All posts by James Chillcott

Throne of eldraine: what the new premium product mix means for #mtgfinance

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Throne of Eldraine will surely be remembered as the set where Wizards of the Coast pushed the envelope on product mix design to new heights.

Stepping well beyond the classic booster boxes of 36 packs, players looking to engage with this set have been forced to parse an unbelievably complex product mix including:

  • Regular Boosters
  • Theme Boosters
  • Collector Boosters
  • Planeswalker Decks
  • Bundle (formerly Fat Packs)
  • Brawl Decks
  • Deluxe Collection
  • Promo Packs
  • Holiday Bundle

Wow. Even for those of us fully invested in the brand that is a LOT to swallow.

For those of us interested in the financial side of Magic: The Gathering, it behooves us to try and understand the math behind these shifts in the product mix and how they are likely to impact the price behavior of the various kinds of cards that are now being dangled in front of players, collectors and speculators.

Overall, the two most relevant considerations here are the new Collector Boosters and their impact on and differentiation from the cards found in regular boosters.

Within regular boosters, the new foil drop rate unveiled for Core2020 continues as 1 in 45 cards (or a 33.4% chance of opening one in any one booster). Previously, the foil drop rate (this is counting all foils of all rarities) was 1 in 67 cards (which results in a 22.5% chance of opening one in any one booster). In practical terms this means that pack foils are now 50% less rare than they used to be, and in theory, equally at all rarities.

At the same time Wizards has introduced three additional card treatments to the Standard booster mix:

  • Showcase frames: These are brand new to Magic: The Gathering, and are stylistically specific to each set, relatively sparsely used, with two mythics and five rares in Throne of Eldraine. Showcase frames exist at common and uncommon as well and all of the cards that come in these frames also exist in regular frames.
Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off (Showcase), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • Borderless Planeswalkers: This is the style we saw most recently in the Mythic Edition planeswalkers starting in fall of 2018, through to Mythic Edition: War of the Spark. Occur at roughly the same drop rates as the showcase frames do for other mythics, and are available for all three planeswalkers in the set, and only those cards. In Throne of Eldraine, this means Oko, Thief of Crowns, The Royal Scions and Garruk, the Huntmaster. As with the showcase cards, each planeswalker also comes in a regular version. Notably the borderless versions also feature alternate art.
Oko, Thief of Crowns (Borderless), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • Extended Art: The style of this treatment is very, very close to the Borderless planeswalkers, to the point where using different terms for them has been quite confusing for players. The most important detail here is that extended art rares and mythics ONLY appear in the Collector Boosters, which includes all 48 rares and 10 mythics that were not included in the showcase cards/borderless mythics. Let’s divert for a moment to get things straight about that product.
The Great Henge (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

Collector Boosters

There are only four ways to get your hands on collector boosters:

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  • As a free buy-a-box promotion at your local LGS, along with the foil version of Kenrith
  • Via direct purchase from online vendors or LGS owners who happened to have allotments in excess of their BAB program needs
  • Purchase of the direct sale, online only set, the Throne of Eldraine: Deluxe Collection which sold for $449 and included 16 Collector Boosters
  • Purchase of the forthcoming Holiday Gift Bundle, which will include one Collector Booster pack, likely at a $50 price point Nov 15th

The composition of the Collector Boosters is uniquely complex. To put it as simply as possible:

Pretty simple right?

So these Collectors Boosters have 16 cards. 9 slots are taken up by foil commons and uncommons from Throne of Eldraine regular boosters, and they can be either showcase or regular frames. The single “ancillary” slot offers up any of the unique cards from the Planeswalker decks or newly minted Brawl decks, or a fairly rare non-foil version of Kenrith, the Returned King. Many of these cards are bulk, with Arcane Signet and Kenrith being notable exceptions. The foil token slot can mostly be ignored as those also appear in regular boosters.

The most interesting slots in the $25-30 collector boosters are the remaining five slots:

  • Foil/Rare Mythic Slot: any foil rare or mythic in ELD in any treatment
  • Non-foil Extended Art: any extended art rare or mythic, non-foil
  • 3x Special Frame cards: showcase cards of all rarities and borderless planeswalkers. Also notable as the ONLY product that has showcase non-foil commons. Yes, really.

This is where we run head first into the extreme variance that comes from creating premium versions of every rare and mythic in the set, and a pile of the commons and uncommons. Collector Booster packs can vary in value from $10 to hundreds of dollars, depending on how lucky you get in these slots most likely to cough up a rare version of a multi-format staple. In magical Christmasland you could in theory open a foil extended art The Great Henge, a non-foil Emry, Lurker of the Loch and a borderless Oko, Thief of Crowns, and be having a pretty great day. On the other hand, you could also open a pack full of draft chaff and end up pretty disappointed.

Now, if you’re looking for hot specs, one way to dodge the variance in the Collector Boosters is to focus on the cards that are exclusive to those boosters and compare them to your best opportunities in regular packs so that you can try to optimize your spec basket once peak supply sets in. To do that properly, we’re going to need to get our hands dirty with some extensive math.

