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

Pro Trader: A-A-AzoriUS

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If you’re like me and you’re always looking for an excuse to reference Duran Duran tunes from the 80s, you’ll love the title to this article. If you’re like also me and love Magic cards that are new and are about to evolve their own brand new archetypes, or at least make people think they’re going to. I can delve more into the Simic later because I think it will matter but I think there’s a ton of hype surrounding a certain card that was spoiled today (Monday) and I think whether or not the deck amounts to anything, there is a ton of hype. The card, of course, not just because it’s the only commander spoiled so far this week but also because it’s the only Azorius card spoiled so far, is this bundle of joy.

Blue Gaddock Teeg, as she likes to be called, is about to make life pretty miserable. If you just leave her on the battlefield, she’s going to shut down Etali, Intet, Narset, Maelstrom Wanderer and a host of decks that use mana rocks to ramp. If you play with Armageddon and other white Land Destruction, you’ll make it so they can’t recover quickly enough to catch you. If you go even farther, well, you can make sure you’re the only one who plays a game of Magic and IO think that’s pretty nifty. Let’s take a look at all the ways we can do that.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Ace or Base?

Readers! I am on a bit of a roll lately, writing what are at least my best-received articles if not my best-written and I would like to keep that streak alive and offer some real value this week. Continuing a bit from what we established last week in an article that if you haven’t read yet, you should and then come back and read this one. We established that artifacts and other colorless cards that have the potential to go in any deck tend to go in twice as many decks as similar “tier” staples that are limited to going into only decks of a certain color. The math is a little fuzzy, but we’re coming to a conclusion that “an artifact is basically twice as playable” which isn’t that exact and doesn’t need to be. That rule can be a rule we use every set we evaluate moving forward and as long as you check my math and, you know, agree with me, that factor of 2x can be something that helps you make assessments moving forward.

Armed both with that (vague, but so what?) factor and also the same process we used to come to those conclusions, we can therefore take a look at cards in Ultimate Masters and determine whether they are more or less likely than a card we consider a baseline “likely to recover in price” and make our buys with that knowledge in mind. It needn’t be the only factor we use to determine whether a card is worth buying now (prices have dipped and some are already showing signs of a brief recovery which might not hold, but people are already saying now is a good time to start buying in) but it can inform some of your future buying decisions when weighed against other factors. Or not, just ignore other factors and buy what I say to because you’re not paying for article access to have to think afterward, you’re paying me to think. Well, here’s what I think.

Ace or Base?

The first thing we need to do in order to figure out if something is above or below our “likely/not likely to recover in price” line is to figure out where it is. I am remaining relatively agnostic to cards used outside of EDH unless they’re used in EDH also. I can’t ignore the effects of other formats but I can mainly stick to cards that are largely used in EDH and to that end, I decided to use the handy feature of EDHREC where you can click on a full set and it will list the cards in order of EDH inclusion. The number one EDH card in terms of total EDHREC deck inclusions from Ultimate Masters? You guessed it. Terramorphic Expanse (You thought it was Eternal Witness, didn’t you? Me too.) I lucked out a bit in that prices hadn’t been updated in a few days so I got to look at the price of the cards before people started cracking packs for the most part which helps me figure out how much certain cards tanked which is a factor in determining how much they’re likely to rebound.

I think, personally, the line should be at Gamble. I think Gamble isn’t likely to recover a ton but I think cards used more than Gamble (and reprinted less) are more likely to recover and cards used less are less likely.

At 10k decks, Gamble is 28th on the list of cards in Ultimate Masters ranked by inclusion. Gamble has had a little play outside of EDH but that was basically inclusion in the Lands deck in Legacy and I hate to say it, but Legacy isn’t really driving prices like it used to. Gamble probably stays the same-ish and with the Eternal Masters version of the card down to $12 on Card Kingdom before the reprint and the Ultimate Masters version currently selling for $3.50, I don’t know if Gamble has the chops to make up for lost ground. If it does, that just means we have a higher degree of confidence in the cards we pick above Gamble and could see opportunity in sub-Gamble picks like Balefire Dragon, Phyrexian Altar and Glen Elendra Archamage.

