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.

Only God and Forsythe Can Judge Me

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By: Travis Allen

I only wish I had put a finer point on it.

Capture1

Wizards has announced new judge promos, and they’re a doozy. In celebration of breaking 5,000 active judges we are getting some pretty sweet promos. Well, I shouldn’t say “we.” Roughly 1,000 to 1,500 people are getting some pretty sweet promos.

Yes, that’s right. It’s finally happened. We’re getting a foil Force of Will. Think of how awesome your Legacy deck is finally going to look. The only foils missing will be the duals!

ebay forces

Oh, you didn’t think you’d actually be able to afford them, did you?

Before we figure out exactly where these are going to land, let’s step back a bit and examine judge promos at large. I want us all to know what’s possible. I’ve compiled a list of every judge promo that’s been printed and its (rough) price. Some of these may be a surprise to you if you’ve never looked. For instance, did you know Stroke of Genius was a promo? Tradewind Rider?

c1

I separated the list into three categories because that will be the metric I am most interested in examining. I lumped all the exclusively currently-competitive promos together, all the strictly casual/EDH ones together, and then all the cards that blur those borders.You may have some disagreement about what column some of those cards fall into, but overall I think that’s a pretty reasonable separation. What immediately jumps out to me is how much more valuable the competitive cards are than the ones that are currently only playable in casual formats. Even if you cut the earliest six casual cards out of the equation as hailing from a bygone era of Magic, the casual cards are still barely half the value of the competitive ones.

Also interesting is that the cards that appeal to both markets are worth slightly less than strictly competitive cards. Part of that may be how I defined “both.” I’ve got things like Goblin Welder, Entomb and Mishra’s Factory in the both column that may be more appropriate in a different category. Still, that wouldn’t change the lists too much depending on where you moved them. If you shuffle some cards around the average of the both column may catch up in average price to the competitive ones, but they wouldn’t overtake them by much of anything.

Let’s make that point a little more clear: Cards that are strictly competitive in nature are overall the most valuable promos. The average price of cards only playable in casual formats is about half that of the competitive cards. The cards that are desirable for both formats are worth roughly the same as the cards only valued for competitive play. 

That last sentence tells us that on average, competitive play is by far the biggest indicator of value. Is card X playable in Legacy? Then the promo is going to be worth about $100. Is it playable in EDH too? Well, it’s still going to only be around $100. Apparently casual demand doesn’t push the price much higher on already-playable competitive staples.

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Another aspect of all of this is age. Take a look at the last two years; 2013 and 2012. All five competitive cards are well represented in Legacy, and all five are $90-$200. All six casual cards are $15-$40 each. That’s a huge gap. But as you move further back, the lines start to blur a bit. Moving into 2011 and 2010 the average value of the competitive cards gets even higher, but the casual cards are gaining too. The outlier of Mana Crypt comes in at an absurd $250, and we get Wheel of Fortune pushing $100 as well.

Once you get into 2008 and earlier, the distinction is gone. You’ll notice less and less cards in the competitive column past 2009, and only three or four are nearly as heavily represented as the cards from 2010-2013. What’s going on here is the changing face of Legacy. Judge promos from 2007 were from a different era. Orim’s Chant, Exalted Angel and Living Death may have been constructed playable at some point in the past, but those days are behind us. Meanwhile the casual cards are all over the place. Staples like Demonic Tutor and Sol Ring command $200+ price tags, while cards from days of Magic past are $10 and $15. I’m also noticing that the cards that belong to both formats hold their overall value much better as we move back in time. Even a cards like Mishra’s Factory or Yawgmoth’s Will, which are only barely competitive, are still maintaining respectable price tags.

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This is another valuable lesson. Competitive cards are worth a lot while they’re competitive, but formats are fickle and subject to the ravages of time. If a card drops out of competitive play and into the realm of kitchen tables it stands to lose a lot. Meanwhile, casual all-stars are only going to gain as time goes on. They have to be true staples though. Additionally, a mix of demand will help keep older judge promos afloat quite well, even if they’re not hot tickets in any particular format.

One thing to keep in mind is quantity. Those older judge promos were printed in much, much smaller amounts than the newer ones are, just as with current Magic sets. If Magic plateaus around 20 million active players you’re going to see the old promos settle at much higher prices than promos like Bribery or Genesis, even if they see comparable play, simply because of the quantity available. Another quick point: any good judge promo from pre-modern borders is going to be the safest of safe investments. Of course they’re mostly absurd already, but you absolutely cannot lose on them.

What have we learned from all of this that we can apply to our new promos? Competitive play is far and away the major impetus behind price on new promos. Casual play can’t keep newer promos up, not for the first year or two at least. Top tier casual staples will rise in price, but anything below the upper 5% should settle in the $20 to $50 range.

So how about those new promos?

Casual Only

    

Four generals and a premium green enchantment. The generals are a bit of untrodden territory, as Wizards has only really started pushing Commander in the last few years. If we take a look at the Commander’s Arsenal Kaalia we see she’s around $30, which should be a fair benchmark for these guys. Nekusar may end up the highest simply because he seems to be capable of driving the prices wild on many ‘draw extra’ cards, but then again the people playing those decks may not care much for a $50 foil general. Meanwhile, Greater Good is reasonably well represented in EDH according to metamox. It looks like it is just about as popular as Genesis, which is currently $20. Both of those will tick up over time, but I’d be surprised to see them more than double in the next five years.