Throne of Eldraine Drop Rates

To really get a handle on our best opportunities with Throne of Eldraine we need to understand how often each card treatment shows up in both regular and collector booster packs vs. the alternative treatments.

Because Wizards of the Coast hasn’t provided any guidance on this aspect of the product mix, MTGPrice reached out to some of our larger vendor partners in the United States and Europe to gather data on drop rates from teams that opened thousands of boxes over the last few weeks. Suffice to say, the drop rates in this set are anything but obvious.

Just off the top, box opening data for ELD suggests that foil commons and uncommons are actually of equal rarity in regular booster packs. We suggest this may be due to the foil commons being syphoned off to fill the 9 foil common/uncommon slots in the Collector Boosters. I’m willing to bet that the gap is made up based on the likely # in the CB packs, but haven’t actually run the numbers yet on that.

Now, some quick facts about showcase rares and mythics:

Showcase non-foil rares appear at a ~1:2.5 ratio vs. regular versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs.
Showcase non-foil mythics appear at a ~1:7.5 ratio vs. mythic versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.

So right away we see some useful math emerging. Showcase rares and mythics are significantly more rare than regular versions. Unlike War of the Spark Japanese boxes where the alt-art planeswalkers dropped in roughly 50% of packs, showcase rares are 60% more rare than their regular versions and showcase mythics are 87% more rare than their regular versions.

For example Fae of Wishers alt-arts, which are significantly better looking, also only drop 40 times for every 100 copies of the regular ones. Likewise Brazen Borrower non-foil showcase copies are 3x more rare in comparison to their regular versions their rare faerie cousins.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, showcase foils have different drop ratios than the non-foils, and they pull in opposite directions depending on the rarity.

Showcase foil rares appear at a 1.35:1 ratio vs. regular foil versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs. That means Murderous Rider showcase foils should be less rare than regular pack foils!
Showcase foil mythics however appear at a 1:2.5 ratio vs. mythic regular foil versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.

That means that foil showcase Brazen Borrower and Realm-Cloaked Giant (the only showcase mythics) are very, very rare indeed.

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Now remember, foils are 50% more common than they used to be before Core2020.

Foil mythics should now be dropping at a rate of about .216 per regular booster box of ELD, which works out to about 1.08 foil mythics per 5 boxes. That means you need 75 boxes to find a specific foil mythic (1 of 15).

Since showcase mythics drop once for every 2.5 regular foil mythics, you need ~187.50 boxes to find a specific one. So if you were wondering, $24 might be a pretty solid price if you can think of a reason to play a foil showcase Realm-Cloaked Giant.

As a point of comparison, Masterpiece Inventions dropped 1/144 packs vs. 1/216 for a given foil mythic at the time, and there were 30 of them in that set, so a specific one appeared every 4320 packs, or 120 boxes. That makes showcase foil mythics roughly 56% MORE RARE THAN MASTERPIECES INVENTIONS/EXPEDITIONS. Think about what that will mean down the road if one of the mythic showcases in Theros: Beyond Death or Ikoria is a 4of card for Modern or a sick EDH staple and the drop rates remain the same.

It gets better.

Let’s say WoTC produces roughly 5,000,000 boxes of ELD. That would make the set a 200M+ product, which is probably accurate +/- 50M given that MTG as a brand is likely worth $550-650M USD/annum at present.

If you need 187.50 boxes to find a foil showcase mythic, then there are roughly only 26.7k copies of each in the world, and perhaps only 65% (17.3k) of them are in English. That’s compared to about 67,000 regular foil mythics (43.6k English).

Now, vendors were saying they thought that the Collector Booster boxes were 10x more rare than the regular booster boxes, but based on various vendor interviews, I actually think it’s closer to 20x, given that it was only printed in 2 languages and only for a single wave spread across a handful of linked releases.

If that’s anywhere close to true, there might only be 250,000 collector booster boxes in the world, which makes sense given how fast they sold out most places, and how many vendors couldn’t get their allotments in various corners of the globe. You can further confirm their rarity by checking the inventory levels of the foil extended art rares and mythics on TCGPlayer.com and most of the major vendors in the US. Levels are way lower than Kaladesh Masterpiece Inventions were at this point in their release cycle and there isn’t any easy way for vendors to restock given that very few of these Collector Booster cards are being opened at MagicFest weekends.