Bubble Cards (Immediately Sub-Gamble)

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I think if we don’t expect Gamble to regain more than like 50% of the $6 it lost, these cards are even less likely. Phyrexian Altar’s price was largely predicated on scarcity and as much as I loved to harp on how much it needed a reprint, that wasn’t because I thought it was a good investment post-reprint. I think Altar is used in only one format, is in fewer than 10,000 decks and doesn’t quite have the chops to get there. Phyrexian Tower and Gamble get played in Legacy and Karn and All is Dust get played in Modern to the extent that the EDH play may be an after thought but they’re still in the top 40 cards in the set in terms of play. I think we can safely ignore Modern cards and focus on EDH cards. Balefire Dragon’s price seems largely predicated on scarcity even though it’s relatively recent but I think it’s still less likely than Gamble to recover. These cards could go either way, but since there are much juicier targets, why worry about them? If you want them to play with, you can safely buy in at the current price and not feel too bad about it.

Relatively Certain Gainers (Immediately Super-Gamble)

The 13 cards immediately above Gamble look good. I think we can all agree Life From The Loam is likely to rebound just as a gut feeling so drawing the line above it didn’t make sense and even if we’re wrong about Gamble being our baseline, we can agree Loam probably goes up. Now we’re not sorting by EDH+other formats so the order the cards are in can be misleading when sorted solely by EDH demand, but all this does is tell us which cards we should zoom in on and take a second look at. Let’s look at Loam.

Before the reprinting, the last reprinting of Loam (Izzet Vs Golgari) were $24 on Card Kingdom. Today, the Ultimate Masters version is $14 and could probably go down a bit more – it’s $11 on TCG Player and players are racing each other to the bottom. Either way, it lost about $10. It has recovered exactly that amount before.

The Lord Windgrace deck didn’t suck for Loam and neither did people toying with Dredge in Modern, but between April 2017 and October 2018, the value recovered and then some, and that’s with a duel deck printing and a Masters set printing. Eventually this will stop recovering, but I don’t think this will be the printing that does it.

So what about a card that’s not getting any help from other formats? $23 or so and bafflingly more on TCG Player before the reprinting, today you can grab an Ultimate Masters copy of Mikaeus for $14 on Card Kingdom or $12 on TCG Player. If you’re going to do that, you may as well grab the $35 box-topper, which is significantly less than the set foil price. I think Mikaeus, despite only being an EDH card, could see a rebound. It’s in more than 10k decks which is a bit of an arbitrary cut-off and only really means something relative to the other cards current for the number of decks listed but we do tend to see stronger rebounds for cards above that cut-off so I’m going to use it (with caution).

I think given its EDH-only play, Mikaeus is less likely to regain 100% of what it lost than Loam but it’s a mythic whereas Loam is a rare and that should help tremendously. All in all, I’d say Mikaeus is a good pickup right now.

This is worth mentioning because I have a penchant for blue commons in foil and this is the first and only printing of this art in foil. It’s currently significantly cheaper than the much more rare set foil. Card Kingdom is sold out of Urza’s Legacy foils at $33 and you can currently snag UMA foils for $5 on Card Kingdom or a $3 listed median/$1 market price on TCG Player. $1 is very incorrect for a cube, pauper and EDH card like this. Cheap foils of this seem like a Dramatic Reversal or Arcane Denial waiting to happen.

With solid EDH play, this card seems poised to recover a pretty decent chunk of the $18 or so it just lost. A card losing half of its value can be pretty brutal and while Loam seems poised to recover all of its value, copies of Loam go out 4 at a time in non-EDH formats whereas copies of Kozilek don’t. I think this is less likely than Loam to recover all of the value it lost. The one saving grace is that this was always reprinted at mythic and that’s a huge help.

This is a graph showing the recovery last time which was pretty robust considering the peak of nearly $70 was pretty nutty.  I think the mythic printing can help this pull out of the spin and recover roughly half of what it lost.

Basically the cards above this tier seem fairly certain to recover and I’m not sure they bear much discussion.

If you were to somehow list the cards by EDH+all other formats’ demand, I think some of the cards from this tier would be lower and lower-tier cards would be higher, but for the most part, I think the stuff in this tier will recover well, provided there is something to recover. I think Thespians’ Stage is probably crushed forever except in foil and commons and uncommons are likely going to lose so little value that it won’t be hard to make it back up, but this tier has a lot of strong cards. Eternal Witness is the poster child for shrugging off reprints, Demonic Tutor hasn’t been printed in like 5 years and even then it was Duel Deck Anthologies so it’s basically been out of print since 2008, Kodama’s Reach has new art which should help it out and Urborg is Urborg. I think the cards in this tier with the obvious exceptions of Rogue’s Passage and Terramorphic Expanse which have both been printed into powder, we should see some strong recovery here. My favorites here are foil Eternal Witness, both Demonic Tutor in foil and not, and Mana Vault.

