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
This week the cast responds to the large Monday news dump, covering new spoilers, planeswalker rule changes, and how WOTC is handling leaks. DJ makes plans to purchase Jason an amazing costume. Listener emails cover invocations, standard cards values, and the reserved list. Pick of the week and breaking bulk cover cards that might move due to new rule changes with a side discussion about buylist spreads.
When I assess new cards and their impact on the format, there are a lot of factors I take into consideration.
How many decks currently run cards like this?
Does this create a new archetype?
Does this prop up an existing archetype?
If it creates a new archetype, how much do we expect that to get played?
If it supports an existing archetype, do we expect the new support to make more people play the existing archetype?
If so, how much? Do we expect it to see enough new play to expose the cards played in that deck to upside?
Is there enough demand in the format to expose in-print, non-mythics to upside?
Could this get played in multiple different commanders’ decks and would the combined influence be enough to push the prices up?
There is a lot of thought that goes into each and every pick. Sometimes I’m wrong because a lot of factors have to come together for a pick to pan out. If we misjudge demand, misjudge how a deck will get built (Remember all of those Clerics we bought when Ayli was spoiled? People say they want a Cleric lord, but when they get one, they leave us all high and dry. Never again!) or misjudge how much room we have in an existing deck for new cards, we can end up losing out. But we’re taking risks when we speculate on Magic cards, right? This is supposed to be hard and if it were easy to hit on 100% of our specs, everyone would be doing it!
It’s Not 2014 Anymore
The sad truth is that really, you CAN hit on 100% of your specs these days. If someone says the name of a card on their YouTube video, there’s a run on it. The card disappears. It seems to matter less to people whether a card is good or not because you’re not always necessarily selling to players, you’re selling into a feeding frenzy that starts when someone realizes “Oh man, you know what would go great in a kitty cat deck? White Sun’s Zenith! I mean, I assume, I haven’t actually seen any cards from the cat deck so I don’t know if there are any cards that grant a power and toughness bonus to cats (there is exactly 1, it’s a reprint and it costs 7 mana)” and ends when you sell all of the White Sun’s Zeniths I told you not to buy and call me an idiot on Twitter.
There are 4 foil copies of White Sun’s Zenith left on TCG Player, so obviously someone made some money. Even if they aren’t selling at $12 (they aren’t) there are few enough that whoever wants a foil copy basically has to pay $12 (unless they buy the SP copy from Star City for $3.50). What choice do they have? TCG Player is the site that determines the price of a card, and when all 3 copies under $50 sell, what other choice do we have for determining what the new price is? I’m not even really sure who I’m upset at here, because I bet some doofus pays $12 for Cape Fear’s LP copy before someone buys SCG’s copy for $3.50. You want to know what else is great?
Zenith got reprinted because of course it did and the people who gambled on it before the lists were announced with the “Well, it can’t go down from bulk, what do I have to lose?” attitude I had in 2010 when I was terrible at this are holding the bag right now (they’re holding something else, really, but I’m trying to maintain a modicum of decorum right now). 1st level thinking is “I bet kitty cat card is good with kitty cats!” and 1st level thinking leaves you with cards you can’t move for $0.34. Second level thinking tells you “I bet kitty cat card is good in kitty cat deck AND foils can’t be reprinted, and if you bought foils, I’m sure you think I’m an idiot for calling you intellectually lazy because is it lazy two play 2 dimensional chess and buy foils that can’t get blown out by a reprint? IS IT?