Some additional napkin math tells us that it likely takes 5 Collector Booster boxes to find a specific foil extended art rare. As such, there are likely only about 50K of each extended foil full art, and only about 80% of them are in English (the rest are Japanese). That’s 40k English copies. That would mean there may be as few as 6250 foil extended art mythics which explains why they are already in VERY short supply despite us being in a mass cracking period. Using similar math, we have previously calculated that there were likely something like 30-35k of the Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions, to further that comparison.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

So in summary, my best estimate of the relative rarity of the rarest cards from Throne of Eldraine looks something like this:

6.25k foil extended art mythics (90.5% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
50k foil extend art rares (33% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics

Now, for argument’s sake, let’s recalculate where we land if Collector Booster boxes really are 1:10 vs. regular booster boxes. That would give us this relative rarity spread:

12.50k foil extended art mythics (81% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics
100k foil extend art rares (50% less rare than pack foil mythics)

What Have We Learned

Throne of Eldraine has a ridiculously complex product mix.

  • Hopefully WotC will dial it back down the road, because this is just silly.
  • Showcase commons from Eldraine are worth keeping an eye on as they are way more rare than they should be
  • Showcase foils are less rare than pack foil rares
  • Foil Extended Art, borderless planeswalkers and showcase mythics are likely more rare than Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions.
  • Depending on what print run you believe Collector Boosters have, they too are either close to as rare as a Masterpiece, or 50% less rare than a pack foil mythic (but still far more rare than regular pack foil rares).
  • Multi-format staples or single format superstars are likely to exhibit solid ROI, with the rarest versions moving fastest and hardest.
  • As of today, the market is having trouble keeping extended art foils in stock on key cards, and I question whether the additional inventory coming throughout the fall will be enough to fill in the gaps.
  • We’re still running more math over here to refine this model, so if you think you have relevant info to share, reach out to help us keep things updated!

Let’s check back in on all of this in January 2020, as we prepare our strategy for the inevitable Theros: Beyond Death premium product mix. Until then, happy hunting!

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy art fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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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THE WATCHTOWER 9/23/19: three undervalued cards you should own now

By: James Chillcott
@mtgcritic


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy.


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Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2013. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance. James covered his article today because Travis was off being cool in New York City this weekend.


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Exploring Modern Horizons Specs

Wow. Modern Horizons is a truly unprecedented set. There is a lot going on with this ground breaking new product from our friends at Wizards of the Coast. As players, collectors and speculators it is important for us to wrap our heads around the various aspects of this set before naming our target personal pickups and speculative entry points.

Let’s review some basics before we get to the priority targets, shall we? Here’s what you need to know about Modern Horizons:

– 254 cards + 1 Buy-A-Box Promo (Non-Foil Flusterstorm)
– 36 packs/box with Standard set style foil distribution
– Art cards in every pack
– Full-art snow basics in every pack
– Double-faced tokens in every pack, including foil versions in 1/4 packs

Whew! That’s a lot of product in a single box. Full-art snow basics, art cards and foil tokens will all be contributing a bit to the estimated value (EV) of boxes, as is sensible for a set with a wholesale cost more than double (~$160 or so vs. ~$70 for Standard legal sets).

The other big factor in play that is likely to drive long term box EV appreciation is that 209 of the cards in the set have never been printed before, including 14/15 Mythics and 48 of the Rares. That’s a lot of fresh blood!

Another factor to consider is that WoTC has fairly stuffed the product release schedule this year, resulting in Horizons ending up sandwiched within 6 weeks on either side of the blockbuster War of the Spark release and the Magic 2020 core set that will start previews in just four weeks! Coupled with high box/pack costs, there is a decent chance that even though Horizons is in theory a “print-to-demand” style print run, Wizards will actually provide relatively modest replenishment of stock to vendors through their distributors once the hype cycle has shifted to other products. Word from our network is that Hozions is being printed at about 75% of the print run of a Standard set release, so that matters as well. Remember also that shortly after M2020 we have the summer Commander 2020 deck releases, to be followed up in early fall by the main Standard set of the year, (whose name is still under wraps, presumably to lessen the looming feelings of product exhaustion).

This article is being written in the last couple of days of previews, but already the depth of this sets at all rarities is incredibly obvious. People may have been expecting a pile of new Snapcaster Mages and Lightning Bolts, but what they got instead is a highly complex, varied and subtle series of odd duck role players, many of which seem suspiciously like set ups for the reveal of additional puzzle pieces in forthcoming Standard or ancillary sets. Believe me, with tremendous depth at common and uncommon, this is going to be the kind of set that bulk handlers are going to be salivating over five years out.

So what does all of this add up to? Put simply, Modern Horizons is likely to lead to some very strong card spikes and set EV appreciation just as soon as it stops being widely available for purchase. Once the boxed product dries up, there will be no easy source of replenishment and any cards that shift into the spotlight for Modern or EDH are just going to take off hard, especially foils.

Let’s set some ground rules. As per usual, we’re looking at these cards in order of rarity, with an eye to the ones that are most likely to require players to buy the greatest # of copies across multiple formats, with a priority on Modern and Commander.

