All posts by Jason Alt

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

Unlocked Pro Trader: No Rest For Tiny Bones

Readers!

I know we love to talk about how we like second spikes, but we’re about to see a very interesting set of second spikes that could teach us a lot about mtg finance if we pay close attention. Today’s case study pertains to a commander that everyone wanted to build and no one wanted to play. Did the prices fall off because people got sick of the deck before they even sleeved it up like they seemed to with Xyris? Did they just not get to play the deck because of Covid? What can we learn about mtg by looking at two similar and profoundly toxic decks, the second of which may be so toxic that it punches straight through how boring it is and gets adopted by griefers the world over? I’m going to tell you that, damn, give me a minute. It takes me a paragraph or two to get situated. First paragraph and I’m already pretending you asked like five questions already.

I kid, I am actually glad I’m pretending you asked all of those questions because those are the same questions I asked myself when looking at a new card from Kaldheim that I legit wrote another “I hate Nevinyrral article” about on Coolstuff. If you’re reading this on Thursday, it came out today, go to Coolstuff and check it out. I feel a little silly trying to make the case that you might want to read my article in the body of one of my articles that you’re reading, but life is messy sometimes. Just click this link then click the one with my name on it. Thanks for the support!

OK, we’re back. Do you like how I dunked on Tergrid? I think I made the case that it’s troubling because it is so seductively powerful and has a much better payoff for the toxic discard and sac effects than Tinybones did that it’s bound to be a much bigger problem. I think the deck is going to be really unfun to play against, like Tinybones, but unlike Tinybones, I don’t think it will be unfun to play with. Tergrid makes symmetrical discard effects like Bottomless Pit into asymmetrical value engines and it’s shocking that this is not at mythic. This is a finance article, why do we care about what the stupid card does?

Here’s Why

This post-Tinybones decline was more precipitous than we’re used to seeing. Can a decline be precipitous? It makes me think it means “headed toward a precipice” but it also means steep. That’s a steep decline if you ask me – from $10 on its way to $7 or maybe even $6 when it got the call that it was back in the game. Didn’t even have time to report to the minor league club and there was an injury call-up. This new deck could make Necrogen Mists go even higher than $10 on CK considering no one could get their hands on Tinybones, those that could had to pay like $50 for it and anyone who built the deck was immediately hated out or got bored.

Tinybones is still on top, but it is closer than it was, and Neyith came out of nowhere. Neyith was behind all 4 of these other commanders, plus Emiel, plus Sethorn which was itself behind Kels. What people brewed waiting for Jumpstart product that came half a year later and what they built when they had the product differed a lot. It makes sense.

Before we talk about the cards that are going in Tergrid that weren’t in Tinybones, we should figure out what happens if Tergrid is as unfun as Tinybones and whether we should avoid decks that people aren’t super into building in the future. Let’s take a look at some cards that 100% went up because of Tinybones. Necrogen Mists was one, what’s another?

Pepperidge Farms remembers when Bottomless Pit was $15 on TCG Player an we have the data to prove it. A $15 price tag on a niche uncommon was never going to be sustainable, but it hit $5 on Card Kingdom before it sold out and by the time everyone restocked, no one cared. You can get Bottomless Pit for $1.50 on Card Kingdom, like 25% of what its buylist price was during the throes of Tinybones fever. I think it’s a buy if Tergrid is here to stay, but it may take more than one deck to make it stick above $5. I think Tergrid is more devastating and easier to get than Tinybones and I think it could help people out who bought Pit at $4 trying to get that fabled $15 and ended up holding the bag. Is that you? Shhhh, be quiet, put your hand down. You don’t have to admit it in front of everyone, just do something about it. You have another chance to break even, maybe better, and you should take it.

Here’s a very interesting case and I think it highlights the difference between a Saga rare and a Stronghold uncommon. Oppression, despite not seeing a ton of new play outside of Tinybones, never saw a drop-off in its price and it’s a solid Hamilton on TCG Player. Not just that, the solid Hamilton on TCG Player is its all-time high.

Freaky. It seems like there are so cards that just needed a nudge. Want to see something even crazier? Oppression got a reprint.

Figure that out.

It seems like the next time we get some Tinybones-tier card that makes people look at older cards that were too symmetrical and punishing to get a serious look, they may be safer if they’re old rares, even with reprintings. I’m looking at Yurlok, I guess. Is Citadel of Pain the Bottomless Pit in this scenario?

Not yet, but it’s too soon to tell.

