All posts by James Chillcott

MTGFinance Fall 2018 Rotation Priorities

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With September in full swing, we’re now just a few weeks away from the annual Standard rotation and the resulting shake up in card values that typically accompanies it.

This time around we’re facing the rotation of both the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks, both of which are notable for containing Masterpiece cards and a plethora of casual and EDH staples. Kaladesh in particular, as an artifact themed block laden with open ended synergies, seems destined for spec greatness.

A while back I proposed a framework for evaluating Magic specs based on their fundamental attributes, as described in detail over here in my article on Spec Scores. And while I (still) haven’t gotten around to fleshing out that concept in the form of a forthcoming web tool on this site, we can still borrow some core concepts to make sure we’re setting priorities rationally when reviewing the upcoming rotation.

According to my Spec Score framework, we want to consider the following when choosing our top picks at any given moment:

  • rarity
  • inventory levels
  • power level
  • casting cost
  • color intensity
  • # of copies played
  • # of formats played
  • uniqueness
  • current price vs. potential
  • recency of last printing
  • # of printings (# of foil printings)

In quick summary, your best bets are often going to be found among mythics that are near a tipping point and are played in high demand in multiple formats, offer a unique effect, are easy to cast, and are hard to reprint or still years from their first reprint.

With that in mind, let’s dive in and try to find some tasty targets in the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks!

Multi-Format Staples

Walking Ballista

Walking Ballista (Rare, Aether Revolt)

Current Price: $12
Target Price (12-24 months): $20-25
Formats: Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, Casual

You’re going to have trouble finding a card more likely to make you money from the Kaladesh block past rotation than Walking Ballista. According to MTGGoldfish.com, this ubiquitous XX construct is now one of the top five most played creatures in Modern and it’s in the Top 20 for most played cards overall. Between Tron variants, Hardened Scales Affinity, Amulet Titan, Counters Company and B/R Vengevine usage it’s pretty clear that Ballista is likely to maintain a presence regardless of which way the metagame rolls. This dangerous war machine also shows up as a powerhouse role player in Legacy (Eldrazi Stompy, Death & Taxes) and Vintage (Shops).  The card has also been reported in 5500 decks on EDHREC.com, so we’re talking a true multi format all-star here.

Based on all of that the question isn’t whether Walking Ballista will rise before it’s next reprint but whether we’re going to get a better entry point in six weeks than we have right now around $12. Personally, given how medium-low the inventory is at present (especially for a rotating Standard rare), I favor dollar cost averaging on this card over the next twelve weeks, opportunistically grabbing a few play sets every time a juicy Ebay or TCGPlayer coupon comes up.  I grabbed 12 near $10 last night, and I’ll be aiming to acquire 40-50 before Xmas with an eye to unloading via a future buylist order.

By the by, foils are already significantly more scarce than non-foils here and snapping a few up near $35 on the assumption that they’ll top $60 by 2020 seems like an easy bet.

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Baral, Chief of Compliance

Current Price: $4 ($11 foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $10 ($25)
Formats: Modern, Commander, Casual

Baral, Chief of Compliance doesn’t even make the cut for the Top 50 most played creatures in Modern, largely because the only deck he ever shows up in is UR Storm. He is however a semi-permanent fixture of that archetype however, and typically played as a 4-of. Over in EDH, while not a popular commander per se, he does show up in 5000+ decks on EDHREC. Overall, I’m mostly interested in foils, though I liked those even better closer to $8. Snap off a couple of play sets for your spec box here, and a steep ramp will likely get you to $20+ in due time.

Spirebluff Canal

Spirebluff Canal (Rare, Kaladesh)

Current Price: $12 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $25+
Formats: Modern, Commander

In terms of land cycles, the Kaladesh check lands are the most likely to do well for us on a longer horizon. Spirebluff Canal is only barely in the Top 30 lands in Modern, but it also shows up in a fair number of EDH decks so it’s still likely to show some healthy appreciation down the road. Given how many land cycles are backed up for reprint I also feel fairly confident we don’t see these again for at least three or four years.

There’s a lot more of any given fall set rare than any given small set rare, so I would tend to favor the foils here over the non-foils, especially given that Spirebluff Canal foils are already in relatively low supply. Picking these up under $15 and aiming for $30+ seems a good bet.

