All posts by Travis Allen

Travis Allen has been playing Magic on and off since 1994, and got sucked into the financial side of the game after he started playing competitively during Zendikar. You can find his daily Magic chat on Twitter at @wizardbumpin. He currently resides in upstate NY, where he is a graduate student in applied ontology.

The Watchtower 8/20/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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.


Am I the only one that feels like we just had a Banned and Restricted announcement? Apparently the last one was July 2nd, so it’s been a month and a half at least. Still. Feels like it was like two weeks ago.

Anyways, it came up blank. Mox Opal, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Nexus of Fate, Alex Bertoncini — absolutely nothing that we thought may get banned has found itself on the way out. Overall it’s not surprising. Krark-Clan certainly has the makings of a problem deck, but it’s hard to argue that it’s there already. One player spiking two GPs and mild assorted success elsewhere is hardly enough reason to pull that trigger. That’s not to say we won’t get there eventually. We’re just not there today.

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Krark-Clan Ironworks

Price Today: $18
Possible Price: $40

Shortly after the B&R announcement went live, my lightly played Krark-Clan Ironworks (KCI) set that’s been for on TCG for a few weeks sold. I suspect that there were a fair number of players waiting a few weeks to see if KCI would get the axe. When it didn’t, they’re realizing they’ve got at least two months to jam the deck, and that’s worst case scenario. It could easily be several B&R rotations, if ever. If a chunk of players start going in on these, supply will evaporate rapidly. There’s 11 English NM playsets on TCG right now. If one player from each state decides to buy a set of KCI, the market will run dry.

Of course we’re also still talking about a single-printed uncommon from Fifth Dawn, the spring set from 2004. That’s 14 years ago, mind you. That’s older than several percentage points of players that showed up to GP LA this weekend, I’d imagine. What do you suppose overall supply looked like back then, in the midst of Affinity and a decrease in player count so significant that Wizards still looks back on it as one of the darkest periods of the game?

Modern has shown us time and time again that key components of combo decks can hit wild highs. This isn’t Standard. I wouldn’t bat an eye at $35 – $50 KCIs, and that’s without the deck becoming a tier one pillar.

Skyshroud Claim (Foil)

Price Today: $7
Possible Price: $15

Commander 2018’s release pulled everyone’s attention away from what was the hot topic prior to that, Battlebond. That’s good for us, since now the “hard work” of just letting Battlebond be what it is — scarce — can progress quietly, driving prices on singles up across the board. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that Battlebond will end up having seen massive gains by this time next year.

Skyshroud Claim is probably the best ramp spell in EDH. It’s not the most played — there are about five ahead of it — and I chalk that up to availability. Cultivate and Rampant Growth have been printed a zillion times and show up in precons everywhere. Prior to Battlebond, Skyshroud Claim had never been reprinted, so it rarely made it into the “stuff that’s currently on my table” decks. With Battlebond, there may be a relative uptick in popularity.

Regardless, it’s the best ramp spell, and players that know EDH know that. Prophecy foils have been expensive for a long while for that reason. You can find played copies around $25 to $30 right now. Good luck with NM though. Battlebond copies are where many players will turn to for their foil fix, naturally, and turn they will. I’d estimate a huge percentage of players with Skyshroud Claims have non-foil copies, because the foil ones were too expensive, and they knew foils would come along eventually. Now anyone that’s been waiting for the reprint has finally gotten it. There’s even plenty of weird people that prefer the modern border to the original.

Foils at $7 are definitely going to climb. Long-time players are going to be picking up copies to replace their older, non-foil Nemesis copies, and new players getting turned on to Skyshroud claim are going to be grabbing them too. Without reprint, we’ll see Battlebond foils easily break $15.


Utvara Hellkite(Foil)

Price Today: $10
Possible Price: $25

One of the cooler looking commanders from this year’s product that hasn’t gotten nearly as much air time as the others is Brudiclad. His ability is a bit difficult to parse at first, but once you do, you can see how awesome he is. He turns all your tokens — not just token creatures, tokens — into one type of token you already control. What’s that mean? Well, if you have a pile of treasure and clue tokens, then make a token copy of Massacre Wurm, you suddenly have an army of Massacre Wurms. Cast that wrath!

