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.

Theros Review Review

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By: Travis Allen

Journey Into Nyx spoilers are in full swing. In another week or two we’ll have the full list, and at that point I can give you guys a complete rundown of the set and what we’re looking at. In the meantime though, I figured I’d double back to my Theros review and see how I did. It’s been just about seven months, which is plenty of time for us to understand as much as we will about these cards before rotation.

Chained to the Rocks

Chained to the Rocks is poised to be one of the strongest removal spells in the format, especially with how good decks with Sacred Foundry look at the moment. I see it available for about $2.50 on TCG Player as of 9/23/13, which likely is fairly close to its floor. Mizzium Mortars never really sunk below $2 retail, and I think Chained compares pretty well. The ceiling on this card isn’t particularly high though. While it’s quite a powerful effect, you still need to have actual Mountains (and a good deal of them) to use it, not just lands that tap for red, such as Clifftop Retreat. I can’t imagine this breaking $5 for longer than a week or two, if ever. The best strategy regarding this card will simply be picking them up in trade for $1-$2 and trading them away at $3-$4.

This feels like a pretty reasonable read. They’re about $1 to $1.50 low on TCG, which is right about where I expected them to be. My advice on how to trade them seems to have been appropriate to. I’m putting a check mark in the success column on this one.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Elspeth is still in that Planeswalker honeymoon period of $30+. Given her high mana cost, I anticipate it may take a little longer before she starts showing up in decklists. I’m guessing she may pull a Gideon Jura though, where people are lukewarm at first, playing only one copy, but then adding more and more. I’ll be keeping a close watch on her price and quantity of appearances in T8 decklists. If she shows up as a one-of in the maindeck of a winning list and the author talks about how great she was, expect positive movement. Like most Planeswalkers, if she dips below $15 it is time to start seriously considering picking her up in trade.

I didn’t really give you guys a specific price, but overall I thought she was powerful and relevant. I wasn’t entirely sure if the rest of the Standard community would pick up on that immediately, but in hindsight they clearly did. Overall I think this was a pretty reasonable evaluation, if perhaps a bit prudent.

Fabled Hero

I would expect his price to typically hang out in the $1-$3 range on any given weekend, but spiking an event could jump him to $6+ pretty easily. If Brave the Elements targeted, then we’d be in another ballpark. Even still, I think this is the type of card that can oscillate pretty easily. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him dip, jump, dip, and jump again all within his journey through Standard.

Fabled Hero is about $1 on TCG, which is on the lower end of my expectation. I was a little more bullish on this guy than the rest of the world was, but I also didn’t foresee the format becoming a wasteland of Hero’s Downfalls. I doubt rotation will change too much since all of the excellent removal is in Theros, not Ravnica. I’m hesitant to call this a miss, but it’s certainly not a success.

Gift of Immortality

Intro deck rare. I love the card, but do not buy into this with the intent of profit.

Bingo.

Heliod, God of the Sun

Heliod reads to me as the second weakest of the five gods…The gods are a little tricky financially. They’re almost-sorta a new card type, and subsequently I don’t feel like I have a good gauge for how their casual support is going to be. If I had to take a guess (which I suppose I do since I’m writing this article), it’s that the gods in general will be more popular with the casual crowd than the average decent mythic. I feel like the floor on Heliod – and all the gods – is probably around $5-7…My opinion on the gods, and other cards in general of which I’m not confident in my predictions, is to ship them early and wait until I understand them better.

I was pretty accurate in regards to the power level here, although Heliod is arguably the weakest at this point. I set their floor a tad higher than it turned out to be, but not by much at all. I’m glad to see I advised caution when considering what to do with them early in their life span. I guess my call on the floor was a little high, so I’ll mark this as a miss that I don’t feel too bad about.

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Soldier of the Pantheon

Boy, Savannah Lions has come a long way, huh? Remember that we just came out of Ravnica, so “Protection from multicolored” reads a little better now than it will in a year. It will still probably be in discussion for any Modern white weenie deck, so if you can find Craig Wescoe, you know you’ve got a buyer. Other than that, your white one drop has to see heavy, sustained play (think Champion of the Parish) to maintain a $4+ price tag.

I told you that he looks better immediately after a mono-multi block, and then I told you it’s unlikely he would maintain even a $4 price tag. I’m pleased with this summary.

Artisan of Forms

Artisan seems very weak to me. These days, a ton of the value in good creatures is their ETB effect, which Artisan doesn’t get you. You also have to do a lot of work to even get the clone effect. Bulk rare; trade away accordingly.

Spot on.

Bident of Thassa

Release promo. Bulk.

Yep, I completely missed on this one in terms of playability. It is clearly better than bulk, having been in Mono-Blue for the better part of six months. Still, the price is well under a dollar. I was way off on how playable it would be, but still right on the price. Half miss, I suppose.

Curse of the Swine

Bulk, unless they reprint Aether Flash.

Good, good.

Master of Waves

I have a lot of trouble seeing Master accomplish much. Blue token makers are fairly rare, but creatures that die when their Master dies just seem miserable. Given the current state of blue, what permanents do you have in play that give you a healthy amount of devotion that are not already putting the game away for you?

Welp. That’s a big ol’ stinky miss. I completely under-evaluated how powerful slamming even two or three tokens into play would be, much less five, six, or even more. What I should have said was that for four mana you get a bare minimum of two 2/1’s, one of which has a very relevant protection, and that the rate isn’t embarrassing at all when you consider how well he scales up. Instead, I focused on how little blue was playing to the board at that point and made a sweeping generalization. I understand why I said what I said, but clearly I need to be a little bit more welcoming of powerful effects that I don’t see an immediate application for.

Prognostic Sphinx

THE TEEF will never be a four-of. I’d say $2 at his absolute best.

This is satisfactorily a success.

