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

Pro Trader: William Gibson’s Spectromancer

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Whether or not we’re happy about it, we’re about to descend into neon hell where Hidetsugu kind of sucks but the 1 in 100,000 yellow variant will be the Beanie Babies of 2022. Will the set be Ninjitsu or Bushido? Sweep or Soulshift? Kamigawa Block Constructed or post-Mirrodin Standard? Will it be cohort? It’s hard to say, but I ordered cases of Collector Boosters so I’ve cast my lot in with this stupid set. I don’t care what anything in this set costs, but it’s going to impact EDH by bolstering existing archetypes and creating new ones, and while the low-hanging “stuff with creature type Ninja” fruit is all gone, there are some cards they’ve revealed that make me think we have some money to be made before spoilers (that’s what I call preview season because I didn’t get a preview card again) start in full force. Come along with someone who thinks he understands EDH because he went from making fun of EDH to playing on the Commander RC stream and receive some finance tips, my hungry little finance birdies. No, birds eat regurgitated worms, these picks are fresh. Hungry Hippos? This sucks, I could spend 10 minutes thinking of a good animal metaphor but I’m already on to the next paragraph.

I’m literally going to post a pic of a Neal Stephenson presents: The Kami Warz card and then talk about what I think it could mean. That sounds lazy but it’s smart and you’ll like it. Let’s begin.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Unlocked Pro Trader: The Command Zone Effect

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Today I’d like to talk about something that has been dubbed “The Command Zone Effect” but since the show is called “The Command Zone” it should really be called “The The Command Zone Effect” but I don’t get to name things after I came up with a deckbuilding ethos that I mean to be qualitative rather than quantitative but gave it a number in the title.

Here is my 1,000 essay on The The Command Zone Effect.

Welp, see you next week!

OK, apparently I’m being told that I have to do some more work on this article to get paid for it (humbug) so I guess I’ll elaborate in the space I have left. Looks like you’re getting 2,000 words today instead.

If you want a more recent example, I have one.

This is $11 literally only because The Command Zone said it shouldn’t be $1. They were right, of course, but this leapfrogged a lot of other good cards. So what happened here? Did the Command Zone create ALL of the demand for this? Did it merely accelerate something that was going to happen anyway? Is it a mix?

Thinking logically, if they created all of the demand for this merely by mentioning it, then the cards that get played more but are worth less shouldn’t go up. So if you reject that premise as unreasonable, we can assume that cards played nearly as much or more but which cost less will cost more eventually. Is this a good premise? I don’t know, but it’s what I want to talk about this week. Which underpriced gems from Commander 2021 “OOPS, all Strixhaven” so I think are in play? I’m so glad I am pretending you asked – here is another 1,000 word essay.

OK, I’m not going to repeat the bit where I think I’m done but pretend someone is telling me I have to keep writing, and I won’t do the “1,000 word essay” bit again for another few weeks. One thing that’s not a bit at all is how underpriced some of these cards are relative to how we expect Curiosity Crafter to behave.

These are the 16 cards in a larger percentage of the decks in their respective colors than Curiosity Crafter. What’s notable is most of them are multicolor, which makes sense since there are fewer decks that can contain Orzhov than there are decks that can contain just Blue. Curiosity Crafter is doing quite well in terms of number of inclusions. Of these 16 cards, just 6 are in more than the 6,776 decks currently containing Curiosity Crafter… cleverly.

I think all 6 are good targets, honestly.

Archy’s Map is played quite a bit.

In a world without Josh Lee Kwai and Jimmy Wong, what do the price trends of these two cards look like? The trend for a card played more than 3 times as much as Curiosity Crafter is flatish with a pinch of downward movement. If you can get Archaeomancer’s Map for less than Curiosity Crafter, either both prices are wrong or only one is. If you think Curiosity Crafter is a sell right now, you’re right, of course, but for Map to not be a buy, you’d have to think Map isn’t done going down. If you think Map is a sell and Crafter is a buy, congratulations, you’re literally everyone but me, it feels like. But like, how can that prevailing opinion possibly be true? Crafter is going to go back down, probably to the midpoint between 13 cents and 13 dollars, but Map is likely too cheap. I realize 11 bucks for Crafter is a meme price, but Map has never been cheaper. I think it’s time to just go hog wild on Map. How reprintable do you think it is? Do you think a reprint happens before it hits $20? I don’t.

