possible price: $12

Sitting tied with Izzet Phoenix at number six in the Pioneer metagame on MTG Goldfish, Lotus Storm is quickly becoming a popular deck. The storm master Caleb Scherer has been having good success piloting the deck through Magic Online leagues, and it’s been starting to put up paper results as well, placing 9th in the recent SCG Columbus Classic. Any deck playing 4 copies of Dig Through Time is bound to be doing unfair things with them – Dig is definitely in the running for the most powerful card in the format now that Oko is gone, and must certainly be on Wizard’s watchlist.

Lotus Field is the namesake of this deck for a reason – the deck functions by using a plethora of different cards to untap the land and produce a bunch of mana, winning with Expansion//Explosion or Aetherflux Reservoir, or sometimes using a combination of Omniscience, Enter the Infinite and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries to draw your entire deck. Whatever the chosen win condition, one thing is for sure: the deck always plays 4 Lotus Fields and can’t function without them.

Inventory is still relatively medium with around 100 listings on TCG Player, but it’s a steady climb from $6 up to $10, and the card will be bought playsets at a time for Pioneer decks – that means that as the deck continues to rise in popularity, we could see supply dwindle pretty quickly. Most of the listings on TCG are single copies, so it doesn’t take many players picking the deck up to drain the cheaper copies out of the market. In addition to Pioneer, Lotus Field has seen some play in the modern variant of the deck – Twiddle Storm – and is registered in almost 3k decks on EDHREC. A reprint doesn’t seem likely in the near future, so I’d advise picking your copies up sooner rather than later.

Mutavault (Morningtide)

Price today: $20
Possible price: $35

If you had to take a guess at what the top five lands played in Pioneer are, you’d probably think that they’d be the five basic land types – and you’d almost be right. But beating out Plains to the fifth slot is actually Mutavault!

Due to the lack of fetchlands in Pioneer, or mana dorks like Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch (although Gilded Goose is doing its best), mana fixing isn’t quite up to scratch like it is in Modern. This has meant that as the format is settling down, some of the most powerful decks are just straight mono-colour – in fact the top three decks in the metagame are currently mono-red, mono-black and mono-green. The less stringent mana requirements in these single colour decks have allowed space for more utility lands to power them up, and Mutavault is increasingly seeing play as the main land of choice. It’s colourless, so slots right into all of them, and even synergises with cards like Goblin Rabblemaster and Pack Rat.

I’m specifically looking at the Morningtide version of the card, because despite being the same art as its M14 counterpart, Morningtide was comparatively a very low print-run set, and as such that version has a much lower supply and steeper ramp. There are currently only 13 NM copies on TCG, with a steep ramp from $20 up to $35, and some people (myself included) have a penchant for the original printings of cards. Once the sub $25 copies disappear, $30-35 could easily be the new floor for this emerging staple and you’ll be rewarded for paying a few dollars over the M14 price.

Prized Amalgam (Foil)

Price today: $9
Possible price: $20

I’m sure that Prized Amalgam foils were an MTGPrice pick back down the road, but it looks like we’ve finally reached that tipping point due to their additional use in Pioneer. It’s a card that’s been a solid 4-of in Modern Dredge decks since its printing in Shadows Over Innistrad, but despite Dredge spiking a few GPs a couple of years ago and ultimately getting Golgari Grave-Troll banned (again), Prized Amalgam has never really taken off in price.

The new home however is the Pioneer ‘Dredgeless Dredge’ deck, which follows similar play patterns to the Modern deck but without any actual Dredge cards. Tools like Stitcher’s Supplier and Grisly Salvage are used to mill your library over, hoping to hit freebies like Narcomoeba or cheap creatures to return to play like Scrapheap Scrounger and Haunted Dead. These then trigger your Prized Amalgams to bring them back for free at the end of the turn.

The foils of this card are in super low supply right now – there are only 8 sellers with NM foils on TCG and other retailers have a few in stock as well, but that’s it. I think we’ve reached the point where the Pioneer format has settled down enough that people are comfortable to start foiling their decks out, and we’re getting even more graveyard interaction being printed in Theros Beyond Death, so the deck could definitely see another bump in power level. A reprint is also pretty unlikely in 2020, though the unknown LGS Mystery Boosters foils do represent some risk.

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.