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 PROTRADER: Gods and Generals, Part 2

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By: Jason Alt

Remember when I was going to do an article about the 15 Theros block gods and then when I started writing I only managed to cover five of them in a 3,300 word span? That was pretty crazy. If you don’t remember, what the hell is wrong with you? This is the first article you’re reading? You just clicked on a title that said “Part 2,” which is akin to saying, “You don’t need to see Highlander 1 to understand Highlander 2 and Highlander 2 is my favorite movie,” and of course you like Highlander 2: you’re a moron. Go back and read the first part. Good grief.

 

So now either you read part one last week or you took me admonishing you in stride and went and checked out part one before coming back. That’s good. Let’s sally forth, shall we? We’re going to talk about some multicolored gods today and I am planning on getting through either five or ten of them. I figure I can shave off some words by not having to reintroduce the topic and explain my point ratings this week, but if I only make it to five, it’s because I had a lot to say about each one. Look, people, I’m not paid by the word, I over-write as a labor of love and sometimes I have a lot to say about a topic. We ready to jump in and look at the golden gods? Let’s do the dirty.

Let’s start with the Gods of the Born of the variety and see how far we get. We could end up with a part three next week. Sorry about all the value.

Ephara, God of the Polis

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“F@#& the Polis!”

–Everyone

Okay, remember when I said that the $1 being paid for Heliod established a floor for dealers who were not going to offer less than $1 for a legendary mythic god? Guess they haven’t gotten the memo that they’re paying $0.79 currently for a god that peaked at $15. Japanese players concocted a wacky UW deck that made good use of all of the card draw.  An EDH deck with Brago could really get there with Ephara, drawing extra cards, and she could be at the helm of her own deck, chock full of token producers and cards like Mistmeadow Witch. It says “each upkeep,” guys. It scales up to get better in multiplayer.

So why don’t EDH players seem to care? For one thing, they have Consecrated Sphinx and Rhystic Study that aren’t a pain to get an advantage from.

Want to hear the good news? This card likely can’t get cheaper. If this hits $1 or lower at rotation, it’s so low-risk to scoop a handful of copies that it’s not funny. I am a 3/5 at $1ish at rotation since this card has real potential. It’s in awkward colors for creatures, but not for enter-the-battlefield shenanigans. Is drawing a card every upkeep because you have a Deadeye Navigator and Stonehorn Dignitary lock the good part of that situation or is no one ever attacking the good part? Hard to say. I am not nuts about this card for much other than its price, though.

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What? This is a $10 to $12 foil. That’s really surprising considering how tepid the EDH community seems to be about this card. It’s certainly played as a commander and googling “Ephara EDH” shows pages of results. I think that this is too expensive, though, and maybe Ephara is establishing the price floor for the buylist value on a foil the way Heliod seemed to for non-foil.

If I could pay the $5 dealers are paying now, I’d give this a 4/5 at rotation. I’m not sure that’s a possibility, but you never know. I think this has upside, especially in foil, and buying in at dealer price is always a good call. Foils aren’t going to fall as much at rotation, but I also think its current price may not be the ceiling, especially since it’s been flat for so long with no help from Standard.

Karametra, God of Harvests

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This feels about right to me. It’s not useful at all in Standard (often called the worst of the 15, in fact), but it’s fun in EDH and useful both as a general and as an inclusion in the 99. Karametra is only starting to see some of her vast potential tapped.

Does Karametra have upside at its current price? Potentially, but dealers have backed off and we see a large spread here for such a reasonable card. Still, the dealer price is about at rock bottom and we’ve seen Karametra’s price demonstrate the ability to spike a dollar for seemingly no reason. I am a 4/5 on these if they hit $1 or lower at rotation. This could be a $5 card pretty easily in a few years.

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I have literally no idea what’s going on here. The spread is increasing in the non-foil version but the spread is shrinking (though it appears cyclical) in foil. The price has been just about flat for a year, which is odd given how useful Karametra is as a (tier 11) general. I expected this to go for more than Ephara, and not only is it going for less, we’re seeing practically no price movement, which means practically no sales.

The fact that no one else seems super excited about the foils makes me not super jazzed. I’m like a 1/5 at its current price and a 2/5 at its current buylist price and a 3/5 at its January buylist price. This could be a $20 foil, but it could take a very long time to get there based on what we’re seeing now. I’m a little surprised all the hype surrounding this card is not doing more, but we may be seeing a regional bias in my experience. Ephara is showing better behavior than Karametra is and I’m basing my analysis on the numbers, not anecdata. I think Karametra could be better than the community is giving it credit for, but I think Ephara is showing better upside.

Mogis, God of Slaughter

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Okay, this is confusing, too.

Mogis‘s price is behaving like it’s not useless in Standard, but that’s not the case. It’s a fun EDH general to be sure, but this is going for Purphoros money right now and Purphoros it is not. Dealers are backing off and we’re seeing a rapid increase in the spread, but only to where it should be. For a while, this was a high-value, low-spread card and that indicates a lot of EDH play. That indicates a lot of upside as well.

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Given that it’s currently feeling overpriced yet not getting a ton of its value from Standard play, I don’t know what rotation is going to do to this card. Probably something, since people who are rotating their stock tend to do so at rotation and will dump these out of the binders they’ve sat in for a year. Still, with its EDH utility making up the bulk of its price and EDH not rotating, this could barely budge. I think this has some mild upside at its current price, but not a ton. I’m a 1/5 currently, but if this starts to approach where the buylist price is now, I’ll jack that to a 4/5. This has real upside if the current numbers are to be believed.

