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: Why We Wait


Last week we got some preliminary data about Teysa which was good and we made some moves, which was good, but as the picture became clearer, it became obvious there was some stuff we missed. It happens. We’re not going to grab every card that goes up because we just can’t think every possible thought. I could have guessed a bunch but I don’t like to recommend moves to other people based on guesses when there is so much money to be made on moves that are backed by data. You know what wasn’t back by data last week but is this week?

Specifically, this bad boy.

Spiritkeeper didn’t differentiate itself as much last week when we had fewer decks in the database and now it’s the second-highest signature card. It’s very, very good in the deck. It’s also basically too late to buy any.

It looks like there are still cheap copies. The listed median is $1. There’s still time. But is there? Let’s dig a little deeper.

The only people still holding are the pain-in-the-ass sellers who have 1 copy and are charging like $3 for shipping meaning the card isn’t $1, it’s $4 or $5.

Then you have this jackwagon with 12 copies, charging $10 for each one. This is a $10 card, it just doesn’t know it yet. This is a bit of a reminder to really check what a card’s price realistically is because just glancing at TCG Player’s home page as a card is beginning to sell out can be deceiving. There are about 36 copies of this card, 24 of which are virtually a dollar but are actually $4 and 12 of which are $10. The real average price is $6. If you can get it cheaper elsewhere, try. I had to pay $0.25 a copy plus $3 shipping on a few of the sites I buy from that haven’t updated the price and still ended up paying about $2.50 a copy that way since I had to buy from lots of individual sellers.

All of this was not to gripe that we missed the boat on Spiritkeeper or Massacre Wurm. There are other opportunities. Those specs would have required us to guess and while people who make those “obvious” buys act like people who don’t call those shots for their readers are oblivious or stupid, they also don’t talk about all the times those “obvious” specs never panned out. I make a lot of calls like that for fun but I’m not exposing you to as much risk as I expose myself to. I’m giving you advice based on analysis of data and as much as FOMO makes it feel like we should have leapt at Spiritkeeper before the numbers were in, there’s a very good case to be made for waiting. When you wait, things you didn’t expect can happen.

What Didn’t We Expect?

It seemed obvious to #TeamObvious that Vannifar was THE money commander. Buy Intruder Alarm, Thornbite Staff. Buy Woodland Bellower, that’s in 72% of the Vannifar decks. Vannifar continues to move prices, but that was if not obvious, at least predictable. Want to know what I didn’t predict and why I’m glad I saved some speculation scrilla for when we had more data? #Teamobvious missed this, too – we all did.

Be honest. Did you see the “You can’t play non-creature spells” commander getting built 28% more than Vannifar? I sure didn’t. But we have the data and we can see what’s going to move on the basis of this deck seemingly being more popular, at least in the short term, than the “obvious” deck. If people are going to buy obvious cards, we have lots of time to buy the non-obvious ones, and we won’t have to pay $3 shipping on each and every copy we buy, either.


A lot of these are fairly standard, but it’s really interesting to see what happens with one of these little guys.


This is still a bulk rare. It’s in 50% of the iterations of a deck that’s more popular than Vannifar but is that enough to do anything to the price? It’s hard to tell. The issue with non-obvious stuff is it’s not obvious. Obvious stuff sells because it sells not only to players who play with the cards but to speculators who don’t even have to understand EDH to get that obvious cards are obvious pickups. I don’t know if a combination of not being obvious and only being in half of all Nikya decks on the site are enough to pop this bulk rare, but I DO like a graph shape I saw…

… and that’s the foil. While we can’t buy at $2 like we could have a few years ago, I don’t think EDH play alone explains this precipitous rise of late.

The decks jamming old Nully aren’t exactly new. If it’s just age and scarcity and modest demand butting up against reality, it sort of accounts for the slow climb that began to jump in recent years. I think foils are a buy, but I don’t know how much Nikya does it versus them just being a good buy in general and I only just noticed.