The Early Targets

#1 The Horizon Lands: The Ringers

The Horizon Lands, named after Horizon Canopy, are the most obvious Modern playable staples in Modern Horizons. In decks that are looking to win in the first few turns trading off a few life points for even better early mana fixing is no big deal. Tack on the ability to extend your reach by trading in excess lands for fresh cards and you have an instant classic. Keep in mind that Horizon Canopy is both one of the most expensive and most played lands in Modern, and though it loses a bit of juice from the appearance of it’s cousins, the pedigree for top level play is already well established.

If these lands had been printed into a Standard legal set, we would be looking for them to settle into the $6-12 range and then start a long slow climb over $20. Thing is, Modern Horizons is not your average set. These boxes cost vendors twice as much as a Standard set, and that translates to $6-7 packs at retail. That means that you can count on a 50-100% bump in the expected price range at each rarity, especially for the key cards that are wanted in multiples by players in multiple formats. Many serious Modern players are going to want complete play sets of this entire cycle for their quiver, and Commander players will find reasons to want them too. Modern decks like Burn, Death’s Shadow and Infect all need playsets. In EDH Lord Windgrace and The Gitrog Monster seek to recurse their lands as resources, so Nuturing Peatland is an auto include.

The thing is, everyone clued into the value of this land cycle pretty much right away so they are pre-selling near $20 in the EU and as high as $35 for Fiery Islet in North America.

The question here then, isn’t if you will buy these lands, but when. I’m inclined to think that $15 is a solid target during peak supply, aiming to exit over $30 within 18 months, and possibly sooner if supply dries up like I think it might. Foils on the other hand are likely to jump high, retrace a bit under pressure during peak supply this summer and then start a slow steady march toward $60-80 or higher. Remember, these are single source cards that were only ever printed in a premium set and are unlikely to see a reprint for five years or more. Gains are inevitable.

Current Price: $20-$35
Target Entry: $12-$18
Target Exit: $25-35 (18 months)

#2 Goblin Engineer & Giver of Runes: Strong 2nd Choices

Here we have a pair of utility creatures that players seem divided on. Frankly, I don’t get it. Both of these creatures cross-format super staples waiting to happen. Giver of Runes is the closest we’re going to get to Mother of Runes in Modern, a card that is a good enough white creature to see play in Legacy. Giver of Runes can’t target itself, but two copies CAN target each other, and the extra point of toughness isn’t irrelevant in a format with Gut Shot & Lava Dart. Mother of Runes is in the Top 20 white cards of all time in Commander and the decks that want it may easily find reason to want some redundancy. Giver is pre-ordering in the $5-8 range, but I think you’ll be able to snag $16-20 playsets during peak supply and that’s a strong buy signal IMHO.


Goblin Engineer is clearly the WoTC approved fixed version of Stoneforge Mystic, but the card is powerful enough that it will see play in Vintage, Legacy, Modern and Commander. We’re talking about a 1R creature that tutors up any artifact here. Yes, of course, it does go to your graveyard, but depending on your format of choice, everything from Goblin Welder, Trash for Treasure & Refurbish can make that work out for you. If the artifact is three mana or less the Engineer will be all too happy to help you swap it into play if you don’t have another option handy, and it’s the open ended synergy of that play sequence that has me seeing $$$ down the road. This card is going be a slow gainer out of the gate, but the second it posts up some interesting Top 8s in Modern, it’s going to explode and you’re going to want to be holding copies.

Current Price: $6
Target Entry: $6
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

Current Price: $5
Target Entry: $5
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

#3 Urza, Lord High Artificer: Doomed to Overachieve?

Urza, Lord High Artificer

If there is one mythic card in this set that rang the power level bell for most players in Modern Horizons, it was Urza, Lord High Artificer. Putting aside the solid art and fantastic flavor and we’re left with a 4-drop of such a ridiculous power level that Commander decks built around it will almost certainly need to be intentionally de-tuned to allow you to avoid getting the boot from your playgroup. A pile of cards have already spiked on the back of this reveal, including Paradox Engine, Unwinding Clock and Thran Turbine.

This card peaked near $70 during early pre-orders, but has since collapsed back to a still lofty $40-50 range, a price that doesn’t really leave much meat on the bone.

I think your ideal play here is for Urza to not start putting up Modern results for a while, allowing Commander players to bite off their single copies and then allow the price to settle back into the $20-30 range. If it gets down to $14-22 I’ll start paying attention. Anything higher and the upside just isn’t juicy enough.

Likewise, foils are going to start very, very high, and retrace only 30-40% as peak supply rolls through. If a great Modern deck emerges early on that makes use of multiple copies, you may never get a shot at grabbing more than your personal playset at a reasonable price.

Current Price: $40+
Target Entry: $20-25
Target Exit: $40+ (18 months)

#4 Ranger-Captain of Eos, Seasoned Pyromancer & Wrenn and Six : Mythic MVPs in the Making?

Ok, so in looking over the rest of the mythics from Modern Horizons, these are the ones that stand out as being a) pushed, b) most likely to be played in multiples and c) capable of seeing play in both Modern and other formats.

