All posts by Jason Alt

Jason is the hardest working MTG Finance writer in the business. With a column appearing on Gathering Magic in addition to MTG Price, he is also a member of the Brainstorm Brewery finance podcast and a writer and administrator for Brainstorm Brewery's content website. Follow him on twitter @JasonEAlt

Unlocked Pro Trader: A Thesis Defense

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Last week was a nice break from the norm, wasn’t it? I enjoyed it so much that I think this week we’re going to take a break from the norm. Whereas last week we were concerned with Explorers of Ixalan (a great idea and a great avenue for reprints and if you buy this and play with it, give yourself a wedgie) and how this could affect not only the prices of the cards printed in it but how it could impact future confidence in our picks for the role of “this will go way up if it’s not in the Commander set” like we saw this year with cards like Patriarch’s Bidding, Cover of Darkness and Mana Echoes.

I noticed something else worth talking about this week, and it ties in a bit with a question a Brainstorm Brewery listener asked on the podcast this week. If you’re reading this on Thursday, the episode will be out tomorrow.

What Was The Question?

A listener (I don’t remember who but I sort of feel like I should because I remember recognizing the name and now I feel kind of bad but only to the extent that it’s on brand for me to care about stuff like that, which is to say “not much”) asked about the limitations of using EDHREC as a metric for speculation targets. Wouldn’t the decklists seem to skew toward older cards? Would new cards that affected older archetypes even be counted since people aren’t likely to re-register their deck just because one new card was printed? In short, aren’t we missing a bunch of stuff?

What Was My Response?

At first I barely wanted to answer the question. It’s a mixed bag of things we’ve addressed, things that don’t matter and things that are impossible to quantify. The point most worth going into, that people aren’t going to re-register their decks just because of a new card being printed. That’s a huge blind spot for EDHREC. If our premise that new cards affect the prices of older cards, how will we ever know that? It’s a gigantic flaw in my model of using EDHREC to try and predict coming price spikes.

I think that would be a gigantic flaw if that were true. I think, though, that we’re seeing the opposite. I also think that’s not a problem.

 

Why Wouldn’t It Be A Problem?

Well, if we are not going to get people registering new lists for old decks predicated on new cards, we’re going to miss cards. Missing cards sucks, but it happens. Missing a spec feels bad and that’s about it. You’re not harmed by missing a spec. You didn’t get to make money but you didn’t lose any actual money. If people are looking at Growing Rites of Itlimoc and deciding that they’re going to update their Meren of Clan Nel Toth deck. So? They’re not building a brand new deck so they’re not going to move the prices on any other cards. If they build a new deck, they’ll buy new cards and that means they’re more likely to register a new list on one of the sites EDHREC scrapes and we’ll see movement. So either something happens and we don’t notice it unless we notice it a different way, or something happens that we’ll notice or nothing happens. All of this is fine.

Is The Opposite A Problem?

If someone decides that Growing Rites of Itlimoc means they want to update their Meren deck and they make a new list, or update the old list on a site that re-registers the original deck and the update as two decks on EDHREC, or if EDHREC is just garbage at accounting for that (that’s something I don’t know and should maybe look into), then it’s possible we’ll get false positives. False positives are actually probably bad. Missing a spec feels bad but buying a busted spec IS bad AND feels bad. You’re out actual money, not theoretical money, and while getting nipped by fees when you buy and when you sell is usually OK on a good spec since that just takes a tiny nip out of your profit sammich, getting slapped in the ass coming and going on a busted spec that you end up putting in a box of shame forever or buylisting or forgetting about is worse. Buying a card that never goes up because you saw a signal that was really just noise is bad. I think the opposite of the bias our listener (I mean, based on how I interpreted the question he asked – he could have been asking about this and not the opposite and I just didn’t get it) was asking about is potentially a problem, but it’s not really a huge one. Even if people aren’t building more Meren decks, them registering new lists can put Meren back on the front page and that gets eyeballs on Meren. Some of the noise develops into signal just based on visibility. Can I quantify that effect? I mean, no, but that’s not anything that’s plagued us.

It’s not as though we’ve been whiffing when we base our specs on what people are registering. Wheels are in a bunch of The Locust God decks, wheels went up. Stuff like Morphling and Hateflayer are in Mairsil decks, they went up. EDHREC is probably bad at two things.

  1. Cards under like 18 months to 2 years old that could go up based on new decks
  2. Weeding out fake lists, or placeholder lists, or duplicate lists of the same deck (I mean, maybe. I don’t know for sure).

I think we’re probably OK with both of those things.

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What Our Model Is Good At

By “our model” I don’t necessarily mean EDHREC’s because while I contribute in some modest capacity to the site, I don’t do any of the coding because nobody wants that. “Our model” refers to the one we have adopted for this series, namely that we see what people are building when a new commander comes out, or when a new card significantly shakes up old archetypes. That second one is more rare – we’re talking Panharmonicon, Paradox Engine, Anointed Procession-tier non-general cards.

