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

Unlocked Pro Trader: Crimson Vow Quick Hits

Readers!

My time is valuable, as is yours, so I want to get you this info as quickly as possible in case there is anything you can do with it. You know I prefer the ling, sustainable specs, but every time a new set comes out, some stuff pops in the short term and the window to react to it is fairly small. I feel like I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t at least apprise you all of what’s going on and leave the decision whether to chase these quick, fleeting specs up to you. You’re adults – if I can trust you to follow my methodology without misrepresenting or failing at it, I can trust you to decide whether you want to fight with a few other people over the last few copies of a card that popped based on something that was spoiled this week. I’m not here to tell you what to do, merely what there is that you could do if you were so inclined. If that makes sense. Anyway, here are your picks.

This is a fairly unnecessary Magic card. At first, people theorized you could do some relatively busted stuff with this card if you had bouncelands, but since that doesn’t work, basically the only thing you can do with this is the least fair thing you can do with this, which… I don’t know how to feel about. Colossus has caused people to take a second look at Abundance, for one.

Abundance was probably too cheap for how good it is given its relatively high number of printings, but a lot of those printings are weird and obscure and copies are drying up, fast. Abundance is a two card combo with Cultivator that dumps every land out of your deck which you may or may not find exciting. The issue is that this is a 2 card combo and neither one of those cards is your commander. I am fighting a losing battle trying to convince people not to run Grolnok as Frog tribal, and maybe this goes in a deck like that because Abundance can help if you’re milling yourself a lot, but a two card combo that plays all of your lands and draws you quite a few cards is still sort of difficult to do anything with. You need a way to win from that state, which isn’t THAT tough given the advantage, but which will still require more work, and the combo is two cards, neither of which is your commander. It’s doable, but I don’t see Abundance being $10 on the back of it. That said, perception is reality, and people perceive Abundance as a card worth getting.

Conversely, Runo IS a commander, and cards that pair well with Runo seem like a good play, whether or not he ends up popular. In general, anything that pairs with your commander is essentially a 1 card combo since you always have access to the commander, making it much more appealing than the Abundance shenanigans we mentioned above.

There is no reason to think a card that has already flirted with $10 before can’t get there on the back of Runo making people build a dumb tribal deck. If you check out the sea creature tribal pages on EDHREC, you’ll likely find some other cards like Whelming Wave and Fleet Swallower and it’s up to you to decide how compelling you find those. Personally, I don’t think they’re too bad. I don’t know how good Runo will be, but it won’t take much for people to buy in on spec, so get your copies to sell to them if you must.

There are a non-zero number of decent opportunities here, imo.

Innistrad: Crimson Vow Mechanics | MAGIC: THE GATHERING

I think Blood tokens are pretty bad, but some of the cards that make them are pretty good.

Ultimately, Blood tokens likely end up in Vampire decks, which is a good thing because rummaging is a great way to trigger madness. Of all the Vampire cards that benefit, I think there’s a clear winner.

Not that Red struggled with this too much, but this is another way to grant instant speed to your spells, and Blood tokens make it easier than ever before to trigger Madness. Gorger has historically not been that good an investment, and the low price means there was little incentive for people to sell a lot of copies to dealers, meaning as the price starts to try to go up, a glut of loose copies from all over will flood in before you can realize a huge gain on your copies. That said, this is a solid card, people are buying any and all Vampire cards just because, and if this isn’t reprinted in the EDH precon, this is a card that we at least know will be in decks.

We don’t have any EDHREC data right now, but we will next week so tune in for hits that are less quick. Until then, get out of this stuff ASAP and buy longer-term gainers like I try to help you do. Be greedy when others are fearful, fearful when others are greedy and Cultivator Colossus is a $10 card. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Reading The Tea Leaves

Readers!

It’s the best time of the year for speculators! Mark Rosewater has released his giant, cryptic puzzle and it’s up to us to scramble to solve it and post our guesses that will likely end up being hilariously wrong. If there is anything that makes me think we should pick something up or get out of it, I’ll mention it. This should be fairly straightforward and involve a lot of guessing, but it’s going to be fun and stupid and we all need that. Let’s look at what Maro said, shall we?