Side note: Blooming Marsh is also a decent, if lesser, target here, so if it fits better in your collection, consider those foils under $10 as rotation dumping picks up.

Inventors' Fair

Inventors’ Fair (Rare, Kaladesh)

Current Price: $2.50/$15 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $6/$30+ (foil)
Formats: Modern, Commander

I already got in on the foils of this quiet all-star at $6, but I’m not scared to scoop some more up closer to $15 this fall because I think it’s obvious we’re going to see them hit $30 long before a reprint. Ironworks Combo and Bridge both run a pair of these in Modern, as do a few other decks. More importantly, this is the 2nd most played card in all of Kaladesh, with nearly 15,000 registered uses on EDHREC.com. Feel free to add 20 or so non-foils to your spec box if you can get them closer to $2 than $3, since buylists are already close to $2 and your risk is minimal.

EDH Staples

Panharmonicon

Panharmonicon

Current Price: $5.00/$20 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $10/$35+ (foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual

The question isn’t whether Panharmonicon is going to see constant demand from Commander players. The question is whether you still want in given that you’ve missed your best entry point. As the top card for the format from Kaladesh, this card is currently double its peak supply low of $2.50, and foils have also already more than doubled up from their low as well. $20 foil rares that are about to rotate are not automatic wins, but in this case I think that if you’re late you just tip your hat to those of us that spotted this card early and go ahead and jump in. It doesn’t hurt that Saffron Olive just ran an entire theme week for this card on his stream, and that won’t be the last time the card gets a boost from casual coverage or memes. To sell by the single copy focus on foils, and you’ll get to exit over $30 within the year. For non-foils the profitable hold might be closer to 18-24 months, but you will almost certainly get to exit en masse to a buylist.

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Aetherflux Reservoir

Aetherflux Reservoir

Current Price: $3.00/$10 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $6/$25+ (foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual

Aetherflux Reservoir is the very definition of a card that most Spikes would ignore at first glance, while the casual scene posts up for a long term love affair. The effect is very unique, specific to the Kaladesh setting and unlikely to be a reprint priority for years. Reservoir was actually a key build around in a Standard deck less than a year ago, but up until May of 2018 it was still under a $1. Fast forward through the typically slow summer months and Reservoir is heading into rotation season with a surprising amount of momentum. The card can already be outed to buylists for $1.50 ($2 credit) and retail is steady around $3. Given that the Reservoirs’ online inventory is relatively modest for a rotating fall set rare, and given that it has been reported in 11,500 decks or so on EDHREC.com (ranking as the 3rd most important card in Kaladesh for EDH purposes) I’d say odds are good that the non-foils will hit $10 long before a reprint shows up. Foils can be found under $10 right now, but the ramp to $20-30 is well defined, and because a reprint is most likely to eventually show up via a fall Commander set release, foils are even more insulated.  Down the road, my best guess is that you will be looking to out non-foils via buylist en masse, and singular foils via the sales platform of your choice.

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Disallow

Disallow

Current Price: $7 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $15 (foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual

As a three mana counter spell with no alternate casting cost, Disallow is unlikely to ever make waves in Modern, Legacy or Vintage. In Commander however, it is one of the most useful counterspells ever printed, due to the flexibility of being able to counter activated and triggered abilities. EDHREC.com has Disallow pegged as the most popular card in the format from Aether Revolt, with over 12,500 decks registered using the card there. Inventory levels for non-foils are quite high, so I don’t have high hopes for that option, but I’m definitely down to pick up some foils near $7 with a plan to out them in under 24 months for $15+.

Paradox Engine

Paradox Engine

Current Price: $15/$25 (foil)/$100 (MPS)
Target Price (12-24 months): $30/$50(foil)/$150 (MPS)
Formats: Commander, Casual

The first time I saw this card I was a little stunned it had been printed. While a 5 mana artifact seemed fairly unlikely to make waves in Modern, Legacy or Vintage, in the slower battlefields of EDH, this shone out as a very likely open ended combo piece. Fast forward eighteen months and Paradox Engine is the 2nd most important Commander card from Aether Revolt with only slightly less decks registered than Disallow. Most importantly, as a mythic its inventory is likely to drain much faster and as a colorless card, the number of combos it will fit into as time goes on is likely to continue growing. At present the foil multiplier is only 67% or so, and foils are already showing a scarcity driven ramp up toward $50, so I like those to double long before a reprint. Non-foils are also a solid option, and you may want to also consider snapping up a Masterpiece version close to $100, which seems very likely to beat $150 no matter when an eventual reprint hits (I’d guess 3-5 years away minimum).