The Gitrog Monster comes out and I say “I bet Squandered Resources goes up” because I understand EDH pretty well and I feel like every other speculation model I developed relied either one waiting for published decklists from tournaments which made us buy at the same time as everyone else or trying to stay ahead of formats I would have had to understand better than pro players to speculate in/on.  Since I’m one guy, I usually nail a few cards because this is what I think about all day long while you think about how handy it is not to have to think about that stuff. Then, I check EDHREC and holy $%#&, I guess one guy isn’t ever as good as every guy and gal because I notice that Constant Mists, Groundskeeper (get foils), Life From the Loam and lots of other cards are impacted. This is hypothetical by the way, I remember knowing Constant Mists and Life From the Loam would go up, I just don’t remember which cards I only got because I saw them on EDHREC and this is a hypothetical example. The point is, a new deck is like a bunch of blind people trying to describe an elephant based on just the part they’re touching or whatever that dumb example they used to use in Six Sigma meetings. No one person gets the full picture but EDHREC crowdsources for us.

What Are We Seeing This Week?

I’m glad I pretended you asked. I might have written about a topic kind of like this based on that podcast listener question because I felt like it was too much material for the episode and I told the guy “I write about this, just go read my articles” and now there’s something that specifically addresses his points, as I understood them.

It was equally likely that I would have just found a popular commander and done a normal article based on that. Instead, I found something curious.

Meren? Shu Yun? The Scarab God is less curious considering it’s tearing up Standard. Kaalia just got a bunch of new Dragons. Atraxa is always popular. But Meren and Shu Yun?

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Yisan? Is this because he was just unbanned in 1V1? Do we even scrape those lists or did a bunch of people mis-register? Ezuri? Hapatra? Why are older cards showing up in the most popular decks of the week but not the month? What happened recently that didn’t happen a month ago? Oh, I don’t know, maybe players getting their hands on cards from Ixalan. Let’s click on Yisan.

This is the only new card. That’s curious. What’s also curious is the text underneath that you may have missed or failed to interpret. It says “100% of 10 decks” which doesn’t mean 10 people ever have registered a Yisan, the Wanderer Bard deck. It means that of the 10 decks registered since Ixalan cards were tagged in the database, all of them play this card. That means 10 people made new decklists. Is this people with existing decks making a new list to incorporate Rites? Is it people making new decks? We don’t know, and that’s the problem my listener had with using EDHREC as a metric. Here’s where I’m going to get infuriating.

I don’t think it matters.

We use EDHREC deck inclusion numbers as a ratio, basically. We can say that the demand for a card that went up is half of what it is for another card and predict that other card will go up and we’re almost always right. We can use inclusion numbers to establish arbitrary thresholds below which we don’t think that the demand can soak supply. If the numbers don’t need to be absolute numbers, and they don’t, then it doesn’t matter if 10 people made a duplicate deck based on one new card or made new decks. It’s not going to shift the numbers enough to throw off our ratios. We’re not going to make bad decisions based on 10 decks. We’re not going to speculate on Growing Rites under any circumstances because the card is new and we like new archetypes to push up old cards with low supply and high growth potential.

Compare the 100% inclusion of Rites in the Yisan deck with the numbers we got for the only new card in the Meren decks.

Totes different. Meren is just getting built a lot because it’s in the Top 3 decks of all time and lots of people want to build it. Rites helps, but in fewer than half of the new decks.

 

It doesn’t take much drilling down to figure out what means new decks are getting made and what means decks are getting updated. I think I’ve managed to establish that my methodology for selection is sound and if we continue to let new archetypes identify older cards for us like we have been, we’re going to be able to continue to use EDHREC despite any limitations it might have (since we’re using EDHREC not at ALL the way it was intended to be used, so the fact that we are getting any usable data is pretty lucky).

I’ll now presume you’re all on board still/again/for the first time and use my last little bit of word count to use our old method to try and identify stuff with upside based on people building the 6th-most popular deck of the week, The Scarab God.

Scaraby got lots of new toys. The cool thing about the intersection of Commander 2017 and Ixalan is that while it was predicated on giving us strong Vampires with lots of overlap to make Standard players care about EDH and vice versa, there is a lot of “splash damage” and unintended tribes are getting sick goodies. Zombies got a tribal banner, a non-zombie that nonetheless swipes stuff so well we do it in Standard alongside Scaraby-face, a card that makes all of your cards zombies no matter what and the second tribe-matters land that taps for multiple colors in literally two sets. No wonder people are back to building Scarab decks.

Rooftop Storm – Is the first card I want to talk about. Ric Amundson wrote an EDHREC article about using Zur to grab Arcane Adaptation to make every creature in your deck a Zombie to make Rooftop Storm ridiculous. I think that’s cute, but since we’re playing Adaptation and Zombies, Rooftop Storm features heavily. I think the reprint risk of this card is pretty high and I might grab foils, as lazy as that seems to me since they’re harder to move and harder to buy large quantities of. Luckily the price isn’t that high so there’s no huge impetus to reprint other than “it might work in this goofy precon” although they may stay away from Zombies for a while. I like this pickup more and more as people build old tribes and Zombies continues to be one of the most popular.

Phenax, God of Deception – Everyone is holding their breath on the Gods after the reprinting of… the Boros one (I am bad with names) in a precon last year. They’ll reprint Thassa for EDH before they reprint Phenax. In fact, where DO they want to reprint a dedicated Mill God? He’s awkward in any product you put him in and that mitigates his reprint risk so much that I’m in below $10 on this guy.