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m getting worn out. I’m telling people not to buy bad cards and I’m putting a ton of work into figuring out whether a card is actually bad. Despite being in the cat deck, White Sun’s Zenith doesn’t really play well with the rest of the deck, except for Mirri, and the deck as is doesn’t really give you any bonuses to cats. You have to do a complete overhaul to make White Sun’s Zenith worth it, which is fine. Oh, also, you have to be a complete lunatic to buy a kitty cat precon and then build it a token build that isn’t supported by like 95 cards in the precon you bought and also start foiling it out. Do people buy EDH foils? Sure, obviously, or the foil multiplier would be like 1x but if you want to buy and sell more than like 4 copies of a card, you need to have enough demand to take those copies off of your hands and you can’t rely on a lot of doofuses to come along and buy you out at $8 so they can try and list them at $12 (at least historically, you couldn’t, I’m not so sure that’s not a legit tactic anymore). So either you buy 4 foil White Sun’s Zenith for like a buck each and then turn around and sell them for $6 later and you make $14 after fees, or you weren’t really right. I know it’s not easy to nail a spec. I only buy in deeply if I have a very, very good feeling about a spec (I’m talking Dictate of Erebos at $0.50 good feeling) and I buy in deep enough that I don’t waste it if I was right. If I had $14 for every time I nailed a spec, I’d have to start speccing on Yu Gi Oh, too or I wouldn’t be able to make my car payment every month. So all of that made me call people who bought mediocre cards with high reprint risk in foil to eliminate the reprint risk “lazy” because I don’t think you’re telling anyone anything useful if you’re advocating making $14. After all, I’m the tortured genius over here playing 3D chess. You know why I don’t care about that anymore? There’s no money in 3D chess.
It barely matters at this point. There are so many greater fools ready to snatch up your cards, and so many people ready to build EDH decks that even if a combo is bad and only 2% of players will be bad enough to include it, that’s still thousands of people, way more than enough to soak up the supply.
Remember when I said bad interactions wouldn’t matter so don’t buy terrible cards part of terrible combos?
Here’s the TCG data for Bounty Hunter, a card that combines with the worst commander (Mathas) from the worst deck (the Vampires deck) to form a two card combination that could best be described as “the tap ability on Avatar of Woe.” Is that combo good? Of course not. Am I wrong for telling people not to buy Bounty Hunter because it was part of a terrible combo and it wouldn’t matter since no one wants to play bad cards part of bad combos? I guess so!
So I’m not going to tell you not to buy bad cards from bad combos. The price goes up because there are enough actors in the market now that everything that gets breathed on will go up. You probably won’t have any trouble selling foil Turntimber Rangers in a week to the thousands of people lined up to build Turntimber combo in EDH and Modern because everyone knows EDH players love to foil their decks out. Buy as many foil Ranger as you can, you know why?
Wow, infinite wolves. Is it good? I don’t know! Who cares? I said Wanderwine Prophets was a bad combo, or at least it wasn’t any better than Sage of Hours plus Ezuri and people lined up 5 deep to tell me I was wrong. No one who isn’t holding onto a bunch of bad cards from a bad combo is ever going to thank me for steering them away from danger, so why pee on people’s parades? If I’m right, no one cares and if I’m wrong, everyone brings it up two years later in an unrelated debate. Even though Conspiracy and Xenograft have been around for literal years and no one ever built this combo with those cards, I have a good feeling about this combo’s ability to make Turntimber Ranger’s price go through the roof, because Magic players weren’t playing 2D chess in 2011 and didn’t know a good thing when they saw Xenograft get printed (In the same Standard format as Turntimber Ranger) but they’re way smarter now. Buy the foily Rangers.
I Mean, Or Don’t
This brings us to the main topic of discussion this week, how to handle the stuff that’s inevitably going to be affected by the Planeswalkers becoming Legendary permanents. I’ve been a real pessimist since the start of Commander 2017 spoiler season.
Months ago, a bunch of Ixalan cards leaked and people have been speculating that the Planeswalker rules change would be retroactive to older Planeswalkers and months ago speculators bought cards like Captain Sisay and Empress Galina. This happened months ago. We were in Vegas for the GP when this happened. You’ll have to pardon my surprise when all of those cards came into focus again and players started talking about all of this like it was new, and the cards all went up again, based on the exact same information.
I’ve seen cards go up again based on the same thing happening again, but I’m not used to seeing it happen again based on the same information months later. I was taken aback. Naturally the internet exploded with people talking about this stuff like it was new.
