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: The Magic Way-Back Machine

Readers!
Occasionally, I like to take a trip back through Magic’s history and look at old sets and see if there is anything we can learn. Released all the way back in December 2022, a set called Jumpstart 2022 came out, and while reviews were positive, the set was quickly abandoned by players and collectors later in the week when Starter Commander was released and the Dominaria Remastered spoiler season kicked off. What went wrong? Was the initial hype unfounded? Why did most people only play one Jumpstart prerelease event or fewer? Today we’re going to take a look at Jumpstart 2022 because no one knows what’s in that set and see if there is anything we can learn for the next time a set comes out (Friday). 

If you remember back to December 2022, Jumpstart had a very popular commander named Kibo, Uktabi Prince. If you can’t remember all the way back 3 sets ago, that’s OK. Not many people remember this, but there were actually 14 total Legendary creatures in Jumpstart – a sane and rational amount of Legendary creatures. It was a risky gamble and WotC, to their credit, learned their lesson and haven’t had a set with fewer than 50 Legendary creatures come out since. With only 14 Legendary creatures, did such a small (lol there are like 900 cards in this set and Ben Bleiweiss tweeted about it today but I deactivated my account so you’ll have to take my word for it) set impact the format?

As it would turn out, the impact of the set never truly materialized in the window between its release and the release of the next set and no commander got even 400 decks built around them in that period. The likelihood that builders would return to the set after this many products have come out in the interim seems unlikely, leaving me to believe that Kibo will remain the most popular commander. I think, however, there is some merit to discussing some of the other commanders because it’s very likely commanders with identical abilities will be printed in the next year due to the law of averages and we can apply these lessons to that product.

Get it? He’s a rabbit and his name is presto and he’s a magician and he pulls stuff out of his hat! That might not sound that funny to you, but when you realize that they only had a few weeks to work on this 819 (literally) card set, it’s amazing that anything this flavorful made it into the set.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Unlocked Pro Trader: The Main Monkey Business

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My goal of not writing about the same product 2 months in a row for all of 2022 is going nicely. This week I’ll be reviewing Jumpstart because why not? Jumpstart always sells a ton of packs but, also, the more linear type of Commander creatures favored by a straightforward product like Jumpstart can really move prices.

Member diss? You can argue that it wasn’t just Tinybones that did this, but this spike had come and gone before anyone had even heard the name “Tergrid.” This is a graph of the buylist price, not retail, mind you. I don’t know if anything from this Jumpstart will be this robust at lightning fires under the asses of some of the more lethargic prices of EDH-playables. Will anything from this Jumpstart be Tinybones two k twenty-two? I don’t know, but it’s my job to tell you if I see anything that might do some work. Let’s look at Jumpstart.

If this looks really preliminary, it’s because it is. The thing is, as much as I think Isu is a fun deck to run as just a crazy landfall deck that they don’t realize is landfall until you KO them for 20 unblockable, we can’t ignore the sick meme action that is Kibo, Uktabi Prince.

If Kibo is going to do some monkey business, I want to be the business man who gets in on the action. There will be banana tokens in these packs, too, and since Kibo is a mythic, the tokens will be at mythic rarity as well, so try not to toss them in the trash when you bust a billion packs of this stupid set. Kibo is legit actually probably really fun to play, so let’s get into it.

OK, so I have been looking at 10 card snapshots like this for a long time. Rather than go into like 10 different commanders, I’m going to do more of my work out loud in case you’re interested in my thought process. It’s been a few years since I have done this, so if you’re new, maybe more of my methodology will make sense to you soon.

You have to play Monkeys in a Kibo deck if you want to get full value out of his abilities, and monkeys and apes with very good abilities make up the bulk of this top 10. For those very new, “High Synergy” means the cards appear in a large number of Kibo decks but not many other decks. The higher the synergy score, the more specific the cards are to that deck. Seeing 9 strong apes here didn’t surprise me, but the 10th card being Viridian Revel is noteworthy.