He’s certainly a good commander, but interestingly, I don’t know how much I like him in the 99 a ton of the time. It’s not like anyone was really playing Blood Clock in EDH before. Full disclosure: I don’t know Mogis’s foil price and I’m going to check it next so we’ll discover it together. I’m predicting it will be pretty high since Mogis is mostly good as a general.

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Annnnnnnd the foil is lower than I predicted. All of the Born of the Gods foil gods are practically the same price so far. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, frankly. Let’s do some analysis and try to get to the heart of what’s going on before we move on to the last two from this set.

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There is a lot of variance in the gods’ non-foil prices, which appears to be meritocratic. The foils have a price that says to me “supply is very low” and the modicum of demand for each one is making $12 just about the minimum price based on low supply and non-zero demand. Enough non-foil copies exist to sate demand, but enough foils do not. We expected that: not a ton of Born of the Gods was opened and prices have been a bit wacky. With the price of a foil god seeming to be enforced by supply more than demand—but demand not being high enough to push it outside the weird “$10 to $15 zone” or low enough to make it tail off toward nothing—we’re seeing a pretty predictable price for gods from this set. I don’t anticipate that for gods from the next set nor for Xenagos, which has hella demand.

As for Mogis, I think there is not a ton of upside at his current price. If he falls at rotation, I may go as high as 3/5 for the foil, but with low supply propping up the price, it’s hard to gauge where it should be and guess how long it will take to get there. I think its current price is where-ish it should be, and I don’t know how much upside there is from there.

Phenax, God of Deception

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If you’re surprised by Phenax being worth more than $2, you must not know any casual players. If you’re surprised by it being less than $5, you must be me. I’m surprised. I realize this isn’t very good in EDH because who wants to mill 300 cards when it’s so much easier to deal 63 damage? Plus, other players are attacking, so you want to get on board so you’re not the only one pursuing that angle. Still, mill is a thing in EDH (though not to a great extent) and this is the general to use if you’re going that route. I think this card’s price is predicated more on casual than EDH. Why do I say that?

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Just a hunch.

Mill will always be a thing for casual players, and they aren’t restricted to one copy of Phenax, so that gives him considerable upside compared to an EDH-specific god. Not only that, but this is the only god that helps mill strategies, which means it has an edge over the others. As it stands, I hate it at its current price, but I’m a 4/5 if it falls even halfway to its current buylist price. This card has real upside, is hard to blow us out with a reprint like we saw with Mind Funeral, and I think sellers will move more than one copy at a time. This isn’t a terribly EDH-y call, but there you have it.

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See, this only adds more fuel to my hypothesis! Why should a card that’s not played as an EDH general much be the exact same price as the others? And look how flat the price is, like all the others. What we’re seeing is what we hypothesized earlier.

You won’t be super surprised to hear that all the factors we discussed earlier about Mogis plus the fact that this is a bad commander (though not unplayable) means I am not bullish at all at this, even at a much cheaper price. I don’t know how much upside the foil has, so while I’m like a 4/5 on the non-foil, I’m a 1/5 on the foil. Buy in if you want, but it’s a high buy-in price and it hasn’t demonstrated any ability to get there in the future. I’d rather buy foil Nemesis of Reason, personally. Stay away, but just know that mill will always be at least attempted and the non-foil has upside.

Xenagos, God of Revels

Now we’re hitting another money god, this set’s Purphoros. How am I going to like him at his current price?

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Lots. I like him lots. Not only is he an auto-win with Prossh, he’s a solid roleplayer in the 99 and also a good general in a deck full of big, stupid hydras. He’s even a good general for a deck full of creatures with infect. Boom.

He’s also pretty reasonable, price-wise. Under $5? I am bullish on this guy already. Dealers appear to be, as well, because despite a flat retail price, the spread is shrinking. Will the buy price be close to where it is now at rotation? Will Xenagos not fall at all? All I know is that this card has real upside and I like it about a 4/5 at its current buylist price, which may be about where it is at rotation, honestly. Xenagos is the second-best god we’ve reviewed so far, his price is very reasonable (reflecting real upside, especially coupled with a dip at rotation), and he puts in work. Lots of people are focusing on how cheap the planeswalker Xenagos is, but ignore this guy at your peril. He’s godly.

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This card has a little bit more value than the other four in this set, but not as much more as you’d think. The spread is very low, but we’re seeing the same phenomenon for all of the gods: the price doesn’t seem to reflect the non-foil price (and therefore demand) as much as we’d hope and they’re all within a few bucks of each other irrespective of popularity of playability. That’s cool! The spread is so low right now that I almost want to say buylist price is more than I want to pay, but I think this foil has some upside, especially since it’s such a cool commander.

See You for Part Three

There you have it. I didn’t write quite as much as last week (and it’s wasn’t as humorous—sorry), but I still don’t have room to cover the last five gods. Honestly, these gods all shared some attributes and it took us a bit of work to uncover what was going on. And having a part three lets us delve into what’s unique about the last five gods.

I’ll be back at it in just a few days, so let’s get some conversation going in the comments section and wrap this little exercise up next week, in plenty of time to get ready for rotation. Until then!

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Gods and Generals, Part 1

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Maybe the title could have been “Gods as Generals,” because that’s what we’re going to talk about this week.