I think just sorting cards in terms of EDH inclusion can help you think about what has a chance of recovering by seeing the cards “ranked” and while there are some cards over- or under-represented in the tiers due to their play outside of EDH and whether they’re a 4-of in those formats, but for the most part, I think the cards are grouped appropriately. Agree? Disagree? Nitpick in the comments. Thanks for reading, readers. Until next time!

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Brainstorm Brewery #316 This is What They Want

 

t’s one of those episodes but don’t blame Jason (@jasonEalt), Corbin (@CHosler88) and DJ (@Rose0fThorns) it’s Wizard’s who decided to make their major announcement on a Thursday. Like who releases anything important on a Thursday… wait this podcast comes out when?…. Oh…. Awkward.

Make sure to check us out on Youtube for hidden easter eggs and facial reactions  https://www.youtube.com/user/BrainstormBrewery

 

Return info for TeeSpring: You can return the items to the following address:

 

Teespring

1201 Aviation Blvd

Dock Door 9

Hebron, KY 41048

 

Kindly leave a note with your order number/email address, or include the label from your original shipment.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: All the Glitters is Silver

Readers!

I say a lot that EDH finance is MTG Finance on easy mode and for the most part, that’s true. EDH is predictable, moves slowly, moves dependably and while it’s tough to quantify, we’ve found that looking at subsections of the available data can prove to be a fairly reliable model of the overall demand in the format.

Demand isn’t all created equal and when we talk about cards that are in the Top 100 EDH cards by color, sometimes the scale can vary by a zero or two between “staples” if you’re determining which cards are in the Top 100 in terms of percentage of eligible decks rather than the raw number of total decks. It’s good to determine what is a staple in certain decks by disallowing ineligible decks – is Eternal Witness not a green staple because it’s not in any Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim decks? Of course not – Eternal Witness is in a full 42% of decks containing Green on EDHREC and that’s absurdly high. Shouldn’t we rank a card that’s in 42% of all eligible decks higher than a card that’s in 33% of all eligible decks? We should – Eternal Witness is more of a Green staple than that card is a “whatever color it is” staple and I’m not suggesting we change that. What I am suggesting is to remember that you need to weight raw demand in your calculation as well. That’s something I do when making a determination. If you’re not, you should start, and here’s why.

The Economics of “Scale”

By scale here, I mean the difference between a color staple and a format staple and how they can vary wildly. When you rank based on percentage of eligible decks, you’ll get Eternal Witness in 5th place and Cultivate in 4th place. You should –  they are in an incredibly high percentage of Green decks.

However, being a staple in one of the 5 (I guess 6) possible colors isn’t the same as being a staple that can go in any deck. Despite being in only 33% of eligible decks, you’ll notice something about the raw number of decks for a card like Lightning Greaves.

Lightning Greaves is in 1.7 times as many decks as Eternal Witness. true, it’s in a smaller percentage of eligible decks (every single possible deck) but it’s in a greater total number because of course it is. Eternal Witness and Cultivate can’t go in Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim decks and that’s fine, but Lightning Greaves can and does. When you’re evaluating stuff that got a reprint and trying to guess how well it will shrug off that reprint or you’re looking at a new card to determine how many decks it will go in, you should bear in mind that artifacts and lands, provided they don’t have a color identity like Simic Signet or Rugged Prairie, will in general have higher total demand and you can develop a pretty rough formula to “weight” the colors against artifacts to figure out how much of an impact we can rely on. This is not going to be all that precise, but it kind of doesn’t have to be, does it? If we look at cards that are in a given percentage  of eligible decks of every color and weight that raw score against the raw score of an artifact that’s in the same percentage of eligible decks (read “all” decks) we can come up with a factor for each color that shows what percentage of format demand each color accounts for and we can make more informed decisions about what to target both when cards are reprinted and when they’re spoiled.

2824.44 decks is 1% of total decks.

1295.35 decks is 1% of all White decks. That means an artifact can have, on average, about 2 times the demand a White card can if they’re in the same percentage of total eligible decks. A White “staple” in 40% of all White decks is still in under half of of the number of decks an Artifact that’s in 40% of all eligible decks.

1420.64 is 1% of all Blue decks. Again, that means artifacts are represented 1.98 to 1 compared to Blue cards.

1433.16 is 1% of all Black decks. That means Artifacts are represented 1.97 times as much. So far, Blue and Black are very close and White is represented less than the other colors – but only by about 1% so it’s not a huge deal.