Door of Destinies – This is another card I think they’ll leave alone for a while. With no dedicated tribal stuff coming in the forseeable future (except for when they bring core set back, I guess), you have a while for these to grow. But at the floor and get out as quickly as you can even if you leave some money for the next guy. These are risky long-medium-term but super juicy in the short term.

That’s all for me this week. I’m sorry for the wall of text. If this was boring, I’ll remind you that it’s sometimes important for me to defend the fundamental thesis of my entire series occasionally lest all of my advice be suspect all at once. I think we’ve developed a pretty good track record using the new method and I think weaknesses in the model don’t matter. If you think they matter or I missed something, let’s argue in the comments section. Thanks for reading. Until next time!

 

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Exploring New Avenues

Nerds,

It’s been a week since I dropped some knowledge on you and I’m happy I don’t have to talk about stupid tribal decks and how much people are playing them in EDH because I get to talk about stupid tribal decks and how much people will be playing them outside of EDH. Isn’t that fun? I am honestly looking forward to taking a break from trying to find value in decks predicated on Ixalan Legends because so many of them include cards that are specific to that tribe that were printed in Ixalan which means there are really limited opportunities. EDH finance isn’t easy mode because we spend a ton of time looking at which stupid pirates will go up by a dollar over the next two years because of people build pirate EDH decks, we want commanders like The Gitrog Monster to come along and make a bunch of old cards with low supplies and high upsides go off. Gishnath (or whomever) the dinosaur Legend doesn’t really do much of that – it’s all Ixalan dinosaurs, generic tribal cards like Urza’s Incubator and Coat of Arms and a bunch of lunatics who thought they were going to make a killing buying out foil Deathmist Raptor.

What is more fun is getting to buy cards that hit rock bottom after a reprint and go right back up because they are great cards and demand will soon soak up supply. It’s even better when people overestimate supply based on an initial flood of redemptions and buylist sales and we can really make bank. Remember how I like to talk about U-shaped and reverse-J-shaped graphs? You don’t? How is that possible, I literally talked about that like two weeks ago. The article was above reproach and I can tell that because there are no comments and that only happens when people read it and no one thinks “I’m way smarter than this guy” like what happens most weeks.

I think we have an opportunity to watch a few cards crater and then rebound more quickly than most people will anticipate. Furthermore, I think these cards crept up very sneakily and they have the capacity to creep up sneakily again. A lot of players don’t know what these cards cost now and in two years, they won’t know that the prices went up, then down then up again, they’ll just say “Wow, when did THIS get expensive?” not knowing that there are a lot of answers to that question. Not to dump on those people – they’re the best. They buy our cards on TCG Player. They trade us Standard expensive cards for EDH staples with so little regard for monetary value that how much money you make on the trade depends entirely on your conscience. They buy instant collections in your LGS because they need bulk rares and basic lands and a box to carry their Thallids deck in.  Hyper competitve players will miss these price movements, too, but only because they can only focus on the 50 cards that are expensive in Modern and Legacy and the 20 cards that are expensive in Standard that month.

Being able to see the price depression and subsequent rebound coming a mile away means we’re the ones buying at the valleys and selling at the peaks. We’re not making the price go up, ironically the people buying at the peak and complaining about speculators are the ones who do that, but we are benefiting, and why shouldn’t we? We paid attention to the price of the card every week for two years, after all. So before we mentally spend the millions we’re going to make off of savvy investments, let’s look at the impetus for prices changing.

 

Shut Up And Take Their Money

Settlers of Catan Explorers of Ixalan offers casual players the chance to pay $65 to not have to cobble together their own goofy homebrew Magic variant that someone came up with on the /r/magictcg subreddit that uses Dominion cards, the Ticket to Ride gameboard and the rules insert from Machi Koro to make a game of what is essentially a bad form of Planechase take 5 1/2 hours like casual people like. Instead, they can play some goofy Magic variant cooked up by whatever Hasbro executive is in charge of overseeing Magic development because his uncle on the Hasbro board is grooming him to take over as head of Angry Birds merchandising as soon as his therapist assures him that his hooker-choking days are behind him. This is likely to be a pretty annoying form of casual, bad EDH that snobs like me have no interest in, but what it’s also going to do is provide a pretty reasonable way to get copies of cards into the hands of people.

This is going to reprint some key cards, but with MSRP so high on these sets, prices shouldn’t take a giant dump right away. Casual players aren’t inclined to buy these and immediately ship the good cards and dealers aren’t necessarily inclined to slice into $65 product that they likely paid $35+ for just to cannibalize a few singles. If it’s not super cost effective to pop these sets and the kind of people who likely buy these for retail don’t sell the singles off right away, prices may not crater unless their old price was a lie predicated on low supply and overestimated demand. I intend to look individually at each card reprinted in this set that has been announced so far and see if we think the value of the cards therein is likely to tank or stay mostly the same based on the $65 price tag and mainly casual appeal. If we do think prices will go down, I’ll try and guess at which ones will recover the best and which to target. This is not what I normally do in this column but is “what I normally do in this column” even really a thing anymore?

What Will This Set Do?

Suddenly we have a new product that, if repeated, can be a new avenue to reprint these cards that seemed “reprint-proof” just a few months ago. Planechase, Archenemy and now this; could we get a product like this every year?