Exhibit B is a card that JUST got a reprinting. The demand is new but so is the supply. I think Fauana Shaman is at its price floor regardless of what future demand does and a card this powerful and reprintable is a bit of a craps shoot. I think EDH in general and Nikya specifically has enough time before a potential reprint to make you some money and while I don’t know if this doubles in that period, I think it goes up. Tell a guy with a stock portfoilio you’re not sure if you’re satisfied with a 60% return and tell me what he says. You know what DIDN’T just get reprinted?

Up from a historic low, a period during which you could actually arbitrage copies of this monster, I think Vizier is poised to be a $7 card. It’s a rotated mytic with EDH chops, playability in a popular new deck, weird supply issues given people blew it out of their binder at rotation but dealers don’t appear saturated and 3 fairly powerful abilities, Vizier of Mul-Guya seems pretty healthy.

Speaking of “not reprinted” and “pretty healthy” check out the 2x foil multiplier on this card. 58% of the decks but with a 54% synergy which is fairly high indicating that, ironically, the price which leveled out 2 years ago is due for another bump. If the price climbed from $2 to $6 then without the heavy synergy with a popular new deck, this is a $10 card waiting to happen, and if the non-foil is $10, the foil will be at least $20, maybe more. Even if the prices don’t diverge, you make $8 a copy on the foils versus $4 a copy on the non-foils. You make the same rate if the prices don’t diverge (I can’t imagine a playable card will see convergence when the multiplier is at 2x, usually a soft minimum) so I guess buy whichever – I am more bearish on foils than the rest of my colleagues at this site.

With a half dozen ways to get Nikya out of the way from bouncing her with Temur Sabertooth to making her fight something bigger with Ulvenwald Tracker to saccing her to something, it’s possible to play a few non-creature spells in the deck and it’s pretty clear you want to be on Primal Surge. This is a slam-dunk inclusion, it’s on its way up, buylist price is approaching retail, it has no reprints, it’s an 8 year old mythic and I don’t actually need andy more reasons to buy this at $3 and watch it hit $10.

Check the rest of Nikya’s page for more spicy goodness you might want to run yourself and if you buy anything for your deck, buy extras because others are going to be thinking the same thing. Sure, some of the obvious stuff went up between articles, but there’s no reason we can’t make a ton of money just being patient, not gambling and waiting for the data to trickle in. Because we did, no one is fighting us for Nikya staples even though they should sell better to actual players than Vannifar cards. This is why we wait. Speaking of waiting, if you wait until next week, I’ll be back with another article with more tips. Until next time!

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Brainstorm Brewery #323 I Am Ironman

Corbin (@CHosler88), Jason (@jasonEalt), and DJ (@Rose0fThorns) welcome longtime patron of the cast Steve (@SteveMKestner) to discuss all the hype surrounding the new Ravnica Allegiance set, Commander and even the latest Modern Ban.

Make sure to check us out on Youtube because everything is better with video.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Data > Not Data


I wrote an article where I talked about what I thought, as a person who thinks he understands this format of EDH (you agree because you’re reading my article) people were going to play in Teysa Karlov decks. I was mostly right. I mean, I was right right. I didn’t say anything I didn’t see in multiple decklists online. However, now we have EDHREC data aggregating the data for us and I don’t even have to guess half as much as I did before. This is a very good thing for everyone involved. Let’s go back over the data now that we have it and see if there is anything else we can coax out. I mean, I do, what, 5 picks? We can find 5 picks I missed, let’s be honest. If not, I’ll do 3 picks, change the by-line to “Travis Allen” and no one will even notice. This is where you say “SHOTS FIRED.” I kid, obviously. He’s in our top 3 writers, and if you read his article twice it’s like you’re getting 6 picks, which is more than I do.

So what makes me want to look at Teysa Karlov rather than the more popular Vannifar?

Did no one build Vannifar this week? Of course not. We’re just not getting the data in, yet, and Teysa Karlov being more popular than Atraxa and Muldrotha is kind of a big deal. Teysa was the #1 submission this week and 50 decks is plenty of data to look at.