I feel like all of you are teaching me more than I am teaching you, which is edifying for me to say the least. Last week, my article had been up for 24 hours with zero comments, causing me to wonder whether anyone at all had read it. “That’s silly,” I thought to myself. “I bought my mother ProTrader access so she could read my articles and print them out and put them on the refrigerator so every time she went to get out some OJ she could be reminded that her favorite son was a writer and that spending $60,000 on a chemistry degree wasn’t a waste of money but rather a sound investment in a bright future.” I put a comment about how no comments meant no one was saying anything negative, and I got a lot of comments after that. Some of them were even about the article and not about the fact that it was behind the ProTrader paywall! Some of them.

And the ones that weren’t whining from poor people (it’s $5, guys. You make more than $5 a month if you get in a month late on a mediocre spec tip) were very insightful. I would have eventually gotten around to tackling the Theros block gods as spec targets in a future article. In fact, I’m such a professional, it’s likely I would have gotten around to it before rotation.  Possibly before every other financier wrote their articles about what to dump and pick up at rotation. This isn’t my first rodeo. Also, I’m not so bad at this that I think the upcoming set rotation is a rodeo.  That said, there are a few cards that, come rotation, I will be… bullish… about.

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Let’s talk about EVERY THEROS GOD and how I feel about their current prices, because the gods are sicko EDH cards, after all. Let’s start with the monocolored ones and get as far as we can today.

Erebos, God of the Dead

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This guy is falling off as we pass peak supply and Standard players realize they don’t give a wet fart about a Greed that can attack for five. That’s cool! While I don’t necessarily know I want this guy as my general, I have found quite a few decklists that feature him, including one I featured in an article. Erebos is also pretty dandy as part of the 99. He’s a damn Greed on feet, remember? In a deck lousy with black enchantments like Painful Quandary, No Mercy, and Polluted Bonds, this guy is dope.

I actually don’t think he’s done plummeting, though, and I think he could be around $3 at rotation. I would say I am like a 3/5 when it comes to how excited I am about picking this guy up at $3.

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Before we move on, let’s talk about something I should have introduced at the very top but didn’t think about until now. Gods strike me vaguely like the planeswalkers did, but back in Lorwyn. Remember when there were only five planeswalkers? They were all money. They continued to be money approximately forever. Like, until the exact second that I said, “I feel pretty good about targeting any planeswalker that isn’t named Tibalt that’s under $5,” and then WOTC went, “Really, douchebag?” and printed approximately infinity RTR Jaces until they were $3 (and yet the price of Remand remained relatively undisturbed, go figure) and now people are emailing me saying, “Hey, you said planeswalkers under $5 were good so I spent my kid’s college fund on Duel Deck Vraska! Keep up the good articles,” and it makes me want to see which make and model of pistol has the tastiest barrel. Planeswalkers are the new hydras, readers. But I guess that’s okay since gods are the new planeswalkers.

It seems like they always will be, too, right? Gods are way harder to reprint in another block. They are legendary as hell and they need to be enchantment creatures with devotion. What are the odds we get both mechanics back if we revisit this plane in like five or ten years? Even if we do come back sooner than that, we will have made a ton of money on gods before then and won’t care. I feel good about a lot of them. Durdles will want to treat the gods like Pokémon and catch ’em all, and since most of them don’t suck in EDH, they’re pretty solid. So I guess I’ll give each god we discuss today a score out of five about how bullish I am about them at rotation.

I don’t know why I’m sort of asking you. This is my column, I can do anything I want. I could grade them on a scale from fart noise to confetti and you couldn’t do a thing about it.


Anyway, let’s get back to Erebos and look at his foil price.

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That’s a graph only a mother could love. I am really loving this price/spread overlay view because it shows what two different “markets” are thinking. Players are thinking, “Yeah, $15ish foil seems fine,” and dealers are thinking, “Get that out of my face.” The price is tailing off a bit and it’s lagging behind the dealer buy price, which is tailing off precipitously. Dealers are not buying these before rotation and you shouldn’t either, not even the foils.

Since Erebos is useful as a general as well as in the 99, I do think the foils are pretty good. This seems like this could be a $20ish card in a few years. Why not? It’s a foil mythic that sees EDH play both as a commander and as a role-player in decks that aren’t necessarily multiplayer. Basically every new player who bought the Eternal Bargain deck and saw a Greed in it will drool over Erebos (or has already, hence the initial demand) and I don’t expect anything to make Erebos obsolete in his role as “best Greed variant ever.” If you wouldn’t play a 5/7 for four mana, or a Greed, or an “opponents can’t gain life” enchantment, perhaps you’d play all three. This card is fine, and if the foil dips below $10, I may crank my enthusiasm for the foil up to 4/5. Yeah. Ballsy. I am not going to give half measurements like “4.5/5” because at that point, you’re saying “9/10 but do some math, readers,” and I’m not about that life. A rating of 4/5 seems okay for a foil god like Erebos at around $8, a number that seems almost absurd because you’re approaching non-foil Garruk Wildspeaker money at that point and gods can be your generals, which is even cooler.

Heliod, God of the Sun

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Wow, the market price is like, whatever, but the dealer price is showing fascinating behavior. It appears that Heliod, by virtue of being mana-hungry and durdly, made dealers hit a minimum “shits given” threshold and it looks like players were right there with them. The TCGplayer price is relatively flat, and that could be due to a lack of sales as much as it could be due to price equilibrium establishing itself. I feel like there is a pretty sweet narrative going on here and I bet it took place at a lot of PTQ and GP booths.

Dealer: “Those are the cards I want.”

Player: “What about Heliod?”

Dealer: “Yes, what about Heliod? What about him indeed?”

Player: “What will you give me? I paid $8 for this guy, give me something.”