Thassa, God of the Sea

I believe Thassa is quietly the best god in the set. Purphorous and even Erebos are getting a lot of chatter, but most Thassa discussion has been less high-energy. However, I believe this is due in part to people underestimating the power of scrying every upkeep. In discussions with other players, the common opinion seems to be that the fair yet still playable cost for an enchantment that was just the upkeep scry would be 1U. That effectively means you’re getting the entire rest of the card for one colorless mana. Not competing with Jace or Supreme Verdict on the mana curve is also a great position to be in. When you finally do get Jace down, all it takes is UU somewhere to suddenly be within range of closing the game out fast. Notice that Thassa is capable of making herself unblockable.

Of all the gods, Thassa is the one I’m most interested in financially. If she ever does get below $10, I’ll start grabbing as many in trades as possible. I think it will take time for the format to begin including her, so there will hopefully be a window where she’s under-priced.

I feel pretty good about this one looking back at it. I was basically completely correct, with the sole exception that I was hoping she may get cheap before people realized she was the real deal. What in truth happened was that she hadn’t really gotten much cheaper than maybe $18 when the Pro Tour happened and she skyrocketed to something like $25 or $30.

I didn’t really give you a long-term plan on her, but I don’t feel too bad about that. I knew she would go up, and after that it would be all metagame. In any case, I think I gave a pretty good evaluation overall. I’ll take this success and be happy with it.

Agent of the Fates

This card seems fantastic to me…Agent of the Fates is $2 on TCG Player while I write this, which is almost low enough for me to just start buying copies. If he gets under $1, he will be a major trade target, and under $.50 I’ll start in with cash.

Hot off the heels of my great Thassa prediction is my rather shameful outlook on Agent of the Fates. I was clearly wrong about this, as he’s done nearly nothing since the format’s inception. There are indeed copies on TCG for around $.50 and I’m not rushing out to buy them, so I certainly am not as big a fan as I used to be.

There’s a silver lining here, and that’s that Agent of the Fates feels like a victim of the metagame. Mono-Blue and Mono-Black just poop all over his face for a variety of reasons, but he’s still rather powerful in a vacuum. Wizards gave us all sorts of great BW heroic things such as Hero of Iroas, Nighthowler, and Herald of Torment, the latter two having already proved their mettle in battle. I’m not purchasing any today, but I’ll be keeping my eye out to see if he pops up anywhere before rotation. I was wrong up until now, but I’m keeping a candle lit for this one.

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Erebos, God of the Dead

Erebos has been the second most popular god so far, and I’m pretty sure that is due entirely to people not realizing how high of a cost his draw is. Two life is not an insignificant amount of life to pay to draw a single extra card. Yes, it’s repeatable, but the toll adds up fast. The ability is strongest late in the game, when both players are already limping. I don’t think the ability worthless, but I get the impression people read the words “draw a card” and ignored everything to the left of the colon. On top of that, his static anti-lifegain clause goes from “highly disruptive” to “niche ability” with Thragtusk rotating.

Erebos seems poised to see a pretty heavy drop off in demand. I’d get out now and not look back.

Erebos was an easy $12-$15 at release, and he’s a weak $8 today. The absolute best circumstances for him has been realized with Mono-Black being the best deck in Standard, and he’s still only a one or two-of. I’m happy with my review of this, especially in noting that the card draw ability isn’t as strong as people thought it may be.

Murderbore

Domri Rade is going to find himself on the business end of a minotaur hoof frequently in the coming months. Hero’s Downfall will be a major factor in the forthcoming Standard landscape. Murder was always “almost,” and adding ‘Planeswalker’ to the card text will definitely push it over the edge. That said, I don’t see much of a reason for this to deviate from the Mizzium Mortars/Dreadbore path. I expect it to spend a very stable life hovering in the $2-$5 range. Your profit here will be trading for them at $2 and then trading them away at $4. If black ends up being the best color in Standard, the top end here may be as high as $6 or $7. (There is also no chance I call this anything other than Murderbore for the next two years.)

I was completely right that this would be a major player in Standard, although I was way too prudent about the price. In my defense I don’t think we’ve ever seen rare removal get that expensive before. It’s down to $4-$5 now after a few months well over $10. I was right about how playable it would be, but wrong about how expensive it could be. I’ll take this as a miss I’m ok with, and be well aware of just how expensive Standard rare removal can be these days.

Nighthowler

Possibly playable card that I doubt will ever crest a dollar. I bring it up because it’s the Game Day Top 8 promo, and it looks super sweet. The promo will likely hold value better than it’s playability would have you believe because of this.

Nighthowler is still under a dollar, but he’s been creeping up for the last week or two. Regardless of where he ends up in the next year, I think I was a bit too shy on his power level. My comment about his promo copy being a harbor of value was accurate though, with copies easily over $6 right now. If Nighthowler does indeed break out harder, the promo will just keep on moving up.

Thoughtseize

There’s really not too much to say here. Thoughtseize is and will be a Standard, Modern and Legacy staple. Expect Snapcaster-esque prices for the next two years.

I was clearly right on the power level. I’m not entirely sure how much I like my financial prediction, as Thoughtseize has gotten cheaper than I probably would have guessed it could in September, but I suppose Snapcaster behaved quite similarly. This is a success, but perhaps not as strong as I would have liked it to be.

Whip of Erebos

Cool card that’s in an intro deck. If it hits the Standard scene, don’t look to profit on this, but rather the other cards it will be dragging out of graveyards. And yes, it does work as well with Obzedat as you’d like it to.

This is entirely non-committal and really tells you very little, so I’ll call this a miss. For Journey Into Nyx, I’ll try to provide a little more concrete expectations.

Anger of the Gods

Possibly a better Slagstorm depending on what you’re in the market for, and an effect we have been desperately in need of. (Take that, you lousy Burning-Tree Emissary decks.) This has bonus points for being impactful in Modern. I see no reason to expect much price behavior different from Murderbore.

While I was correct about it being a strong card, even in Modern, I was definitely wrong on the price. Why? Well, for starters, I come back to the metagame. Both Mono-Black and Mono-Blue shrug this card off entirely, meaning it’s seen more play in Modern since it came out than Standard. Between my expectations that this would see more play than it does and my failure to predict $15 Murderbores, I gave you faulty pricing information. Sorry guys.