 

 Mixed Play

 

Now THOSE are some promos. That Elesh Norn is quite possibly the coolest promo we’ve seen out of Wizards in years. That writing is Phyrexian if you are unaware. She’s awesome as heck, and people have taken notice:

elesh

This will absolutely come down, as she should reach typical levels of distribution. I’m not exactly sure when she’s going to be hitting judge packs though, so her price may be kind of nuts all the way out through the end of next year. She’s a bit different than our other competitive promos in more ways than one. You’ll notice that in the list above not a single card with competitive demand was strictly Modern playable. Elesh Norn is mostly unrepresented in Legacy, so all her competitive demand will be from Modern. At the end of the day I don’t think it’s going to matter though. If she was just another foil copy with a different set symbol her price wouldn’t be noteworthy, but that Phyrexian script is going to keep her high. My guess is that she’ll probably dip towards $90-$150 at her lowest. It could be a very long time before her effect is upgraded, and even if it is the promo is going to retain demand based simply on the uniqueness. Hold off for now, but when it gets close to $100 make sure you grab any you need.

Sword of Feast and Famine is roughly as played as Sword of Fire and Ice in EDH, Modern and Legacy. Expect it to start high at release, dip as the judge packs are released, then start climbing once its run is over. The judge Sword of Fire and Ice is currently $120 and it’s about three years old, so that gives you an idea of what to expect.

 

Grand Poobah of Legacytown

Let’s understand the facts first. We know it was sent to somewhere between 1,000 to 1,500 judges. The announcement read as if a single copy was sent to each judge, but I’m hearing reports that people got playsets. That means we’re most likely looking at a maximum of 6,000 copies on the market right now. While there was initial panic about the scarcity, Helene Bergeot confirmed multiple times that night that they would be available through other avenues in the future. Nobody is entirely sure what this means yet. Are they going to be the mythic rare of judge promos? How many more will we get? It’s very hard to say.

Let’s say we end up with roughly 10,000 copies of Force. That’s 2,500 playsets or so, depending on what the actual distribution ends up at. How scarce is that? One way to think of that is fifty playsets per state. Montana probably doesn’t need fifty sets, but California and New York sure as heck will.

The Forces are selling for around $1,000 right now, and that will come down. A bit. I think the absolute lowest they could possibly hit is $300-$400 unless there end up being many times more copies on the market than I’m predicting. Once they’re done distributing, the price is just going to keep ticking up and up and up. Force of Will is one of two banner cards of Legacy, and the other one already had a MM foil and an FNM promo. There is no other Force foil, and the original card is murky and just plain ugly. Any tier one Legacy card released in this capacity would have a hefty price tag, and this one is just going to get multiplied by status, lack of prior printings, and typically being run as a playset. Once the run is over, there’s no telling what this could reach. I would not be surprised whatsoever to see this north of $1,000 again a few years down the road.

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Bizarre Oxen

By: Travis Allen

Many of my American companions may not be aware that this past weekend was the Bazaar of Moxen over in Annecy, France. Never heard of it? France is that country in Europe that eve…oh, you’ve never heard of Annecy? Annecy is reminiscent of Venice, with can…oh, you mean you haven’t heard of the Bazaar of Moxen.

annecy

The Bazaar of Moxen is the largest annual Vintage and Legacy event. It’s held once a year over in Europe, apparently in Annecy, France. The BoM is comparable to the GenCon Vintage World Championships in scale. Last year at GenCon there were 232 entrants, while BoM9 just this weekend had 214. For an independent tournament without any of the unique Wizards prize support, that’s pretty dang amazing. Vintage in general is larger in Europe than it is here in America. For one, there are a handful of collectors that pulled a great deal of duals and power into Europe. It’s also a much more condensed land mass with better public transit, which means it’s easier to pull all the Vintage enthusiasts together for a weekend to tap some absurdly expensive cardboard. (Most decks are probably worth as much or more than your car).

BoM isn’t just Vintage though. They also run a Legacy event which draws quite a bit of attention as well. Given how much overlap there is in the card pool between Legacy and Vintage, this isn’t surprising. This week I’m going to flip through the results of this past weekend’s Bazaar of Moxen and see what jumps out at me. It’s rare to get such a confluence of strong decks and strong players in these two formats, so we should pay attention when we do.

Right off the bat I see a playset of Chalice of the Void. Chalice of the Void is barely $6 on MTGPrice right now. It has two printings, both with relatively little supply. The entire Mirrodin block was pretty severely underpriced relative to sets today and we all know Modern Masters was a limited run. Given how long CotV has been a mainstay in Legacy, and to a lesser extent Vintage and Modern, I think it’s completely safe to be snagging copies of these in trade. Modern isn’t quite as all-in on the 1-drop as Legacy is but CotV is still quite usable. We also don’t know what Wizards will decide to print in the near future that could push Modern to lean on 1’s a little more. At $5-$6, I’d be happy to trade for these.

Abrupt Decay has long cemented its place in Legacy and Modern at this point. It’s the pre-eminent not-STP/Bolt in their respective formats. Decay is now in the $10 range and it will be $15+ before too long. Don’t wait on this to drop at rotation this fall; it isn’t going to happen. All the demand for this card is driven by other formats so it’s departure from Standard will no have no effect on the price. I am 100% we will see it printed again in some other product, but I doubt it will be in enough volume to really matter too much. I wouldn’t go super deep but having several extra sets would be just fine. Foils are completely golden. Well, they were golden. Now they’re pushing $100 on TCGPlayer. That’s basically never dropping either. Did you grab yours when those of us on Twitter were advocating for it?

Elves has really come into its own in the last few months in Legacy, and a Top 8 at BoM certainly confirms what Sam Black and Reid Duke have been saying. I don’t know how much we can look to the Legacy list for opportunities, but keep an eye out for a similar strategy in Modern. Quirion Ranger and Birchlore Rangers seem like very important pieces we’re missing. Birchlore would let the deck generate mana other than green once it went off, which could be vital to a strategy that needs to pull a little power from other colors since the mono-pool isn’t quite as deep as it is in Legacy. If Birchlore ends up legal in Modern look for other cards in the deck that could see a bump. Beck//Call, perhaps? Maybe you don’t even need to wait on that one. Glimpse of Nature is a $20 card and Beck is $.50. Eventually Beck is going to be several dollars, whether from EDH or a combo deck somewhere.

