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: Stream of CONSCIOUSNESS

Readers! Every week I get hundreds of e-mails from adoring fans asking me how I can possibly generate 2 articles and 2 podcasts a week and still have time to be a loving and devoted husband, supportive and nurturing father and a borderline functional alcoholic. The secret is that I have developed a method for sniffing out valuable Magic specs before they happen and it can save a lot of time during the day. It’s a little difficult to explain my thought process all the time, so I thought I would take you through my process a bit which may be instructive. There’s a madness to the method and I want to let all of you in on it. I present to you – my unabridged thought process on article day.

Step 1

Let’s cruise by EDHREC and see if there is anything obvious going on.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Make Bad Cards Good More

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One problem I have with Wizards making cards for Commander on purpose instead of accidentally is that bad cards will be phased out by 2023. Rhystic Study used to be trash. Big, dumb, 7-mana creatures used to be pipe dreams and now they’re the first play that isn’t a mana rock or ramp spell that people play. The format is adding more and more “must-play” cards and the days of EDH being a bulk rare format are over.

This is why it’s heartening to see decks that make bad cards relevant. It’s heartening as a player and exciting as a financier because cards going from unplayed to must-include, even in fringe decks, can make you some money. Bottomless Pit’s price shows how inefficient the market is right now and while it likely won’t stick, it’s also taking its sweet time moving because of the inability of sellers to get copies onto the platform. Once a card is $11 on TCG Player, it’s not going to stay cheap everywhere else.

Tinybones was obvious but the second most popular commander from this week’s set drop could make even more obscure cards go up. Let’s look at the second coming of Zedruu.

Inniaz, the Gale Force (Commander / EDH MTG Deck)

Inniaz looks like a lot of fun and, more importantly, could bump up some old, worthless cards. Let’s look at a few, shall we? Like, I can dispense with some of the preamble because you’ve read enough of my articles by now to know my methods and if you haven’t, you can figure out how to read the last few? Plus I forgot. Let’s just do the article.

I’m not sure why this is so cheap but I like this for getting your stuff back and triggering some ETB effect while you’re at it. There’s no reason not to play Cloudblazer and Mulldrifter in a deck like this and both are great to donate then yoink back, then repeat. One Cloudblazer can come in, trigger, participate in combat next turn, trigger Inniaz, go to the opponent, get blinked, trigger again, etc. If you’re getting your fliers back and getting ETB triggers to boot, you can mitigate Inniaz’s parity, and not have to keep running out fliers to replace the ones you lost. This has other opportunities to go up and I’ve wondered why this hasn’t hit $10 yet. It will, I just don’t know when. If you’re not convinced, ask yourself where they could reprint this.

Many printings means lots of copies, but this has also been shrugging those reprints off. I think the fact that the non-foil price is approaching the foil price means something is coming soon. These seem low-risk to me and another reprint just means you have an opportunity to buy in even cheaper until your average cost is so low that you don’t feel bad you paid its current $1 price tag.

This card is perfect for this deck and if it maintains popularity like it should, getting in on the absolute floor for foil copies seems prudent. I don’t know what the foil could go to, but I don’t think it can get any cheaper than like $1.50 on TCG Player. It’s not entirely unplayed now…

…just almost entirely. At dirt cheap, the foils have some upside, provided Inniaz catches on.

One interesting caveat I might as well mention now is that Inniaz is a pain to play on webcam and that’s where a lot of EDH is played these days. Everyone having to have proxies for cards they’re borrowing means you’re making work for everyone with your deck choice and they might not appreciate it after awhile. Some people might decide they don’t want the hassle of playing with this deck and it could hurt its adoption. It wasn’t something they considered when they printed the card but it matters now.

This card is played quite a bit, and it’s absurd in this deck where you either blink it to refresh it and get it back or just let someone else have a 1/1 with no blue mana to activate it.

With 3 printings, there are copies out there, but with copies gettable around $4 or $5, how little people play Modern anymore won’t matter since demand will only increase for this card. It likely doesn’t get reprinted again since the price is way under control and it’s pretty absurd in Inniaz decks.

This is sold out everywhere but TCG Player (and MKM, I guess) because it deals people 20 damage and that’s hilarious because you gain 20 life and then ruin someone’s day. Can’t beat that!