Brudiclad decks are going to be looking for two engine pieces: cards that generate a lot of tokens of any sort, and cards that generate awesome tokens. Utvara Hellkite is the latter. Attacking with Utvara makes a 6/6 dragon token. Now you’ve got an awesome token to clone. Turn your 10 treasure tokens into 6/6 dragons. Good start. Now attack with all 10, making 10 more 6/6 dragons. That’s getting the hang of it!

Utvara was reprinted in Commander last year, but we’re not talking non-foils. Foils are around $10 or $11, and I imagine nearly every Brudiclad player is going to be slotting Utvara into their deck. Scroll through the EDHREC page for him and you’ll see that there’s a surprising dearth of excellent token generators. Utvara should become a lock for the strategy.

Supply is quite low, and with newfound Brudiclad demand on an already-taxed tribal card, I suspect the dominos will fall and we’ll see $30 Utvara’s before long.


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 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance


 
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The Watchtower 8/13/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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.


One week out from Pro Tour: Nexus of Fate, and things are mostly ok. One Turbo Fog deck made the top 8 of Brussels, but none cracked the ceiling of Orlando. There were three and four lurking in the top 25 and 32 of each event though, so it’s certainly clear that despite what I imagine is every single player showing up to those events with clear knowledge that it would be the deck to beat, Nexus of Fate is still powerful enough to (reasonably) overcome. Prices aren’t too absurd at the moment at $25 a copy, which makes it one of the most expensive cards in Standard, but not the most, and not a seemingly unacceptable rate for for the format in general. We’ll see how October goes.

If anything, the real problem is Teferi. I’ve seen several pros on Twitter lately remark that every single line of text on that card is poorly designed. His +1 is deceptively protective, since while it doesn’t give you a direct blocker, it provides resources to thwart attacks, and his ultimate (which is your plan A with Teferi, as I understand it) is one of the most miserable ways to lose a game possible.

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I was curious to see if I could include him this week as a card to watch despite an already-high price tag, but that just wasn’t going to fly. You’ll pay $35 on TCGPlayer to take home the cheapest copy on the market. For comparison, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was only more expensive than that for a week or two immediately after release. He was south of $30 for like, 95% of the time he was legal in Standard. Interesting.

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Brago, King Eternal (Foil)

Price Today: $6.50
Possible Price: $15

EDHREC has got the new Commanders up, and we’re getting an idea of relative popularity, and what people are planning on including. For the first time in awhile Atraxa fell out of first place, and Aminatou took the top slot. (Let’s be clear though, this is temporary. I fully expect Atraxa to reclaim that throne (of Geth) soon.)

Initial builds of Aminatou are going hard on the flicker line, as evidenced by Cloudblazer as the top creature of the aggregate decks. And of course, if you’re on that plan, then you certainly want the king of flickering, Brago the Braggart. He’s not a tough include. There’s no single card that can repeatedly generate as much flicker action as Brago can. He’s made even sillier when you can use a permanent — perhaps a Gilded Lotus — flicker it with Aminatou, use it again, attack with Brago, and then flicker Aminatou to reset her loyalty and +1 her. That type of thing is a lot of fun, let me tell you.

If there’s any interest in flickering permanents in an Aminatou deck, Brago is going to be there. Originally from Conspiracy, his first run of product is particularly shallow. We saw him return (heh) in Eternal Masters last year, which added a fair bit of product to the market. Yet the foil supply isn’t particularly deep. Conspiracy copies start at $10 or so, and you’ll find maybe 25 copies all said and done. (You’ll also find a few foil Japanese copies for sale by yours truly.) EMA copies start cheaper; around $6. For less than $150 you could buy every single NM Foil EMA copy of Brago. Somehow, EMA supply is even lower than Conspiracy. I don’t exactly get that, but it is what it is I guess.

Brago is in a respectable number of decks as a single card, and as a commander, he’s a top 10 all time. Aminatou is going to add a new batch of players looking to reign eternal, and there’s no better option. Barring any more reprints, foils are not going to be much under $15 by next year.