Anointed Procession

Anointed Procession

Current Price: $5/$10 (foil)
Target Price (12-24 months): $30/$50(foil)
Formats: Commander, Casual’

As the white version of Parallel Lives, Anointed Procession is a near lock to appreciate over time. This is definitely an EDH/casual only card now that’s its time in Standard is over, but in kitchen table magic I would expect demand to be pretty steady for the next 3-5 years before a reprint shows up, likely in sync with the launch of a “tokens matter” style commander in a fall EDH release. Non-foil supply is pretty deep, so I like targeting foils as a double up within 18 months that could end up appreciating in half that time if the ramp heats up.

So there you have it, my priority pick-ups for fall rotation 2018. Hollar in the comments if you have a pet spec you think should have made the list or a good reason to ignore one of my picks.

Until next time, have a great time making and saving money playing our favorite game, Magic: The Gathering!

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MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 124 (June 24/18)

MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast paced, fun and useful 60-90 format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: June 24th, 2018

Segment 1: Top 5 Movers of the Week

 

Card Set Old Price New Price Increase
Corrosion VIS $0.50 $19.00 +$18.50 (+3850%)
Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore LEG $1.35 $17.00 +$15.65 (+1160%)
Contract From Below REV $1.00 $10.00 +$9.00 (+900%)
Riftsweeper (Foil) MM  $1.50 $12.00 +$10.50(+700%)
Wall of Kelp MRD $1.50 $9.00 +$7.50 (+500%)

 

Segment 2:  Picks of the Week

James’s Picks:

Fist of Suns

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Card Set Confidence (1-10) Timeline Current Price Target Price
Fist of Suns (Foil) 5DWN 8 6-12+ months $18.00 $36.00 (+100%)
Mana Crypt (Foil) EMA 8 6-12+ months $150.00 $200.00 (+33%)
Academy Rector URZ 9 3-12+ months $80.00 $120.00 (+50%)

 

Travis’s Picks:

Diabolic Intent

Card Set Confidence (1-10) Timeline Current Price Target Price
Diabolic Intent (Foil) BBD 8 6-12+ months $20.00 $40.00 (+100%)
Solemn Simulacrum (Foil) MPS 9 6-12+ months $80.00 $160.00 (+100%)


Segment 3: Metagame Review

James and Travis went over the recent MTGO Modern PTQ from June 18th, 2018.

Segment 4: Topics of the Week

The guys went over the recent SCOTUS ruling on the collection of state taxes on Internet purchases, the GP Chiba Trading Room policies, and the theoretical price of a Russian Masterpiece Sol Ring.

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MTGCritic Unboxes his $10K+ MTGFinance Spec Order from Europe & the US

Hey folks. I recently streamed an unboxing of some of my most recent specs from Europe and the US via Twitch and posted it to YouTube for future viewing. This video includes interactions with Twitch chat viewers and detailed logic and results from a large stack of my latest action.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

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Pro Tour Dominaria: Financial Preview

Pro Tour Dominaria, the second Pro Tour of 2018 got rolling this morning in Richmond, VA, USA.

As per usual the world’s best players have been holed up in east coast hotels and rented homes for the last week or two, all seeking to answer the only query that matters: is there a fresh deck or reconfiguration of existing archetypes out there that will allow them to catch the field off balance while offering consistent play against the known quantities in the field?

With $250,000 USD on the line, and  $50,000 for the winner, players looking to Top 8 will have to tap into both luck and skill to secure the victory.

Six weeks after the release of the ultra-popular Dominaria set, we find ourselves well entrenched in one of the better Standard formats in recent memory.  With a relative dearth of major Standard tournaments over the last few weeks due to significant Modern and Team Trios representation, our hard data on the best decks of paper Standard is more scarce than usual. Perhaps the most relevant recent result can be drawn from the Standard decks of the Team Trios results from GP Toronto, two weeks ago, where the following decks made Top 4:

  1. BW Vehicles
  2. UW Control
  3. BR Aggro
  4. UW Control

Entering into this weekend, the online meta would suggest that the top decks sync up with what we saw at the recent IRL team tourneys:

  • RB Aggro (12%)
  • UW Control (7%)
  • GB Constrictor (5%)
  • Red Aggro (5%)
  • UB Mid-Range (4%)
  • WB Vehicles (4%)
  • Green Aggro (4%)
  • UB Control (4%)

By any standard that is a fairly diverse and healthy looking field.