This former bulk rare never retraced, either. It is looking more and more like Bottomless Pit suffered from a conspicuous buyout that sent people scrambling to the LGS to find the $0.75 copies to try and buylist for $8 that a slow, steady climb experienced by Lethomancer didn’t trigger. I also think people didn’t realize there were quite so many Bottomless Pit effects and if they didn’t check EDHREC to see what was going into Tinybones, they might not have known of any. Whatever the case is, I think Lethomancer is on its way farther up, not down. I think a lot of the Tinybones specs are in play, and I think another class of cards is on the way up, too.

A These Cards On Thy House

It’s Pox o’clock, baby!

This makes them discard AND sac creatures so with Tergrid out, you’re going to absolutely house the opposition. This is a ridiculous blowout and it’s why Tergrid is going to be so much better than Tinybones. Tinybones made everyone have an empty hand except you got to Phyrexian Arena on every end step but everyone hated you and blew their topdecks trying to take you out. Tergrid just straight robs them of a fighting chance. You can get hit by symmetrical discard effects and it doesn’t matter because you’re getting a ton of free perms.

Here, a foil spec idea. Don’t say I never did anything nice for the people who like foils for some reason. This is off of an all-time high of around $15 so a second spike is going to be… well, precipitous. Or not, what do I know about foils? This is also a $4 foil in Conspiracy and M12 but the art sucks.

I am going to be watching Death Cloud very closely. We are seeing two factors fight each other and I want to see who wins.

Factor 1 – There are 2 printings of this card, the second of which is Modern Masters.

Factor 2 – This seems almost tailor-made for a blowout scenario like Tergrid being in play. It’s irresponsible to build Tergrid without Death Cloud.

This card flirted with $5 without a brutal card like Tergrid to give it a boost, so I think sub-$3 you are in excellent shape.

Oppression didn’t go down post-Tinybones, I really don’t expect this price trend to do anything but get… precipitous-er. This is on its way to $10 anyway, and I’m glad Tergrid made us notice.

Here is the Tergrid page, you can figure out what you think will go up and argue with me in the comments for omitting something you like.

What would have happened to Tinybones cards if not for Tergrid coming along within 6 months? It’s hard to say, but I do think Tergrid could make the ones that didn’t retrace go up even more, you know, p-wordly and I think new ones like Pox and Death Cloud could be along for the ride. As a financier, I hope Tergrid demand is organic and the specs pay off and you have plenty of time to get out. As someone who likes to play EDH, I hope no one builds this bull$^&* deck and Wizards stops making cards like this.

That does it for me! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to argue with me in the comments or on Discord. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: The (Maybe) Case for Foils

Readers!

I don’t like EDH foils. I don’t like recommending a card to hundreds of readers when there are like 5 copies of a card left. I don’t like how my Commander Legends foils are curling, but not in the middle so they are straight trash already. I don’t like the fact that Collector Boosters have made foils and non-foils for regular, non-full-art cards basically the same price. I don’t like how foils are LP right out of the pack if the booster was jostled in transit or if you breathe directly on them before you get them in a perfect fit. You can tell me I’m wrong, but you’d be arguing with a personal preference which is a bananas thing for you to do.

Whether or not I like foils, I still feel duty-bound to advocate buying them when I deem it appropriate. I have been informed by MtG Price management that there are times I deem it appropriate. Fine. Fair enough. In fact, there does seem to be a case made for foils, and it’s case that I am going to add another preamble paragraph to qualify.

What I am about to say is speculation. I realize that’s what we do and I got started at a website that literally had “speculation” in its name (we sold gynecological equipment), but lately I have gotten hooked on a drug called “being right” and I am not ready to go back to freebasing “maybe being right” like it’s 2009. That said, this is advice, not instructions, so you’re free to find my case compelling or not. Today, we’re going to talk about foils and how trash they are right now and whether that is an opportunity or not.

I almost wrote today’s article about Double Masters, but apparently I JUST did that. However, looking at Double Masters prices made me realize foils are real weird right now.

Here is the non-foil from Commander 2017

Here is the foil from Double Masters.

Granted, the non-foil from Double Masters is considerably cheaper, but let’s compare these two cards. Is it comparing apples and oranges? Maybe, but perhaps you don’t know whether to buy apples or oranges and they’re the same price right now. Do you think apples or oranges will be worth more in a year? Yeah, bet you didn’t think I’d welcome that apples and oranges comparison, did you? You look ridiculous.

Historically, you’d want “apples” which I guess are foils because apples are sometimes shiny. Foils have a smaller supply so they tend to grow at a faster rate and have a higher ceiling. So do you buy the $6 masters non-foil, the $11 commander non-foil or the $10 masters foil?