Gonti, Lord of Luxury (Foil)

Price Today: $3.50
Possible Price: $10

Continuing down the Aminatou page you’ll find Gonti. I’ve mostly been disinterested in Gonti, both as a player and financier; he just doesn’t do it for me in either capacity. I’m not blind though, and I’ve noticed his popularity with others. This was further confirmed when I popped over to his own page and found that he’s in nearly 6,000 decks. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Kaladesh is still relatively recent, and it’s not easy to push into that many lists in that time frame.

Supply is sort of middle of the pack right now. Three people buying a playset each isn’t going to empty the market, but then again, ten people will. You aren’t going to sell these as sets very often, of course. It shouldn’t be hard to push a sale or two a week once they climb though, and they’ll make great binder fodder for your local store.

What appeals to me here is the price tag. Cards around $2 to $4 are in the sweet spot of cheap enough to actually buy a chunk of copies, and not miss a mortgage payment because of it, and yet still have enough weight that if they quadruple up you’re making more than $1 a copy. At $3.50 or so, these can hit $10 for a solid $5 to $6 profit on each card if you’re selling through an online vendor. They’re also still going to remain fairly liquid, unlike $300 reserve list cards, which can take awhile to find a buyer.


Vanishment (Foil)

Price Today: $.50
Possible Price: $5

On the bottom end of the scale this week is Vanishment, which is about a magnitude cheaper than Brago. It’s not often that I like cards at this price point, since it’s so tough to realize the gains, but I’ll make an exception this week.

Miracles in EDH have been “ehhh” for awhile. Sure you can do the work to set them up, but even if you did, they weren’t even a major payout. Other than Temporal Mastery and Entreat the Angels, they’re…fine. Then Aminatou came along and is all about manipulating the top card of  your library, including a feature important to miracles: an easy way to put cards from your hand back on top of your library. If you’ve ever tried to brew with miracles in Modern, you’ll know it’s annoyingly difficult to find reasonable ways to put the excess miracles back onto your library. Not a problem any longer!

Most every Aminatou player is going to try and put in as many miracles as they can, because uh, it’s cool and why not. It’s never really worked before, so it’s fun to finally have that as a semi-reasonable option. Which means that while demand for foil Vanishment basically hasn’t existed up until now, it’s going to get a bump.

If you’ve got a pile of these you scored in the sub-$1 range, you’re not going to want to sell them individually if they hit $5. That’s going to be miserable. You’ll either only have four, in which case the effort wasn’t worth it, or you’ll have forty, and you’ll not want to stick every single one of the damn things in an envelope. No, your plan here is buylists. Grab a good chunk of them, wait for them to hit $2 or $3 on buylist, then send them in for store credit with a 30% trade-in bonus. An investment of $25 could turn into nearly $200, if things go your way.


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 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


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The Watchtower 8/6/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


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.


There you have it, folks. Wizards’ biggest celebration of Magic to date, the 25 year anniversary of the game, the culture, and the community. Are you reveling in the shared euphoria of a sense of belonging and camaraderie? Are you still annoyed at how badly Wizards botched the Silver Showcase?

There’s no doubt it was fun to see a Pro Tour that brought something to the table for everyone. My timeline was filled with Legacy enthusiasts that haven’t seen their format of choice on the big stage for years. It was great to see the best format (Modern) again as well, as it’s a thrilling watch that doesn’t also require an absurdly deep pool of knowledge to understand the subtle decision points and ramifications as an observer. Also, Standard was there I guess.

I’ve seen a few calls to push the Pro Tour to all teams, and I don’t inherently hate the idea. Competitive teams are of course something we’re quite familiar with, both in professional sports, and also e-Sports; e.g. League of Legends and Overwatch. Competitive gaming doesn’t have the mandate that teams are inherently superior though. Gaming’s proto-competitive environment, fighting games, has always focused on individual personalities over teams. Starcraft, the second original competitive scene, was all about individuals as well. And with Twitch’s outrageous success, personalities are almost always cultivated on an individual basis, even if the streamer is part of some greater organization.

It’s not clear to us yet whether teams or solo is the best way to move forward with Magic, and I’m sure Wizards will be crunching the data to try and determine that. There’s also the money factor to consider; as the Pro Tour is deemphasized, are teams more financially viable, or less?