If you don’t play EDH, and I don’t expect you to, you might not know Viridian Revel was touted tech for dealing with the deluge of Treasure Counter decks like Prosper. It was discussed on a few popular podcasts and inventory was impacted as they say.

This is a price graph I am way into because it tells me a few things despite not looking great at first glance. First of all, it spiked very hard and precipitously which means there was a low inventory situation and the market was shocked by a sudden spike in demand. The card has returned to halfway between what it was at first and where it spiked to, which we see a lot, but the buylist price went down. That means dealers aren’t aggressively restocking because they have a lot of the copies. When dealers have all of the copies of a card and it spikes, no copies are in binders or boxes for people to ferret out and the price will spike harder and faster the second time around. Viridian Revel is due for, if not a shock and a spike, at the very least a correction. I think it’s very reprintable, but those risks are the nature of our reality, now.

After high synergy, I look at top cards. Those are just cards played in a lot of the Kibo decks whether or not lots of decks play them or not. A lot of these cards will be monkey cards, too, but you’ll see a few format staples here sometimes.

Whenever a card as old as Monkey Cage, an ancient card from a set that came out when I was… in High School. Jesus, my skeleton suddenly feels like it has weight. Whenever I see a card from basically last century, I see if it’s a weird meme card that someone collects or if there are basically 900 $0.25 copies of the card on TCG Player.

As funny as it would be to spend a couple hundred bucks to signal to the market that there was a run on Monkey Cage, I saw something else in my researching the stock levels on this card.

Turns out Jumpstart may be the wrong place to try and find Monkey-adjacent cards to spec on until the full set is spoiled, I guess.

Once we’re past High Synergy and Top Cards, you may feel overwhelmed at the gigantic list of cards. It takes a while to remember which kinds of cards end up first on the list and which ones are undervalues and to get a knack for remembering cards that show up a lot. But usually when I write an article like this, I will think about cards that work BEST with Kibo. Sure, Kibo needs monkeys, but Kibo basically gives them an artifact to crack. They get benefit from it so there isn’t much point in not cracking it, which means you can hurt them from doing it to shut off your commander’s drawback, but you can also punish them for cracking their treasure tokens or having artifacts when you wipe their board. Vandalblast isn’t as good a spec as Viridian Revel in the medium term imo, but Vandalblast tells us people will want to wipe their opponents’ Artifacts and hurt them for it. That helps us narrow down the cards to look at and ignore format staples.

I quickly tune out the cards that I know are not tied to Kibo’s fate and look at the rest.

Did you know this was a million dollars? I noticed it came back down, but I also noticed that there is a little uptick. Going in to a bunch of Urza Mishra artifact sets means cards like this are only getting better. Maybe it’s worth pulling those Saga Uncommons out of bulk.

If we’re doing a “give them an artifact and then hurt them for having an artifact” thing, which cards HAVE to be in that deck?

If a graph tells me absolutely no information like this one does, it pays to see if we can check stock levels.

Looks bad to me, but that number can stampede quickly. The problem is, most of the sets listed are 4 at a time, so dealers backstock copies rather than listing them all and having them be subject to a buyout. The wall is low but it’s long and long is bad, too.

This card is far more… dare I say… tempting?

This took a bit to get from $2 to $3 but what about stock levels?

Welp.

For me, this is a good way to glance through a page and be reminded that cards I thought would pop that haven’t, like Ancient Runes, are getting another shot at it, potentially in a very populat deck. Cards like Powerllech are stupid and very funny in this deck and they cost less than a Doubling Season. I see Titania’s Song could be a thing and check to see if it has too many printings. It does. Branching Evolution from last Jumpstart is down to $10? What happened?

It’s down hard over the last few months, but with the +1/+1 counters decks coming out, I love this under $12 right now, especially if CK will be charging $25 for it in a few weeks.