Inkshield is in 1,000 (13.7%) more decks than Crafter. This is an absurd Magic card and while its color identity keeps it out of some decks, might I reiterate that it’s played 14% more than a card that costs twice as much. This seems like a slam dunk for a double up even if you agree that Crafter is headed for the $7 neighborhood.

This is where we really test our hypothesis. If this goes below $5 on Card Kingdom, I think we just buy in. This is in 10.8k decks currently and while it’s true that it becomes less appealing the more its price approaches that of Smothering Tithe, players are actually allowed to play both cards in their deck, and might, and also this seems tough to reprint. Like, every card in a Commander precon seems like it could be reprinted easily, but how often do they do it? To prevent you from making money, they would need to have committed to reprinting it 2 years ago, basically. They could throw it in The List but they won’t yet. This and Map are so spicy right now.

This is in 10k decks. I’m starting to think the price of Curiosity Crafter might be predicated on a fairly thin premise. Also, how is this worth less than Ink Shield? It’s in way more decks. These prices don’t make sense and I think someone needs to buy every copy of all of these cards and let the market sort it out. I’m barely kidding.

OK, we can analyze this without mentioning Curiosity Crafter, right? This is trending up in price on CK, it’s in 7,893 decks and TCG Player is selling it for half of what CK is right now. This is a steal under $3. I wish I’d noticed it was this powerful when CK had them at $2, but we were all distracted then and it wasn’t seeing as much play. This card kind of rules and I don’t see anyone talking about it.

I’m happy to have mentioned this card when it was still under $5. It’s not anymore. Do you think it stops at $7 on CK? We can find out, $56 bucks at a time.

Ultimately, I think The The Command Zone Effect has pushed the price of a recent non-mythic to a level it may have never attained on its own, but I think if it can hit that level, even artificially, it’s worth looking at cards with way more solid fundamentals. I like these pick-ups in light of The Command Zone mentioning a card from this set, something it could do again later, and maybe someone in the MTG Price Discord becomes a member of the CZ Patreon to warn us before the 2 times a year those guys ruin a price forever. Also, they didn’t do anything wrong – this is a result of the community’s fundamental lack of imagination, not people correctly evaluating that a card is too cheap. That does it for me, until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Just Being Thorough

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We talked a lot about Ninja, and some we expected to pop popped, some didn’t and some cards we did not expect to pop did pop and if this were that easy, everyone would be doing it. I did manage to get quite a bit right, but now, for the sake of being thorough, we need to talk about Samurai.

Will Samurai be supported in Kamigawa: Ready Magic Player One? Maybe. Will that support make it a good tribe? Doubtful. Even if the new Samurai are all really good, the old ones are not and they won’t contribute much beyond filler. Samurai is, however, a tribe that has never really been supported and now that it looks like it might be, expect people to react like they did with Squirrels. Besides, once you add all of the 5 mana artifacts that make every tribe’s creatures bigger, you won’t have room for more than 15 creatures and you won’t care that they’re 2 mana 1/1s with Bushido. Besides, they don’t need to be good, they just need to be Samurai. Some of the obvious stuff has popped, but what else would you need to buy to actually build the deck? Maybe EDHREC has an answer.

Start off by locating the list of tribes.

Click “tribes” to open a new page.

Then scroll about halfway down. Of the 100 tribal themes recognize by EDHREC, Samurai is number 48 – ahead of Myr and just behind Ninjas. If you think Ninja re more popular than Samurai because there is way more support, there is a good commander, there are Ninja cards in multiple sets and people think Ninjitsu is a much better mechanic than Bushido (all objectively true, by the way) remind yourself that none of that matters to EDH players. They want to build Samurai decks, so they do.