Firedrinker Satyr

Maybe it’s because I’m not a Jackal Pup kind of guy, but I really don’t care for this much at all. I’d ship these fast and avoid down the road. People tend to remember old cards, or new cards similar to old cards, a little too fondly in vastly different formats than when they were originally good. Remember when Nantuko Shade was like $8 preorder or something?

Currently at about $.50, I feel good about this one.

Hammer of Purphoros

Solid looking card, but falls into the Koth trap of mostly being only good in really heavy red decks. Even if the card is fantastic, how many Hammer of Purphoros decks can there really be? I wouldn’t take the risk of trying to make money here; there’s better places to put your gaming bux.

I’m pleased with this as well. I correctly identified that the mana cost was going to be far too prohibitive for meaningful growth.

Purphoros, God of the Forge

I will say right now that I am less enthralled with Purphoros than many others are…I wouldn’t be surprised to see him alongside Boros Reckoner and Stormbreath Dragon in the near future…I don’t doubt that he’s very powerful, but $25 will be a very difficult price tag to maintain amidst a lot of other very competitive-looking mythics such as all three Planeswalkers, Stormbreath Dragon, and Thassa…In any case, I’d be trading these away ASAP. The odds that he loses a lot of value are far greater than he gains any. If he slips towards $10, feel free to start grabbing them, because someone will probably give him a breakout performance at some point.

Overall I’d say I did pretty well here. I was correct that he didn’t end up being as powerful as others thought he would be. My recommendation was that he couldn’t maintain his price, and to get rid of them. I told you to come back around once he got down to around $10, and I would still be comfortable telling you to trade for them today now that he’s around $7. I think in general I expected the god’s floor to be a bit higher than it has been, but on the whole I think I did a good job with Purphoros.

Stormbreath Dragon

This card is the real deal…As I see it, Stormbreath is poised to step in and assume Thundermaw’s role without missing a beat. Preorders have jumped from $15 to $25, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable number for him to hang around at. Thundermaw hit $50 for a period, and if Stormbreath comes out of the gate terrorizing heros, I would expect no different. At this point he’s too expensive to buy into to spec on, but if you want a set, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade for him. I doubt you stand to lose much, and his upside is very high. If he dips below $15 again, I’d start snatching them wherever possible.

I was quite bullish on Stormbreath. Perhaps a hair to bullish, I admit. He has managed to rule the skies since Theros though. Dodging Archangel of Thune and Detention Sphere has in fact been relevant, and I can’t help but think he would have been even better than he has been if it weren’t for the menace of Blue and Black. I think I was afraid of telling you he’d “only” be $20 and looking timid when he hit $50, so I left the door open on that. I suppose I could have tempered this prediction a little bit more. He maintains a solid $20 price tag though. I like where I left you with this one.

Boon Satyr

Even though there’s a lot of chatter about Boon Saibot, he’s still only $2 right now. Keep in mind that Loxodon Smiter has seen significant play in Standard and has even broken into Modern yet is still currently only about $4. There’s a real limit to how expensive an in-print rare can be. It will be tough for Boon Satyr to maintain a price over $4-$5 while he’s in the current set even if he’s seeing excessive Standard play. However, if he is consistently putting up results over the next year or is prevalent at the Theros Block Pro Tour, look to start snatching them up next summer when he’ll be at a low.

I was right that he would have a heck of a time maintaining a price upwards of $4, but I didn’t tell you just how cheap he could be. I don’t feel like my prediction was wrong, but I didn’t give you enough information. I’ll call this a miss.

Nylea, God of the Hunt

Nylea is widely considered to be the weakest of the gods. I’m not entirely convinced that is true, but she certainly has an uphill climb to prove otherwise. On the one hand green decks that will want trample are likely to be strong devotion enablers, and she’s a solid beater herself. The activated ability feels very weak to me however. She’s $9 right now, and I expect that to start slipping very quickly. I’d say $4 is her absolute floor though, so if she gets that low don’t be afraid to grab a few sets. Even if she never gets there in Standard, it’s likely the gods will always maintain solid casual demand.

This was spot on. She managed to show up just a little bit in a heavy green deck, but it faded away in the face of darker devotion decks. The $4 floor prediction was perfect, with several of the cheapest copies on TCG at exactly that number. Homerun.

Polukranos, World Eater

Polukranos is a powerful card that is going to be responsible for a lot of dead 2/2s and 3/3s. He’s in the Duel Deck though, so his price has a firm ceiling. While I’m seeing copies under $5, I’d guess is floor is around $2.50. If he slips under $3, there’s a lot of room for potential profit there with little downside. I also wouldn’t hesitate to trade for a set now for personal use, as again there isn’t that much to lose.

And then I come crashing back down. While I was technically correct that his price had a ceiling, I was thinking he would be much cheaper than he ended up being. I guess I didn’t explicitly tell you he would be $3, just that if he got that low you should grab some. At the end of the day this feels like a miss though.

Sylvan Caryatid

[Exposition about Buy-a-Box promos]…A lot of people expect Caryatid to be a major part of the standard landscape, and I agree. She (?) is currently right around $5, which sounds a tad high. Like Daniel Boone, I expect there will be money to be made on Caryatid next summer.

Correct that she (?) would see Standard play, but too prudent on the price. $5 is the lowest Caryatid has been, and she even hung around $7-$10 for awhile. Part of my read was that they would get destroyed much more frequently by sweepers, especially Anger of the Gods. With Anger not being too common in the format, it meant there was not a lot going on that could punish Caryatid. I was correct that the card would be frequently played, but wrong about the price. I’ll take my lumps here.

Ashen Rider

Probably won’t be too expensive, but foils will command a premium. If it ends up being a 4-of in Obzedat’s Aid/Erebos’ Whip type decks, the price could quintuple very quickly though.

Sounds about right. There’s still a 5x multiplier on the foil too.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Many players I’ve spoken to are not wild about Ashiok, but I am quite confident Ashiok will be a part of the Standard landscape…Ashiok is still rather pricey at ~$18. I anticipate Ashiok cratering pretty quickly, as it may take time for Ashiok to find Ashiok’s way into lists. Once the number is below $10, I will gladly start picking up Ashiok in trade.