While we’re looking at a complete dearth of Vannifar decks in the database, let’s address some concerns surrounding using EDHREC as a data source. Yes, I think it’s less than ideal that we’re not getting every possible deck from every possible database. No I don’t think that skews our data. I think incomplete data sets are not ideal, but I think what we’re doing is using the database to identify cards we may not have thought of on our own as inclusions and looking at the percentage of decks playing those cards. We can also look at their synergy score to differentiate between Orzhov staples like Mortify and Teysa staples like Requiem Angel. Our data isn’t skewed by being incomplete unless we’re somehow missing an entire demographic of EDH players and even then, missing their data doesn’t mean our conclusions are wrong, just incomplete. Missing something isn’t that bad. It’s better not to miss things, but it’s not a problem if you’re hitting other cards. We can’t buy everything, so as long as we can identify buying opportunities from the data we have, opportunities we miss aren’t a problem. My hit rate for specs went way, way up when I started using EDHREC data, not down, so I feel comfortable making recommendations based on getting a glimpse into what the masses are doing.

If you think 50 decks isn’t enough, I would say don’t use the 50 decks to rule out something you think is good in the deck, then. Something being missing from a small sample size data set doesn’t mean that thing won’t be in a larger data set, but it’s unlikely something will be over-represented in a smaller set to the extent that the card will be a bad buy, especially since those errors have a mechanism to correct themselves in the form of people seeing the card in the REC list and saying “I guess that goes in the deck” and buying it. More data will continue to trickle in, but until then, we can absolutely learn about how people are building this deck by looking at what we have so far.

What About Synergy, Now?

I have talked about this before but some of you are new and all of us could benefit from a refresher. If you look at a card in a deck on EDHREC, you’ll see two numbers. By “in a deck” I mean on the page for that deck’s commander. This is 101 stuff but it’ll go fast, I promise.

Click on this link and it will take you to Atraxa’s page.

Make sure you’re on “view as Commander” because that will show you the cards that are in an Atraxa deck. The cards you see are all average inclusions in Atraxa decks and they will have two numbers under them.

The first number is the raw percentage. Of the 5,369 Atraxa decks we’re analyzing, 42% of them run Biomancer. The +4% synergy score shows how unique to Atraxa decks Biomancer is. For most decks, Sol Ring will have a -1% or -2% score because it’s in almost every deck and isn’t an Atraxa staple. Cards very specific to Atraxa will have a higher number. The higher the number, the more it’s likely to only be in that deck.

2/3 of Atraxa decks run this card and the +10% synergy score indicates it’s more unique to Atraxa decks than Biomancer, which has more appeal in other decks outside of Atraxa than Cornucopia does. This is easy stuff but it’s worth defining and it will help us when we look at Teysa cards. Cards with a high synergy score are inclined to move just on the basis of that one new card and a high synergy score could indicate overlooked and underpriced cards that are inclined to move in price on the basis of not getting played much before. +10% isn’t a huge number, and the sheer variety of possible Atraxa decks makes it tough for anything to be an auto-include. Let’s look at something a little more “linear” to build.

Here is Ancestral Statue in Animar decks. Clicking on this card will take us to the card’s page where, unlike viewing a Legendary creature as a Commander to see the cards it’s in, we’ll look at a card to see the decks that have it included. Clicking the Statue takes us to a page that shows us that Statue is very much a Animar-specific card.

This is Statue’s Top 3. It’s 22 times as likely to be in an Animar deck than in its second-most-common deck, Rakdos. That 41% synergy tells us as much without us having to click on every card and check our work like this. Do I know how the synergy score is calculated? No, and it didn’t occur to me until right now that I didn’t. I can find out, but since we’re mostly using it as a “is this number bigger than that number?” right now, it isn’t that important for you or even me to know how the sausage is made to that big an extent. If you want me to write a primer article on EDHREC data calculation, let me know and I can try and get the info. But if you’re like me, you just want to know you can trust a metric and I trust this metric.

A high synergy score may be a tad misleading when we have a small number of decks, but there is always risk in speculation and since we can cross-reference the inclusion percentage to “rank” the high synergy cards, we can mitigate that a bit. One lunatic jamming Sorrow’s Path in Atraxa will give it a high synergy score but low inclusion score. 1 inclusion won’t show up on Atraxa’s page with it’s 5,300 decks, but for 49, we may have issues. A high synergy, high inclusion card is going to be something we can say is going to have its price pegged directly to the popularity of Teysa decks and the more those get built, the more than card goes up. I think we can find a few high synergy, high percentage picks.