I think the $5 non-foil running around makes the $11 non-foil look a lot less attractive. Those prices won’t grow at the same rate, at a certain point they’ll converge. The commander non-foil might come down in price, or the masters non-foil will rise to meet it, or both, but they’ll definitely converge, barring another reprint to muddy the waters.

Aetherflux went from a Washington to a Hamilton. What happened to the foil over the same period?

It went from $5 to $25, but back down again. The Mystery Booster printing didn’t affect the price of the foil, obviously but it plateaued. This is kind of why I don’t love foils. What about something from the same era that didn’t get a mystery booster printing?

The non-foil went from a Washington to a Hamilton as well. What did the foil do?

We’re not seeing much of a foil multiplier on EDH staples from before Collector Boosters, and it’s worse after.

Here is set non-foil.

Here is set foil. Yes, I double checked. So why is the non-foil still the same as the foil months later? It’s because there is a new foil in town.

The extended art foil is twice as much as both the non-foil and foil with the regular border. I think instead of seeing the foil diverge from the non-foil like we used to, we’re going to see the extended art foils and non-foils do the diverging from the regular border versions. The question is, in a year or two, will the extended art non-foils be worth more than the set foils?

It’s hard to say for cheap, non-mythics. Let’s take a look at a Mythic from the same set.

This is murky. Let’s take a look at a profoundly different alternate art card.

Finally, we see a foil multiplier! Even more interestingly, pricing trend data suggests this is actually at its floor despite the foil climbing slightly over the same time period.

If the foil showcase version is falling a bit and the non-foil is climbing, will they swap and the non-foil will be more expensive? Of course not. Will they converge until they’re within a buck of each other like the regular border? Also doubtful. It seems to me for unique, alternate art cards like these, you’ll see the hierarchy you expect – Set non-foil > Showcase non-foil > Set foil > Showcase foil. We aren’t seeing that right now, though, with this triome at least.

However, we are for some other triomes.

What does it all mean?

I think the set foil’s time is over. With quite a few alternate art non-foils being worth more than the set foil, it seems like people have expressed their preference for “special” cards that aren’t foil. However, the data isn’t conclusive enough to say that there is a clear preference. People may end up being divided and with 4 versions of every card to choose from rather than just 2, the most “special’ version may be a matter of opinion.

I think it’s clear that the “best” version is the alternate art foil where possible, and even on cards like Lotus Cobra and Moraug which haven’t shown they’re likely to follow that trend just yet, we’ll see that in a year or two. WotC has a tendency to re-use special art, though, so it’s not like the alternate art completely insulates the card from reprints, but I believe it does help.

I still don’t like foils very much. They get scuffed easily making them easy to get devalued, I have a hard time moving them, there are fewer copies usually so it’s tough to recommend a small pile to a large audience. I’ve said all of this. What I will say is that I think despite showcase foils coming out of the gate very expensive, they are apparently calming down after a few months and I think they could be excellent buys.

Since I didn’t really recommend any cards, I think I’ll do that now.

This is going to keep getting reprinted, but I am not sure how many more extended borders versions there will be. $25 seems decent, but I bet it comes down. Watch the price and if this goes below $20, that has to be the floor or close to it, right?

Three Visits is an OK card that was sort of hyped partly based on its scarcity before, but I also think that a mere 2x multiplier on a card that’s getting used more and more now that it’s not long priced out of decks is small and will likely end up a 4x or 5x barring another reprint of a special version.

This is worth a 3rd as much as the Green one.

Is 1620 more than 1568? Yes. Is it 3 times as much? Nope! Sure ain’t. I think that means that even if the Green one is overpriced (it might be) the Black one is still underpriced. The White one is played less than Green and more than Black and it’s at $17. I like Ambition a lot because it’s the only one I think won’t go down before going up. Watch all 4 (the red one kinda sucks).

The triomes tanked a bit after printing, but War Room seems like it’s starting to disappear under $20. I’d watch it and see if copies around $12 re-appear to replace the ones that sell or if $12 is the floor.

That does it for me this week. I don’t understand foils as well as I would like but I feel like I supported my position with data, which is all I can do. You’re free to make up your own mind and argue with me in the comments – I welcome it. If you’d rather argue with me privately in a Discord server, become a Pro Trader today and have access to that feature as well. Whatever you do, don’t buy like it’s 2012 and I won’t write like it is. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: No Brainer Plays

2020 is over and I don’t feel any different. The year was a marathon and I feel like they keep moving the finish line. I’m getting pretty mentally worn out and with there not being much I haven’t covered from Commander Legends and not much known about Kaldheim yet, I need something easy – we all do.