Hrmph. I was a big fan of Ashiok, and I guess I still kind of am. She’s shown up here and there, but not enough to move the price much. To be quite honest I’m a little mystified here. Ashiok seems like she would be playable in variations of Mono-Black or even Esper. I like trading for her right now as well. I suppose this isn’t a miss per se, but certainly not a success. I’ll just say the jury’s still out.

Daxos of Meletis

If a single thing on this card was missing, I’d be proclaiming it bulk. As is though, Daxos seems to have a lot of intriguing puzzle pieces…At $2, I’m not interested. If Daxos slips below $.50 though, I’ll definitely consider acquiring aggressively depending on if he’s appeared in any results. When a card ends up below $.50, the risk is just so low and the profit potential so high.

Another victim of the metagame. He’s powerful for sure, but Pack Rats and Frostburn Weirds just stonewalled him entirely. I do trade for them were available though, so at least I’m following my own advice here. Like Ashiok, this doesn’t quite feel like a either a miss or a success.

Fleecemane Lion

This could end up being the most overpriced card in the set. We already have something better than Watchwolf at the moment (Call of the Conclave) and nobody is playing it. The monstrosity clause is almost surely better than the state of being a token, but is it by any meaningful amount? Decks that play Watchwolf want to put guys into play and attack with creatures like Stormbreath Dragon, not spend their turn five mana to do one extra damage in a format full of good edict effects. There will be games where the monstrosity wins the game, but plenty more where you’ll wish you had just played Scavenging Ooze instead. I sold mine at the prerelease; I recommend you do the same.

Fleecemane has done better than I thought it would, but the price has still been pretty lousy. Remember that during prerelease season this was around $10, so my call to ship them at the prerelease was golden. I admit that the monstrosity clause has been better than expected in a format full of spot removal. All in all I’m pleased with how I called this, although I recognize that it could be better than I originally anticipated six months from now.

Medomai the Ageless

Nifty card that is almost surely unplayable in Standard. Foils will be worth a bunch for EDH.

Bulk, yes. Foils are maybe $5-$6, so is that “a bunch?” Relatively I suppose it is.

Polis Crusher

Potentially great card but he’s in an intro deck. It’s possible someone will manage to make money on him, but it won’t be me.

Likely to be a much more relevant card in September given what we’ve seen of Block, I’m taking this opportunity to revise my previous dismissal. There is a LOT of enchantments floating around now, and it looks like the density of enchantment creatures has gone up in BOG and JOU. Given how good he’s been in Block decks, he may overperform at rotation. The intro deck thing is still very real, but I’m seeing copies under a quarter. I don’t like him at more than $.50, but if you can get them below that, I think you’re probably safe.

Reaper of the Wilds

This card seems to have a great deal of financial potential. There were only two other creatures in RtR that had three activated abilities: Deathrite Shaman and Lotleth Troll…I don’t think this card will necessarily be a major player in Standard for two years, but I do think it will see enough play to warrant a several dollar price tag at some point. Like Daxos, if this slips under $.50, consider me a buyer.

My evaluation of Reaper was strong, so I’m pleased with that. I identified the fact that it wouldn’t be a major player in Standard for a long stretch of time, but that it may be good enough for a period to be worth a few bucks. MTGPrice is telling me it hung around $2 for awhile, which is on track. The printing of JvV has completely derailed any opportunity for profit this fall though, so my long-term prospects have fallen off. No way to predict that though, so overall I think this was a good one.

Underworld Cerberus

Cerberus is one of those cards that has a lot of disconnected moving parts that makes him tremendously difficult to properly evaluate. Cards like this are notorious for being misunderstood early on because of their complexity, only to shoot up in playability (and price) once people realize just how powerful they are.

Woofy is the only mythic rare in the set that has a real chance of seeing a considerable and sustained rise from his prerelease price, and the only mythic I’ll be trading for at FNM this week. I’m not sure exactly if he’s good enough, but I know his ceiling is higher than his floor is low.

I was cautiously optimistic here, and “cautiously” was a wise decision. Despite my reserved expectations, Cerberus has done exactly nothing. There’s still another whole year, but at this point it’s completely fallen flat. I don’t think I’m wrong when I say his ceiling is higher than his floor is low, but I suppose that doesn’t matter if we’re sitting there on the kitchen tile wondering where it all went wrong.

Xenagos, the Reveler

My initial reaction to this card was quite poor. He read like a four mana satyr generator. As spoiler season marched on though, I began to see potential…Xenagos won’t even be the best GR Planeswalker in Standard, but he’s not as bad as I expected early on. His success will hinge largely on the playability of monstrous and monstrous-esque creatures. Expect Xenagos, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon to be best buds this fall. A safe price to trade in at will be $12 or so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him follow Chandra’s price curve.

I’d like to think this was reasonable. He has seen play alongside Polukranos and Stormbreath, but perhaps not as much as I thought he would. That again comes back to green being the worst color in the meta. It looks as if he’s $10-$11 right now, which seems to be about what I anticipated. I’ve been trading for them, and I’m confident he’ll at least make $15 before fall of 2015. All in all I’d like to call this a win.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

You need at least three devotion to break even on tapping this land, which is not a trivial hurdle. I can’t imagine this having much of an impact in standard. Even if it does make it into Standard, what are the odds it shows up in more than one list? Due to EDH, I see this as a $1-2/$10 nonfoil/foil split. Even if EDH drives up the nonfoil price, it will take years to happen. Get rid of all yours, pick up a foil one for EDH, and don’t look back.

Hah, well, this is certainly wrong. The pile of Nykthos next to me tells me I changed my mind awhile back. I don’t remember how many weeks it was after I wrote this that I came around, but it was probably after the Pro Tour when I saw Mihara’s GR list using Nykthos to great effect. I’m a big fan of Nykthos now, and I’ve been stockpiling them for some time. I was completely and absolutely wrong here though; sorry about that. I don’t know why I didn’t look at this and realize that it’s a land that taps for more than one mana. Lands that do that are really worth paying attention to, especially in Standard, and especially when there’s a card that says “untap target land.” Lesson learned!