Either this sells well and they repeat it in which case we have another mine to dodge when it comes to Commander-based price spikes or they don’t repeat this. In either case, I think buying foils is one way to mitigate reprint risk but there are so few available copies and even fewer move quickly that I’m not advocating that. Buying foils is great for one or two people but the majority of people get left out so I don’t tend to advocate something like that in an article series that, according to google analytics, has a wider audience than one or two people. My Mom, six Russian bots and both of my google accounts (Jason Alt and Ricardo Dangersword) read every article so I’m at least reaching those people. So while foils are safe, reminding people to buy foils seems pretty pointless.

We had some time between Commander 2017 hype and the announcement of this set but the problem is that next year, it won’t be as obvious what to buy for non-EDH players like it was this year. We knew there would be tribal decks so we knew that if at least one deck had red cards in it, Shared Animosity was a good buy if it wasn’t reprinted. A lot of people didn’t even wait for confirmation that the card wasn’t in one of the decks before they bought in. Next year, the cards won’t be obvious which means the prices will move based on real, organic demand. That’s just starting to happen in earnest now, so if we have the same print schedule, there won’t be much time for growth between cards from Commander 2018 materializing as good buys and the reprint potential in “Settlers of Dominaria” or whatever.

Let’s look at the specific cards.

Shared Animosity

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Currently the most expensive card spoiled so far, if this maintains its current value due to the set not being worth cracking but doesn’t see a race to the bottom in terms of dealers getting out of copies of the deck, this pays for more than the deck it’s in. Experiencing a recent double-up that we predicted in this series (anyone who paid attention saw this coming but don’t you pay me to pay attention so you don’t have to?) this card is very good in tribal decks. Our prediction that it would go up if it wasn’t reprinted in Commander 2017 was true but short-lived. People made a lot of money getting in early and getting out before Explorers was announced, but neither of those will be a thing next year.

Should Explorers depress the price, this card goes back up. I could see this hitting $5 if the set sells well and maybe a bit more if it doesn’t. The supply likely to be introduced by people buying Explorers is likely to be offset just about equivalently by the increased demand from people building more tribal decks. They seem to be focusing on the tribes from the Standard sets being used outside of just those sets and this year they even tied it in to the Commander release to an extent, introducing white Vampires in Commander 2017 before they did so in Ixalan. It’s an estimate, but I expect new demand to be enough to offset new supply enough to get Animosity back up to the $10 or so it was before Commander 2017 came along. If this hits $3 or $4, I’m a buyer. I still like these up to like $8 in trade because these move briskly, especially if they only get up to like $10. With more tribal focus likely in the future, this seems like the card with the most upside out of all of Explorers, but maybe not the most applicability cross-format.

Aggravated Assault

While I don’t think this has quite the upside of Shared Animosity and this benefited a lot from having pretty low supply due to being from an older set when cards like Narset made this an allstar, EDH seems to be focusing a bit more on combat. This was a great card to reprint, and it’s pretty likely that like 18 months ago when I was saying this needed a reprint, Wizards was planning to jam this in Explorers. I think it’s possible that other Masterpieces are good harbingers of future reprints in sets like Explorers if they continue and that’s a topic we can delve into another day. I think this likely goes very cheap, bottoming out around the same price as Shared Animosity if the set sells well and maybe a bit more if it doesn’t. If this hits like $2 or $3, I’m interested. I think $10 is a pretty reasonable place for this to end up, but $8 wouldn’t surprise me as a worst case scenario. There is a ton of demand – Aggravated Assault is in nearly twice as many EDH decks on EDHREC as is Shared Animosity. I think this could end up above Shared Animosity since cross-format applicability juiced Animosity’s price a bit in the past and got copies concentrated in the hands of dealers sooner. If this ended up the most expensive card in Explorers in a year, I wouldn’t be surprised. I like this a lot when it bottoms out.

Time Warp

This can’t quite maintain $20 owing to multiple reprintings. However, while this reprinting is going to bring the price down, I think Time Warp (Nearly 6,000 decks on EDHREC) seems to be the most played card and with Modern applicability and the possibility that someone will make a YouTube video about a deck with Time Walk effects and spike everything from this to Part the Waterveil again (could that be what happened in 2016 to make this $25, a price it couldn’t maintain?) this also could end up the most expensive card in Explorers when the dust settles. Gettable around $14 right now, this likely tanks as much as anything else. I think it’s safe to call this $8-$10 in a year from now and I think barring more reprints, it can flirt with $20 again. I really don’t know how much Explorers of Ixalan will hit the market, so I could be giving the reprint too much credit, but I think this will be a brief window where players can get a Time Warp without paying more than $10 and they’ll want to. I bet this is the pace card that establishes the rate of price recovery for the rest of the cards to try and imitate.

Beacon of Immortality

Beacon of Unrest went down to $2. Beacon of Unrest is in four times as many decks as Beacon of Immortality. Commander 2016 likely sells way more decks than Explorers of Ixalan. Will it sell four times as much? This could end up really cratering in price the way Beacon of Unrest did, and while the demand seems less than for Beacon of Unrest, the fact that lifegain is something people are excited about means that maybe the current demand being a fourth of that of Unrest is less important than crossing some invisible threshold. Maybe recovery is a yes/no question rather than a “how much?” question. I think this has the goods to hit such a threshold if it exists. Does this end up $0.50 extrapolated from the price of Beacon of Unrest? Maybe. But I think we will see this recover to at least the $2-$3 Beacon of Unrest is a year later.