I’m seeing Phyrexian Revoker, another cheap sleeper. Two Death and Taxes decks made Top 8, and both contained the full set. It shows up occasionally in various Modern lists as well, particularly, uh, Death and Taxes. With the word “Phyrexian” in the name it’s a tough reprint, so I’m a trader at $2.50. Crossing over into the Vintage lists quick, do you know what else I like? Lodestone Golem. He’s a big piece of the Workshop decks over there. He hasn’t done much of anything yet in Modern, but Modern still has all sorts of spicy pieces: Lodestone, Thorn of Amethyst, Trinisphere, etc. It’s also a place where the Tron lands are very playable and are totally ok with things like Thorn and Sphere. I’m not claiming it’s happening overnight but it’s something to be aware of. Artifact prison decks pop up in all formats at some point and Lodestone + Revoker seem like they’d be right there along for the ride.

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On the topic of miserable little two-drops, Thalia is still only about $7 after her last spike. That just seems low to me. She’s eminently playable in every constructed format and printed in an unpopular winter set. I’m not saying she should be $20+, but $10-$15 seems much more reasonable.

Three of the Top 8 decks in Legacy were UWR Miracles. I like all three good miracle cards as pickups. Entreat the Angels is already $10 but will just keep climbing. We know demand for angels never really goes away and an angel card that sees real competitive play is just going to keep getting pushed. And that’s just as a two-of. Can it hit $20 next year? Terminus, on the other hand, is a full grip. Terminus is also an EDH staple at this point. At only a few bucks a copy this one is a solid trade option. There’s rumors it will be in FTV:Annihilation, but even if it is that’s more of a delay than anything else. FTV copies never do much to suppress the price of popular cards. It may take Terminus a few more months to keep rising than it would have, but it will still keep going. Finally there’s Temporal Mastery, the one good miracle that’s fallen out of favor for the time being. I chatted about it more a few weeks ago. The tl;dr is that it’s as good as gold. Buy, trade, steal, whatever.

Did you know that foil Spell Pierce is $40? That foil Terminus is $30? Foil Temporal Mastery is $20? Foil Blightsteel is $60? Foil Aven Mindcensor is $50?

Mindcensor is nearly $15 non-foil. I don’t like getting in on the bird though. It was an uncommon, which means when (not if) it gets reprinted its likely to be uncommon again. The price will be absolutely crushed when it does. It’s the type of card that could really easily show up in any expert-level expansion without doing much to Standard, which means its a very safe reprint. If you need them then grab your set, and foil copies are fine since they’re an alternate border, but don’t go deep on the non-foils.

Remember Darksteel Colossus? Yeah, neither does Blightsteel Colossus. He’s up to $15 at this point and isn’t going to stop. Putting him in a Commander product would be an odd development choice, so if he shows up again it would probably be in an FTV or something similar. I don’t think we’ll see a reprinting with enough volume to negatively impact his price, so feel free to grab these for cheap where you can. I would imagine many with this card will not realize his actual retail value.

One of the cards with the widest relative gap between English non-foil and JP foil? Ingot Chewer

The BUG fish list in Vintage had, not counting lands or sideboard, thirty cards that were printed (or reprinted) in the last few years. Chances are that if you have a reasonable Modern collection you’re only a few pieces of Power away from a Vintage deck. That’s obviously not cheap, but Power is a perfectly fine investment as it is. If you’re going to sink a few hundred dollars somewhere, putting it into a few pieces of Power that will appreciate in value and also allow you to play Vintage at the same time is not the worst decision you could make.

I don’t see Ancient Tomb getting reprinted again anytime soon. Don’t feel bad picking up your copies if you need them.

Two cards that still aren’t on the reserve list are Force of Will and Mana Drain. Someone mentions this every so often, and speculation on them appearing as judge promos or FTV includes pops up. I don’t know which it will be, and I don’t know when it will be, but it’s got to happen eventually, right?

There was a lot to take away from this year’s Bazaar of Moxen, and I only just scratched the surface. I think the most important thing to notice is just how sweet looking Vintage looks. While I think Legacy is going to bottom out down the road, Vintage is already near it’s floor of activity. The only division between a Vintage deck and a Legacy deck is Power, and those are good investments as it is, so you should consider bugging your LGS owners about starting up a ten-proxy Vintage event once a month.

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My Spec Quadrupled But I Only Made $.75 Each

By: Travis Allen

First was Kaalia. She climbed to $15, then $18, and is now showing $26 here on the MTGPrice tracker. Animar followed this past March, although he hasn’t quite gotten as high yet. He’s currently $12. Sometime a few weeks ago Corbin Hosler was pointing out Damia, Sage of Stone to his companions on QS and lo and behold in the past three weeks she’s climbed to $15.

A lot of people were scratching their heads on this last one. Kaalia is easy to understand. She’s what you get if you take the two most popular tribes in Magic, along with a third semi-desirable one, and shove them into a single card. Of course EDH and kitchen table players all over the place are going to want her; she has both the words “Angel” and “Dragon” printed on her. 

Animar was a little less obvious but is still understandable. He doesn’t have blatant support for tribes like Kaalia does. Instead, he’s rocking the counter theme. +1/+1 counters are popular with the silent minority as cards like Doubling Season and Parallel Lives have taught us time and time again. He’s also Johnnyrific with that last line, enabling scads of broken interactions in a format such as EDH.

Damia caught most of us by surprise though. What’s Damia do? She…draws some cards I guess? Don’t get me wrong, she’s obviously very powerful. I have a Damia deck myself and it’s probably the best EDH deck I’ve built so far. Those are the three best colors in EDH by a wide margin. But her effect is just not splashy. She doesn’t have the word “Elf” on her, she doesn’t enable an alternate win condition, and she doesn’t enable any combos that are going to make your buddies jealous. She simply generates value.

At that point, it was pretty clear everything from Commander was on the table. Who would be next? Karador, with his serious graveyard synergy? Graveyard strategies have always been popular with casual and spikey types alike. Riku? Riku does some pretty awesome things with doubling both spells and creatures, another fan favorite. Edric already popped awhile ago after Drew Levin suggested him as a Legacy spec.