Ranger-Captain of Eos only searches up a single creature vs. the two from Ranger of Eos, but it also provides some potential disruption as a bonus and you get that package for a mana less, which matters a lot in Modern. Just off the top, searching up a Death’s Shadow, Given of Runes, Walking Ballista, Thraben Inspector or Noble Hierarch seems like solid value. The thing is, Modern has not been very kind to fair decks in recent times and we didn’t really get the kind of disruption or sideboard options in this set that seem likely to push the meta back to the fair (a couple of great new counterspells not withstanding). The good captain can currently be had in the $10-15 range, but I don’t intend to acquire many until I see it doing work on camera deep into a big Modern tourney.

Current Price: $10-12
Target Entry: $6-8
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

Seasoned Pyromancer has already shown up in some SCGLive brews this week and while it didn’t blow me away on camera thus far, there may be something here at some point. A 2/2 body for 1RR is almost embarassing in Modern at this point, but the double discard/draw ability has real potential to do work, especially when it can also end up adding 3 bodies to the board only to do it again down the road in the rare long game. Keep in mind that they also just gave us Unearth to attempt to abuse in Modern, so there are more than a few interesting angles to attempt here. Ultimately we need to know whether the card can a) find a semi-permanent home in at least a T1.5 deck and b) how many copies they want to run. I’m adding this to my wait and see list.

Current Price: $10
Target Entry: $6-8
Target Exit: $15+ (18 months)

Wrenn & Six analysis starts with the simple fact that this is a 2-mana Planeswalker built around recursing lands in a set theme that seemed determined to push a deck of that style into Modern. Not only do we have 6 new sac ready lands in the format thanks to MH1, but they also gave us back the full cycle of Onslaught single mana cycling lands, Tectonic Reformation, Ruination Rioter, and we’ve already got Seismic Assault and Life from the Loam. And don’t forget about creature lands, Field of Ruin, Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge. It may all very well add up to a pile of Jank, but I won’t at all be surprised to see Wrenn & Six post some MTGO 5-0 leagues at some point in the near future. If you like this spec, cross your fingers that Sam Black and Zak Elsik take their time figuring out the build so that this card collapses under $15 and sets up a reasonable spec. There is just as much reason to play this card in Commander, so foil price weakness will likely be a buy during peak supply.

Current Price: $25
Target Entry: $10-14
Target Exit: $20+ (18 months)

Mythic Side Notes: Echo of Eons ($30-40) is the mythic I most want to see be insane and with Narset, Parter of Veils, Teferi, Time Raveler and Day’s Undoing you can clearly do the thing. A Timetwister you can flash back for the original P9 casting cost is no joke, and the art IS great, but keep your eyes on Conley Woods steam to see how real the card is later this month. Hexdrinker ($10-15) is a card that is likely to end up a 4-of if it finds a deck that wants an evolving half-hexproof beat stick, but I’m benching the spec until I see results. Kess, Dissident Mage ($10-15) is very likely to do some work in a Grixis control shell, but it will likely be as a one or two of, so no rush on moving in.

#5 Aria of Flame: Ready to Catch Fire?

Aria of Flame

A lot of players likely looked once at this card and dismissed it immediately. I mean, why would Burn oriented decks want to give their opponents half their life total back?

Let’s do some quick math. You play the card, and it does nothing but set you back -10 on your goal of killing your opponent. And if the card could have been a lightning bolt, you are actually back -13 and a couple of mana.

The next several spells you cast, play out as follows:
+1 damage
+2 damage
+3 damage
+4 damage
+5 damage

By the time you have cast five more spells, you have now gone net positive on the damage race, at +2 damage. The sixth or 7th spells likely kill your opponent, as they add 13 damage to the mix. That seems like a lot of set up and not at all what a Burn deck wants to do but Todd Anderson of SCG Tour fame has theorized that it might be what an Arclight Phoenix deck wants to do instead of Pyromancer’s Ascension as the backup kill plan. The mono-red version of Phoenix now has access to Lava Dart, each copy of which now represents two spells toward your goal. They also run 3-4 copies each of Desperate Ritual, Gut Shot, Manamorphose, Faithless Looting and a couple of Tormenting Voice. The UR versions of the deck run similar spells but add Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand into the mix. Storm decks might also find reason to lean on Aria for their end game.

In Commander, there are actually a LOT of ways for you to abuse the Aria triggers and giving the board a pile of life might not matter if they give you enough time to really go to town.

Aria of Flame is currently pre-ordering from some North American vendors at $1, and in the EU copies are under $.75. I like picking up this card under $1 to target a 1-2 year exit closer to $3-4.

Current Price: $1
Target Entry: <$1
Target Exit: $5 (18+ months)

#6 Archmage’s Charm & Force of Negation: Counter-Intuitive?

If you had suggested, we would be getting not one but two new strong counterspells at rare in Modern Horizons, I would have thought that pretty odd, but here we are.