Dealer: “I am not the least bit interested.”

Player: “Come on, man! I need money for [spray paint or drugs or diapers or whatever the hell kids these days are buying].

Dealer: “I will give you one whole dollar.”

Player: “… yeah, fine.”

As a dealer, you can’t really pass up a chance at a card that’s likely $5 to $6 in a few years if someone is coming off of it for $1, even if it is Heliod and no one is that jazzed about him. After a while, the conversation took a turn.

Player: “Got a Heliod with your name on it.”

Dealer: “I will give you seventy-five cents.”

Player: “I wouldn’t fart in your mouth for seventy-five cents.”

Dealer: “Okay, a dollar. Damn.”

When dealers could no longer get them for $0.75, they bumped the price back up to a “still insulting” $1. I think this is just about the minimum buy price at rotation. If  any god goes below $1, or hell, goes below $2 and wasn’t dirt cheap already, that’s probably a decent snag. If you can pay at rotation what dealers are paying now, congrats, you’re thinking like a dealer. They know there is upside at $1. I’m like a 5/5 at $1 or less on these at rotation, which is handy because I don’t see rotation making the price go up.

Personally, I want to build an entire Heliod deck. Serra’s Sanctum is just yearning to tap for a million mana and fart out a ton of 2/1 clerics. Can you imagine Sphere of Safety if you have two dozen enchantment clerics out? Norn’s Annex, Ghostly Prison, hell, Test of Endurance for all the life you gain when you spit out a ton of clerics with Suture Priest in play. You can build pillow fort and use Heliod to give you all the enchantments you’ll ever need. This is a non-traditional general and mono-white tends to feel bad in EDH, so I expect the foil to be reasonable right now.

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While dealers had to raise their buy prices a bit to keep the supply steady, no one seems to pay the foil much mind. I imagine it dips even more at rotation. I think if the foil hits $5, I’m in, but I’m like a 2/5 on the foil here. Foils have higher upside, but they do have some “new card smell” tax built in when they first rotate. This isn’t a super exciting EDH god for people who aren’t lunatics like me, so I am not going that deep. Obviously, under $5 is absurd for a foil mythic god as you approach its current non-foil buy price. At $1 for the foils, I would spend enough money to make the price go up by sheer virtue of how many I bought. At its current price, I’m a 1/5. I imagine this dips at rotation since none of its price is predicated on Standard or Modern or… being played by anyone at all, really. Sure, maybe I’ll revolutionize 75% EDH with my clericgasm deck, but this is probably just the weakest of the cycle and his price won’t recover until people forgive him for shiv-ing Elspeth in the McRibs.

It’s fair to say that I have talked too much at this point and I’m not going to make it to the ten multicolored gods. I was told to keep my articles “around 2,000 words” and I’m going to hit that before we finish this paragraph. Could I cut some preamble or my dealer skit? Yes, maybe. I could also cut your face. Cut you bad. Cut you so bad, your mama would cry. You want your mom to cry? Okay, then. How about I vastly exceed my word count mandate, upset my editor, give you some bonus content, and see if I can’t squeeze the rest of the gods in next week? I didn’t expect to find this much to talk about when I conceived of the topic, but discovering things that bear discussion is always fun for me and gives me the enthusiasm to barrel through. Three more gods to go—don’t get squeemish on me now. This next one should be easy.

Nylea, God of the Hunt

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I figured we’d see stronger behavior from this card, as it’s played in a (fringe) devotion deck in Modern and isn’t a terrible EDH card. I actually kind of like this in decks like Omnath if you need a mana sink or a win condition. Giving Omnath trample is non-trivial and if Omnath dies, dumping the mana into an alpha strike at one or many players is worth doing. The Modern devotion deck is silly but functional. It seems like that modicum of non-casual play gave the card a multiplier over the price of Heliod, but the dealer behavior is even less encouraging. Dealers want to pay the exact same $1 for Nylea that they’re paying for Heliod and it seems like players, enchanted (pardon the pun) by dargons and knuckleblades and commands, are letting go of the gods.

You don’t want Nylea as your general. At all. Ever. That limits the upside of this card quite a bit. The Modern play only appears to tack a buck or two onto the price and dealers don’t seem all that convinced they need to pay competitively to get these. Their total lack of enthusiasm for this card is contagious. I like these at about a 1/5 unless they are like a buck at rotation. Could this get back to its current price in a few years? I think maybe it could. I think you are safe paying what dealers are paying right before rotation if people are dumping. Still, the slight rise in Heliod’s buy price shows that players are reluctant to take an insulting number on a god, and paying more than “an insult” may be a liability. I’d be careful here.

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Ugh. $10ish? Why? Modern? It’s not EDH doing this. Dealers are paying just about 50 percent of this card’s value on the button and their price is roughly descending along with the retail price in a curious way. They are reluctant to stop paying real numbers on this card, but who’s buying? This has been a $10 foil for like an entire year and it’s puzzling. I’m sure this dips at rotation because it can’t hold its current price, but unless the bottom falls out entirely, I’m not bullish on the foil. Still, if this hits $5ish, I will feel very differently. This is seeing no Constructed play outside of that fringe Modern deck and it’s only okay in EDH, and that has kept the price from fluctuating much. That said, Erebos’s foil hasn’t tailed off much, and maybe that reflects dealers’ reluctance to rock the boat and TCGplayer sellers’ reluctance to race to the bottom.