When I looked over the Commander list at that time Ghave jumped out at me. A buddy had a Ghave deck and I remembered him being exceptionally strong. Being a one-card enabler for all things tokens seemed excellent to me. We already know that type of effect is popular and Ghave can turn it on all by himself. He was super cheap, with plenty of copies under $4 available. I decided to run with it. I tweeted about having purchased thirty-five or forty copies. Forty-eight hours later I was rewarded. Ghave jumped from the few bucks I paid for each copy to over $10 on TCG. A clean, fast, easy purchase. My spec had more than tripled in price. Now it was time to roll in all the money I had made.

Except, I hadn’t.

A little while after Ghave spiked I had a slightly dismaying revelation.

I’ve been staring at this pile of Ghaves on my desk for the last week or so now and I’ve decided to use it as an example of the actual cost of speculating like this. How much do you really make on a spec?

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Here’s my TCG order of Ghaves. You can see I bought twenty-five copies at $3.35 each. I live in New York, so I get the privilege of paying sales tax at TCGPlayer. All said and done I paid $3.64 per copy of Ghave. That looked real good when they were getting relisted on TCG for $15 at first.

Now here I am ready to sell my Ghaves. How should I out them? Let’s look at the most painless process; buylisting. Buylisting is really the best option for anything you spec on for more than a few playsets. If you bought twenty copies of Sphinx’s Revelation when they preordered for $6 then eBay would be your best bet. That’s only five playsets so it’s easy to ship them. What if you bought three hundred Burning Earth for $1 each though? They jumped to $4+ TCG at one point, but have fun selling seventy-five playsets on eBay. Even if the entire process was fee-free the time it would take wouldn’t be worth the extra scratch you’d make over buylisting.

Capture

Using MTGPrice, I see that the best buylist is currently StrikeZone at $5 a copy. Oh. Hrm. Ghave is over $9 mid on TCG right now, but the buylist is still only $5. That’s kind of a bummer. Even though my spec looks excellent on retail prices, my profit margin is actually a lot smaller than you would think.

You see, when you look at specs it’s easy to compare retail to retail. “I bought at $X, and now the card is $4X.” That looks like you quadrupled your money. The reality of the situation is that you’re comparing retail to buylist. You paid $X at retail, but you aren’t selling at $4X retail. You’re selling at $Buylist, which is $2X if you’re lucky. It’s still a profit, but it isn’t going to make you nearly as much as you thought it would.

Alright, so I’m going to sell these twenty-five copies of Ghave to StrikeZone at $5 each. That’s $125 for all of my copies. Now I just need to get them all to StrikeZone. Shipping four cards in a bubble mailer is $2.91 with delivery confirmation, so I’m going to ballpark about five dollars in postage. Don’t forget your sleeves, hard loaders and bubble envelope though. We’ll say that’s $1 for everything together.

$125 from buylist – $5 shipping – $1 materials = $119.

Looking at StrikeZone’s buylist page, you have the option of receiving your payment as a check or via PayPal. There’s a $3 processing fee on checks and PayPal takes around 3%. SZ will be sending me $125, 3% of which is $3.75. I guess I’m taking the paper check.

$119 – $3.75 check fee = $115.25.

Alright, I’ve got the check in my hands. After shipping the Ghaves to SZ and getting paid, I have $115.25 in my pocket. It originally cost me $91.08 to make the order, so how much did I make?

$115.25 – $91.08 original cost = $24.17

Less than twenty-five bucks. That’s a bit under $1 a copy. How long did it take me to do all of this? At least an hour right? The experienced buylister can do it in under an hour, but not all will accomplish the task that fast. So I made roughly $24 an hour. That’s fine I suppose, but it isn’t anything remarkable. Some of you reading this make less than that at your job, some of you make more. Most of us can agree that the absolute value of $24 isn’t all that much though. It’s probably most of the bill for some takeout Indian food for you and whoever it is that’s currently tolerating your company.

I could possibly try eBay for outing my Ghaves if the buylists are too low, but a quick search there shows me they’re selling for barely $5. Over at eBay you need to ship each card individually, and you better do it with tracking unless you want to get royally screwed. That’s going to destroy your profits to the point that you would actually lose money selling copies.

You also won’t be selling these as playsets. At least with those theoretical copies of Sphinx’s Revelations you could sell them as sets. People would want all four. But Ghave is a commander. Nobody needs more than one copy. Keep this in mind in your future spec purchases. Can you sell them as playsets or are you only going to get buyers on one copy at a time?

So where did it all go wrong? How come I made so little? Didn’t my spec basically triple?

Well yes, yes it did. At retail prices.The buylists never reflect that though, at least not right away. The buylists on Ghave may eventually get up to $8 or even $10+, but it will take continued, sustained demand and enough people buying the card at $15+ to push them that high. That could very well happen, but not overnight. Unless the card we’re talking about is a breakout combo piece it will take weeks and sometimes months for buylists to climb that much.

There are lots of other factors to be aware of here as well. Not every flip is going to behave quite like this. Sometimes the seller will flake and refuse to send you copies, in which case you accomplished nothing except being $100 short for a few days. Other times the cards will get lost in the mail and you’ll have to argue with the TCG and the seller. Sometimes they’ll be damaged or otherwise not quite NM. Maybe the buylist won’t even need all the copies you’re selling. In fact, SZ only wants eleven Ghaves. What do I do with the other fourteen? Perhaps the store will be one of these that jerks you around, and once they have the cards they’ll offer you $3.50 each instead of the listed $5. If you sell your spec on eBay you have to deal with shady buyers that are going to take any opportunity to take advantage of you. (Hence the required tracking on anything sold through eBay.)