I’m going to go point by point down his list and see if there is anything we should care about. Sound good? Too bad, here we go.

• The following counter types: bloodline, croak, invitation, judgment, omen, slime, and suspect

I don’t think there is much here. New counters are whatever, and without any clues, I’m eager to just move on.

• A new mechanic that removes something never removed before

A lot of people are speculating that this is emblems. That certainly makes sense – emblems are impossible to interact with and it’s annoying sometimes. I don’t think there is much doing here, but if the ability to remove emblems is unique, the card itself could matter. That said, it likely won’t – most emblems aren’t a big deal.

• A popular and powerful creature card from an Innistrad set gets reprinted

Of course this isn’t Snapcaster, but there are a few cards it could be. I am not sure which, but I have a few ideas.

With several printings already and a low price, this fits the bill description-wise but a lot of other factors make me think it’s not it.

I don’t think this card is safe for Standard.

I think the card here is most likely not legendary, not reprinted before and over $20, but I don’t there is money to be made selling and trying to rebuy every card that fits that description. Despite being the most-discussed point on twitter, I don’t think we can reliably make money here.

• A new artifact token, along the lines of Clue, Food and Treasure

Please stop. It’s too much.

• A card that makes red Dragon Illusion creature tokens with flying and haste

OK, that’s pretty cool but I don’t know which cards it will impact. It won’t be a landfall thing, and Dragons are pretty big which means it won’t be something that gives you a lot of tokens so this is most likely something that is cool but middling and we can probably ignore it. As usual, new commanders making new archetypes gives us the most movement, one individual card can’t do as much.

• A mechanic that first appeared as a faction mechanic returns

There are too many to guess which one and whether it would matter. In general, mechanics that have an associated “Fluctuator” type card might see that card move, but not much else.

• A new legendary creature card that combines two characters that previously each had their own legendary creature card

Olivia and Edgar the happy couple, I assume.

• A new card that lets you cast certain cards off the top of your library

The cheapest version of Scroll Rack is $15, and the cheapest foil is… gross, also $15.

Scroll Rack is going to be able to interact with this card no matter what color it’s in, unlike a card like Mirri’s Guile or Sylvan Library. If you want more topdeck ideas, look at a topdeck deck like Aminatou.

My personal feeling is that if the card is in Black, Citadel goes up immediately. If not, Citadel goes up until it’s reprinted. This is a very, very good card and it’s going to see play forever.

I think the buy-in is too high here.

• A new mechanic which is a mirror of an already existing mechanic

I got nothin

• A legendary character returns, but now as a Vampire

People are speculating that this is Thalia and if it is, cool?

Next, here are some rules text that will be showing up on cards:

• “Choose a number between 0 and 13.”

Could be anything

• “with mana value less than or equal to the number of Vampires you control”

All of the Vampires cards are in play, especially ones like Edgar who make tokens.

• “If it’s red, you may cast it this turn.”

This seems like an impulse draw thing. In addition to the artifacts we mentioned before, there is another way red decks can stack the deck.

Goblin Recruiter is another good one. I like Snoopy long-term, especially the EA copies.

Irrespective of whether it pairs nicely with this new card, Snoop is a buy.

• “Zombies you control have flying.”

Gross for anyone on the ground

• “At the beginning of your upkeep, any opponent may sacrifice a creature.”

“may” catches my eye here. This likely lets them trade for something better, which could make this a chaos or group hug card, but it’s impossible to say what would go up.

• “Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus, or Serpent”

Any card that has flirted with $10 is a buy at half that even if it doesn’t pop as a result of this new card, which it might not.

• “twice that many of those tokens are created instead.”

Is this Parallel Lives? It would be INSANE if they reprinted Parallel Lives, but it seems equally insane that they would do a functional reprint. Could this be on a creature? I don’t know, but what I do know is that Parallel Lives is long overdue a reprint, and anyone holding now could get dinged really bad.