OK, if someone on TCG Player wants $11.50 for a card CK will give me $13 in credit for because they think it will be like $30 next year, I won’t argue.

I hope this glimpse into my thought process was educational, or, more likely, you saw that I mostly do it like you do but you think your way is better. I’m sure you’re right. However, I do excel at paying attention very hard and I hope that means you didn’t have to this week. Thanks for reading, everyone. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Timmy Stuff

Readers!

I haven’t covered the same product two weeks ago in this series and I feel like that sentence can replace the normal paragraph I write above the fold in this series where I express incredulity that my favorite thing in the world could make me feel this consistently terrible. If you’re not like me and you’re capable of only caring about the stuff you care about, you’re probably thrilled that there have never been more chances to buy products and build new decks. The thing is, the best specs are the ones that don’t rely on Commander only, they rely on other formats. Typically a format like Modern will feature a card and a combination of some Modern or Pioneer to a lesser extent (for now, I guess) play with Commander play bodes well for a card. You know what is better than Modern? A format played by the majority of Magic players. The answer is not Commander, believe it or not. No, the format enjoyed by the vast, vast majority of people who play Magic the Gathering is the format “63 unsleeved card I own” and it has been sweeping the nation since 1993. These players are the lifeblood of the game, and while they mostly buy boosters at Walmart, these players are very aware of the internet and how to use it and they buy cards. Caring what cards they buy can help us spec better, and today I want to talk about the casualest casual kind of casual concepts for decks – Lifegain.

Actually, I should have buried the lede under the fold to entice people to sign up for Pro Trader. Let me take that again.

Today I want to talk about… wait, that won’t work. OK, so the cat is out of the bag, I guess. Today I want to talk about lifegain cards, specifically for a deck that is coming out soon or is out already, I am not sure which.

Monks and Lifegain? Is there a more Timmier thing possible? I don’t know if there is, but I’m very excited to see where this goes. In addition to kind of wanting to build the deck, I want to see if there are any Timmy cards in the deck.

Oh yeah. We can work with this.

I think this is a $10 card in waiting, and being able to snag these for $3 from TCG Player seems like a real winner. This is a very Timmy card, granting you lifegain and rebuying spells for you. I honestly with this creature could be Legendary, but I would probably just loop Time Warp with it. Even if this only goes to $7, which it basically can’t if it spikes for a reason, this is still a buy at $3.

Also this.

We mostly missed the boat on this most brutal of White finishers but since it’s $10 on TCG and hit $15 on CK, I’d argue it’s a buy at retail. Reprint risk is impossible to know at this point, so caveat emptor.

This may be the first time I have cited the EDHREC salt score survey that we do like onceish a yearish as a jokeish, but here I go. When these cards first came out, people were furious about outside IP where they try to gather their Magic. Now they seemed to have calmed down a bit, and supply seems real low on this card. I think it’s a good card and being an Advisor doesn’t suck. I don’t know if the Archimandrite will be a real player going forward, I think with the pace of releases those days might be over, but I think Glenn is a $10 card.

How many copies of this card between Legacy and 7th could there really be out there?

Not 0 and not a million. The problem with a card like this is that if it goes up, copies will come out of the woodwork to attenuate the price spike unless you’re insanely quick. I don’t see it. Weird that such an old card is so cheap, though, and it’s great in this deck. Wonder what foils are going for.

Way, way less than I thought. Even 7th seems downright affordable.

How was this $8 in 2019?

When TCG retail is CK buylist, I’m a buyer.

That does it for me this week, nerds. The deck contains a lot more lfiegainy goodies and there are honestly probably 10 more promising cards just on this page. I don’t know if this card will be what does it, but when you look at the Timminess of these cards, you have to admit they don’t really need that much help. Let’s break off some of these sub-200 copy cards and count our money. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: More than Meets the Eye

Readers!