Curiously, there are a lot of foils available on TCGplayer. Even with competition amongst dealers, these aren’t really moving a ton. But with foils, people who want them for EDH will buy immediately or wait quite a long time. Rotation could be what the patient players are waiting for. Still, with a lot of loose copies that need to get soaked up before the price will increase along with tepid demand compared to better gods, I’d need to see the foil hit $4 or $5 before I even give this a 2/5, which is so odd considering Nylea has more non-EDH utility than Erebos or Heliod. Still, who’s foiling their fringe Modern deck that has Primeval Titan in it? Curious goings-on here, to be sure.

Purphoros, God of the Forge

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This is demonstrating some odd behavior. The spread became virtually non-existent very recently, then dealers backed way off. Let them. This is the money god.

Out of all of the original five, Purphoros is the best in EDH. At his current price, I give him a 3/5. If he hits $3, my score opinion will change to, “What score do I give him out of 5 at $3? His power and toughness.”

Purphoros is nutty. He’s unfair in Prossh decks. As a commander, he’s equally nutty, allowing you to KO people with a single tap of a Krenko. He’s bannably good in EDH and he may be the best god of the 15. Let that sink in. He can be had for twice the cost of Heliod, a god that failed to garner a following to such an extent that his buy price fell to below a dollar. This is the guy to watch, this is the guy to pounce on, and this guy alone is the one that had me wrack my brain for reprint scenarios. How do we get blown out here? FTV Gods? Commander’s Arsenal? I don’t see it. Commander’s Arsenal, by the way, is basically the only way we will ever see a foil reprint. What’s the foil doing?

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Yes…yesss. Plummet, buy price. Drag the retail price down along with you. Good. GOOOOOD.

I am bullish at below $15 here, honestly. That said, with essentially none of this price predicated on Standard play, I have no idea how much the foil will go down at rotation, if at all. Still, any discount you get is good. If you can buy these for cash from players at rotation, go ham. I am in for X of these at $12 or below. This is a $20 minimum foil in a few years, barring a catastrophe like a reprint, but the foil seems safe from that fate.

This card is bugnutty in EDH and I’m very excited about the prospect of the price going down. If the price doesn’t move at rotation, I’d leave it alone. The price is probably currently too low, but I don’t know if there is a ton of upside. I’d give this a 2/5 for the foil at its current price just because it feels so… correct right now. Could this be $50 in a few years? Sure, but is EDH that much of a driving force? We’d need something in a four-of format to boost prices that much, so let’s take a hard look at this price and wait for rotation.

Thassa, God of the Sea

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This is what a price predicated on four-of formats looks like. It’s actually basically as sad as the others, honestly. Gods have been all but abandoned in Standard in favor of multi-color decks that worry less about permanents and devotion and worry more about KOing faces. Mono-Blue Devotion rocketed this plucky god to superstardom, but these days the former star is closer to Marky Mark in the second half of Boogie Nights than she is to Marky Mark in the first half of Boogie Nights. I think this card has the farthest to fall, which is handy because it has the most reason to. Price memory is propping this up to a large extent, even though it sees only a modicum of play in Modern and its days in Standard are basically over.

This is pretty good in EDH, actually, but I feel like it’s underplayed. The scry is non-trivial and making a creature unblockable is sweet. I can see Thassa making all kinds of creatures connect: Thada Adel, Daxos, or basically any general. It’s underplayed in EDH and that may continue, as it’s also pretty much useless as a general.

Its current price has me hesitant, but with dealer confidence plummeting, I feel like the retail price could be $3 or less at rotation, and with its Modern playability and EDH potential, I’m a 3/5 or 4/5 at that price point. Dealers are paying that now, but they want to pay less, clearly. If you look at dealer buy price a few weeks before the fall set is released and target that as a retail price, you are probably going to be okay at rotation. If you can pay a couple bucks less and get copies from players, even better.

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I don’t like the foil price at all, and I’m not sure what’s doing it. Price memory? Even the dealers aren’t that eager to pay less than they are right now and that seems really dumb. I don’t know if this is going to dip enough at rotation for me to care about it and I’m super bearish on it unless it cuts more than half of the current price. With the current value predicated mostly on price memory and Modern playability, the picture is very muddy. I’m calling this basically a 1/5 unless it gets so cheap that you don’t need my advice about whether to buy it. Corbin wants to foil out his Modern Merfolk deck—maybe he’s propping the price up. I’m just so meh about this foil.

Whole Lotta Words

There you have it. This was way longer than I was supposed to make it, but I wasn’t about to make this sub-series take a month or write about fewer than five gods today.

Keep giving me feedback in the comments section, because even if I come up with a good idea, I’ll write about what you want me to write about, unless your idea is terrible. In that case, I’ll send Corbin or Travis a text making fun of you, but I won’t do it publicly because I’m trying to work on being more “approachable” and “managing my brand” and “not getting any more death threats.” So keep the comments coming. Thanks for reading, nerds.


 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Tribal Gains

It’s no secret that I was in Las Vegas for the Grand Prix and indeed the week leading up to it.  If you’re worried that I’m going to skimp on finance content just because I’m coming down off of one of the best weeks of my entire life, fear not, there is a lot that I gleaned from durdling in the desert.

 

This Isn’t ‘Nam; There Are Rules

Maybe not rules as such (per se) but maybe guidelines. Axioms? Suggestions? Look, I’m trying to contrive a few chestnuts in this series so forgive me a few artistic liberties. Basically what I want to do is see if there are some quick rules of thumb (there I go again using the “r” word) that will help us decide which cards to start examining a little more closely. Is today’s discussion point related to the title? It is now. I was going to call this article “The Hangover” because I just got back from Vegas and obligations are a brutal transition from vacation back to real life and a part of me is afraid that I may have ruined the part of my brain that knows how to write about finance when I was trying to bankrupt a casino with free drinks at a Craps table. The truth is I’m not actually that hung over and that trip to the desert, specifically the tournament site has me thinking more clearly than I have in years.  Before we get our first rule (but maybe or maybe not rule #1 with a bullet) in EDH Finance, let’s talk about my moment of clarity.