Both of these cards are very likely to see significant play in the format, as they both provide a lot of utility to the decks that can cast them. The UUU cost on Archmage’s Charm is the biggest limiter on how widespread its’ usage pattern will become, since only U/W Control decks and possibly Mono Blue Tron builds with Urza are likely to be able to easily support the color requirements. That said, if you have correct mana, the ability to outright counter a spell or draw cards at the end of your opponent’s turn is pretty great. The third mode is being underrated by some players, as it can steal a long list of prevalent targets including Death’s Shadow, Noble Hierarch, Aether Vial, Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear. In Commander you’ll have the option of stealing Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, Mana Vault and a whole bunch of other nasty little cards.

Archmage’s Charm is currently pre-ordering around $12, and I’d love to see it come down closer to $6-8 during peak supply, looking to out it over $12 within 18 months.

Current Price: $12
Target Entry: $6-8
Target Exit: $12+ (18 months)

As the supposed fixed version of Force of Will for Modern, Force of Negation is riding higher on hype, and has a lot to live up to with pre-order prices close to $25. I don’t want any part of that price tag, but if I see copies under $15 I will start to get interested.

The need to be pitching blue spells to make it work is real, but there are enough blue decks in the format and enough combos that need to be stopped on your opponent’s turn that this card is likely to see constant play for years, even if mostly out of the sideboard.

Current Price: $25
Target Entry: $15
Target Exit: $25+ (18 months)

#7 Planebound Apprentice: Bogus Until Broken?

Planebound Accomplice

Here we have a card with no immediately obvious home but a ridiculously high power level should the right partner cards present themselves. The easiest way to evaluate Planebound Accomplice is probably to compare it to Sneak Attack, a card that has been doing busted things with creatures in a similar way for years. The Accomplice actually costs one less to get rolling, is more fragile as a creature than an enchantment, but should still be able to get off an activation assuming you have four mana available the turn you cast it.

Thing is, there are a LOT more options in the creature type than in the planeswalker type that are capable of doing really busted things when you get to activate them early. Even still, folks have already tossed around infinite combos involving two planeswalkers and Cloudstone Curio. In researching this article, I also found the following cute combo, which also works with Progenitus, Hornet Queen or Terastodon depending on your needs. Liliana, Death’s Majesty can bring a creature back from the yard, Liliana, Dreadhorde General forces folks to sac two creatures and Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God can double up on whatever jank you’re up to since he copies all planeswalker abilities. The other Bolas walkers are all equally charming when they show up early. Nissa, Vital Force brought in for R can bring back another previously used Walker (or perhaps Cloudstone Curio) to hand and let you go again. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon lets you sweep the board or colored permanents.

Jamming all of that into a deck is likely to amount to little more than a pile of FNM jank, but it’s only a matter of time before something more concrete coalesces around Planebound Accomplice and sends it into a price spike. I’ve already snapped up 100+ copies of the card in Europe for under $1, and my target out will be $5 or so within two years.

Current Price: $2.50
Target Entry: $1-$2
Target Exit: $5 (18 months)

#8 Prismatic Vista – Straight Forward, Not Flashy

Prismatic Vista

Ah yes, the new fetchland for basics, including snow basics and Wastes. These are going to be a big part of mana bases in multiple formats for years, including Modern and Commander, as they let you find the right basic on schedule while providing very minor deck thinning. That’s enough to make them attractive buys but $20-25 pre-order pricing is not where we want to enter on these.

Peak supply should push playsets down toward $40-50 at which point I’d be more interested in moving in. Foils are also likely to be solid targets, but I’d really like to see them down closer to $20 before moving in.

Current Price: $20-$25
Target Entry: $10-12
Target Exit: $20+ (18 months)

#9 Morophon the Boundless: Open Ended Tribal Lord

Morophon, the Boundless

Morophon, the Boundless is never going to be a thing in Modern, and Commander players are only likely to need the single copy, but when these get low enough I’ll be looking to scoop some, mostly in foil. Most of the time targeting Commanders isn’t really the play, as the cards the Commander needs that are in short supply often do much better as specs. In this case however, Morophon isn’t aimed at one tribe, but as many of them as can profitably make use of the mana cost reduction and want to run under a 5 color banner to make use of all of their options. This will tend to matter more for multi-color builds and tribes with big mana costs in multiple colors, so your options ARE narrowed somewhat, but over time more and more options will appear. I could see Morophon ending up as one of the Top 30 commanders of all time, but my play here will likely be shallow in case it’s just a passing fad.

Current Price: $18-20
Target Entry: $10-14
Target Exit: $25+ (18 months)

#10 Unbound Flourishing: Doubling Down on Doubling?