This was my first real set review. It wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but I’d like to think that except for a just a few, most of my misses weren’t too far off the mark. Nykthos and Master of Waves were obviously real bad, but for the most part I just didn’t commit enough to a price or was a bit too prudent. I don’t feel too bad about that because advising caution is never going to be catastrophic. You won’t make buckets of money being cautious, but you won’t lose hundreds of dollars on failed specs either. At the end of the day, I’d like to consider this a reasonably successful first set review. I’ll be looking back at this as I write up my Journey review in short order and try to learn from my mistakes here, for my benefit and yours.

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

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Consuming Aberration is a $4 Card

By: Travis Allen

Consuming Aberration is a $4 card. Consuming. Aberration. Is a $4 card. Are you really reading these words? Do you understand what they mean? Read them again. Think about them. Consuming Aberration is a $4 card. Huh. What does that mean?

Well, it means we should take it out of our bulk boxes.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this. I remember plugging it into MTGPrice for some reason and seeing a price of $4.10. I assumed it was a mistake. The site is great, but there are always algorithmic problems and such. I flipped over to my magiccards.info tab. I plugged it in. $3.72 mid.

Huh.

I flipped back to MTGPrice. The buylist was $2.32. ABU Will give you $2.32 for copies of Consuming Aberration. ABU Games will give you more than two American dollars for a copy of Consuming Aberration.

Huh.

Where is the demand for this card coming from? Who is driving the price up to $4? It’s not an old, out-of-print diamond-in-the-rough gem. It isn’t on the reserved list. It’s a Standard legal rare that sees absolutely zero play in any constructed format.

Think about your local store. Have you ever, since Gatecrash released, heard someone unironically ask if you had any Consuming Aberration for trade? 

Nobody wants this trash. It’s complete and utter garbage. It is the absolute worst kind of rare. 100% bulk. (Or so we thought.) The next time you’re at your LGS, yell out “does anyone want a free Consuming Aberration?” It is entirely possible that not a single person will want the free card. Think about that. In a room full of Magic players, you literally could not give this card away. This will not be true of every store, but it will certainly be true of some.

What else in Standard costs $4 right now? Supreme Verdict, sweeper du jour and playable in the four largest constructed formats, is $6. A bit more, yes, but it’s still in the same ballpark. It’s a lot closer than most of us would have guessed without looking. Desecration Demon, scourge of the skies and bane of green decks everywhere is $5. This is a card that has a good 70% chance to win any given Standard GP and it’s only $1 more than Consuming Aberration. Puzzled yet?

Most of the Scrylands are around $4 to $5 as well. Temple of Enlightenment isn’t, but the rest are hanging around there. The most important lands in the largest sanctioned format are about the same price as Consuming Aberration. That tells us something curious.

Price is a factor of supply and demand. For the most part we can assume that Consuming Aberration and any given Scryland should have the same supply. (Really, the Scrylands should be lower supply right now if anything. Gatecrash has come and gone, and there are virtually no new packs being opened. Theros and BOG are still being drafted, so there is still some flow of Scrylands.)

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If you assume that the supply is equal between the two cards, and their prices are still just about equal, what does that mean for the rest of our equation? It means that the demand for the Scrylands is equivalent to the demand for Consuming Aberration. Consuming Aberration is just as desirable as the Scrylands. If everyone at your LGS is looking for Scrylands but nobody wants Aberration, just where is this demand coming from?

Welcome to the invisible majority. All of us – the tournament grinder and speculators, the heavy traders and constructed players – are the minority of Magic players. Of course, we FEEL like we’re the majority. We’re all loud, we talk on every form of social media, and we’re the ones represented on official coverage. Wizards isn’t broadcasting kitchen table “anything goes” four-Sol-Ring four-Tolarian-Academy Magic on their Twitch channel. But the reality of the situation is that you and I and everyone like us comprises a far smaller portion of the Magic world at large. 

Obviously the price swings on tournament staples is nobody’s fault but our own. Casual players aren’t making Sphinx’s Revelation and Voice of Resurgence $30. But they are capable of making Consuming Aberration a $4 card, with absolutely no help from any of us. It requires some serious demand to move a Standard rare to $4, and by golly they did it. When the the casual market can push a bulk Standard card that hard, we need to be paying attention. The market force is bigger than any of us, but if we hop on the wave we maybe be able to ride it.

Price behavior is going to be quite different than we’re used to. Most of us have come to be familiar with the wild nature of constructed staples. Cards rise and fall by factors of ten semi-regularly. We understand rotation, we understand “constructed playable,” and we understand ban lists. This is all irrelevant when dealing with casual cards though. There are no rotations. There aren’t “staples” or fear of reprints or ban lists. There’s a large, quiet group of players and there are cool cards. Column A wants Column B. It doesn’t matter whether its March or September or whether the card is legal in Modern. Players want cards and they order them online or purchase at their LGS from the total finite pool available. Slowly the supply dwindles, and as it does, prices rise. Occasionally copies make it back into rotation if a player sells their collection to a friend, but for the most part the supply is evaporating. The result is a plodding, semi-smooth rise in price.

With the recent influx of players in the last few years, there’s going to be growing demand on old casual staples. This is why Vigor is $20. Yet there is stilll profit to be made. There’s plenty of other old casual cards that haven’t adjusted their price. While they may not spike as often, and they aren’t sexy, they’re going to be practically guaranteed profit. Buying quiet casual allstars means you can’t brag about looking like a genius because you bought ninety Heralds of Torment at $.40 before they jumped to $7. But you can fill your collection with $1-$5 casual cards that are virtual locks to double or triple (or more?) in price within a year or two.