Heck, what if the card you speculated on didn’t even rise? Or only gained twenty percent? All of those potential issues only arise if the card manages to jump enough to be worth selling. There will be plenty of times where that doesn’t happen. Into the box of shame they go. Sometimes the buylists rise a little faster too of course. But how often do you think that happens compared to one of the above situations?

What I want you to take away from all of this is that speculating is not equivalent to printing money and that you are likely to make much less money than it seems like you would. When a card doubles, triples, or even quintuples on the surface, most of the time the profit realized by the people who got in on the ground floor is zero to maybe thirty or forty percent of their investment. It’s time consuming if you’re new to the process and it’s fraught with hidden risks. There is the potential to clean up for sure, but every time a card jumps from $3 to $11 it doesn’t mean that a shadowy cabal of speculators just quadrupled their money. It means a bunch of people that owned between ten and two-hundred copies made 25% of their investment.

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Hey, it Really is Better than Born of the Gods: Journey Into Nyx Review

By: Travis Allen

Journey Into Nyx is upon us with prerelease events just a few days away. Does anyone else feel like we just did this for Born of the Gods? I’m still nowhere near knowing all the cards in the BTT draft format, and here we are adding a whole new pile.

A few words before we jump in. First, the dynamic of this block structure is familiar to veterans, but may actually be new to a good deal of rookie players. The big/small/small structure is the “normal” structure, but the last time we saw it was actually Scars of Mirrodin! We’ve added a whoooooole bunch of new players since then, so things are going to be a bit different.

Cliff talked about it in the past, and I’ve mentioned it as well, but it bears repeating: the ratio of packs opened for Theros:BoG:Journey will be 6:2:1. That means that (roughly) for every six of a rare opened in Theros, only one will be opened in Journey. This will have a real impact on the price, although by how much remains to be seen. Keep this in mind as the prices unfold over time. What would have been a bulk rare in the past may actually hold a price tag of a few dollars. I tried to accommodate for this effect in my pricing, but I may have been too conservative. Watch the prices closely, and if things aren’t dropping by as much as you or I thought they would, then we know it’s having a dramatic impact.

Speaking of bulk, everything I put there I expect to be about a dollar or less. Some of it may end up doing a little better because of casual markets (Dictate or Erebos) or the metagame may shake out in a way that it’s actually reasonably represented (Setessian Tactics.) I’m not dismissing these cards out of hand, I just think that it’s likely most of them won’t end up doing enough to matter in the next six months.

I’ve only given prices out through six months because I’m not prescient. What the format looks like after the fall rotation will be so different that it’s impossible to know at this point which meta-dependent cards will thrive and which will fall by the wayside. We’ll reconvene after the block Pro Tour and see how things are looking at that point.

White

Bulk:
Dawnbringer Charioteers
Dictate of Heliod
Launch the Fleet
Skybind

 

Aegis of the Gods
1-2 Months: $1
Rotation: Bulk

Aegis of the Gods looks a lot more exciting than it is. True Believer has been in Legacy and Modern for quite some time and sees no action, so Aegis isn’t bringing much to those formats they don’t already have. Yes, Leyline of Sanctity is awesome, but that can be cast for free and doesn’t die to Bolt. That leaves only Standard to drive this guy’s price. If your opponent plays with Thoughtseize and has reason to fear this guy, they can still fire it off on turn one of either the play or the draw to make sure they nail your whatever.

Aside from not really solving the Thoughtseize problem, there’s still not going to be a lot of decks that would want this ability on a small body. He may show up here and there, and may even float around a dollar or two instead of bulk, but only from the barest casual support. Mostly narrow, single-format demand will keep his price low.

 

Deicide (Day-ah-side, not dee-side.)
1-2 Months: $1-$2
Rotation: Bulk – $1

A lot of people were very angry when this card was spoiled. “What of our gods?” they cried. Their lamentations filled Twitter. “Why punish us for worshipping?”

This is a safety valve, the same way that Grafdigger’s Cage and Glaring Spotlight and Renounce the Guilds were. Wizards has plainly proclaimed that they are keeping cards like this in formats at almost all times to ensure that nothing runs away with Standard entirely. Their goal is that the cards shouldn’t be consistently maindeckable, but if certain strategies get too strong they can be temporarily promoted to the front line. That’s exactly what we’ve got here.

Grafdigger’s Cage didn’t stop Birthing Pod from being played. Glaring Spotlight and Renounce the Guilds couldn’t stop Geist of Saint Traft. Deicide will occasionally punish people leaning hard on their god, but it isn’t going to mean the end of Thassa entirely. Athreos will still be entirely playable.

This is definitely reasonable enchantment removal, and may even see play as a one- or two-of in certain builds. It answers things like Courser of Kruphix or Herald of Torment nicely with an occasional added bonus. It doesn’t do squat against Desecration Demon or Polukranos though, so it’s not going to be saturating the format. It will see more play than Renounce the Guilds did, but not enough to matter. It will hang around a dollar or two for awhile as people grab their copies, but it will slip by rotation.

 

Godsend
1-2 Months: $4-$7
Rotation: $2-$3

Godsend looks pretty awesome but won’t play nearly as well as it reads. Any of the “Sword of Yin and Yang” are going to be better in Modern and Legacy, so that leaves us with Standard and EDH. +3/+3 isn’t the most threatening thing to tack onto a creature, so blocking is only going to be done in dire situations. Admittedly it makes a great rattlesnake on defense. But at six mana, does it matter? It’s expensive to play and equip, and offers no protection except against maybe Mizzium Mortars.

The preorder is high now because it’s splashy looking and sounds exciting. Lack of results will send the price crashing. It will likely hit “mythic bulk,” which is $1-$3. It may not be a bad idea to grab them at that point though. There are going to be very few copies in the market in general, and there should be enough casual demand after rotation (next year) to see it become a slow, sure gainer.

 

Blue

Bulk:
Daring Thief
Hypnotic Siren (unless it breaks out in Mono-Blue)
Polymorphous Rush
Scourge of Fleets

 

Battlefield Thaumaturge
1-2 Months: Bulk – $1
Rotation: ???