I don’t particularly want to lose $50 a copy and this announcement has me spooked enough to consider this number.

I haven’t decided to dump my copies, but I’m sure thinking about it.

• “Whenever a Human you control dies,”

Shrug

• “equal to the number of permanents you control that are Spirits and/or enchantments.”

This could be VERY cool. I don’t think any spirits move that weren’t going to on account of there being a spirits precon, though.

• “Then if you control exactly thirteen permanents,”

Man, I don’t know. Sac outlets? I don’t think telling you to buy Ring of Gix is making anyone any money, though.

Finally, here are some creature type lines in the set:

• Creature – Human Ranger Werewolf

• Creature – Angel Soldier

• Creature – Zombie Scorpion

• Creature – Serpent Egg

• Creature – Eye Horror

• Legendary Creature – Human Peasant

• Legendary Creature – Spirit Warlock

• Legendary Creature – Slug Horror

• Legendary Creature – Kraken Horror

• Legendary Creature – Vampire Noble (two new ones)

I spent a lot of time looking at these without a single smart though occurring to me. I’m fine just letting the chips fall where they may here.

A lot of this was guessing, but thinking about these clues and making safe bets can give you a leg up over everyone who’s waiting for everything to be revealed. I think there is bound to be a big, splashy card in Crimson Vow and if it’s not Parallel Lives, that reprint is coming in the next 6 months at the latest. Thanks for reading my guesses – until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Seek the Treasure

Readers!

Rather than talk about incoming trends based on specific new cards, I want to talk about a shift in the way Wizards is doling out abilities to different slices of the color pie and about a trend I see continuing into the future. Not sure what I mean? I’ll back up a bit, and it’s going to involve you doing some reading but I think it’s worth it. I mean some reading that isn’t my article. Let’s talk about the article titled “Mechanical Color Pie 2021 Changes” by Mark Rosewater. This article covers all of the slight changes they’re making to which colors can access which sections of the color pie. It’s worth a read, but if you’re not looking to slog all the way through it (I had a difficult time doing it myself and it’s basically my job) I will post the section I think is most relevant to our purposes here today. 

Treasure creation (artifact tokens with “T, Sacrifice this artifact: Add one mana of any color.”)

Primary: Red
Secondary: Black and green
Tertiary: Blue

As the color of temporary mana, red is best at treasure creation. Black and green can both make treasure, but black tends to usually require some additional cost. Green historically has not had a lot of treasure making cards, but it’s squarely in pie for green to do so. For flavor reasons, like Pirates, blue occasionally creates Treasure. This is another deciduous thing that I questioned whether to include, but as we’ve been using it a lot, I decided to include it.

If they are adding cards that make treasure often enough to officially discuss which colors can have access, I think we should pay attention. It’s not just treasure, either. Food and Clues are lumped in nearly as much, and while the colors which make Food and Clue tokens may be slightly different, each color can make some combination of the three. We can’t necessarily lump them all together, but there is a card that makes them feel more interchangeable, and I want to talk about it.

Both the regular and extended art copies look very juicy right now. Now, I’m not sure if mentioning every different kind of token makes this card easier or harder to reprint, but since it wasn’t intended for Standard, at least at first, it may be relegated to supplementary sets. Certainly extended art and foil versions are even less likely to be reprinted, further insulating Manufactor from the potential consequences of its own success. Tokens aren’t going anywhere and the EA copies are beginning to sell out, making me pretty certain it’s never going below $4 barring a reprint. This is a card we want to be buying pronto, and as many copies as you think you’ll ever build with. This will take a bit more effort to push above $10 than a card like Aetherflux Reservoir or a similar artifact that was always obviously good then went nuts a year after it went out of print, but that’s only because there are extra copies out there. Still, Modern Horizons 2 was basically never drafted and a lot of the copies began their life in dealer inventories which means every copy that hits the market goes from dealer to player rather than the opposite way. A one-way flow of copies in pandemic times can help to accelerate a card going on a run. I feel very strongly about this pick and I think we have seen the floor and now I’d kind of like to see the ceiling in a year or two. You can’t have enough copies of this card.