Captain Sisay is already at the helm of her own deck that people have been playing for like a decade in EDH and now players are already talking about slotting her into Atraxa. Doesn’t this make you want to build Sisay? Before you could grab Gaea’s Cradle or Genesis with Sisay’s ability, but now you can grab AJANI, MENTOR OF HEROES. I mean, if I’m actually being fair, you can grab Karn which is non-trivial, especially if you can use Cradle to play it right away, but for the most part, Sisay just got access to a bunch of bad planeswalkers and 4 good ones and Sisay is likely relegated to the 99 of Atraxa rather than her own deck which gained limited upside. But I’m not making judgments about whether things are good anymore, so here are some cards that everyone else thinks are good and therefore are going to sell out and if I say they’re bad cards that won’t get played in bad decks, I’ll be proven wrong, doubly so if I don’t think the foils are a good place to stash money. It’s perfectly reasonable for a person with a $4,000 foil Atraxa deck to play Yomiji, Who Bars the Way because EDH players don’t care about playing the best cards in their decks, only the most expensive versions.
Is this card getting played in Sisay and Atraxa decks? I really tend to doubt it, but it scarcely matters because all of the $5 foils are gone 24 hours after the announcement (which came months after people already knew this information but didn’t really act on it).
Saffron Olive called this card a “Sol Ring for Planeswalkers” on Twitter today, 24 hours after I called it “A situational Temple of the False God,” Jim Casale called it “Worse than the Ancient Tomb I’m already not playing” and I did a Twitter poll where 2/3 of respondants said they wouldn’t play this in anything other than Reki, the History of Kamigawa because why would you want a land that sometimes lets you pay 2 life for 2 colorless but can’t tap for 1 colorless in a 4 color Atraxa deck? I screwed up. While I was too busy wasting a whole day figuring out that this card was bad and even the Reki players in my EDHREC Slack group wouldn’t play this card, everyone was scooping these for a buck and listing them for $12 on eBay. If you listened to me, you missed out on the chance to make money on just a real piece of dog$%&* of a bulk rare that people who don’t play any EDH are excited about. It’s a Sol Ring for Planeswalkers, guys. I steered you wrong.
Is there anything that hasn’t popped that could go up, still? Probably.
The promo foil of this hurts the foil’s upside, slightly, but you can now use this to tutor for Planeswalkers, something you couldn’t do before. I liked this card when it couldn’t do that so I can’t pretend I don’t like it now just because the non-foil has a 0% chance of going up.
Myojin of Cleansing Fire
If people build more Sisay decks like they swear they’re going to, this is a shoo-in inclusion in those decks. It’s not a Planeswalker which means being able to use Sisay to get this isn’t new, but couple the new Sisay decks that are going to be built with the face that there is a card called Kindred Boon that can put Divinity counters on permanents and you have two chances for this card to go up. I’m not saying this card is good, I’m saying it’s like a $6 foil right now and it probably goes up if I tell you not to buy it.
Myojin of Life’s Web
Ditto on foils of this card, which were already on their way up. $13ish is a high buy-in price but this had upside before and has even more now if people build Sisay.
With the spoiling of a new Grixis Pirate Lord, every Ramirez DiPetro and Skeleton Ship deck gets access to red cards, something I’m not sure it wants or needs but is getting. Every pirate card is popping off right now, so if there is a card with the creature type pirate, but it. Kukemasa Pirates, Rishadan Brigand, Mistform Ultimus – buy them.
I honestly need your feedback. Do you want me to keep trying to figure out of cards or combos are bad? Do you want me to do what I had been doing for years and being cautious and waiting to see if something had legs before advocating it? Or do you want me to be fast so you can buy the obvious specs everyone else is going to buy before they’re all gone? Maybe you don’t need help with obvious, but it’s clear I’m not doing anyone any favors by spending all day determining a card is bad and won’t get played only for it to sell out anyway. Tell me what you want from me and from this series in the comments section.
I decided to switch it up and not talk as much about the Wizard commanders as much. I might just take it week by week, I might right about emerging trends as they emerge, I might just do what I want each week without trying to be accountable to some sort of arbitrary I set up in advance because that would stifle my creativity and limit me as both a financier and as a person. Next week I might talk about Dragons, I might not. All you need to know this week is that I’m going to talk about Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist and what I think we’re going to end up spiking as we build with her.
It may be a tad premature to say I think Mirri is one of the more popular commanders right now because no one has the cards yet, but that doesn’t really stop people from brewing. People have had decks on TappedOut since the Dragon cards were leaked even without knowing what was in the rest of the decks. THAT was premature. But when people do things prematurely, they’re signalling that they’re the most fanatical of the bunch and that means a few things I think we need to think about.