There was technically some easy money made already from Kaldheim where Magda made everyone say “OMG BUY DWARVES” and Toski made everyone say “OMG BUY SQUIRRELS” and I’m still over here laughing about the time everyone bought Bitterblossom because they heard Throne of Eldraine would be a Fairytale set and everyone said “I STOPPED LISTENING AT FAIRY.” I think it takes a decent amount of savvy to buy Brass’ Bounty and Hellkite Tyrant when Magda was spoiled (but not years ago when I said to) but whenever something like that pops up and we don’t have time to talk about it, I don’t sweat it. Money you didn’t make isn’t money you lost. Besides, spikes like that are my least favorite to deal with. It’s too much stress for me. Let’s take it easy this week. Want to know what I’d buy?

Here you go.

If it looks a little over-simplistic, look, I already said I wanted to take it easy this week. I can’t take it any easier. You can have 4 precons for $90. Other sellers have more sets for around $110, which is a lot more but also isn’t terrible. How good is every deck from Commander 2019 for $90? I can answer that in one graph.

Well, good night, everyone!

You’re still here? OK, if buying a $50 card plus 399 other cards for $90 doesn’t immediately scream “BARGAIN” to you, I get it. Let’s drill down a bit more. I want to see how fast we can get to $90 retail.

$50 plus Seedborn Muse ($10ish) plus Ohran Frostfang ($7 and has upside from Toski) plus K’rrik ($5) plus 4 Sol Rings ($12) plus 4 x $4 cards (Lightning Greaves, Bone Miser, Thran Dynamo, Sevinne’s Reclamation) is $100. You’re 10 cards in and you’ve made $10. Is there a LOT of chaff here? Yep! Is Dockside due for a reprinting and may be “listed” and reprinted sooner rather than later? Seems likely. Can you make some money flipping this stuff? Yep. Can you try and flip a few of the decks unopened? Sure. There’s money to be made here, fairly easy money, and more money to be made if you’re willing to sell off some of the $3 cards rather than buylisting all of it.

Every time an older card pops and it’s in a commander deck, it’s time to re-do the math.

Do we like a deck with a $20 Xantcha, a $15 Nesting Dragon, a $7 Lord Windgrace and like 3 or 4 $5 cards? Maybe not. What would it take for $70 shipped to make sense? Will Avenger of Zendikar go from $5 to $10 in a year? Probably. Will people stop sleeping on Turntimber Sower? I doubt it. If Windgrace’s Judgment, Whiptongue Hydra and Loyal Apprentice hit $5, is this a buy? Will the deck be $100 by then? Sometimes you luck out and something really pops hard, and when it does, take a look at the deck it’s in.

With Hellkite Tyrant popping off, the number of Commander 2016 cards over $15 is now officially 10. Are Ravos and Thrasios on their way down? Will Conquerer’s Flail ever see a reprinting? Is there even a decent price on C16 decks? (no).

We can also look at decks that aren’t Commander precons for EDH cards. The Faerie Schemes Brawl deck has a $25 Smothering Tithe in it, but since those aren’t gettable at $25 anymore, it’s less appealing.

More than anything, this article was a reminder to check eBay and Amazon for sealed decks if you don’t have any whenever a card in one of them goes up. Hellkite Tyrant is up but there’s no opportunity to buy the Entropic Uprising deck for cheap since Thrasios and Vial-Smasher drove that price way up. However, Entropic Uprising made sense a year ago when Thrasios was on its way to peaking and the deck was much cheaper. Hellkite Tyrant was just gravy back then, and if you bought the decks a year ago to try and benefit from increased interest in Thrasios, you are likely sitting on some Tyrants, now. I’ll do an article like this periodically to remind everyone to check on this stuff, lest we write articles with a “should have done this thing no one recommended” tone, which I’d like to avoid.

Finally, I have a few Magda-based picks.

These are all pretty juicy, honestly. Valakut Awakening is a hot sleeper pick in a set everyone has already forgotten all about, Wheel of Misfortune in in the Top 10 cards from Commander Legends but no one knows that, War Room is the only way Boros decks can draw cards and Jeska’s Will has already gone up quite a bit but isn’t done. Shatterskull Smashing would have taken too much effort to crop out.

EDH alone isn’t enough to do anything with this, but when this does something in Modern, and it will, people will be buying 4 copies at a time. This doesn’t seem all that reprintable to me and it really seems like a card that will just be $8 one day and everyone will be surprised. This isn’t as safe as some of my other picks, but with higher risk comes higher reward.