Foil Tireless Provisioner seems low to me. In almost every deck, this is a better Lotus Cobra. In decks where you can make all 3 with Manufactor, this card is an absurd value engine. The difference between being able to store mana as Treasure tokens and having to use the mana right away like with Lotus Cobra is a huge one. I don’t cut Cobra for Provisioner, but I DO cut something. Foils of this under $5 seem like a solid play to me.

The whole article won’t be about foil copies of Uncommons, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore sick uncommons. This does a lot of work in a lot of decks, Magecraft limits its reprint options a smidge, foiling limits it more, and Red is primary for treasure from now on. This is likely a staple in about half of all treasure-themed Red decks (you need instants and sorceries to bother with it) but it also can be the only treasure card in a deck and still do a ton of work since you’re just converting early cantrips into late mana. This is a great card and it’s going to go work forever, despite looking kind of durdly at first blush.

Rather than chide myself for not catching this sooner, I really maintain Journal is a card that wouldn’t have gone really anywhere without help from other clue generators. While not a Treasure card, per se, this goes in a lot of the same decks and if you can make some clues, or just wait 3 turns, Journal can find whatever you need. With commanders like Lonis and Eloise running around, you’ll get a lot of use from Journal, a card that’s only halfway done spiking.

If this goes below $5, buy a lot. Even if it doesn’t go down much more, this is a really sick version of this card and a lot of players prefer it. You really can’t go wrong with Valut, though, provided you buy at its floor, a number I can’t even begin to predict.

Deadly Disupte and Unexpected Windfall are the gold standard for pairing card draw and Treasure production. They’re both profoundly unfair cards and their price in dollars reflects that.

The Treasure theme page on EDHREC is a great place to start your search. Not only does it have a ton of cards correlated with Treasure builds, it also has the list of the most popular Treasure commanders so you can look at their pages. Make sure you have that theme selected when you go to that page, though.

That does it for me this week. There may be more Treasure plays to make and more things to glean from the color pie article, but this is the news I think is fit to print. Feel free to hunt for more buried treasure on the pages I mentioned and call me out in the comments for missing something obvious. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: The Spirit Of Commander

READERS!

I don’t want to talk about the literal spirit of Commander. I don’t even really want to call it Commander, since I like calling it EDH more, but since so many people are new and don’t even remember the good old days, I will, begrudgingly, call it Commander. I’ll come clean, the title is a stupid pun because we know we’re getting a tribal Vampire and tribal Spirits deck in Breaking Dawn or whatever and we should be ready for both.

We haven’t gotten confirmation that the deck will be Blue/White that I have seen (I’m sure there’s an article on the mothership or something) but based on the last 2 decks being two color and tribal, we can infer we’re getting RB Vampires and UW Spirits. On that basis, I decided to do what I did last week and delve this time into UW Spirits decks on EDHREC to see if there are any cards we should be buying in advance. A lot of the Spirits cards are reprintable and are nichey, but they have Modern applicability, too, so it’s possible we have additional chances for growth. That said, Modern applicability makes them even more reprintable. There probably isn’t a better target than last week’s Bloodline Keeper, but we can take a look anyhow.

In case you don’t feel confident navigating the site or feel like you pay me to do stuff so I should do it for you, here is the full Spirits tribal page on EDHREC. There are some non-Azorius cards here, which we can ignore, but it doesn’t suck to know how people are building everything. Let’s get into it.

This is… a mess. It’s pretty clear I should focus on a UW spirits commander. But which ones?

I can already tell that I am more likely to uncover some busted Kamigawa block tech in a Celestial Kirin deck than I am to find a good spec in the Ranar deck, but I’m going to do my due diligence anyway. Kykar is a combo deck that has Spirit tribal lords in it because why not swing for 3 with your tokens in a pinch, but I doubt it’s built like the new deck will be. Still going to look.