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How to Pick Your Battles

By: Travis Allen

Speculation is the sexiest of all Magic money-making endeavors. It is the perfect mix of the American dream and the allure of making a quick buck. Get a great idea or an inside lead on a card, dump a ton of cash into it, and make a 600% profit in two weeks that most stock portfolio managers would quite literally end the life of another human being to make. Not only does this require little effort to achieve, with the total sum of your hard work being putting cards into envelopes and taking them to the post office, it makes you look like a genius. Every time the topic of speccing comes up there’s that one guy that never fails to mention how he bought out Snapcasters at $6 during preorder or some such.

Of course, the reality of the situation is nowhere near that easy or glamorous, as few things are. Finding an angle on a card that nobody else has seen yet is tough when there are thousands of other people staring at the same finite card pool you are. Selling the cards is sometimes easy, but not always. If you don’t mind taking a smaller profit and just buylisting them it isn’t bad, but if you want to squeeze out every penny or the lists haven’t caught up yet you’re left spending time listing on eBay and dealing with overhead costs. None of that is too bad if you bought a few copies, but the times you make real profit is when you have hundreds of a given card. 

Knowing all this, how do we succeed in picking good specs? What is the magic formula for identifying the next hot thing that is going to go from $.80 to $7.99?

You already know the answer to this. There isn’t a magic formula. It requires constant awareness of the market, a pulse on multiple information sources, and no small dash of luck. After all, even if you get ahead of the market and buy 300 Krark’s Thumb, there’s no guarantee they’re all getting shipped to you if the price rises before the cards leave the warehouse.

Today we’ll look at a few factors to consider when trying to decide if you should go deep on a card. The important thing to remember is that all of these headings are factors, but not necessarily deciding factors. Sometimes cards rise in spite of particular circumstances. If you have an eye on a card that looks great in most of these categories but not all, don’t immediately toss it out the window. Just be sure that you’re making the decision for the right reason.

Power

In a vacuum, how powerful is your card? Does it do something inherently broken, such as Birthing Pod? Is it just an excellent rate for its effectiveness, ala Tarmogoyf? Does it tutor as well as Infernal Tutor does? This is always one of the most crucial questions when evaluating a card, and also one of the most difficult. This is the one where you really get to say “I saw things different from the rest of you, and I made money because of it,” and it’s also the one that gets egos involved the most.

A lot of money can be made when you see things differently from others. Chapin saw the power of Jace and bought something like forty copies at $25 apiece when it was spoiled. More recently, there were people out there that realized Desecration Demon was a dangerous threat only being held back by the presence of Lingering Souls. They were rewarded after rotation for recognizing the card as being very powerful, even if the meta hadn’t borne it out yet.

Powerful cards aren’t always expensive and expensive cards aren’t always powerful, but in general the better the card the more likely it is to be expensive. If you spot a powerful card that isn’t already expensive, ask yourself why not. You may look at Isochron Scepter and think about all the dirty things you can do with it in Modern, but remember that artifact hate is all over the format, as is Abrupt Decay. Without even considering the quantity of copies available we already see why an inherently powerful card is basically metagamed right out of Modern.

Meanwhile, there are definitely very powerful cards that exist in that format that just haven’t been figured out yet, or whose crucial combo piece has yet to appear. If you can look at Vampire Hexmage in the spoiler and immediately realize Dark Depths is sitting out there at $2, you’ve got a leg up on the rest of us.

Quantity Printed

What’s the major difference between Precinct Captain and Auriok Champion? Thousands and thousands and thousands of copies. The price of a card, of any good, is a factor of supply and demand. Demand is an incredibly complex component but at least supply is easy to figure out. There are so many more Precinct Captains than Auriok Champions it’s no wonder they are separated in price by a decimal place. If demand for the two cards is equal and there are ten times more Precinct Captains out there, then it isn’t surprising that Captain is about 1/10th the cost of Auriok Champion. The more copies of a card that exist the harder it is for the price to rise astronomically. This is why very old cards rise much easier than new cards. 

When judging how many copies of a card are in the wild the first thing to consider is what set(s) it is from. Assume for now it is a single printing in an expert expansion. The further back you go, the richer the vein. My three mental bookmarks are Mirrodin, Future Sight, and Innistrad. Mirrodin is a point of reference because then the card is legal in Modern. If we’re looking at a card from Onslaught or earlier, it is limited to Legacy and Casual formats. That isn’t a death sentence or anything, but it’s important to consider. Anything printed between Future Sight and Mirrodin is excellent territory, between Future Sight and Innistrad is solid, and after Innistrad the card has an uphill battle. There were just so fewer cards printed in sets prior to Future Sight relative to today. That is a major reason why many Modern staples have gone nuts; there are just so few copies available in the market compared to how many players are now in the game. Every set from Zendikar on has seen a growth in the player base, but between Innistrad and Return to Ravnica specifically we’ve added a tremendous amount of players.

Second and third printings complicate things a bit. Again, the older the additional printing, the better. If a card was printed in Mirrodin and then again in Kamigawa, we aren’t too worried. The price has had plenty of time to settle into where it is today. If it was in Mirrodin and then Gatecrash, that’s another story. Auxiliary product, such as Planechase or Commander decks, has some impact as well. These are much smaller runs than full expansion sets, so they aren’t exactly flooding the market. Special product printings will typically slow the growth of something, but not suppress it entirely.

When considering specs for Standard play, pay close attention to which set they’re printed in. The Return to Ravnica block had a unique structure in that the card pool was split pretty evenly amongst RTR and Gatecrash, while Dragon’s Maze was opened far less. This opened the door for DGM cards to spike harder than their RTR/GTC counterparts because there were so many less available on the market.

Theros’ distribution will have a similar impact on viability of speculation targets. Theros will be heavily opened, while Born of the Gods and Journey Into Nyx will be less so. A good example is the two black Bestow cards Nighthowler and Herald of Torment. Nighthowler is from Theros, making it a much worse Standard target than Herald. There will be about three times more Nighthowlers on the market than Heralds without even counting the Gameday promo. The full ratio of packs opened across the block will be 6:2:1. Seeing that type of ratio should really help you understand why Born, and to a greater extent Journey cards will be such better spec targets than Theros.

The takeaway from all of this is that the less copies of a card in the market, the better your spec looks. That isn’t the only thing you need to consider, but it’s an important one.