Stubborn Denial (Foil)

Price Today: $9
Possible Price: $20

Perhaps the hottest deck of PT25 was ChannelFireball’s UB Shadow deck in Legacy. Now, I’m the last person that’s going to advocate buying cards simply because they show up in Legacy, unless the card is older than dirt and has a supply commensurate with the format’s demand ceiling. Stubborn Denial isn’t just a Legacy card though; it’s popular in Modern as well, and even manages some play in EDH as a nearly-permanent one-mana counterspell.

Of course, Legacy is still going to spark some additional demand for the card where it didn’t really exist before, and with a low supply, it won’t take many actors to drive the card to a new price plateau. Death’s Shadow hasn’t done much in the format prior to this, and seeing the (second) best team at the Pro Tour show up with it is going to turn a lot of heads. With Deathrite Shaman’s departure, players are hungry to see what that means for the format, and with a new Shadow deck on the scene (which conveniently only plays two dual lands), players are getting both a new possibly top tier Legacy deck, and a “budget” deck.

There’s more than single-digit copies remaining, but not that many more. Perhaps 50 total on TCGPlayer, with a few more scattered around? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bulk of them under $13 or so scooped up in the next few weeks, and then a slower burn on the way up to $20.


Phyrexian Revoker (Foil)

Price Today: $8
Possible Price: $25

Another card that drew my attention while browsing the PT25 lists was Phyrexian Revoker. Both Death and Taxes lists that showed up in the top four cut were hard on Revoker, as it severely taxes one exact card in your opponent’s hand. (Just so happens it’s a tax they can’t pay.) Expect to see a lot more D&T around Legacy now, as DRS was the biggest reason it wasn’t more prevalent in the past. D&T is definitely a format staple now, especially given that it runs no duals, and the expensive lands — Wasteland and Karakas — have each been reprinted recently.

Revoker isn’t only a Legacy card, of course. (If it were I doubt I’d be talking about it.) You’ll find it in a variety of Modern strategies, from Eldrazi, to Humans, to Hatebears, to Elves. It’s not a lock in any of those, but it’s a sideboard tool many pilots turn to when trying to solve specific problems for their unique builds. It’s even in a respectable 4,000 EDHREC lists, which means a fair bit of people are revoking in the social format of choice.

Mirrodin Besieged foils are already just under $20 (and there’s two), so it’s not a stretch to imagine the roughly 20 Magic 2015 copies left getting there soon too. Nobody is going to be playing less of this card in the future, and it’s firmly entrenched itself as a staple of Legacy and Modern, with EDH just behind.


Reflector Mage (Foil)

Price Today: $8
Possible Price: $20

I remember a few months writing that Humans may have just been a flash in the pan, and I couldn’t recommend buying the cards because it may not be sustainable. Heh.

Humans is probably the biggest deck in Modern right now. That’s a far cry from not having existed just a year ago. (I think it’s been less than a year.) Reflector Mage is solid component of the list, with the two Humans decks in the top four running 4 and a 3/1 split. He’s got a chunky little body, staggers opponents with the tempo loss, is fun to Image or Restoration, and in general is a solid utility human.

Reflector Mage is fun in EDH too, of course. Setting back a single opponent’s single creature isn’t the tempo advantage it is in Modern, but when you can set up an engine, it gets real obnoxious, real fast. Not like there’s any shortage of targets, but Deadeye Navigator lets you basically upheaval your opponent’s boards. Brago lets you do it every turn, as does that entire deck basically. There’s no shortage of other ways to abuse Reflector Mage in EDH.

There’s 30ish foils on TCG right now, but only fix or six under $10. Buying at under $10 is basically already a profit, and with the tear Humans is on, these are going to keep getting vacuumed up.


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 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


 

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The Watchtower 7/30/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

By: Travis Allen

@wizardbumpin

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.

Commander 2018 previews have wrapped up, and the general consensus is that while there’s some true gems, overall it’s a slightly less exciting release than it’s been in the past. Primarily there’s a sentiment that while the MSRP has been raised $5, the value in the box is less than in the past. You’ll find fewer high dollar reprints than you used to. That doesn’t make it a bad product, of course, but Reddit needs to be angry about something.