Quicksilver Amulet

The price of this card is kind of all over the place. Big Dargons caused people to buy these and some retailers sold out repeatedly and ratcheted their price up to about $15 at one point but other retailers don’t seem to be moving them at the old price. It doesn’t seem worth it to snap those $10 copies so they just sit there. I think this is also going to be an EDH allstar and with the big Dargon and Dinosaur decks of the past year likely to be at least a portion of what we see printed in the future, expect this to recover to at least $5. I like these if they bottom out around $1.

Regisaur Alpha

I don’t care about this card. This isn’t an EDH card outside of the Gishath deck and Standard either will or won’t make this a real card. It reminds me of Bloodbraid Elf a little bit but then I reread it and remember it doesn’t have haste, only the token and then I get sad. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Standard and I’m staying out of it. Plenty of people are willing to stick their neck out and talk about that format.

Adaptive Automaton

I feel like the price isn’t done going up on this because I feel like it was just getting started. It was an obvious card and while a lot of sites are sold out, I feel like no one has restocked at a new price and that means TCG Player basically establishes the price itself. It’s not selling out at $7-$8. With the same demand in a year and way more copies, this likely can hit $5 so bear that in mind when you decide if it’s gotten cheap enough to buy. This will always be a decent lord but everyone seems so enamored with Metallic Mimic right now that this is almost an afterthought. This is good for us – Automaton is quietly in 30% more decks than Mimic due to a combination of having just been around longer and therefore registered in more decks even if people later took Automaton out. That’s kind of a problem with EDHREC numbers but considering we’re looking at ratios rather than integers, I think it’s fair to say Automaton has more demand at leave it at that.  I think this is always a $5 card no matter how many times it’s reprinted provided it gets 12 months to recover in between. I think this could tank less than other cards and I think it might grow sooner, but if this does crater at like $1 or below, make like a single mother in the detergent aisle on supermarket sweep and shove these in your shopping cart.

Threads of Disloyalty

A modicum of play in the sideboard of a deck that basically no longer exists in a format that basically no one is excited about got this to flirt with $40. Look at the slope of the price graph when the card was forced to deal with reality. Do you imagine the slope will be less steep now that we have the same demand and more supply? Stay away from these. This is not an EDH card, anyway, what do I care?

I think these are the relevant cards. Everything else spoiled is a bulk rare basically already (Vanquisher’s Banner might have had a chance to do something but got nipped in the bud). Next week we should have something else to talk about and we’ll do that. Until next week!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Dino-Might

Readers,

I am really sick of talking about tribal decks. I want to talk about something that isn’t tribal and I’ve been doing that on Gathering Magic where I can. Since they decided to integrate Commander 2017 with Ixalan (which is neat, don’t get me wrong) they have mostly tribal commanders in Ixalan as well as the tribal commanders in Commander 2017. Most decks being built now are tribal. I want to talk about Marvin Feins or whoever and I’d like to talk about Tishana (as boring to build as I imagine Tishana is going to be) and it doesn’t matter because I have to talk about where I think the money is. I can’t ignore data because that’s irresponsible. So as much as I would like it if Tishana were likely to matter, I’ll save that for my Gathering Magic article next week (which you should absolutely read, by the way. If you find this article valuable, that is. It’s free to read, they can justify paying me if people read it and I talk about EDH cards which it turns out I’ve established are relevant) and focus on a deck I don’t even want to talk about a little bit but which was built 3x as much as Tishana.

Tribes Ruin Everything

I don’t pretend to understand EDH better than basically everyone who plays Magic and I’m certainly not inclined to pontificate that I can figure it out faster than that group of people known as “everyone.” I was worried that I would miss the boat entirely by waiting to get build data from EDHREC on the Commander 2017 commanders. It turns out everything worked like normal this time – we had a wave of people buying specs as soon as they knew the decks were tribal and most of those specs were bad. We had another wave of people buying when they knew what the tribes were, and most of those specs were bad. The prices on those cards are likely ruined forever, but organic demand didn’t drive them and you’re likely going to get stuck with your copies unless you bought a very small amount, in which case you didn’t really speculate. If you predict a card going from $2 to $20 and you bought 10 copies, you weren’t confident or ballsy and you didn’t get rewarded. If you predict 10 cards going from $2 to $20 and you bought 0 copies, you’re me, but that’s another story.

The third wave after the first two “Uh, I think I can figure out that a tribal Wizard deck is going to play Patron Wizard, EDH isn’t that tough to figure out, guy” speculators, we had the “normal” wave of cards going up based on people figuring out what people were actually doing. It took me a long time staring at Mairsil to figure out anything I wanted to put a cage counter on but the internet figured it out eventually, I wrote an article about Mairsil stuff like a month after Commander 2017 came out and those cards are popping off, a few a week. It’s 2015 again! So while the tribal decks make people think they knew what they’re doing get super confident, we can still do our normal thing.

 

 

Hateflayer popped this week, but it had been growing steadily recently and as we predicted, Mairsil gave it a lot of upside. Let’s compare a card like Patron Wizard which is at $20 instead of the $3 Hateflayer is currently selling for.