Vendor Availability

This is directly related to the above topic. How many copies of your card are available at vendors? This is a good sign for your spec:

cap2

This is not:

cap1

Don’t just check a single storefront either. I’ve been burned before by seeing only a few copies on TCGPlayer, buying several playsets, then realizing there are huge stocks still available at SCG or ABU. You need to do your homework and see just how much is out there before deciding if your pick is a good one. And don’t forget about eBay either.

Quantity Needed

When considering a card, ask yourself how many the prospective player needs. Is it central to a deck’s strategy, as Living End is to its eponymous deck? Is it a one-of silver bullet? Or an occasional sideboard card?

The amount of copies players need of a given card figures into the ‘demand’ side of the equation. If I want to play Scapeshift, I may want a few Obstinate Baloth. Probably not all four though, and I can get by without them if I have to. I can’t play without owning four Scapeshift, though.

The general rule of thumb is that sideboard-only cards make poor specs. That isn’t to say it can’t happen, but the card typically has to be ubiquitous in sideboards to make a solid run. Spellskite is the most well-known sideboard card that has done well for itself, and even in that case it only went from $6 or $7 to $16 or $17. A $10 increase is nothing to sneeze at, but if it was somehow central to a strategy the card would be $30+.

Cards that need to be in the maindeck as a full set are a good choice. Cards that appear as a one or two-of in sideboards are not as appealing. Artifacts that every single EDH deck will want are universally desirable. Cards that are only useful to an unpopular general are less so.

Snowflake

How many other cards do what your card does? Restore Balance and Living End are the only things that accomplish their particular goals. Nobody is building a Living End deck that doesn’t run Living End. On the other end of the spectrum, Obstinate Baloth isn’t exactly unique. Sure, it’s very useful against Blightning and smaller aggressive decks. But so are Kitchen Finks and Loxodon Smiter. If the card you’re considering could be pretty easily replaced by a much cheaper option, you may want to look elsewhere.

Company

Part of what made Living End such a juicy pick was how cheap the rest of the deck was. Aside from the manabase, most of the deck is commons and uncommons. If a player can pick up fifty-six cards of a sixty-card deck for $100 then they’re going to be far more willing to spend ten or twenty or even thirty dollars on the lynchpin of the engine. However, if the deck is packed with Goyfs and Cliques and Snapcasters the list is already going to be atrociously expensive to buy into. Player’s willingness to fork over serious cash for some novel new tech is going to be far lower.

Siblings

I don’t recall exactly what the first card to spike because of Nekusar was, but I know it has happened to several by now. Cards that force your opponents to draw extra cards are all prime candidates at this point, especially ones that attach penalties to them. When Seizan popped up on my MTGPrice insider email, I knew the card would be rising soon. It makes other players draw extra cards and gets them for a few damage at the same time. It hasn’t fully taken off yet, probably because the effect is smaller when compared to things like Wheel of Fortune, but I expect it to eventually make a full jump to $8+.

Price History

Price history is an excellent way to spot cards that are moving up and possibly poised for big jumps. A card may seem underpriced, but is its price graph flat for the last year? Or has it in fact been slowly rising for awhile? A flat price history doesn’t doom the card, but it does mean that there hasn’t been much interest in it for awhile. However, price graphs that have been trending up indicate growing demand for the card, a big indicator for price spikes. Keep in mind the old legal disclaimer of “past results do not guarantee future returns” though.

Spikes are for Spikes, Climbs are for Casuals

What is the market for your card? Is it a Sphinx’s Revelation type of effect that is pure raw efficiency but otherwise an entirely boring card? Or is it a Vigor, something that your average PTQ grinder will scoff at but your younger cousin will be in awe over? 

Tournament staples tend to spike harder. The players with their fingers to the competitive scene will get whiff of a major contender on the rise, buy in early, and soon after the rest of the market will realize what is happening and finish off what’s available. The card will relist at ten times what it was, and eventually settle to its real price point, whether its actually ten times the old price, or only $.50 more than it used to be. Demand comes quickly, and it leaves quickly too. Rotations crush cards like Sphinx’s Revelation because once it’s off the radar of the grinder there’s no market left for the card. These are the types of specs that you immediately sell into the hype because there’s no way to tell where the card is going to land and you want to make sure you capitalize on the frenzy.

Casual cards, on the other hand, are guaranteed slow burners. There are less severe spikes on these types of cards because there are no tournament results or rotations to worry about. There are simply millions of players in their kitchens, collectively buying a playset of Consuming Aberration at a time, never trading or selling them, slowly but surely driving the price up. These cards do still spike on occasion when the MTGF community gets ahold of them and speeds the process along, but for the most part they get there on their own.

Knowing which market wants your card and what to expect out of its projected growth pattern is important for identifying short-term and long-term holds. Even if you know for a fact a given card is going to triple in price, if it’s going to take a few years, you may rather operate in a faster market.

Reprintability

I could (and did?) write an entire article about how easy or difficult it is for a card to be reprinted. The long and short of it is that the easier a card is to reprint, the less secure your purchase is. A card like Spellskite was juicy pickings because Phyrexian mana is unprintable outside of a Phyrexian block or smaller-run auxiliary product. Vendilion Clique is a tough reprint because it’s a named legendary creature with a specific creature type. Linvala, on the other hand, is not tied to any specific plane or keywords. She’s a generic angel which show up in nearly every single set. That isn’t to say that Linvala is getting printed in Journey Into Nyx, but it’s far more likely we’ll see her there rather than another printing of Birthing Pod.

Check Out That Gap

Take a look at the gap between the lowest retail price and the buylist. MTGPrice shows you this automatically on every page. The narrower the gap, the better your odds are. If the highest buylist is 30% of the lowest price, it means there isn’t demand from vendors to get copies into stock. They’re selling so few copies of the card that they aren’t in a rush to get more. A narrow gap means vendors are eager to have any copies they can in stock, and a rise on the purchase price is probably close behind. You’ll see a lot of MTGF types on twitter always talking about the gap on a card, and this is usually what they’re referring to.