Fanatics follow through
The people who are so jazzed about building their Taigam, Ojutai Master extra turns rebound deck that they didn’t even wait to see what else was in the Dragon deck (Fractured Identity, a card that’s way better than I think most people are aware of) are going to buy the Dragon deck to get the cards and they’re also likely ordering or have ordered the rest of the stuff from the deck. They put it up on TappedOut weeks early with a fake placeholder like Lavinia so you can only find it by googling Taigam’s name and they will buy the cards the second they can. Is it ridiculous that they made a fake deck super early? Sure, but it’s equally ridiculous to assume they aren’t champing at the bit and won’t be the first in line to buy the cards.
They thought this through
A person fanatical enough about the new commander to go out and register their decklist on a deckbuilding site before they’re really even supposed to has scoured gatherer, similar decks, discussion groups and even reddit. They have tweeted about the cards and interactions and gotten feedback from other lunatics like them. Granted, cards slip through the cracks, but the general thrust of these new commanders are identified and explored by people weeks before the cards are for sale. It didn’t occur to me to use Buyback spells with Taigam or Beacons because I didn’t think about it as much as these nuts. Luckily for me, they put their findings online because they’re proud of them and I get to come by, look at what they figured out, and figure out how to buy the cards before they do. They’re too busy writing a 3,000 word screed on MTG Salvation that no one else will ever read to take a second to order a few copies of Beacon of Tomorrows wherever a person like that orders cards (SCG) and when they try to buy them, they’ll see they’re all gone because my readers thought about that. Still, it’s good that they are doing so much thinking and posting about the new cards because…
They set trends
Like it or not, two things have more influence over what ends up on EDHREC. The first is inclusion in the precon. There is going to be a huge degree of correlation between Arahbo decks and Hammer of Nazahn. If you were building an Arahbo deck from scratch, you’d never include the hammer. It doesn’t really interact with the way you want to build the deck that much and it doesn’t make your Top 100, ever. However, people simply aren’t going to build the deck like that. They’re going to buy the kitty precon, take out the bad cards and replace them with better cards. They are going to leave in a lot of marginal, “too good to take out therefore good enough to play” cards, at least initially. They may cut them later, but people are way better about getting their crazy lists up than editing them. We call this the “precon effect” over at EDHREC. Cards from the precon that shouldn’t be in the deck end up in EDHREC lists just because people don’t take them out regardless of whether or not they’re really impactful enough to always play.
The second thing that influences what ends up on EDHREC is what people put in TappedOut early. The people who use EDHREC to build their decks or check around TappedOut subsequently will see what the first people to register their decks used, and EDHREC will generate an “average list” when people request it, meaning the people who register their decks early will have their picks seen by everyone who builds subsequently and any of those suggestions that subsequent people follow will be seen by even more people. That’s not a limitation of EDHREC as a metric, though. I think it’s quite the opposite, really. I think it means that the people who build first have a lot of impact so there isn’t much point in waiting for more data. The heavy influence of early adopters makes early analysis just as fruitful as later analysis and we’ll come to a lot of the same conclusions. Right now, there are roughly the same amount of decks registered for the “good” commanders and a handful for the “bad” ones. We have enough data to look at what early adopters are using so let’s see what they’re doing with Mirri decks. That’s me telling, not asking. This is happening.
Before I do that, real fast, I wanted to remind everyone that although you read my article here, you may not be aware that I do other stuff. I can’t take for granted anyone knowing my whole life so I want to point out that I am always giving out good finance info on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast and I am writing something that sometimes really approaches this article on Gathering Magic every week. I don’t evaluate cards with respect to finance in that series, but I do talk about cards that I think are good and other people read it and buy cards when they agree with me and it’s worthwhile to know what people who have followings think about things. I try to keep my picks from the two places separate, so I’d read both if I cared about my opinion.
So what do we think Mirri is going to do to stuff based on what early adopters, whom I’ve already (hopefully) established are going to correctly predict and also influence what subsequent builders buy are using? I’m glad I pretended you asked.