The Rain Man Speaks

My flight was a 7 AM flight because I broke one of the three rules governing things you don’t do at 7 AM.

  1. Schedule a college class
  2. Feed a Mogwai – technically 7 AM is after midnight. Better safe than sorry
  3. Fly

A 7 AM flight is miserable for people who are used to getting up for work early every day, something I’m not about. A flight that early meant I should be at the airport at 5-ish so they can open each individual deckbox in my carry-on to check for any trace amounts of bomb residue or freedom. I guess EDH decks look like Semtex on a grainy television screen so both flights I had my bag pulled off the conveyor and scrutinized by the TSA. The inconvenience of being pulled out of line was bad enough without having to endure a TSA agent making minimum wage giving me a hard time for running Vivid Lands in a two-color deck. I get it; Vivid Crag is worse than Rugged Highlands. Get out of my face.

Being at the airport at 5 AM after spending the whole week still being awake at 5 AM meant it didn’t make much sense to go to sleep. Things had quieted down in the house where I was staying; until @XWolfmoon decided to casually mention the fact that he had a box of Conspiracy we could draft.

Being offered a spot in a Conspiracy draft is like being asked if you’re a God. You say yes.  I said yes. Corbin Hosler said yes. Ryan Bushard said yes. Douglas Johnson said yes. @knife_city from the If Lands Could Kill podcast said yes. Basically, it was total gas. The only thing better than drafting Conspiracy is drafting Conspiracy for free. Sure, you’re basically just opening booster packs if you’re giving all of the value to the guy who let you draft his box, but if you complain about not getting to keep the cards in a free Conspiracy draft, you should probably move into a Unabomber-style shack by yourself because you don’t deserve to interact with people. We were happy to ship our cards back to our generous benefactor, especially when he said he really didn’t care about anything under $10. The generosity train kept rolling when he let me buy what I wanted from the draft openings for buylist. I couldn’t bring myself to keep $9 cards from a free draft, but paying $4 for them felt fine to me. Everyone was happy despite it being 3 AM of our last day in town.

When you may or may not be keeping the cards, money rares tend to stay in packs for a while. I snagged a 4th pick Dack Fayden because I wanted some tasty bait for my Deal Broker – I ended up getting a foil Rout for my UW skies deck. If you did plan on keeping cards under $10, would you draft any differently? I can see taking a foil Goyf over Burst Lightning, but how about a foil Hydra Omnivore?  It wasn’t unusual for someone to ask “Hey, what’s a foil Hydra Omnivore worth?” but it was very unusual for… let’s say one hundredth of a nano-second to go by before, without looking up from his cards, someone to say “$18”

The room got quiet. Everyone looked over to see who spoke. Sensing the silence, Douglas Johnson looked up and said “What?” like it’s perfectly normal to blurt out the right price off the top of your head. I picked my phone up and checked, because, of course I did. I had to. We all had to know.

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I’m an MTG financier. Corbin is an MTG financier. Ryan is an MTG financier. We were all at that table. If you’d asked, “Hey, what’s a foil Dack Fayden go for?” Ryan, Corbin and I likely answer the question simultaneously with the same or a similar answer. Hydra Omnivore isn’t Dack Fayden. Not only is the card obscure-ish, it’s only been a foil for a short amount of time, being first printed in a Commander supplementary product and getting the foil treatment when Conspiracy first launched. The price has been relatively flat but the creeping up of the spread (I used to use MTGStocks to make graphs for articles but I am really loving the spread overlay on MTG Price) leads me to believe the dealers like Omnivore at $18 more and more. Remember, these guys have a lot more historical data to look at. So do we.

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This card has demonstrated an ability to be $15 non-foil. The reprinting injected a lot of new copies into the market and tempered the price of the non-foil, but all of the foil copies we have are from Conspiracy. A reprint of Omnivore is more likely to occur in supplementary product which would preclude a foil printing (unless it’s in Commander’s Arsenal, which would make people pretty upset since the card is not exactly a staple) so given that the card has demonstrated its ability to be very expensive and the fact that a further reprint of a foil seems very unlikely, the dealers are liking a $10 buyin more and more.

Hydras used to be a pretty solid investment due to their popularity with casual players, EDH playability, and the way they scale out of control into the late game. I wrote about why hydras aren’t as good as they used to be already but I hadn’t really stopped to think about why they were good in the first place. This weekend made me think about it a bit more.

Doug blew our minds with his exact hipshot call of the price of Omnivore, not because a financier knowing a price is spectacular, but because he clearly looked up the price of Omnivore recently. His decision to look up the price of a card earlier made him look like Rain Man counting toothpicks, even in a room full of financiers. It isn’t difficult to look up a price in advance of being asked its price, but that doesn’t change the fact that he couldn’t have known we’d ask and looked it up anyway. Why would he do that?

Wrong question. The question is “why hadn’t I?”