We got dese dumb Transformah decks and I think they’ll do… not nothing? I expected more impact from the Street Fighter Secret Lairs and it seems like there are finally so many products that large numbers of people cannot be relied upon reasonably to engage with all of them. It’s great that not every product is for everyone, but how do we guess which products are for no one? People are going to buy these Transformers cards, sue, and some of them might even play EDH. However, I have no idea whether this will matter enough to sell singles. I’m going to do what I have always done hoping things just click or I figure out the next technique, but I feel a ton of instability in my life right now and it’s making me worry about everything I used to believe in.

I am going to act as though I think these Transformers cards will impact the game to enough of an extent that prices move, something that Street Fighter hasn’t really borne out yet. I’m hoping the Transformers stuff is important, but if it’s not, all I did was waste an article slot. You will have spent money. I am not telling you I don’t believe in my picks because I’m a bad at this, rather I am saying that I don’t have the normal confidence in the premise of this being a worthwhile exercise – I will identify picks the same way I always do. As always, there is risk – if this was easy money, everyone would do it and I would be a carpenter or something. Anyway, let’s do that thing we do.



We have a whopping 15 commanders in this product. It’s a lot of cards. I don’t know, I hate this, what do you want from me?


Let’s go in order of popularity until we stop wanting to, shall we?




High Synergy card piles are starting to look like the first 10 cards reprinted the next time they do a precon, something they do 11 times a year now. I don’t know, it’s really hard to be excited about these staples, especially when half of them were in a precon to begin with.




This is a real Timmy card and at $2 for a mythic and $4 for an EA mythic, I think we are basically at the floor. You can get these from TCG Player for basically buylist. I don’t know what the future holds, but a big, dumb, dorky creature like this that makes so much power is great, especially in a deck where you’ll creature 12 pre-combat effortlessly. Flame Rift gives you 12 mana in this deck, you’ll be farting out huge creatures in no time.




This is an absurd card, held in check by its high CMC in a deck where colorless mana is as abundant as water. I’m into this in the format in general. The biggest reason for some of these cards not doing better is people have never seen them before. I suspect Bronze Guardian hasn’t been seen much and any card that can go from $2 to $10 because it was on Game Knights is worth keeping an eye on, and you can keep a very close eye on them if they’re in a pile on your desk like all of my specs.




Why would this price go down before it goes up? This card is insane. Unfortunately, it’s one of only like 20 cards worth more than $3 from those precons, so…. whee. Does that make the buy-in higher than I’d like? A bit, but it won’t matter in a year.




I have told you and told you to get this card – I sure hope you listened! It’s half on TCG what they want on CK so, that’s something. I love this card and I don’t know why it’s hasn’t been reprinted, but I have basically made money on this card 3 times so it’s about time I lost all of it, I guess. This isn’t a buy because of Optimus Prime decks, but it’s not like those hurt.



The guy that turns into an 80s ghetto blaster is the third most popular, go figure.




So here is another troubling concept.




Curiosity Crafter was shown on Game Knights, to great effect I might add. It spiked accordingly, and hard. It fell way, way off – not settling midway between the spike and pre-spike price, but rather at barely twice it. Buying in at $1 trying to cash out at $2 is hard work, so you need to be ready to pull the trigger and list when they start to pop for $15. Are you that nimble? This is the best case scenario for a lot of specs. Seems stressful, right? This is how you make actual money on a $1 card, though.




I have made money on this card this year, but I’m not ruling out buying back the same copies from CK that I buylisted to them and trying again now that CK retail is below what I buylisted them for. I hope I see my same old copies and get to get paid for babysitting them again. Other cards that do this a lot are Teferi’s Puzzle Box, Anvil of Bogardan and Sunforger. Feels good to sell a company cards you just bought from it for more than you paid, it’s arbitrage without a third part. The dream.




This is the absolute floor for this card. It tanking because of a reprint rather than loss of adoption makes it basically impossible this ever sees $40 again, but what do you want for a seven dollar and forty cent buy-in?


That does it for me this week, nerds. Thanks for reading. Until next time!