There are a ton of cards like Rust Elemental, Steel Golem, Illusions of Grandeur and Thought Lash that hurt the opponent in obvious ways, but Statecraft is old Zedruu tech that hurts them in a bit more of a subtle way. Their creatures are harder to kill but they can’t hurt anyone with theirs and you can really shut a player down with something like this. Pass this as many times as you have to until the right person is having trouble doing anything. Check out the full Zedruu page for more ideas.

Speaking of Thought Lash…

Looks like people already got the memo. This makes me like Illusions even more.

There are other cards in here that are already expensive, but I think some of the inexpensive cards have the ability to go from unplayed to un-keep-in-stock-able on the basis of a popular new commander. Will it stay popular? Who knows? Kalamax has unseated Xyris as Teysa unseated Vannifar and Core 2020 commanders are being built more than Commander 2020 commanders. Everything is messed up right now, but when I get more data, I’ll have more answers and we have more time than ever before. Thanks for reading, everyone. Stay healthy, stay safe, and wear a mask you bunch of savages. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Can’t Wait-A for Data

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With so many sets dropping at once, it takes some time for EDHREC to have the sets input and to have enough decks to scrape from the various sites it scrapes. I’m going to do some brute force work to try and figure out which Core Set or Jumpstart Commander is most popular this week and then analyze the cards that likely go in the deck. I’ll be using just Archidekt because we are going for qualitative not quantitative results here. I’m tallying up the number of “hits” when I query each commander’s name because I want to know which commander has the most hits on Archidekt, not the number exactly. I don’t think there’s any indication Archidekt is not a representative sample – I think the most popular commander will be the most popular on any site I check, provided there is a clear winner. If there are 50 Inniaz decks and 49 Emiel decks on Archidekt, I’m not going to scrap my hypothesis if there are 49 Inniaz decks and 50 Emiel decks on Moxfield. If there are 50 Inniaz decks and 11 Emiel decks, I don’t expect there to be more Emiel decks anywhere else, savez?

I’m just going to lump both sets together and do a total number of hits from Archidekt for each one to see which one I drill into today. This will be guesswork but I don’t think we won’t be able to come up with good picks and it beats waiting for next week when we’ll have more data. Let’s do SOMETHING, shall we? Also, I’m going to Mythic spoiler, starting at the top and working my way down. These are in no kind of order. Again, this is unscientific because literally none of this matters except which commander gets the most hits. Some “decks” are 9 cards that someone intends to put in the deck later so he doesn’t forget it’s hilarious to give someone a copy of Nine Lives with Inniaz (I’m already laughing because I’m going to do this as often as I can and meow loudly at the person to my left as I murder them). Is an incomplete deck something I should disregard? No, because to me, it reflects the intention to make the deck later and I think people will make these deck fragments for every commander so it’s likely a wash. A signal is a signal so I’m counting it. If my methodology is so bad that I accidentally spend some time this week looking at the second most popular commander, oh no. Xyris was the most popular commander for 2 weeks and now it’s barely in the top 20 because it’s boring. We still made money on wheels, didn’t we?

There is a problem immediately – Archidekt does a poor job of differentiating between the 2 Mangaras and I can only search for decks with Mangara in the title. I don’t care, there’s no way both Mangaras combined are as popular as an actual good commander, so I push on. All of the Core Set 2021 Legends already have another card with the same name. Cool. Cool cool cool cool.

Mangara – 30?
Kaervek – 15?
Barrin – 27 (total)
Jorael – 20?
Gadrak – 18. I am sure of this number
Subira – 26
Vito – 31
Rin and Seri – 54
Niambi – 26
Radha – 40?
Inniaz – 35
Zurzoth – 21
Tinybones – 110
Muxus – 8
Bruvac -21
Yes, I’m still doing this after seeing Tinybones has over 100 decks
Kels – 28
Sethron – 10
Neyith – 31
Emiel – 12
Ormos – 7

With Tinybones the clear winner, as I half expected, let’s drill down and see what this widdle skewwyboi will play.

Tinybones does not steal trinkets, scale up if you make them discard multiple cards or help make their life total 10. However, he comes down early, draws cards, rewards you for getting creative with making them discard and he can kill people at low life totals. We can work with this.