1276.23 is 1% of all Red decks. Artifacts are represented 2.2 times as much as Red cards if we can rely on this data.

1320.66 is 1% of Green decks. I’ll be honest – I expected Green to be represented more than Black but I’ve been wrong before. Again, we’re talking about a 1% difference so it’s really that we’re seeing artifacts represented twice as much as colored cards, provided they’re played in the same percentage of decks. Basically, an artifact has twice the potential because it can go in more decks.

Whether or not these numbers are exact, and there were some discrepancies between the totals depending on which page you looked at, the discrepancies were less than 1% of the total and we’re basically looking qualitatively at this rather than quantitatively. I don’t think it’s important to note that there was a factor of 1.97 for Black cards and 2.2 for Red cards, I think it’s more important to note that the colored cards, no matter the color, accounted for roughly half of the decks and artifacts can go in any deck. An artifact that looks like a staple like Aetherflux Reservoir can go in twice as many decks as a similar card like Thousand-Year Storm. Sure, they will overlap a lot, but Reservoir can go in Ayli, Oloro and a ton of other decks with no red or Blue that Storm cannot, and that’s important to remember. If I made a colossal error in my calculations by relying on data that was calculated in some goofy way, I think we would have come to some counterintuitive conclusions but considering most decks are two colors, it’s that crazy that decks with any given color would be roughly half the total. There are a lot of five color decks, for example, and a five-color deck outweighs the colorless decks five to 1. Going forward, know that colorless cards (truly colorless ones, not “colored” artifacts like Lifecrafter’s Bestiary). We should take note of that in the future.

Extrapolation

We expect Eternal Witness to shrug off its reprinting. Currently, Eternal Witness is in 56,256 decks which is 42% of all registered Green decks. If a card with those sort of numbers can shrug off repeated reprintings, do we expect other cards to be able to do the same? Let’s look at some artifacts about to be reprinted and see what their numbers look like.

A 6,992 decks which is about 2.5% of all decks, I don’t think this has the chops to get back up in price. It was a scarcity-based price, antagonized by repeated failures to reprint it. Eternal Witness is in about 8 times as many decks as this. The good news is this being printed at rare and overlooked by everyone who doesn’t play EDH means this will probably tank very hard. It’s going to recover a bit and that means if you buy at its floor you will make money. It would be a little too simplistic to say this will recover an eighth of its value if Eternal Witness recovers all of its value, but considering this likely tanks to a few bucks, I think an eighth of its peak price of about $64 isn’t too shabby. I don’t have as much faith in this recovering, which is why we looked at numbers.

Meanwhile this bad boy is sitting at 23,651 decks which is 8% of all decks. I also think if this price tanks, there will be some discovered demand as a lot of players balked at paying $30 for a mana rock. I think this could be a decent buy when it tanks, and being reprinted at mythic in a very limited set bodes well for its recovery chances. I am much more optimistic about this recovering. I’ll still buy Phyrexian Altars for days because I want them in most decks, but this seems like a better investment.

9,363 decks, or about 3%, coupled with its play in other formats is nothing to sniff at, but repeated printings and a printing at non-mythic rare make me think this has limited recovery prospects. I’m not as excited about this as I am other cards.

Everything we said about Mana Valut we can say about this, only at its peak, Ancient Tomb hit about $50 which is substantially more than Mana Vault. I think there will be some discovered demand here although we’re talking about a card in roughly 8% of eligible decks, which is a lot, but whose demand is mostly predicated on other formats. I think non-zero EDH demand, discovered demand from new players eager to snag a copy with it pre-selling for about $24 and liable to go down a bit more as people open more packs means there is a lot of opportunity for this to substantially recover.

Compare the colorless cards to a “Black” land like Urborg. Despite being limited to black decks, Urborg is in 45,200 decks, which is 32% of all Black decks and therefore about 16% of all decks, Urborg is in twice as many decks as Ancient Tomb despite not being a colorless land. Demand based on power level matters, too, but this is more of a gut-check than anything. Sure, we have data to look at when evaluating reprints, but what lessons can we take forward when we look at cards printed for the first time?

  • There are roughly twice as many decks as there are decks of any given color
  • Colored cards are therefore half as likely to become a staple as an otherwise equivalent artifact or land card. Evaluating this can be tricky because of course it is.

This was an interesting data dive and I appreciate you taking the ride with me. If you take exception with any of my methods, let’s get into it in the comments section. Otherwise, have fun drafting Ultimate Masters on Friday! Until next time.

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