Always Have an Escape Plan

Assume your spec bombs terribly. What is your out? How badly do you lose, and what can you do to mitigate it? If you’re buying your spec at $3 each and the best buylist is $.50, you’ve got a long way to fall. You’d basically be committed to holding onto the card indefinitely, until either it does actually spike or the buylist rises. If the buylist on those $3 cards is $2.25 though, you’re in good shape. Even if the card fails to do anything, you can get out having lost only 25% of your purchase. Obviously nobody wants to be in that boat, but it’s nice to know that you have an out that isn’t going to be soul-crushing.

 

*The author personally owns some number of Seizan, Vendilion Clique, and Herald of Torment

 

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Standard Snapshot: 3/26/14

By: Travis Allen

Last week I got everyone real angry about Legacy. I failed to clarify one particular point though, which I’ll start with today. When I implied that Legacy was going to fade away I wasn’t explicit about what that meant. It doesn’t mean nobody will play the format anymore. I expect it to eventually end up as Vintage is today – enjoyed by a core group of dedicated players, occasionally responsible for odd cards being hilariously expensive, but overall not something most players concern themselves with. People will still have their pet decks and Legacy events will continue to fire at local stores and Grand Prix side events. But there will come a day when SCG no longer runs it as a major event at opens and you can no longer win Pro Tour invites playing the format. That is the eventual fate of Legacy, not a total abolishment from the minds of mortals.

Anyways, on to today’s topic. We haven’t talked Standard in a while, and GP Cincinnati just occurred, which seems like a good reason to take a look at the format. Where is the money to be made? What should we stay away from? What do we sell? Is everyone sick of Pack Rat yet? (The last one is easy: yes.) 

Kyle Boggemes took down the whole event with a soup du jour Esper control list. The first thing that jumps out at me is the full twelve Scrylands. If you haven’t figured it out yet, these are powerful lands that are going to be relevant for their full course in Standard. What’s most interesting is how resilient the prices have been on the Theros lands. Typically we see the current fall-set lands get quite low. The Innistrad checklands behaved this way as well. These seem to have kept their prices a little better than I anticipated, with the exception of Temple of Mystery. Their floor will be between May and June, so whatever they fall to, that’s as low as they’re going to be.

The Born of the Gods temples are still doing quite well too, especially Temple of Enlightenment, clocking in at nearly $9. UW was clearly going to be the best Scryland from the outset and the price reflects that. The BOG scrylands should fare better than their Theros counterparts overall, and the Journey lands will be in a position to sit at the top of the financial pile. More on this at the bottom of the article

Three Elspeths is also worth noting, and she’s been prevalent in many of these lists. Her price continues to be a stubborn $20, which is impressive for a fall Planeswalker. If she gets below $15, I’d start trading hard for her. We will definitely continue to see her after rotation.

If you haven’t moved your Desecration Demons, Nightveil Specters, Underworld Connections, or Pack Rats, get on that soon. Their peak has come and gone.

A playset of Herald of Torment showed up in the Top 8, which is good news for his long-term prospects. He’s still about a dollar, and could pretty easily climb to $3+, maybe even $7-$10 depending on how things shake out. I haven’t bought any myself, but if I could get twelve or more copies for $1 each shipped, I would. We’ll still have Bile Blight, Hero’s Downfall and Thoughtseize after rotation, which basically guarantees he’ll always have a shot at being good. I’ve been wondering if you could actually build a Hero of Iroas deck with Fabled Hero, Agent of the Fates, Herald of Torment, and Nighthowler. It’s probably an FNM deck, but it sure sounds fun.

As I warned, Pain Seer is down to under $1 at this point. She’s a pretty low-risk pickup, but I like her less than I like Herald. She’s just so much more conditional than Herald is.

Naya Auras made the Top 8 as well, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot there we can work with. Most of the deck is rotating soon. I do see a whole lot of Scrylands though.

In the Top 16, Adam Jansen showed up with three copies of Ashiok. I still am a fan, and while Ashiok hasn’t been tearing up the tournament scene, at least s/he’s putting up occasional results. As a $7 pickup, you can’t really go wrong. I’d be surprised if s/he didn’t end up north of $10 at some point this fall for at least a slim period of time. 

Ari Lax was the darling of Cincinnati, piloting a GB “dredge” deck. He had some hot cards for sure. I was about to start listing the cool creatures he was playing but then I realized it was basically just all of them. I don’t think we’ll see Jarad make any moves, as the Duel Deck made sure that even if he’s playable there will be plenty of stock to go around. If you don’t have your Nighthowler promos yet, grab them now. The card is definitely powerful enough, and the full art version is leagues better than the pack foils.

What may be the most interesting card here is Satyr Wayfinder. While he isn’t going to be a $4 common, this list is proof that he is definitely capable of helping enable an archetype. Be on the watch for more graveyard-friendly cards and strategies in Journey and M15. Whip of Erebos will be around this September as well. The seeds are sown for a graveyard deck. The question is whether or not Wizards will make it rain.

While Cincinnati certainly drew the biggest Standard crowd this weekend, there was in fact an SCG open as well. I see Courser of Kruphix in third place, and I notice his price is nearly $10. This guy is definitely legit. Expect to see plenty of him next year as well. He’s a Born of the Gods rare, which is good for his longer-term prospects. $10 is a tough point of entry, but if he slips this summer, jump on that.

Cliff has talked about it before, but I want to refresh your memories here. I recommend you read his article, as it’s digestible and useful. The tl;dr is that the draft format means that we are going to open way more Theros than either of the other two sets, and less Journey than either of the other two. This means Theros cards are the weakest in terms of speculation value, BOG cards will be acceptable, and Journey cards will be ripe for unexpected spikes. It’s tough for me to recommend going deep on any almost anything in Theros, but I think BOG should have a low enough print run that it’s safe to expect movement. Journey will be your best bet, but we aren’t quite there yet.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible for Theros cards to spike, just that there will be less of them, they’ll be harder to identify, and they may not go as high as you’d like.

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