Tribal Matters

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. It wasn’t the first time that weekend DJ had demonstrated that he was very familiar with prices. Walking through the dealer hall, I stopped to talk to a vendor I had met at the craps table the night before and while I was gladhanding, DJ was checking the case. I was on vacation, not intending to buy or sell anything but we never really turn off our brains, do we? He pointed to a foil Cavern of Souls priced at $60. Most people wouldn’t bat an eye. “That’s not too much to pay for Cavern” most people would think. “It’s a good tribal card, it’s played in Legacy a bit and the foils looks cool.” What if you double checked to make sure $60 wasn’t last month’s price?

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Because $60 is last month’s price. It’s this month’s buylist price, and any time you can buy a card for its buylist price, you probably should.

Could we have predicted this would happen eventually? Yeah, absolutely we could have. Would it have been good to buy these at $40 (or $25 buylist) a year ago? Well, obviously. However, every time a card is at a price and you can explain that price, people aren’t all that inclined to buy in. $40 for foil cavern right after rotation didn’t seem insane to people, but $100 for it now doesn’t seem insane either. What can we even learn from this?

The Lesson

Lesson One is to be like Douglas Johnson. Know prices not because you’re Rain Man and you memorize Magic card prices the way other savants memorize facts about trains or whatever but because you look at them a lot. Doug looked up Hydra Omnivore because he looks up a lot of prices often. Why not pick a few cards to check every week? Profound spikes are noticeable and MTG Price does an excellent job of taking notice. The data analysis tools at your fingertips as a reader of my articles and therefore an MTG Price Pro Trader are the industry benchmark as far as I’m concerned. If that makes me sound like a shill, I’ll point out that I still buylist using Quiet Speculation’s Trader Tools app. I like to use whatever I consider the best and I think our price tracking software is amazing. It can let you know about profound movements, but it can’t hold your hand and catch slow, incremental, inevitable growth.

You can read our reports but you can also check our graphs yourself. Price spikes are hard to predict sometimes months in advance but weeks or days in advance we have enough information about upcoming events that we can usually read the writing on the wall. True-Name Nemesis made Stoneforge Mystic go up in price. That was predictable. What should have been equally predictable was the price of foil Cavern of Souls going up the same amount of money over the same time period but doing it much more slowly and deliberately. Yet a dealer took the card to Vegas with the buylist price written on the toploader because he hasn’t bothered to check for a change in the last month and DJ ate his lunch.

We talk a lot about events in MTG Finance – something that changes the status quo or facilitates a price change. However, even though we all know this on an intuitive level, it’s worth repeating every time we open up an application or website to check price movements.

“Tribal Cards Don’t Need Events”

They don’t need to print a sweet new Goblin card or must-resolve Elf to make Cavern of Souls “spike”. Hydra Omnivore goes in Hydra decks (though not my Vorel of the Hydra Clade deck) for silly casual players and the fact that he’s a silly Thorn Elemental variant that gets better in multiplayer games (hence the bomb status in Conspiracy) almost feels secondary.

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What’s next? Could be this, a land that is tribally-relevant, can get played outside of Standard, has casual appeal and when some jackass bought out TCG Player and listed his copies for $45, people probably went “Yeah, that seems OK.” Maybe they’ll say the same thing in two years when $45 is the real price. Or maybe it won’t be. All I know is that the spread is decreasing, the supply is not increasing and it won’t take them printing any more slivers ever again for this card to start to climb. The price looks very reasonable to me right now. But I’m checking back next week just to be sure.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Digging for Gold

On a recent episode of the Money Draught podcast, financier JR (@time_elemental) lamented the lack of real EDH cards in Modern Masters 2015. While Modern Masters…One (I guess) included a lot of EDH staples in an attempt to bring their prices down while simultaneously not acknowledging the secondary market, Modern Masters 2015 doesn’t seem to.

Not only that, the cards that are included aren’t quite build-arounds like last time. While Doubling Season was the linchpin in a draft archetype, we don’t see similar things in Modern Masters 2015. The lack of real EDH cards is going to confound our ability to predict what prices will do to an extent, but let’s dive in anyway. Even though we don’t have a ton of EDH cards this time, there is some gold there.

So what exactly did we get handed to us last time?

Wow, that’s quite a list. We had a substantial portion of the set overlap with cards we find useful in EDH. Let’s compare the size of the list to the size of the list from Modern Masters 2015.

If some of those are a bit of a stretch, don’t worry, because even with me stretching the list out, it’s much, much shorter than the list of EDH goodies in the first Modern Masters set.

With Modern Masters 2015 promising an even larger print run than the first Modern Masters set, expect prices to dip even more profoundly than last time even after you account for all the product that is going to be damaged by WOTC’s shoddy, experimental packaging.

How much do we expect to see prices dip? When should we buy in for some of these cards? Which cards’ prices do we never expect to recover? What are some factors that we don’t always consider? Let’s delve in a bit and see if we can’t make a few predictions based on last time, where we saw a smaller print run but also way more people excited to open boosters.

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Reality had a profound effect on the price of Stonehewer, bringing it down to the $5 range long before the announcement of the reprint, but Modern Masters took a solid EDH staple that most valued as a bulk rare without knowing it was a solid $5 pick and turned it into a card worth half that at best. Even the printing of a mono-white, equipment-themed EDH deck only affected the spread—it increased slightly but the price is thus far unperturbed two years on. Stonehewer demonstrated an ability to be in high demand and fetch ridiculous prices when everyone was equipment crazy, but if that happens again, don’t expect Giant to be able to reach its previous ceiling. It’s possible its price of above $10 may have prompted its inclusion in Modern Masters, since it took so long for the set to go from conception to boosters, but regardless, we’re only seeing faint glimmers of price recovery two years on.