Sorin makes their life total 10. It only works on one person, but if you can throw this out and you’re playing Tinybones, people will immediately know what’s coming. I don’t see this paired with Boney as much as I should but when we get more data, I expect to. This is a card that flirted with $25 that is gettable for $5 out of Mystery Boosters. I think that $5 may be a bit higher than I like to pay, but this card has demonstrated the ability to shrug off reprints before and the last time it flirted with $25 was less than 12 months ago. The Mythic Edition version probably has the most upside but I don’t love a $25 buy-in, personally. If you’re less risk-averse than me, that is an option for you.

This is a repeatable way to make every player discard every turn. That means you will trigger Boney Maroni once for every player in a turn cycle and draw a card for each one. Who cares if it makes you Discard? You’re playing Mono-Black, I think pitching a Sheoldred to reanimate later is a small price to pay for triggering your commander every player’s turn. T his could hit $10 on Card Kingdom if it sells out.

These are under 3 Euro on MKM. Do you not have a way to get cards from MKM? I don’t make any money when someone signs up for Pro Trader nor do I think I should, but I think if reading my article 48 hours early isn’t enough incentive, I think finding a hookup in our Discord channel to help you buy a $12 card for 3 Euro should make you enough money for your membership costs for the next year or so. You are smart, you could figure out a way to get these cards on your own, but why not just use our connections?

This graph is a mess because it’s currently spiking. You can pay like $3 on TCG Player or you can find these in bulk at your LGS -provided you can go to your LGS and paw through bulk. If this can go from $0.80 to $4 and maybe higher, I like Necrogen Mists even more. Dig through your own bulk.

There is no indicator of organic demand more clear and unequivocal than an EDH card selling out on Card Kingdom for $3.50 before it sells out on Coolstuff for $2.50. If you don’t understand what I mean by that, I’m happy to explain in the comments or a DM, but I think this graph really speaks for itself and it’s speaking volumes.

I use Card Kingdom’s prices on my graph to make a point – there are lots and lots and lots of Magic players who are better at building decks than they are at buying singles. Card Kingdom is the go-to place to buy singles for EDH players. Card Kingdom’s prices are linked underneath the card on EDHREC and even though they’re almost always higher than TCG Player’s prices right next to them, people still buy from Card Kingdom. Their generous buylist makes it worth buylisting to them to pick up specs at retail because the trade-in bonus negates some of the squeeze you feel from their prices being higher than other sites. If a card flirted with $8 on Card Kingdom and it’s getting a lot better now, pay attention to those $4 copies on TCG Player because those won’t last and people are OK with this being an $8 card, especially if they need it.

I don’t know why this spiked to $9 briefly but I do know that a card that flirted with $9 once and raised the buylist price to $4 (it stayed at $3) is a buy at $6. This is on the move – lots of Tinybones cards are and this, despite 2 printings, is a very brutal card in a Tinybones deck. Even if Player A doesn’t discard anything during their turn, Player B playing an instant and having to discard means you still trigger David Boreanaz over here.

When EDHREC has data, I’m sure it will bear out what I’m saying here. I manually searched lots of the 110 decks on Archidekt and everyone is building basically the same deck with the same cards. Consensus is cash money in this bidness so pay attention to what people are trying to tell you and snap the cheap stuff before it’s not cheap anymore. This deck is very obvious and there isn’t much room to add personal touches but I also don’t think it will be boring and fall out of favor. Xyris was obvious but also boring and Kalamax eventually moved in to eat its lunch. This strikes me as closer to Teysa Karlov except this wasn’t never overshadowed by an even more obvious, boring deck like Vannifar.

That does it for me this week. I feel better about these specs than I have about anything else I have written about this year, even stuff I found out later I was right about (which was a lot of them, this method uses actual data, I barely have to do anything that approaches guessing) and if you can snap some of the Megrim type cards out of bulk, you’ll make free money which is even better than speculating. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Good Kitty

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We have some Core Set cards to discuss and while not all of them are commanders, some of them matter, so let’s get to discussin’ them, shall we? I realize this is my preamble paragraph and it’s jarring to hit the ground running,

The Main Section of the Article

but life comes at you fast and since it’s been 19 hours since Ikoria spoiler season ended and we have another set to discuss already, we need to learn to adapt. Let’s talk about some cards and why only some of them are good ideas.