So we have 4 decks that were running it before and 94 new Inalla decks (it’s OK in Inalla, don’t get me wrong) jamming it. Do we think the spike to $20 was justified? Do we think it hangs out there? I’ll leave that for the bro finance crowd who thought it was super obvious to buy every Wizard despite none of the older Wizards really playing all that well with Mairsil or Kess at all. The decks were called tribal but 2/3 of the marquee commanders and like all of the other random commanders like Taigam(s) don’t care about tribes, really and certainly not in the way everyone who bought in the first two waves “knew” it would matter. $20 Patron Wizard is a joke but if you are one of the few people who need it for Inalla, the joke’s on you.

The stuff in the Mairsil deck that no one predicted when the card was first announced but going up later when we had pricing data leads me to believe that even though tribal stuff is “obvious” to some who think being able to make simple, superficial observations means that all of this is easy, we’ll still be able to make money by seeing what players are actually playing, buying before supply dries up and selling into the increased demand like always. Tribal decks screwed up a lot but they didn’t screw up everything.

Stupid Tribe of the Day

I don’t want to talk about dinosaurs but I sort of have to. Gishath isn’t a card that is particularly exciting to me but it’s getting built kind of a lot this week.

Anything that gets over the Atraxa hump is worth discussing. I predict I have to dig down a little bit to (I want to let you know that at this point in the sentence I conceived of and immediately abandoned an idea where I’d make a bunch of puns about an archaeological excavation for dinosaur specs and how they are like dinosaur bones. I don’t want you to think I’m the kind of guy who can’t resist a dumb metaphor but I also don’t want you to think I’m not smart enough to figure out there was an opportunity there). Gishath is made up almost entirely of terrible, bulk rare dinosaurs and uncommons plus the same tribal stuff that is going to go up a little but do you want to be paying $20 for a card that’s going to hit $23? With this many Gishath decks being built, there is going to be money to be made and it’s going to take some work to find it but we’ll do it.

Xenagos, God of Revels

An amount of reprint risk that I would classify as “moderate” has a lot of people spooked. Could this be in some duel deck? Maybe Inconic Masters? Basically, people are worried about this going in Commander 2018 and if it’s not, I think this is a real opportunity. This is doing an odd Shepard Tone thing with the price graph but I really think we’re at a tipping point. I don’t like to buy deep into specs that I advocate because I don’t want to be accused (more) of trying to pump and dump cards. It never feels good even when it’s ridiculous. I won’t say who but he knows who he is, accused me of trying to pump and dump Tropical Island because I said it would correct to be more than Bayou since it was less than Bayou at the time. So I guess if being ethical gets you nowhere, I might as well throw a couple hundo at Xenagos and see where it Xena…goes….from there? I probably won’t, but I should.

Real talk, there are only 139 listings on TCG Player right now, this goes in every Gishath deck plus it’s nutty in other decks plus it’s a decent commander in its own right. You can find these for like $7 online. Why isn’t this more money? Because the demand is organic and that doesn’t set off any alarms. You’re flirting with some (moderate) reprint risk (reprinting Iroas in a Commander set spooked people) but you’re also looking at some real upside. This is the second best Theros era God and it can break the $10 mark easily and from there, they sky’s the limit.

Selvala’s Stampede

This card isn’t Expropriate, but it’s a beating. With Conspiracy 2 being such a wildly unpopular set, it’s tough to get the packs moving. What’s driving sales? Leovold, a card banned in EDH? Packs that contain cards that can only be used in drafts? People drafting it? With boxes selling on eBay for basically dealer cost, Conspiracy 2 cards are on the way up. Unless they’re reprinted, something that’s doubtful in the case of a lot of the cards, demand is going to begin soaking supply. Selvala’s Stampede has a lot going for it and it’s particularly good in the Gishath deck. Some Legacy demand would sure be nice but since that’s not going to happen, we’re going to have to rely on scarcity, which is fine because scarcity is giving Conspiracy 2 cards all it’s got. 6 mana is super doable in EDH, it’s especially doable in a dino deck with a high mana curve that requires a ton of ramp and it’s asymmetrical. At $2 this card is pretty bananas, and with Leovold not as in-demand, expect the value from the set to go somewhere if the boxes are to maintain even dealer cost.

Congregation at Dawn

The second spikes are always the tastiest and while demand petered out after the first brush with greatness, new demand is coming for this card. Gishath is a “the top of your library matters” card and this stacks the deck for you, making sure you hit what you need. Triple Worldly Tutor seems pretty good to me for under a buck and we’ve seen this flirt with $5 absent organic demand. With more copies likely concentrated in the hands of the dealers and unable to mitigate a second spike, this card could climb to around $3-$5 and stay there. It’s a gamble so I think your best bet is to do what I do and buy collections and yank these out of “bulk” all the time. Foils are already $5 and those are even less reprintable and as lazy as that is intellectually, it’s a safer place to park money. Do I think enough people are going to foil their dinosaur deck that this is going to make more than one person money? Not really. Foils are great for someone to think of it and make some money selling the few copies they’re going to sell on TCG Player but they’re not great calls to give advice to thousands of readers. Maybe you can all fight each other for the few  copies left on TCG Player. You can count on reddit to make a “ZOMG BYEOUT!!!1” post when the stock gets low, you can count on a few lunatics to buy a foil card that’s useful in EDH (somewhat) and you can count on me taking credit for nailing another spec weeks early in my oddly prescient article series that no one reads.