You can sort of control for the effect of Modern caring less about Giant if you look at another card touted in Modern initially and abandoned at the same time: Steelshaper’s Gift. If you look at the price of Steelshaper’s Gift over the same time frame as Giant, the effect of Modern becomes clearer and you can see what was that demand decrease and what was purely the result of the reprinting in the first Modern Masters set. This isn’t exactly a quantitative effect, but even a qualitative one can show there are two distinct periods of price decline and which one was predicated on the reprint.

Do I see a corollary in Modern Masters 2015?

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While we don’t expect ordinary cards in the $5 range to recover in price, expect Temple to be crushed into powder. A reprint at uncommon is going to be devastating to the price, and the spread reflects that: growing astronomically as dealers head for the hills.  While its price isn’t predicated on EDH play, I see this card and it’s $5-ish price tag and think of Stonehewer’s abject failure to recover its price despite there being more excitement around a card like it than ever before. Narrow cards like Stonehewer that are good at what they do but relegated to only a few decks are going to suffer for longer than the two years it has been since the last Modern Masters set, and I expect Eldrazi Temple is entirely done for as a result. While some uncommons like Path to Exile have demonstrated an ability to stay around $5, Eldrazi Temple is not Path, and a realistic floor could end up under $1. If it had been reprinted at rare, I’d still expect it to hit $2.

How does this compare to a card reprinted in a different manner? Let’a look at an EDH staple that was reprinted in a Commander deck and see if we see a similar price decline or a dissimilar one. Since we are decent at predicting what a Commander reprint will do, let’s try and compare the two effects and try to apply that to a card in Modern Masters 2015.

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Murkfiend Liege is a great, great card. It’s a fairer Prophet of Kruphix and despite being outclassed by the less fair prophet, the community has adopted a, “Por que no los dos?” attitude, so Prophet hasn’t really hurt Liege’s price a ton, especially not compared to what the Commander 2013 reprint did to absolutely pants it.

If you look at this graph of Murkfriend Liege’s price for the Eventide copy, it was well on its way to $15 when the reprint came along and pulled its pants down. The card is dirt cheap right now,but it’s not done going down and I’m not even close to wanting to touch these right now. With the popularity of Derevi, the sealed product is going to continue to be in high demand and every deck popped for a Derevi is going to result in one more Liege hitting the market. Some Derevi players will run the Liege, but some won’t. And besides, that’s a person buying a Seedborn Muse or Prophet (or both) from you who doesn’t need to buy a Liege.

We saw Modern Masters completely pants a card like Stonehewer which was roughly $5 to $7 on EDH demand alone. What about a card that was a similar price to Murkfiend Liege? How about Creakwood Liege?

creakwoodgraph

You can see that the set has already made Creakwood fall to roughly half of its pre-printing price. The good thing is that we can wait for it to fall a bit more, and I don’t know that we’re in any hurry to buy. A reprinting in a Commander deck seems very unlikely. With Modern Masters cutting prices in half last time, I feel like Creakwood Liege may be close to done falling, and this may be the new price for a while, but with Modern Masters threatening to disappear after a few months, it might rebound. Demand was much greater than that for a card like Stonehewer, and with a reprint feeling relatively unlikely after the first one, Liege may recover after all. Can we substantiate our claim that a Modern Masters reprint tends to cut the price of in-demand cards roughly in half?

divinityofpridegraph

Divinity has been printed twice and is unlikely to ever recover at a fast enough rate for us to care. You can see two very distinct depressions in price, one around mid-2013 when Modern Masters gave it its first reprinting (cutting the price roughly in half) and the second when it got a reprinting in the Oloro Commander deck which saw some popularity, especially with everyone testing Toxic Deluge at the time trying to deal with True-Name Nemesis.

If we hadn’t seen the second reprinting, Divinity might also have recovered, We can’t say for certain. Do you feel good about Creakwood? If you bought in at its floor, which I would predict is around peak saturation of Modern Masters 2015, you could see it finish between its initial $15 and its current $7.50. That’s a 50 percent increase and would mean it outperformed my 401k. Not too shabby. If you’re not as optimistic, we can look at the list of EDH cards in Modern Masters 2015, pick the cards unlikely to get another reprint, and predict a rough 50 percent cut in price and a 50 percent increase from that floor price. Not great, but predictable.

What do we like for this effect? Out of the EDH cards in the set, few are truly safe from reprint, and few compare with Creakwood in terms of desirability. The Eldrazi have been reprinted before in various manners and don’t feel as safe to me, and their high buy-ins reduce upside. Kiki-Jiki may get reprinted every two years in this wacky set. Comet Storm in the only mythic rare anyone is opening if the hashtag #CometCurse is to be believed. Wilt-Leaf Liege‘s price is mostly predicated on a modicum of Modern play—Brian Kibler saying the name of a Magic card on Twitter has roughly as profound an effect on price as does all of EDH-dom, so I expect Modern to greedily swallow a ton of the loose copies irrespective of how much it’s actually played. If you disagree, Wilt-Leaf may be a good buy, but my money is on Creakwood. A lot of the rest of the cards on my list are pretty cheap.

Based on the response I get this week, I may clarify a few points on this topic before I move on to something else, so make sure you hit up the comments section. I am in Las Vegas until next week for the GP (in the loosest sense of being in Vegas “for the GP”), so I may not spend a ton of time monitoring the comments, but I will try and check in. Your feedback so far has been invaluable and I hope you continue to engage with this series and encourage others to ask questions. Come find me if you’re in Vegas and say hello! Until next time.

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