83% inclusion

+72% synergy

Foils of this card as hard to price because no one is really listing them on TCG Player. It’s clear the price is up but it’s to the point where the only listings are people charging $6 and people charging $0.50 with $4 shipping. CK has foils for $3.50 and that’s about what the TCG average is, but TCG only has 4 listings. TCG Prices are great most of the time and since there are a lot of data points, it seems “fair” to trust their market price, but situations like this are weird. If this gets used a lot, it could hit $5. Also, foil Revel in Riches, a better card, is like $4 everywhere. Does that mean buy foil Revel in Riches? I don’t know, how do you interpret a scenario where foil Pitiless Plunder is $3.50 and foil Revel in Riches is $4? One of those prices is bound to move. Or both? Does Teysa reward us for playing both of those cards (yes).

Foil Plunder is near a historic high and foil Revel is near a historic low but is rebounding. I think we have an opportunity on both of these cards. For the record, the score on Revel is not high enough to show up on Teysa’s page, but we said we wouldn’t let that bog us down, right? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Now, Plunder triggers from YOUR creatures dying and Revel triggers from THEIR creatures dying but that doesn’t matter, Teysa doubles both. Grave Pact means it gets nuts. You sac a creature, Grave Pact triggers, Teysa triggers doubling Grave Pact, Plunder triggers, Teysa triggers doubling Plunder. Plunder resolves, giving you two treasure. Grave Pact resolves, two of their creatures die. Revel triggers, Teysa doubles Revel, Revel triggers again, Teysa triggers again doubling Revel. You add 4 treasures. You’re 6/10 of the way to winning the game. Revel will show up in Teysa lists. It already is. I wrote about it on Coolstuff this week and that gets a few eyeballs on it so people will see it in a list there, also. I think this is also a buy, and it probably has a higher ceiling than Plunder.

50% inclusion

+41% synergy.

Foil Drover is at its historic average. Those funky spikes are hard for me to explain and I won’t try, but I don’t like non-foil Drover due to the reprint. I also don’t like foils because I think EDH demand for foils is way overstated. That said, Drover is pretty damn good in Teysa decks. Sac a creature to Ashnod’s Altar and one to Phyrexian Altar. Teysa puts two counters on Drover. Use the mana to make 2 1/1 spirits and Drover is now a 2/2. Sac the spirits for mana, put two counters on Drover, use 1 to make spirits. Repeat until Grave Pact has wiped the board and Drover can 1-shot anyone at the table.

83% inclusion

+72% synergy

These numbers will shrink when we get more decks in the database but for now, WEEEEE.

Teysa is good in this deck, obviously, and I think having the option to get the “oops, I win” combo with Darkest Hour and Blasting Station but with the added benefit of having a better commander than Teysa, Orzhov Scion is. Stay away from the $39 foils, probably.

67% inclusion

+60% synergy

This is a pretty cheap foil. Non-foils got a reprint but I think given the foil is near a historic low and this card is pretty damn good in a Teysa deck (don’t forget, Teysa also gives token creatures Lifelink and Vigilance, because of course she does) I could see this getting a bump. When there isn’t much difference in price between foil and non-foil, sometimes people buy foil because why not, and the prices diverge a lot. Also, foils sell out faster and easier. This is 6 mana, but a deck with both Ashnod’s and Phyrexian Altars won’t mind. This is a good pick imo. Or not. What do I know about foils? I’m just using the metrics I set out for myself.

In conclusion, there is money to be made as a result of this deck and I wouldn’t have picked any of those 5 cards and in fact did not on the basis of what is “Intruder Alarm” obvious. This one could be controversial – argue with me in the comments if you want. Until next time!

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Brainstorm Brewery #322 Electrodominos

Corbin (@CHosler88), Jason (@jasonEalt), and DJ (@Rose0fThorns) welcome team Lotus Box member Kat ( ) from the SCG Tour and VClique podcast on to the cast to review Ravnica Allegiance (RNA).

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