1509 total decks is nothing to sneeze at. I thought maybe Dinosaurs might be a better deck than most to try and foil out since a lot of the dinosaurs are dirt cheap even in foil, but then you’re trifling with foil Urza’s Incubator, Mirari’s Wake, Cavern of Souls, etc and you’re stuck with a lot of cards from Commander 2017 that can’t be foil but you really want to be. In general, I don’t think people want foils of bad cards as much as people who sell one or two copies of that card a year claim.

Tribal Stuff

Herald’s Horn keeps going up and Path of Ancestry doesn’t. I’m not sure what to make of that. Horn presold for like $2 and is now like $6, Path presold for $3 and is now like $3. Sure, Path is in twice as many precon decks, but you want to know something interesting?

It’s twice as popular. I’m not saying those two effects should cancel each other out, and with Horn being buried in the terrible cat deck, supply isn’t quite at a 2:1 ratio in the world. Both cards are good but the price only moving on one of them is a little puzzling. Horn isn’t 3 times as good as Path and Path’s price isn’t commensurate with its popularity. All I know is that both cards are great and the fact that there is pent-up demand for them for tribal decks that aren’t being built from the precon means there will always be net demand. Who’s opening a precon, building a deck out of it and cutting either or both of these? In the case of Horn, you’re maybe building a Mirri or (the cat blacksmith, not interested in taking the time to look up his stupid cat name this close to the end of the article) deck and maybe you don’t need Horn, but I bet you don’t cut Path. These cards are going to be good forever and they’re awkward to reprint unless the Commander set has a tribal theme (even just within the one deck, doesn’t have to be set-wide).

Next week I’m not sure what I’ll have to talk about, but hopefully more people build Tishana and it will be interesting. I’d love to force my agenda on this conversation but we really have to go where the money is and this week there were 3 times as many Gishath decks. Next week, a lot could change. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Before There Was U

I use a lot of terms I made up and I would apologize for that but since all of my old articles (I’m talking back to 2011) are free to read online and I’m easily accessible to talk to on Twitter or in the comments section of this article, I feel like it’s pretty easy to clear up confusion. Some of the things I come up with require a lot of explanation (I’ve written like 150 article about 75% EDH deckbuilding and even I don’t really understand what it’s all about, yet) and some don’t. I would like to think that if I referred again to a U-shaped versus a reverse-J-shaped graph, you can figure out what I mean.

Just Explain It

I was going to save us all a lot of time by inviting people to go back and read my past articles

Just Explain It

That doesn’t seem all that necessary, I think the terms I picked are pretty descriptive and anyone who can’t figure out what I mean likely isn’t going to benefit from MtG Finance advice until they work on basic reading comprehension techniques

Is that the “Just junk it” lady from Mystery Men? Why are the fake other person’s voices that I use as a rhetorical effect always quoting Mystery Men? That’s so weird, right?

Fine, you win, damn. I’ll explain.

Even though I’m pretty sure roughly 100% of you know what I mean by U-shaped and reverse-J-shaped graphs, I think it’s maybe important to give some examples and at least discuss why I think those two shapes mean a lot to us when we look at EDH prices. You’r going to start seeing U-shaped graphs as missed opportunities which means reverse-J-shaped ones are going to start to look like dollar signs. I mean, not literally. That would be a weird graph shape, impossible on a line plot. Remember that one kid with the long, greasy hair who was still wearing JNCO jeans in like 2001 after everyone else stopped who was always programming weird stuff on his Ti-83 when everyone else was trying to learn integrals? That’s how you get a graph that looks like a dollar sign. Don’t be that guy.

A U-shaped price graph usually means that a price went down for some reason, almost always due to a reprint but sometimes due to a banning, and then went back up again due to demand soaking up the new supply or the card getting unbanned. Here are some classic U-shapes.

Something made the price go down and something else, sometimes time, sometimes an event, made the price go back up, If you bought at the top and sold at the bottom, you did a bad job. If you bought at the top and sold at the top, you broke even (ish) and if you bought at the bottom and sold at the top, you makea’ de money. We’re in the makea’ de money bidness around here, so identifying the first half of a future U-shape means we can buy at the bottom. Reprintings and sometimes bannings can create opportunities for us. Instead of talking about Ixalan or C17 this week, I decided to look at the stuff from Commander 2016 now that it’s been almost a year since it came out to see what is just about at its low point after its reprinting to see some nice reverse-J-shapes.

Backward J All Day

You may remember this graph from a preview article. Usually, the card’s price doesn’t recover as swiftly as it goes down, but sometimes it does. One day there are like 40 copies of a card on TCG Player for a dollar more than the low price and then all of a sudden they’re gone and the price corrects quickly. Even slow, consistent demand can trigger an avalanche when someone notices the supply is gone and they need to update their buy price. Cards that are sufficiently good in EDH (and sufficiently unlikely to get reprinted soon) will have upside, so identifying that low point, or one close enough to it that you’ll make just about as much money as if you bought in at the perfect time (which is impossible to know – buying in too early is as bad as buying in too late so I tend to not wait for signs that the price is on its way back up despite that being safer) is something we don’t do enough of in this series because I focus on the future in my articles even though I focus on everything in my own buying behavior.

For the purposes of this exercise, we should establish some criteria for a card to discuss. That way if I miss one, you don’t have to ask me if I think the card you caught that I missed is a good pickup because you can just check my thought process and make your own informed decision.