This list is legitimately wild to me at first glance. Saskia makes sense, kind of since there are Samurai in every color but Blue for some reason. The 2 mono-White Kamigawa commanders make sense. Alesha makes sense when you consider the Samurai are all Grizzly Bears with glorified Flanking. Iroas says combat go BRRRR. And Queen Marchesa rewards you for zerg rushing them with Devoted Retainer into Samurai of the Pale Curtain (and actually super underplayed hate bear in EDH). So all of these commanders make sense when you think about it. The benefit of seeing already what people spent the last decade and a half figuring out makes me think I’m smart for understanding why people did what they did, but I’m not sure I could have spit out this top 6 if I had to, blind. Luckily, I don’t. I’ve got 6 lists worth of cards to look at. Is anything in play? Let’s dig in!

These have jumped a few bucks but since there is plenty of supply on TCG Player, still, no one has really noticed. When that happens, sites like Card Shark and other random forgotten gems will have 3 or 4 copies. It’s not much but it’s still gettable at old retail even as Card Kingdom begins to sell out.

It’s hard to tell if this graph shape means it’s too late or if it means that TCG Player and CK are way up but you can still grab these for under a buck where they deserved to sit for years. I don’t like a Green Samurai since it limits which decks it can go in, but if you’re playing some 4 color Saskia pile, you likely need this. At least this interacts with other samurai, unlike…

This is pretty meh in a Samurai deck but it’s no worse in any other White deck since it doesn’t interact with Samurai at all but does have a decent ability. For a car that doesn’t say “Samurai” on it anywhere to have its price tied to speculated Samurai support in this set is baffling, but this kind of buying behavior isn’t rational which is why I’m hesitant to do articles like this one.

Make these inclusion to price ratios make sense.

I don’t think Shared Triumph is good, at all, but I also don’t think a card that’s in a lot of Samurai decks and stands a chance of being in more later should stay this cheap. Share Triumph will never be $30 in the future, but I bet it’s never $4 again. How much do I bet? Eh.

I almost accidentally typed “Oathbreaker” instead of Oathkeeper in this paragraph, but I caught myself. This card isn’t Oathbreaker – people are playing it.

It really seems like the people who paid like $4 for foil copies of cards like Takeno and Lizuka were the big winners, here. The real move is to just buy obvious garbage foils very early and sell out when the tardy folks get around to buying 15% of the cards they think they will need for a deck they’ll never finish building. That or just avoid frenzies like this altogether, which is what I normally do. With the new set being spoiled later this month, we’ll have a ton of real data to look at but, until then, either research turtle tribal or buy some sealed product. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Lessons from 2021

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2021 was pretty nuts and I’m frankly glad to be rid of it. Covid got way worse but restrictions got way looser. They made a bunch of good books into bad TV shows. They made another season of Tiger King. It was bad, people. It’s tempting to throw out the entire year, but the truth is that I wrote 51 dynamite articles and I’m going to spend this one telling you about whether any of them taught me anything about how to do a finance.

I wanted to wrap the year up by highlighting new techniques and breakthroughs we had this year. I’m constantly refining my technique and I seem to be getting better at it – someone on reddit accused me of buying out my own podcast POTW picks because I’ve been getting so many right lately, which is kind of a compliment if you think about it. I AM going to think about it, and I’m also going to think about what I did this year and how we can improve on it even more. Let’s do it to it!

My first article to review was titled “5 cards that cost more on TCG Player” and the title is the description. The premise was simple – Card Kingdom (and Coolstuff Inc, to an extent) are not marketplaces where there is internal competition between sellers to bring prices down. As a result, TCG Player should be cheaper than Card Kingdom. When it’s not, I take a look. Is the EDHREC algorithm scraping different versions? Is one of the sites sold out and therefore the price is frozen? Is it ACTUALLY cheaper on Card Kingdom? Questions like that can knock out quite a few of your candidates, but the ones that don’t get knocked out are usually mispriced. Why is the card mispriced? Figure out which site has the wrong price and you can find some real opportunities the people miss until it’s obvious to everyone and then you’re in a feeding frenzy. Catching prices about to move is a vital skill and any clues we get, we should use. I tried the technique again a few weeks ago and got a spicy spec out of it. This time it was cheaper on Coolstuff than on TCG Player, and there were quite a few copies left before this happened. A lower price on Coolstuff or Card Kingdom doesn’t always means it’s a good spec, but it means it often enough that you should train your brain to notice when TCG Player is the most expensive option.