It is worth noting that the Pro Tour currently requires that players succeed in a mixed schedule of booster draft (DOM/DOM/DOM) and constructed play with 3 rounds of draft this morning at 9am , followed by 5 rounds of Standard starting around 1pm EST/11am PST, Friday.

For we finance types, this is going to be a tricky tournament to make or save money on, given the various factors in play. Firstly, Dominaria’s popularity has resulted in demand exceeding supply on the first wave or product allocations. As a result, heading into this weekend, we still have five mythic rares from the set commanding prices over $10, including Karn, Scion of Urza, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Lyra Dawnbringer, History of Benalia and Mox Amber. Of the rares, the most relevant thus far is Goblin Chainwhirler, a consistent four-of in the red decks that is holding $5 at present. On the other hand, additional supply is now making it’s way into the supply chain, and we’re also heading into the summer season that typically leads to a general collapse in card prices, especially for Standard staples, and even more so if they are rotating in the fall. As a result, our focus is likely to be most productive when used to identify the cards that may be set up to spike after the major fall rotation and that we may be able to get on discount during a summer vendor sale or Ebay coupon day.

Cards to Watch

Karn, Scion of Urza

Karn, Scion of Urza

Current Price: $50
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 3
Monday Price: $50

Initially widely underestimated, the new Karn with pants immediately started putting up results in multiple formats as soon as he was released on the unsuspecting Magic population. In Modern, Frank Karsten has been advocating Karn, Scion of Urza as a 2-of in Affinity lists, and we’ve also seen the big metal planeswalker show up in Legacy Mono-Red Prison, Eldrazi and Affinity/Prison hybrid lists where the presence of City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb make Turn 2 Karn a real possibility. In Standard, Karn is in the top 10 most played cards in the format, most prominently appearing in WB Vehicles decks as a 3-of. UB Mid-Range & RB Aggro decks also have been spotted running Karn, though not as consistently. Generally speaking I am most interested in Russian or Korean foils as close to $250 as possible, since they are highly unlikely to see a reprint in the next five years, and should enjoy some strong multi-format support rolling forward that pushes rare original printings sky high. If you have been looking to acquire your personal play set, your position is uncertain. In theory, summer doldrums and additional Dominaria supply should lead to downward price pressure, potentially opening up access to sub $40 copies. On the other hand, a dominant showing this weekend might encourage even more players to pile onto the card speculatively, which would open up a chance for the card to top $60 in the short term. Net, net, I’d recommend holding off for the summer sale season.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Current Price: $35
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $35

Oddly enough, we have not one but two planeswalkers from Dominaria showing early signs of multi-format utility. During spoiler season, players also widely underestimated Teferi but just a month later pro players are now wondering aloud whether the classic character is actually better than the recently unbanned Jace, the Mind Sculptor in blue-based Modern control shells. In EDH, the interaction with Doubling Season in Atraxa super-friends decks will set up a solid support base for the card longer term even if he won’t see the kind of Legacy/Vintage play that Karn does. In Standard, Teferi is only really showing up in the U/W control builds, where it is a rock solid 4-of. As such, price movement over the weekend on Teferi is likely to hinge on that archetype making waves in the Top 8 and winning the tournament without triggering any serious calls for a banning. That’s a narrow tightrope to walk for short term gains, so as with Karn, I am more interested in targeting rare foils and personal playsets of non-foils a bit later this summer.

Goblin Chainwhirler

Goblin Chainwhirler

Current Price: $4
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $5

Goblin Chainwhirler is a hyper efficient aggro card, presenting a significant body, dueling prowess via first strike and the ability to needle the final point of damage against your opponent or pressure Karn or Teferi from outside the red zone. That being said, it’s pretty tough for Standard only rares from a popular set to hold price tags over $5. As a result, I am more interested in this card to potentially top $10 in the fall once supply has drained, on the assumption that there will still be a red or Rx aggro deck that wants this card in the aggro friendly early days of the fall post-rotation format. If a red aggro deck wins this Pro Tour or dominates the Top 8, there is a chance that Chainwhirler could briefly push $8-10, but supply pressures will likely force a retrace in the coming days or weeks.