That does it for me this week. I’ll be drilling down into some Kaldheim picks next week, so tune in early and if you’re not a Pro Trader, consider signing up so you don’t have to spend 48 hours letting people buy up the picks while you wait for the clock to run out. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Before “When Did THAT Go Up?”

Readers!

I know I love to do a data-driven series. and you love to read such a series, but 2020 is almost over, and I think it’s time to take a look back at stuff that came out in 2020, will be expensive later, and which you can get for less now. Let’s have the “wait, when did that get expensive?” conversation now that the stuff is gettable for a reasonable price, shall we?

I’m serious, I usually do a few paragraphs of preamble to have something “above the fold” so to speak because we like to tease non-Pro Traders for a few days to incentivize people to buy the membership but I am too eager to get into it, let’s talk about cards I love from 2020.

There was never a “great” time to get this card. It’s going to go up, especially the extended-border versions. The ship has largely sailed on the $40 foil (I didn’t really expect its initial price of $30 to be a bargain, but it never dropped below $30). Beyond Death is a weird, topheavy set that was the first set to have collector boosters, was hit hard by distribution issues related to the pandemic and rares in the set are somewhat overshadowed by the marquee mythics in the set. Theros Beyond Death actually has quite a few cards that I like bordlerless long-term.

I haven’t looked at how the most-played cards from that set have shaken out, and if I was surprised, it’s possible you will be, also.

What is this, a picture for ants?

You can check the page yourself and peruse through the entire set – it’s worth it. The surprises here are Underworld Breach played a lot in EDH, Heliod’s Intervention in the Top 5, Calix in the Top 10 and Nyx Lotus, Athreos and Woe Strider not in the Top 10. I didn’t like Nyx Lotus much, but I thought I was alone.

Focus on Theros – it’s a year old already and prices are flat but demand could catch up to supply soon. EDH is basically the only plague-proof paper format, thanks largely in part to spelltable. You can find some cards I missed, but I’m going to move on.

These are all too cheap. They look great, they’re not curly-ass stupid foils (I like the showcase foils, too, though) and they’re played a lot.

Cards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the set are the Triomes. The fact that the showcase versions aren’t just full art but their stylized, sexy, unique art tells me that they are going to be the go-to in the future. I hate foils but I don’t hate making a deck look nice and now I don’t even have to use foils to make my deck look nice if I don’t want to (I don’t).

The extended art triomes are too cheap. They look to me like $1 Rishkar’s Expertise and Aetherflux Reservoir used to. Buying in above $5 is a little loose but it’s reality and is likely a bargain. I don’t know how reprintable these are, but I suspect “not very.” I think there is a lot to like from this set, but a lot of it is “very good” and not “slam dunk” but I think the full-art triomes are and always have been a slam dunk. I don’t see anything in the data to suggest otherwise. All of the top 20 cards in the set are worth looking at extended art, but the triomes are far and away my favorite. I am considering ending the article here so you don’t get distracted by other picks.

Core set 2021 was a real mixed bag. I expected… some of these things. #1 card is Sanctum of All? Granted, it’s sorted by percent inclusion, meaning a significant portion of the 5-color decks made in the last 2 years include Sanctum because a significant portion of them are sanctum decks. It’s generating its own headlines, essentially. Check out this Top 20 – it’s nuts.

At $11 on TCG Player, I think this is a fine pick-up. It might not have the most upside at this price, but it’s been flat for too long and this stupid card draws too many stupid other cards. It’s too good. You know what card I hated and James said on Fast Finance he liked and I said “No, that card sucks” and now everyone is playing it but it doesn’t matter because the price hasn’t changed much?

Could this go to $5? Maybe. It’s a non-mythic rare from a core set, but no one even drafted the set and the extended border gives it so chops. I hate foils, but the foil isn’t unattractive.

As this approaches the price of the non-foil, I more and more relax my anti-foil stance. The card is played a ton in EDH and it reminds me of cards that end up in a ton of casual decks and become $5 overnight, surprising everyone. I don’t want to be surprised, I want to have a lot of copies when this goes up. Let’s all look at the price graph and marvel at how James said it was a great card, I said I hated it, everyone is playing it, and he would have been wrong to buy them in July and I was right not to. MTG Finance is easy when you’re never punished for being wrong.

I’ll do another article like this in 6 months for the stuff printed more recently. We have time for long-term specs to materialize but, until then, stock up and prepare to look smart later. That does it for me this… year, I guess. Thanks for being great readers and we’ll see you all in 2021 where Boston Dynamics robots will become self-aware or a meteor will hit or something will make us all tweet “Man, I thought 2020 was bad.” Until then!