This is a pretty bad card a lot of the time. I think multicolored decks can use it to draw 5, which could be pretty good and it’s a Chromatic Lantern, but I think seeing this card and thinking “wow, combo piece” is silly. “But infi mana, Jason.” Wow, good point, didn’t think of that. Perhaps that’s why

$35 for a foil bulk uncommon, $4 for the non-foil on Troll and Toad’s new selling platform. Because you know, infinite mana. I’m assuming this is for Modern or some junk because we’re not going to care about this in EDH. There are easier ways to get infinite mana where the combo pieces are your commander. Remember this?

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy ยท Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths (IKO) #192 ...

Kinnan made infinite colorless with Basalt Monolith and it didn’t send people scrambling to buy copies of bad cards. If you have Filigree Sages, sell into the hype if you can find them in your bulk, I guess, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up about this combo materializing. If you have a Kinnan deck already made, I guess throw both cards in it but the deck needs a $75 Thrasios, so good luck with that.

The reason I mention this at all is that I have noticed cards that don’t really pan out get a lot more hype than the ones that do. Infinite mana of every color is sexier than infinite colorless mana, but having a card that combos with your commander is a million times better in commander than assembling a 2 card combo with 2 bad cards. Let’s bear that in mind when we look at the rest of the cards in Core Set 2021.

Of course this got people talking about Solemnity again, but the thing about Solemnnity is that it’s more fun to talk about than play with.

EDHREC doesn’t currently take cards out of the database when people cut them from their decks because how could we? 3,875 isn’t an insignificant number, but the thing about this card is that people like to brew with it more than they like to play with it because Enchantress decks have a finite amount of space and this doesn’t synergize with anything else in the deck. Non-enchantress decks with the exception of Zur can’t find Solemnity. Look at the decks who purpot to be playing this card.

These are all generic, try-hard prison decks. These decks can already run stuff like Energy Field and Rest in Peace. I think a number of them might jam Nine Lives since Solmenity is already good in those decks with Decree of Silence, the real winner since it’s good in Gavi decks, but I think even if Solemnity goes up, which will be tough since it just went up, it will go back down like it always does. It’s funny that the first money I ever made from Solemnity was from it making Decree of Silence spike the first time and now it’s a winner rather than an impetus. Making a shield around yourself isn’t the most fun thing to do with Nine Lives, though.

Give it to them. I don’t think Zedruu with its multiple printings is in play, but I think other cards like it could see a bump.

If it’s not Nine Lives, SOMETHING will come along to make people realize it’s fun to donate cards that kill their user to other people. Transcendence is a good example, Demonic Pact is another. Bazaar Trader can’t give someone an Enchantment which is annoying. No one is going to build a Zedruu deck for 9 lives but I think if you buy some foil copies of Harmless Offering for a buck, there’s a solid chance you’ll be happy later. This is either $2 in 5 years or it’s $12 in 9 months, there probably aren’t any in-between scenarios. I like it more than trifling with Solemnity is all.

It’s a day late, but if you didn’t already snag foil Hondens, snag foil Hondens. They’re out there, still, but a lot of people got wise immediately. I considered publishing this yesterday just so people would have a chance at them before they dectuple in price. In general, I’m not a fan of buying into hype so I figured I’d work my typical method and uncover non-hype stuff but in case you come across copies at the old price, go for it. I wouldn’t mess with the non-foils because they were reprinted in a Masters Set.

Kitty Cats are legit specs now and I’ll need another derisive term for bad specs for non-players, I guess. This is going to be a bad deck played by casuals but that doesn’t mean it will make for bad specs. In fact, good players try things and when they don’t work, they stop doing the things and sell the cards. Casual players never abandon a bad deck because being bad and never winning is not a reason not to play a casual deck.

Not that there is not currently a 1/1 Green Cat token or 1/1 White Dog token, so the only ones available will be in packs of Core Set 2021 (or Jumpstart, maybe) so grab those out of draft chaff and put them in a box until they’re like $1 each. Anyone who plays this deck will want like 10 of each.

Secret Lair Regal Caracal is gone, but the set foils are still pretty reasonable. I’d look at those.

There is no deck data for Rin and Stimpy but you can at least look at the high synergy cards for Pride Sovereign and look at some cat decks.

That does it for me. When we have some more data, it could be worth drilling down on Kitty Cats but until then, stay safe, stay healthy and sell into the hype.