Mox Amber

Mox Amber

Current Price: $12
Odds to Top 8: Near Zero
Monday Price: $11

Mox Amber was perhaps the most hyped card of Dominaria, with pre-order pricing topping $30 a copy. It’s a mox! Buy, buy! Thing is, this is one of the tougher mox incarnations to reliably squeeze early mana out of, and since a deck hasn’t emerged in either Standard or Modern, we are likely to get a good shot at a solid long term spec here. Later this summer I would expect to be able to snag regular copies under $10, and foils under $20, which is something I feel confidant will pay off over a long enough horizon. Eventually, EDH demand is likely to be supplemented by a tipping point of one and two mana legendary permanents, and an interesting Modern deck should emerge that wants the full four copies. Of course there is also a decent chance that your funds get buried in the spec box for three to five years when you could have turned your funds over multiple times in the interim, so you really just need to decide how much of a pet spec this one will be for you.

Walking Ballista

Walking Ballista

Current Price: $20
Odds to Top 8: 2 in 5
Monday Price: $20

At this point, we should all be fairly suspicious of any XX colorless creature that WoTC deigns to print into Standard. Ballista is another multi-format all-star, with significant play in Modern, Legacy and Vintage. Showing up in 40% of decks in Standard at present Ballista has a very good chance of winning the trophy this weekend, in any of GB Constrictor, UB Control, Rx Aggro or WB Vehicles. This card has more than proven it’s mettle at this point but none of that is likely to overcome the gravity exerted on non-foil copies as we head into the fall rotation of Kaladesh block. Consequently you should almost certainly be trying to unload your non-foil copies. Longer term I like foils (especially Russian/Korean copies) as a hold or rotation period acquisition, but for now you should be looking for the fire exit.

Vraska's Contempt

Current Price: $12
Odds to Top 8: 2 in 5
Monday Price: $12

Vraska’s Contempt has seen a surprising amount of play in recent Standard decks given that it carries a CMC of 4. Turns out that in a format that revolves around powerful planeswalkers and threats that need to be exiled to be handled effectively, flexible removal that also adds a bit of a life buffer is at a considerable premium. This card has been as high as $16, and may fall closer to $8 this summer. There is a chance that post-rotation in October this is still one of the best removal spells in Standard, and that that fact pushes the card back over $14, but I think I’ll elect to stay clear in favor of safer plays. I think this is also a sell call, especially if you have copies beyond your personal play set.

Lyra Dawnbringer

Lyra Dawnbringer

Current Price: $20
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $15, $30 if it wins

We have seen expensive mythic angels on the back of strong Standard play patterns before in both Archangel Avacyn and Baneslayer Angel. Lyra however has so far been on a downward trend, starting out around $30 and falling 50% or so since release. With 20% of Standard decks running Lyra, and in a couple of different archetypes, there is a shot that she can recover and push higher if her pilots start putting up big wins this weekend. Overall however, I feel safer with selling Lyra now, and potentially looking to reacquire in late summer once we have a sense of how the fall Standard meta will shape up.

History of Benalia

History of Benalia

Current Price: $20
Odds to Top 8: 1 in 5
Monday Price: $20, $30 if it wins

History of Benalia is an interesting spec. This is a mythic card that is showing up in 20% of Standard decks, and the play is supported by  3-4 of inclusion in both UW control and Wx Aggro shells. That’s a strong pedigree, but in just one format. The real question is whether this can be just as good after rotation. If it is, this could be an excellent fall payoff, with the card spiking over $30 at some point in the next year. On this premise, I suspect I will be interested in $15 copies later this summer. On the other hand, if the white enchantment posts up strong Top 8 results and/or wins the weekend, the spike could come a lot sooner. Keep an eye on the Day 2 conversion rates to decide if that’s a decent play in the shorter term.

Will any of the teams find a way to unlock a hot new deck with solid game against the entire field? Will a fringe deck from the early weeks of the format suddenly end up perfectly positioned to take off? Will there be a chance to get in on a must-have card that shows early promise or will the hype train leave the bandwagon speculators out in the cold without enough buyers come Monday morning? Follow along as we explore Pro Tour Dominaria!

Editor’s Note: We will not be providing round by round coverage this weekend but we will provide relevant notes as the weekend progresses. 

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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