This guy is a real unknown for me. Will he break out, which is a very real possibility, or will he falter and fall flat on his face? He’s a got a reasonable cost and a reasonable body to go with it. 2/1’s are completely capable of doing work in constructed, as Snapcaster has proven. The real question is the unique ability that we haven’t really had much of in this fashion before.

Making your spells cheaper is always worth a very close look. The difference between 1B and B or 2U and 1U is pretty severe. Imagine Hero’s Downfall at BB and you’ll begin to appreciate what he’s capable of. How about this spell? “2U, Return three target creatures to their owner’s hands and Scry 1.” That’s limited all-star Sea God’s Revenge with Thaumaturge in play. Much more appealing at 2U rather than 5U, isn’t it? The secondary ability is probably mostly irrelevant. It will serve as a potential way to protect him from spot removal should the need arise, but right now there isn’t a lot in the format that would really make this silly. We’ll see what the fall brings.

I don’t think Thaumaturge will take off right away. There isn’t anywhere he belongs yet so it will take time for him to find a deck. Delver took some time before he had a proper home, after all. We may even have to wait for rotation and the subsequent cardpool/metagame to undergo a major shift. He’ll require the right enablers for sure. If we get the right mix of spells he’ll be a format role-player, but if we don’t get the tools he’ll be filling boxes of shame nationwide. His best chance today is probably going to be with Young Pyromancer.

At the end of the day, I’m pretty confident in predicting that he will matter at some point before fall of 2015. He’s got a reasonable body and a potentially absurd ability. With the quantity of JOU that’s going to be in circulation it won’t take much to push Thaumaturge into the $10+ range with only mild success, and $15-$20+ if he’s a rare Delver.

 

Dictate of Kruphix
1-2 Months: $1-$2
Rotation: Bulk-$1

Howling Mine effects have a history of being fairly popular. Font of Mythos is an $8 card. Dictate is a Mine with upside on the timing. You can hold up counters or removal or whathaveyou and only pull the trigger if you deem it appropriate. It’s certainly the best Mine effect we’ve seen since Temple Bell in M11.

However, Temple Bell is currently well under a $1 and was that cheap even before it was printed in Commander 2013. That’s pretty damning for Dictate. Temple Bell is very similar in that it’s the same CMC and your opponent doesn’t get the first card. On top of that, Bell also has the advantage of not requiring colored mana and is capable of being turned off if things get out of control. You need to ask yourself why the average player would ever pick Dictate over Temple Bell. I’m not coming up with much, how about you?

In Standard there isn’t too much in the way of flash decks floating around, so there’s not a whole lot looking for this effect. Control decks have things like Sphinx’s Revelation to play to, which are much safer when you’re trying to take control of a game.

 

Sage of Hours
1-2 Months: $3-$4
Rotation: $2-$3

First, the best part of this: in Standard, you can go infinite with Sage, the new Ajani, and Vorel. Ajani dumps three counters on Sage, Vorel doubles them to six, and then Sage gives you another turn. Rinse/lather/repeat. There’s typically a three-card infinite-mana combo floating around Standard, but there’s always the question of what to do with it. A three-card infinite-turn machine is another story. It’s clunky, but at least if you assemble it you actually win the game instead of passing turn with a billion mana in your pool. Of course with Thoughtseize in the format this is probably all irrelevant. Still, it’s at least worth being aware of if you spot some way to streamline the process and possibly make it competitive.

Outside of Magical Christmas Land, Sage should behave similar to most extra turn effects. He’ll preorder high, as the weeks after release roll by and the card doesn’t break the format it will sink towards a bit above mythic bulk, and then it will slowly gain from there on out. Make no mistake about it, without a reprint this card will be $10 or more by the end of 2016. If this guy gets down below $2, he’s a slam dunk so long as you’re willing to wait. Take a look at Temporal Mastery. See that tiny uptick at the end there? That’s not going to stop.

Capture

 

 

Black

Bulk:
Dictate of Erebos
Doomwake Giant
Extinguish All Hope
King Macar, the Gold-Cursed
Silence the Believers
Worst Fears

 

Master of the Feast
1-2 Months: Bulk – $2
Rotation: Bulk? $10?

Master of the Feast is a curious one. It’s easy to compare him to Herald of Torment and Desecration Demon. He’s inexpensive, a real threat in the air, and comes with a drawback tacked on. This formula isn’t new to us. The real question is how rough does the drawback have to be before it’s too much to deal with? Herald of Torment’s one life per turn is not preventing anyone from casting him, although he’s not quite as abstractly powerful as the other two. Desecration Demon’s seems pretty severe in text form, although it quickly becomes irrelevant when the guy with the demon also has fifteen pieces of removal. Master of Feast’s drawback seems to be the worst of them all.

When you’re the guy trying to kill people with a 5/5 flyer for three, you’re racing their ability to answer him. Giving your opponent more tools to deal with your threat isn’t something you’re pleased with. If they gained two life each upkeep or returned a creature from their graveyard to their hand or something that you could mostly ignore it would be fine. But an entire unrestricted card each turn is always going to have a chance to matter .

The flipside of this is that the way he’s worded it isn’t as punishing as it could be. They don’t draw the card until your upkeep, which means that if they kill him with sorcery speed removal then they either offed him before they drew the card or they took five in the air. The basic tradeoff is that without an instant speed answer, for each card they get you also get an attack phase. That can add up to a lot of cards, but it’s a lot of attack phases for a 5/5 flyer as well.

Master of the Feast is going to be an all or nothing card. Either the drawback is going to be too much and he’s going to end up at total bulk, or he’s going to pull a Desecration Demon and climb to $10+. Either way, I think he’s hitting $1 before he gets his chance to shine so you’ll have some time to make a decision either way.