Let’s rule some stuff off right off the top, OK? I would bet money Supreme Phantom is in the deck, ditto for Rattlechains, Selfless Spirit etc. We can buy anything from that list that isn’t in the deck when the decklist is spoiled, but we’re not making money on Drogskol Captain any more than we did off of… the Dimir Zombie one. Diregraf, that’s the one. I am honestly more likely to lose money with a reprint of Skyclave Apparitions that are in a box somewhere that I will forget to sell in time than I am to make money with Shackelgeist. I think there IS a card that’s a couple bucks now that goes to like $8 if it’s not reprinted, at least in the short term, which means you need to buy now.

At a $2.50 buy-in, which is like $0.50 over CK’s buylist, this seems lowish risk. This is an easy dump to a buylist for $5 a copy in 2 months if we don’t catch a reprint. I don’t think there are too many other opportunities from that whole cohort of “Modern Spirits deck” cards. Spell Queller maybe? I like this as a medium-risk pickup. If it’s in the deck, you likely take a bath, but you may be able to panic dump to a tardy buylist site if you see it’s reprinted? I don’t know, I don’t react quickly enough to try and get others to subsidize my mistakes, I put them in a box, forget about them, they go up, I don’t sell, they get another reprint then I find them an cry. Your technique might be different.

While we’re talking about Spell Queller, I actually don’t hate it.

Queller isn’t getting cheaper barring a reprint, and with the USA deciding that not spreading Covid is boring, we’re likely looking at a return to sanctioned Modern, which could perk this back up. I like it at $3.50.

The Ranar page isn’t turning much up, so let’s get creative.

That huge spike in 2019 was me making you all a crapton of money when I saw that Teysa decks were going to make use of this. I am not going to make you “buying in at $0.50” money anymore, but I am going to make you some money if this isn’t reprinted. It’s actually not the most synergistic with Spirits in all cases, so the commander may matter, but with multiple Legendary creatures in the deck, I think this synergizing poorly with the main commander means it’s less likely to get reprinted but you still have chances for it to go in another deck. I like this for those reasons. I realize the decks are finalized and some people know the contents, but I’m still guessing here and I guess this is real solid at $5.

Rooting around in Cloudhoof Kirin’s cards, I found this bizarre gem. It’s actually super strong but 6 mana sort of bites. I think random stuff like this could be in play, but if you look at the Zombies stuff that went up, it was $5 cards going to $10 rather than $0.75 cards going to $2, and there aren’t a ton of $5 spirits. The issue with trying to find secret good tech in the Kamigawa Spirits is that all of the Azorius ones are like 6 mana. No wonder everyone hated Kamigawa block at the time.

This has turned into a bit of a bust. One thing I can do is look at what I think the commander’s abilities might be and try to see if there is anything that could synergize with… a thing I’m making up. It sounds lower value than I think it is, especially when I type ellipses.

For example, if something puts Spirits from your hand into play for free, which could be solid, bigger, more expensive Spirits are in play. The upside? Those dumb Kamigawa ones are better. The downside? Anything really good is likely reprinted in the deck.

If it manages to dodge a reprint and if it is at all decent with a commander like that, Drogskol Reaver is a solid card on its way to $8-$10 that could be a real player in that deck. A reprint likely knocks this down forever, but something like this seems necessary to beat the Vampires deck. Don’t forget, the decks were designed to play against each other and the Vampires deck likely swarms fast so it might be necessary to have some lifegain because spirits are all like 3 mana 3/1 fliers and it sucks to block a 1 mana 2/2 with those. I think Reaver is just a good card and people seem to like it enough for it to go from bulk rare status 5 years ago to over $5 now.

Kataki is in the process of going off, but if you can get copies under $10, see that you do. I wish I’d thought of it sooner.

That does it for me this week. In general, the cards that did the best from the Zombie reprint were $5ish cards and there are a few of them, albeit with decent reprint risk. Still, the Wilhelt deck didn’t reprint cards we thought they might, and they hosed some others’ Rooftop Storm specs. All I know is that you really only need one solid card to make some money with and while there aren’t a ton of great options here, you only really need one. I personally like Hallowed Spiritkeeper – something about cashing in on the same spec multiple times makes me happier than hitting with something new. That does it for me – until next time!