Something is going to happen to push this card over the cliff and it may be a lot of new usage from kittycat decks, especially Mirri decks. Mirri benefits from going wide around their solitary defender and if they want to block War-Pride, they can’t block Mirri, letting Mirri continue to lock them down and also survive to be a Crawlspace. War-Pride will fart out a ton of tokens to make it miserable for them to have a lot of creatures they can’t block with. War-Pride was one of EDH’s best-kept secrets despite it having some vocal cheerleaders and that was before Mirri made it even more miserable to have this swing at you. With Parallel Lives, Anointed Procession, Cathar’s Crusade and other cards you’ll already play in a Mirri deck, this card is busted.
Now, can this card get above a buck being an uncommon? Sword of the Meek is like $8, Dryad Arbor is $10, Aven Mindcenser was real money, etc. War-Pride will never be as important, ubiquitous or nutty as those cards, but it also establishes that Future Sight uncommons can have an upside as high as $10 or so even after reprinting. War-Pride is already in 500 decks on EDHREC and that was when it was way more fair a card. It’s super unfair now and buying these under a buck makes sense if this ends up $3 or $4, which I think is doable.
This is also a $10 or so foil so while I think the ship sailed when every lunatic bought every kittycat card and in true broken clock fashion, got one right, I think the non-foil has a lot of upside. I also think financiers who claim people are lining up to buy a stupid kittycat precon deck and then foil out the deck they build should save some drugs for the rest of us. If you find some of these in foil bulk, hooray, but I’m not a buyer in foil above like $4, which isn’t really possible anymore.
I’m sure we all wish we had been paying better attention to this card. I noticed it dipped but I didn’t remember to tell anyone it would go back up or buy any copies for myself which seems like a silly thing to have done. This was always secretly the best Dragonlord but since it wasn’t good in Standard, no one cared. Well now we’re all about Teeging them and this Teegs better than any other Dargon ever and also Baneslayers pretty good. Mirri decks want unfair creatures like this, they don’t want terrible Cats. You’re not going to be Cat tribal with Mirri so make sure you don’t forget to include good token creators and savage Dargons like this one.
I think this image says a lot about how quickly these prices shifted recently.
The prerelease foil sold out very close to where the non-foil is right now and the set foil is barely more than the non-foil. For all of this talk about how EDH players are so willing to foil their decks out this seems to indicate the real truth is that 99% of EDH players would play an alternate art Dromoka with a picture of Guy Fieri’s frosted pubes as the image if it were 50 cents cheaper. The 1% of EDH players are buying foils. Sure, you’ll probably sell the foil if you buy it for $19 bucks, but don’t let that trick you into thinking you should buy every foil of every spec because it can’t be reprinted. Most EDH players want the cheapest possible version, and if you want to make money, you need to be able to buy a lot of copies inconspicuously and have outs for all of them. I stay away from foils for the most part for this reason – lower stock means it’s very hard to buy inconspicuously. Still, there is a price correction incoming on the foil copies and it probably has nothing to do with demand for the foil copies and everything to do with the foil being $4 more than the non-foil seeming “wrong” to people.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
As long as we’re Teeging people, take a look at this Angel at her floor. The copies from Modern Masters 2017 are even cheaper and due to rebound. Modern Masters 2017 was a pretty under-distributed set and this is a sick, iconic angel that is killer in EDH and straight shuts down a lot of annoying cards. I think you buy iconic Angel cards at their floor and that time is now, especially if Mirri decks take off and people jam these as often as they are now (percentage-wise, which isn’t inconceivable). You’ll sell a lot more of these at $20 than you will at $40 and I think you will be fine selling at $20 if you get in at $10. Wizards may reprint her again so I think a nimble in and out is the play.
That does it for me this week. I think you may find other cards you like if you keep checking the Mirri page for updates, but I think this is where I would park my money. I think there are a lot of cheap, inconspicuous copies of Nacatl War-Pride online and I think you find those. Go to local stores and yank these out of bulk. Let TCG Player get bought out a month from now when you have all of your copies, otherwise your orders will get cancelled and you just told a bunch of dealers to reprice their cards for free. Let’s be smart about this, as unpopular an opinion as that is these days. Until next week!
Josh Lee Kwai returns to discuss Commander 2017 and push DJ to the #2 guest spot. The cast discusses the make-up of the new decks and which cards might grow in value. Corbin gives a rundown of modern, and the crew covers breaking bulk and pick of the week with their guest.