 

Red

Bulk:
Bearer of the Heavens
Dictate of the Twin Gods
Harness by Force
Spawn of Thraxes
Twinflame

 

Eidolon of the Great Revel
1-2 Months: $2-$3
Rotation: Bulk – $1

Probably more important for Legacy and Modern than Standard, Eidolon is a Pyrostatic Pillar on legs. In Standard your opponent can get a two-drop down ahead of this on the play and stall until they can take the game over with cards with four CMC or more. On the draw it will be more painful, but an otherwise vanilla 2/2 will be awfully vulnerable. If you’re the guy casting the Eidolon, remember that your opponent isn’t just going to jam small spells into it over and over. If they cast a spell that shocks them, they’re doing it because they think it’s worth more than the two life it’s going to cost them. On average I’d say you’re likely to get an average of much less than two damage from their ability for each Eidolon cast in Standard.

The Legacy and Modern implications will be different. Both formats are packed with small spells so he’ll have much more relative strength. He’ll die more often for sure, but at least anything that’s killing him is probably going to shock it’s controller.

The biggest issue financially is that there’s going to be exactly one deck in each format that wants to cast him. This isn’t like Courser of Kruphix that can go in any deck that makes green mana. Eidolon only goes in the most aggressive of red lists, which means the overall demand for him will remain lowish. I see him slipping towards bulk prices, but I don’t think he’ll get too far below $1 or so. I don’t believe that he’s a Vexing Devil or Goblin Guide, but he’s still better than Firedrinker Satyr. If he has a very slow descent or even seems surprisingly resilient after the honeymoon period is over, that probably means the casual market likes him, which will make him safe as a long-term pickup regardless of his tournament success.

 

Prophetic Flamespeaker
1-2 Months: $4-$7
Rotation: $8+

I’ll get this out there: I’m a big fan of Prophetic Flamespeaker. Any mythic that isn’t huge, flavorful or splashy warrants attention because it means it may be mythic due to power level. Prophetic Flamespeaker falls into that latter category. He’s got non-square numbers (a sign of significant balancing in development) and a lot of potential power. The hook, of course, is making use of it.

It’s easy to look at Flamespeaker and think that turn three feels late, or that he doesn’t win a lot of battles without help, or that his ability can miss. I think that it’s just as easy to do this as it was to look at Desecration Demon and see all the ways he would fail his owner and do nothing. Cards don’t exist in a vacuum though, and the support you pack your deck with has a huge bearing on how well they do. Sure, Flamespeaker is relatively unexciting when staring down Courser of Kruphix. What about when you slap a Madcap Skills on him? Or have RG up representing Ghor-Clan Rampager? Or you played Imposing Sovereign on turn two and their turn three play can’t block? Or you just Lightning Strike their X-3 and get in? Or you manage to get him down on turn two?

In case you missed it, that ability does in fact trigger twice if he gets in unblocked. That’s two temporary cards drawn for the turn. Here’s a scenario for you: Untap on T4 with Flamespeaker. Use two mana to slap Madcap on him, get in for eight damage, and exile your top two cards. One of them is a land, which you play, holding the land in your hand for next turn. The other is a Lightning Strike, which you use to kill one of their creatures or even point it at their face since you won’t be able to cast it next turn anyways.

Prophetic Flamespeaker doesn’t hand you wins, but he has a lot of raw potential to work with. A little bit of work is going to pay you handsomely. The only thing that is really holding him back is the RR in the casting cost. At 2R, he’d be the breakaway mythic of the set. At 1RR, he’s good but a little narrow. Hopefully he will be good enough to get away from only being viable in Mono-Red. If the mana can support him he could easily show up in any type of R/X aggro deck. Being a mythic from a small spring set as this, it won’t take much to get his price up. I think he’s going to come down from his roughly $10 preorder price in the near future, but will climb above $10 again when people start realizing how much power he puts on the table.

 

Green

Bulk:
Dictate of Karametra
Hero’s Bane
Hydra Broodmaster
Pheres-Band Warchief
Setessan Tactics

 

Eidolon of Blossoms
1-2 Months: $2-$4
Rotation: $3-$7

My windows are a little large, but bear with me. What are we working with here? Well, first of all it’s the Buy-a-Box promo. I spoke about this in my Theros review, and the sum of it is that BaB promos are usually pushed for constructed. If a card is a BaB promo, we need to pay attention.

So how good is it? Elvish Visionary is 1G for a 1/1 that draws you a card when it comes into play. Solemn costs four and gives you a card on his way out, but he’s got a pretty sweet front side too. Both were fixtures during their time in Standard and see play in other constructed formats, so we’re in good company on “ETB:Draw a card.” Blossoms is obviously not as amazing as Solemn off the bat, but few creatures will be. In Blossom’s defense it’s at least guaranteed to draw you a card and has the potential to get out of hand.

A turn two Mana Bloom gives you a turn three Blossoms with a guaranteed enchanment in hand for next turn and Bloom is repeatable cycle for G each turn after. That alone is fairly tempting. Courser of Kruphix is another excellent green enchantment, and Boon Satyr isn’t bad either. You’re likely not playing Mono-Green, so there will be other options as well. Hey, you know what got reprinted in Journey? Oblivion Ring. (Sort of.) The double green in the casting cost is also probably a good thing since it powers up Nykthos quite well. I recall really wanting a four mana draw spell when I was playing Gr Devotion after PT Theros, and this is pretty close.

I expect Eidolon of Blossoms to very slowly dwindle towards $2-3 but it may be sticky due to people wanting to try it out and likely needing three to four copies. I don’t think it will really get a whole lot lower than that as some people will always be interested. Beyond that, if it does turn out to be solid it will behave like Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid. I wouldn’t get rid of these at the Prerelease, and if it’s the type of card you see yourself playing, don’t feel bad about trading for a playset. The worst that happens is that you trade for them at $2-$3 and they end up at $1.

 

Gold

Bulk:
Revel of the Fallen God

 

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
1-2 Months: $17-$20
Rotation: $9-$13

Domri Rade has been a four-of in a tier one Standard deck for basically the entire time he’s been legal. He also sees light Modern play. Currently he’s about $25, his peak was $30-$35, and his floor was about $10. He averaged maybe $20 for the last eighteen months.