 

While the value in the box isn’t setting a watermark, it has a less tangible value, and that’s that the themes presented are less explored in Magic’s history. Opening up space to work in means you aren’t just pulling out your same list of 50 EDH staples for those colors and tossing 10 unique cards in; if you try, you can get a good 30 or 40 unique cards in the lists. Most of those are also going to be dirt cheap, since demand on them has been low up to this point.

Rooftop Storm (Foil)

Price Today: $6
Possible Price: $20

I’m focusing on Varina, Lich Queen a lot this week, because she could very well end up being the sleeper commander of the product. Varina is a zombie deck in Esper colors, something we haven’t had before. Sure, people have played Ertai, the Corrupted or Oloro, Ageless Ascetic as a Zombie deck before, but that’s not a zombie deck. Furthermore, not only is Varina our first true Esper zombie commander, she’s actually good. Attack with zombies, get cards and life. She’s not clever, but she’s useful, and that’s great.

Zombies are just about the most popular EDH tribe that exists, and I’m actually sort of shocked that foil Rooftop Storm is still only $6. The time for this to be $15 or $20 has long since passed, making this a real freebie this week.

With only a single printing in Innistrad, Rooftop Storm is approaching “there are EDH players that weren’t born yet when this was printed” territory. We’ve got no reason to think it’s coming back anytime soon, and those foils are especially going to be less and less common. I can’t see how these aren’t approaching $20 in the real near future.

Necromancer’s Covenant (Foil)

Price Today: $3
Possible Price: $10

Varina bringing white to the table for zombie builds is exciting because it opens up a suite of cards to the most popular tribe in the format. For example, do you see many Varina lists existing without Anointed Procession? (I wanted to make that a pick this week, and while I do see it trending upwards over time, it’s going to be a slow ramp.) Amonkhet brought about white zombie cards, but there wasn’t really a place to play them yet. Now, they’ve got a true home in the 99 format.

One card that would be phenomenal in my Sidisi deck is Necromancer’s Covenant. This does a bunch of things at once. 1. Exiles every creature in someone’s graveyard. Eat it, Meren. 2. Makes a boat load of zombie tokens. 3. Gives them all lifelink, so you aren’t just completely dead on the crack back. If you can find a way to bounce it, even better. (It’s possible this card should be in Aminatou, actually.) Overall, just great stuff.

Having white in the casting cost has historically made Covenant nearly unplayable, simply because there weren’t many BWx strategies that would have wanted to devote a slot to it. Varina is a huge avenue for this to make a splash in the format. Add in that it’s a single printed card from Alara, and you can see how the foils are ripe for profit.


Staff of Domination (Masterpieces)

Price Today: $70
Possible Price: $150

One of the less-celebrated new commanders is Tawnos, Urza’s Apprentice. Let’s be honest: this guy’s a jerk. His whole shtick is copying stuff that’s already going to be broken and annoying. I looked at a couple of sample lists, and it was thirty mana rocks, Paradox Engine, and Planar Bridge. Who wants to play with that guy?

Even if he’s a snot, people are going to build the deck, and they’re going to need cards for it. One of those cards is undoubtedly going to be Staff of Domination. That card is rarely fair, and for that reason, it’s going to be popular. In fact, it was on the EDH ban list for three years. (Kind of a short prison sentence, but whatever.) I’m sure there are infinite combos in there with Tawnos and the untapping ability. Doubly so with his namesake Candelabra.

Of course I’m talking about the Inventions copy, not the the pack copies. People sitting down to build Tawnos are going to take a long hard look at the Inventions copies, decide that it’s worth plunking down the extra $50, and picking one of those up instead. After all, the Inventions overall feel so safe, everyone’s heard about the prices going nutty, and you’re guaranteed to find a use for the card even after you pull apart Tawnos in a few weeks after your friends refuse to play with him again.

Given that the price gap between pack copies and Inventions is a lowly 2x multiplier, there’s certainly vertical room on Staff of Domination. A price tag well north of $100 is an easy threshold to hit, as it’s a well known component of the format, and the Inventions copy is going to be the only good foil with the original art, ever.


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 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.



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