  1. I’m going with cards that were reprinted in Commander 2016, hopefully for the first time
  2. The card wasn’t reprinted in Commander 2017 meaning it most likely has until Commander 2018 is spoiled to grow, meaning we are at the halfway point and probable low point price-wise
  3. These are non-foil prices

Let’s look at some of the cards from Commander 2016 I think have some potential to rebound.

Dragon Mage

We are seeing a nice double dip here on Dragon Mage. It already cratered after its Commander 2015 printing which was predicated on it being a good card in the Melek deck (…..k?) and Commander 2016 which was predicated on it being a good card for Yidris (that’s legit). Dodging a reprint in Commander 2017, this is a dragon that fills hands up and also fills yards up, because reanimator is a thing. This recovered from its first reprinting and should shake the second off, especially with new Dragon decks not to mention decks like Yidris which are still being built being good venues for this. You can get the original version for under a buck but you can get the Commander 2016 version for like $0.60 on Card Kingdom. I think this has upside, is unlikely to get another reprinting soon and I think it’s at its absolute low. It’s considered a bulk rare and that’s where I am getting them. I pay like a dime or quarter when I see these in binders and I make a stack of them. This is low risk, low reward and that’s why I led with it. We can do better, but you can do a lot worse.

Cauldron of Souls

I feel like I advocated this when it was a better buy-in opportunity but with this declining lately, I think there is a chance to pick these up on the cheap. Decks like Marchesa will never go away and with so many ways to put counters on our creatures to erase the -1/-1 counters, this is a real card. Hapatra and The Scorpion King got people thinking about -1/-1 counters and this jumped a little on that weird logic, but I think as the price of this tails off, you’ll want to buy in. The next time there is a set where creatures get +1/+1 counters, this will go back up if it doesn’t sooner than that on its own. This isn’t all that likely to get another Commander deck reprint imo. This is a longer hold than some of the “sell this when Commander 2018 comes out” picks but this is still solid and if you bought back in May, you had a chance to make money on this card already.

Lurking Predators

This is a card that I identified before the ink was even dry on Commander 2016. I don’t know if this can be $7 again, but it can be $5 and it’s certainly not a $2 card. One interesting caveat about this card is that it’s in the Kynaois and Tiro deck with a ton of valuable cards that all took a hit with reprinting but which should all go back up. This is the worst-selling Commander 2016 deck, but here’s a list of hits.

Chasm Skulker

Progenitor Mimic

Collective Voyage

Tempt With Discovery

Blasphemous Act

Swords to Plowshares

Beast Within

Venser’s Journal

Ghostly Prison

Propaganga

Ash Barrens

Homeward Path

All of which excludes new cards that have upside like Sylvan Reclamation, Benefactor’s Draught, Entrapment Maneuver, Prismatic Geoscope and Selfless Squire. With MSRP holding prices down as long as the set is in-print, I think the prices have more freedom to go up when they’re not constrained by MSRP. We could see this deck silently creep up in price without us really noticing. You can’t have 2 dozen cards over $3-$5 when this is in-print, but two years later you can. I think that bodes as well for Lurking Predators as it does for any of the other cards on the list.

Master of Etherium

We’re breaking our rules a smidge like we did with Dragon Mage since this was already reprinted in Planechase, but this is not just an EDH all-star (it is) but also has upside from formats where people want to attack other people with robots. There is a lot to like about this card. It’s on a bit of a bounce but I still think we got in early enough that we can ride most of the wave to the top. There is more reprint risk for a card with cross-format applicability but there is also little chance of this ever becoming obsolete. I think this is in a good “historic high versus current price” sweet spot. I’d rather pay $5 for something that has demonstrated it can be $15 than pay $1 for something that hit $5 once and might be $3.50 again.

Venser’s Journal

The graphical data is a little confusing for this since really low eBay listings are throwing things off. The Commander 2016 version and the Scars version cost almost the same amount. I think we’re about as low as we can go on this card, which means there isn’t much space between its current price and its historical high. So what does that mean? Why didn’t it drop more? It failure to drop near its historic low following a reprinting is curious.

While the new version began around $2 or so, the older version maintained a lot of its value. It appears we missed our best time to get in on this card, which is odd because I didn’t really notice anything happening with it until this week. The crept up on us for sure. Card Kingdom has both versions for around $4 and that isn’t great for a $7 max card but the price on the older version maintaining so much value leads me to believe that this could rebound and exceed the past historical high. I don’t know what to do here 100%, but I do know that with cards like Tishana coming out, having no max hand size is more important than ever. Reliquary Tower, an uncommon, is currently worth more than Journal. I think even getting in at $4 could be profitable based on analysis of the price data which didn’t do exactly what we expect.

There’s a lot to unpack here so I will leave you to it. I pays to periodically go back over past sets and see if they did what you thought they would do. When we do Commander 2017 in a year, I’ll be sure to mention what I got wrong and what I got right, one probably louder than the other.

Did I skip a card you think has upside? What do you think is at its floor? Is a year the wrong timeframe since we missed the boat slightly on a few cards and we missed it majorly on a card like Wheel of Fate (though that was predicated on a printing outside of Commander 2017 that was impossible to predict)? Let me hear it in the comments! Until next time!

 

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