Unbound Flourishing

Once upon a time a little card called Doubling Season became one of the more important casual and Commander cards around and made folks a bunch of money. Now Wizards is handing us a new 2G enchantment in a similar vein but with a significantly more narrow sphere of activity. In Unbound Flourishing we find ourselves looking around for permanents, instants and sorceries with X in their casting costs or abilities, and our options are definitely more limited than they are with counters and tokens. That said, the synergy here IS open ended so as time goes on we are likely to eventually reach a preponderance of synergy. The odds of action are better in Commander than in Modern at present, but this card is still commanding a high pre-order price of $20+. At this price I’m on the sidelines. Wake me up when this drops under $10 and we can talk but it still doesn’t likely to become a priority spec unless it gets closer to $5.

Current Price: $20+
Target Entry: <$10
Target Exit: $15+ (36 months)

#11 Crashing Footfalls: Free Rhinos Anyone?

Crashing Footfalls

Ok, so clearly no one is interested in actually suspending this card. No, here we have yet another spell set up to be abused with As Foretold or Bloodbraid Elf. No one really seems excited about this card, partially because the Rhinos don’t have haste. It seems a bit crazy to me that 8/8 trample spread across two bodies isn’t good enough on T2 in Modern, but I’m happy to bow to the likely superior group think and ignore this card for now. If it shows up in a tasty list somewhere or a new combo piece gets printed we can certainly reevaluate.

Current Price: $3
Target Entry: <$2
Target Exit: $10+ (36 months)

#12 Marit Lage’s Slumber: When Shall the Snowflakes Wake?

Marit Lage's Slumber

Let’s state the obvious: the snow theme in Modern Horizons feels incomplete. We got some very interesting puzzle pieces here, but they don’t all add up to a great deck yet. Many of us were expecting the snow theme payoff to include snow duals, which would have made cards like Marit Lage’s Slumber a bit more likely to succeed, but no such look…so far.

Part of me is now wondering whether this whole theme is just the setup for a forthcoming Ice Age style set on a new plane, perhaps Kaldheim and a Norse mythology themed set within the next couple of years. In the absence of such an event, I’m not excited to go deep on the more powerful of the snow cards including On Thin Ice and Dead of Winter.

Marit Lage’s Slumber is $3 but I’ll get more interested when it’s down closer to $1.

Current Price: $3
Target Entry: <$1
Target Exit: $10+ (36 months)

#13 Tectonic Reformation: Seismic Successor?

Tectonic Reformation

This card is really strong. In Commander it gives red decks and Boros decks significantly more protection from flooding out, and in the lands matters decks like Windgrace and The Gitrog Monster, it will do a ton of work. In Modern there are also a ton of puzzle pieces to place alongside this that may yield a deck, but we’re not there yet. The fact that you can cycle extra copies if they aren’t necessary may lead to running a higher # of copies. This could take a short or a long while to get there but the unique impact means that at minimum I’ll be looking to grab some cheap foils during peak supply.

Current Price: $4.50
Target Entry: <$3
Target Exit: $10+ (36 months)

Final Thoughts: Nice Commander Foils To Target During Peak Supply

All of these cards will have foils that will end up draining out of the market given enough time. The Commanders in this list also happen to fit into the 99 of other commanders, so their demand profile will be better than the average Commander option. Hall of Generosity foils are Volrath’s Stronghold/Academy Ruins for enchantments, so the long term prospects are very strong given likelihood of the effect on a land remaining unique for a long time. All of the new Talismans will also be worth snapping up in foil at their lows.

What are you thinking about Modern Horizons? Do you have pet specs that I missed here? What is your thesis? Until next time!

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy art fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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Checking In on Inventions: A quick look at some Masterpieces poised for gains.

Over the last couple of years Masterpiece Inventions have allowed players, speculators and vendors to go back to the well at least a few times. Travis and I first noticed an arbitrage opportunity on the Masterpiece Inventions in late 2016. Due primarily to differences in EDH adoption in Europe vs. North America, the already too cheap Inventions were often selling for another 30-50% less than copies in the US or Canada.

As it so happened, I was looking to cash out of my $20k in Magic Online specs at the time, justifiably spooked by the early news on Magic Arena and needed a solid strategy for reinvestment. My thesis was dual-pronged: first that Inventions were largely EDH relevant and likely to be too cheap overseas and secondly, that they would sell better as $300 singles than Expeditions would as $800-1200 sets.

From Dec 2016 to June 2017, I was snapping up $70-100 MPS Sol Rings, Mana Crypts and Mana Vaults, $40 Paradox Engines, Rings of Brighthearth and Extraplanar Lens, etc, etc. As it became obvious to everyone that the Inventions were a smash hit, vendors and speculators started taking a harder look at Expeditions and (eventually) Invocations, driving boom/bust cycles on all of the Masterpieces that have result in generally higher plateaus and some noteable retraces. Turns out, that move was an important cornerstone of my action for the next 18 months, and I’m still not finished selling up the ramp. Truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Fast forward to spring 2019 and many of the Inventions are demonstrating relative price stability. Just last week MPS Paradox Engine tipped up over $150, representing potential 300% gains before fees for folks who were in on that in the earliest days. MPS Sol Rings sell consistently near $300, and will likely hit $500 down the road, but a couple of new factors have me looking at some of the middle tier Masterpieces, wondering where they might land in 6-12 months or less.