Ajani is not as good as Domri.

I’m not going to ramble about the nuances of his Standard applications because as the banner Planeswalker of the set plenty of other people can do it better than I. Suffice to say that he’s not going to perform as well as Domri. He won’t perform as well as Elspeth either, who is about $20. There will be your typical honeymoon period while people grab their copies and he gets tried in bant Planeswalkers, but for the most part when he does manage to show up it will be as a one- or two-of. As Xenagos has shown us, even mild play isn’t enough to keep the price of a Planeswalker over $10.

The one thing Ajani has going for him will be his relative scarcity. That may push his price a bit higher than we would normally see for a fringe Planeswalker. If he does about as well as I expect, he should mostly be in the low teens and even under ten. If he sticks around $15, it will be because of the spring set bump.

 

Athreos, God of Passage
1-2 Months: $20-$25
Rotation: $14-$18+?

Hoo boy, now that is a God. He’s aggressively costed, revives a previously-successful Standard archetype, and will be popular in EDH. Those are all markers of a hefty price tag. The only reason I’m not expecting $40+ is because there is a little too much else going on in this set for him to turn into a Voice of Resurgence.

People think Athreos is good, and for good reason. Because of that his price will be slow to fall. If he sees very little Standard play, I don’t think he can get much below $10-$13. If he’s part of a major Standard deck, expect him to stick closer to $20, or perhaps even more depending on how pronounced the small set effect is.

 

Iroas, God of Victory
1-2 Months: $12-$15
Rotation: $6-$9

Iroas is pretty threatening, don’t get me wrong. He’s got a huge front end and he makes blocking miserable for your opponents. My concern is that he’s not terribly versatile. He’s got the Koth thing going on where there’s only ever really going to be one deck for him, and even there it’s unlikely you’ll want the full set. People will play him, and there will be some casual appeal, but it won’t be enough to keep him inflated with several other spicy mythics and rares in the set. The small set effect should keep him above Nylea and Heliod, but not by too much.

 

Keranos, God of Storms
1-2 Months: $8-$10
Rotation: $6-$9

On the one hand, Keranos has the best or second best text box of all the gods this time around. He is always doing something that matters, whether it’s putting cards into your hand or draining your opponent’s board/life total. On the other hand he’s a little expensive and it will take some time for his ability to really take a game over. I think he’s nearly as playable as Athreos is, but unlike Athreos will likely not be a four-of wherever he ends up. We also don’t have a home for him to slot into right away which makes it tougher for him to maintain his current $10-$15. The best advice I can give on Keranos is to expect nothing in the short term, but pay close attention to the block Pro Tour.

 

Kruphix, God of Horizons
1-2 Months: $5-$6
Rotation: $3-$5

Ugh.

 

Pharika, God of Affliction
1-2 Months: $5-$7
Rotation: $4-$6

Pharika is preselling on Channelfireball right now for a whopping $7 so there obviously there isn’t a whole lot of hype surrounding her at this point. Most people are relatively unimpressed, but I’ve heard from a few intelligent people that there’s some silver lining here. She’s cheap with a nice fat body. She’s in green, so we can see her come down on turn two, potentially allowing you to put four colored mana symbols into play on turn three and swing for five. She recycles your dead bodies into threats, which is great in attrition decks, a common theme for GB. Perhaps most importantly and mostly under the radar, those snakes she puts into play are enchantments. That means they trigger constellation, such as on Eidolon of Blossoms or Underworld Coinsmith or Doomwake Giant.

Will any of that be enough to keep her above bulk god prices? Honestly, probably not. She’s going to slip before she rises again, and if she ever does make it back above $10 I don’t think it will be overnight. You’ll have time to react if she sees an uptick in play and price.

 

Artifacts

Hall of Triumph
1-2 Months: $1-$2
Rotation: $1-$3

Honor of the Pure, Glorious Anthem, and the colorshifted Gaea’s Anthem are all $1-2. This is considerably easier to cast at the cost of being a tad more narrow and legendary. Being legendary hurts, but being an anthem effect in colors that don’t normally get one is important. Mono-Blue could possibly be in the market for two of these, and decks running Prophetic Flamespeaker could conceivably be interested as well. I believe this will always manage to stay a little above bulk, and will probably climb towards $5 in the months and years after rotation.

 

Lands

Mana Confluence
1-2 Months: $10-$15
Rotation: $9-$12

Comparisons will be drawn to Cavern of Souls, but I think Nykthos is more appropriate. Cavern of Souls is used in Modern, Legacy, EDH, and Casual. Outside of Standard Mana Confluence is irrelevant to all but dredge players, so we’re not getting any real extra demand. Casual players hate paying life for mana, so there’s not much of a market there either. The price is basically completely driven by Standard. Those players will definitely want the land, but this isn’t an auto-four-of by any means. Aggro decks will max out but midrange and control lists aren’t going to be eager to pay that much life.

Nykthos sees mild play right now and hangs around at $7-8 so that’s probably Confluence’s floor. There will be considerably less copies of MC around, but Nykthos enjoys a bit of extra demand. Overall MC should hang out at a bit more than Nykthos if it sees comparable play. I’d say we’ll see this in the $10-$12 range for the most part, but it may take some time to get there. If it ends up overperforming we’re probably looking at it being $15+. If Thoughtseize can’t break $20, I don’t think MC can.

 

 

The Temples
1-2 Months: $5-$6
Rotation: $7-$8+

Most of the other Temples are in the $5-$6 range and there will be considerably more of those than there are of these. Lands nearly always rise at rotation and there’s no reason to expect ones with such a strong effect to behave any differently. Don’t hesitate to trade or buy your set now. You pretty much can’t lose. Hoard any you can get in trade because it’s likely enough that they break $10 that it’s totally worth risking them being $4-$5.

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