Everyone knows Tatyova is a pretty absurd commander, but it’s far beyond that. Tatyova is an Uncommon from a set less than 5 years old and it’s nearly $5. Could we see more cards like that? I tried to devise a set of criteria for other candidates and I think the only from the last 5 years is Ser Konrad, a very reprintable (and reprinted) card. Bala Ged Recovery has a shot but that’s not even a Legendary creature. With 25 Legendary creatures a set, it’s rare that they’ll jam something as absurd as Tatyova at Uncommon again, but we’ll be ready when they do and we’ll be buying $0.50 foil copies on preorder.

I called my shot pretty early on which cards from Time Spiral Remastered had enough EDH play to recover from the reprinting. The article is pretty dense and it’s tough to summarize, but this is something I should do more often for reprint sets. There are always cards that recover and people say “when did THAT go back up?” because they don’t check the prices of everything or even that often. I like to tell them what to buy when the price is at its lowest. I followed up in May.

I think the funniest gimmick of the year was the time I wrote a 20,000 word article – provided you buy the conversion rate of 1 picture being equal to 1,000 words, that is.

In June, I got a crazy idea about picking cards that had good growth potential but not so explosive that WotC would notice the card needed a reprint, thus shortening our window. If you like to get out of cards at a leisurely pace, pick cards you can get into at the same pace. I explored the concept in-depth in this article.

This is the epic banner art I chose for my article where I discussed using EDHREC to find data that’s a little tougher to find on the site. Any time someone from EDHREC offers to show you how to use EDHREC better, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention. I’m a resource, make use of me.

Controversially, I tried to come up with my own metric for quantifying demand. The results were a bit fuzzy and I won’t be sure for a year if what we calculated will bear out, but I wrote a couple of articles where I outlined how I calculated the card’s DPI score (Dollars per inclusion) and how I used it to identify cards that were going to change price soon. I am pretty proud of the results but I won’t be adopting the metric permanently.

“The best commander in the set” only works when comparing specs to other specs from cards that came from that same set and it’s important to remember that. Not all “Most popular commander in the set” are created equal. There were only 2 or 3 from the whole year who even made the top 100 list for the last 2 years and those deserve extra scrutiny.

Using a list comparison tool I found online, I compared the top 100 cards from the last 2 years with the top 100 cards from a given week. Doing so can tell you which cards are going up hard and fast enough to displace format staples in the weekly top 100. It’s easy to do and the article shows you how, you just have to remember to do it and I haven’t thought of trying this technique again after I wrote the article even though I think it’s a good one. That’s why we do this annual wrap-up.

Treasure is an evergreen mechanic that is getting leaned into quite hard lately. Will treasure be a player in EDH forever? It seems very likely, and even if there is a lull, it will come back and those treasure-enablers will pop off again hard. What should you stock up on? Luckily, I have strong opinions about that.

Between Umbris and Toxrill, it’s insane how much money Dimir Commanders made me in Q4 of this year. I hope you all got as hype as I did.

If I had to summarize what I learned this year, I learned to use EDHREC data and filter out old staples to find emerging ones. I learned to catch when TCG Player was the most expensive and figure out if a price change was incoming. I developed my own way to calculate if a card was under- or over-priced relative to how many EDH decks it was in. I even figured out how to get EDHREC data that hadn’t migrated to the front page of the site. It was a good year, I had a lot of fun writing some of these and I think I gave a lot of great advice. All I can do is promise to keep improving and I hope you keep reading. Until next year!