The first factor is that a combination of dwindling Kaladesh booster box supply on the open market, and steady demand for the Inventions is draining inventory levels on some cards to the point again where they look like they could show real growth at their next tipping point. The second factor is the announcement of Modern Horizons. What does a Modern focused set have to do with the Inventions, you ask? Well, the thing about Modern Horizons is that it draws a very clear line in the sand on what can’t be reprinted in the next six months or so, removing any lingering doubt for as to whether they we might get a chance at a new premium version in the near future. Certainty of draining supply = sales.

On that basis, let’s take a look at a handful of Masterpieces that could easily see price motion in 2019:

Extraplanar Lens

Extraplanar Lens
Current Price: $60-65
2019 Target: $90

Extraplanar Lens was underestimated in the extreme during the first few rounds of the Masterpiece feeding frenzy. Originally available overseas close to $30, and in the US around $40, the Lens has shown slow steady gains on the back of relatively strong usage in mono-color EDH decks where it can go to work abusing the mana doubling of your plentiful basic lands. At present Extraplanar Lens has one of the lowest inventory levels on TCGPlayer, and they are increasingly hard to find near $60, with a solid ramp pointing to imminent gains. I see no reason not to snap up a couple of these given that buylists are already backing the play over $60.

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void
Current Price: $170-180
2019 Target: $225

Here we have a Modern staple that is increasingly relevant in a format that is looking to abuse the casting of multiple cheap spells per turn. Chalice is also typically played as a 4 of and has relevant in Legacy and Vintage as well. As with Lens, the ramp is steep and the inventory is shallow, so while the gains aren’t the highest possible by %, the odds that this joins the rest of the elite $250+ MPS cards in the near future seem good.

Aether Vial

Aether Vial
Current Price: $160-170
2019 Target: $225

Given the near constant presence of this card as a 4-of staple in both Modern and Legacy, I’m a bit surprised that it hasn’t already pushed $250+. Part of the issue is likely that the decks that are most often using Vial are not at the top of the heap in Modern so long as Dredge and Phoenix reign supreme. That being said, if you believe that the Modern meta is due for a shakeup, either via the banning of Faithless Looting and/or Ancient Stirrings, or through some fresh hotness from the forthcoming Modern Horizons set, there is a decent chance that Aether Vial decks stand to gain from the coming sea shift. Regardless of how it gets there, I’ll be very surprised to see this card ride out the year under $200. The inventory is moderate here, but they do tend to get bought in 4s, so that’s worth consideration.

Sword of Feast and Famine

Sword of Feast & Famine
Current Price: $160-170
2019 Target: $225

Sword of Feast & Famine is the most popular of the original sword series for EDH purposes, with nearly 19,000 decks registered on EDHREC.com. Some MTGPrice Pro Traders have been theory crafting that Modern Horizons could include the printing of the five swords with the missing color pairs. This could be enough to get people to clean out the very, very low supply of this card, and from a collector perspective I don’t think you want to be sleeping on this card any longer.

Wurmcoil Engine

Wurmcoil Engine
Current Price: $150
2019 Target: $200

Wurmcoil Engine is a staple in EDH (16k decks+ on EDHREC) and consistently played in Tron in Modern, as well as being a cube staple. Inventory is very low in the US, and this one seems like a straight shot at adding some value in the next six months.

Chrome Mox


Chrome Mox
Current Price: $100
2019 Target: $160

Chrome Mox is registered in 14k+ EDH decks on EDHREC.com despite a relatively shallow past of set printings (Mirrodin + Eternal Masters). That’s a solid display of demand for a gorgeous mana rock that still be had for close to $100 on dwindling supply and a very steep ramp. Further, I don’t see WoTC prioritizing a reprint any time soon.

Rings of Brighthearth

Rings of Brighthearth
Current Price: $110
2019 Target: $160

If you’re looking to pick up an Invention with reach, you can do a lot worse than picking one that is about to undergo a serious boost in demand as War of the Spark makes doubling Planeswalker abilities a very sexy ability indeed. This card makes every build of Atraxa Superfriends already, supply is low and I smell a winner.

Chromatic Lantern

Chromatic Lantern
Current Price: $95
2019 Target: $140

Oh, how many EDH decks is this in? (Spits coffee out!) 63K! Sure, this card just caught a reprint in Guilds of Ravnica and there are plenty of copies floating around, but that just means the odds of a fresh version in the next couple of years just dropped through the floor. Never out of fashion in a format full of greedy color requirements, the inventory on this Invention is only moderately low near $100, but this pushing closer to $150 is a question of when, not if in my books. Not an immediate priority, but zero reason to hold off as a collector and an excellent target for a good coupon.

So there you have it, my current picks for solid Invention specs. What’s on your radar? Did I miss anything? Catch you next time.

James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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