Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Maximizing EV at a Grand Prix


I’m going to give you a semi-scorching take, that you may or may not agree with:

I think the Main Events at Grand Prix are not worth the time and cost, generally speaking.

That being said, you’ll easily be able to find me at GP Vegas this weekend, under this sign:

For a spur-of-the-moment idea, not too bad.

Oh, no, oops, that’s GP Santa Clara’s sign back in January. Nine inches square, and not terribly good at getting attention.


Vegas, on the other hand, inspired me to greatness:


Oh yeah. That’s the size of a playmat and a total beast to pack for a flight.

Why do I do all this work, though? Because I don’t like the value that we get for most events, and Cube Draft is super fun and also totally free! Let me explain…


Remeber, everyone, EV (Expected Value) is an attempt to quantify how much monetary value you get out of an event, as compared to the value you put in. The EV on a pack of Dominaria is pretty low, considering that only about 1 in 4 packs will get you a rare with $4 of retail value.

EV is not the same as fun, and I’m not trying to rain on your parade. I love some events with terrible EV, but I’m also bringing Cubes that maximize the fun for zero cost. You have a good time, doing what you like, just be aware of the costs.

The Main Event

Dear heaven above, we’re now paying $70 for a Modern Main Event and $85 for the Limited ones. If you’re telling me that I have the option of buying a box at $100 or six packs for $85, even with Dominaria being above the value of other recent sets, well, I’m under no illusions about my skill in Limited.

I am pretty good at drafting, but I’ve never liked Sealed and for me, the value isn’t there.

Allow me to paint a picture, and this applies to any GP Main Event:

It’s the end of round five. You’ve been at this for 6-7 hours already (depends on the format, but early rounds ALWAYS go to time in Sealed and in a huge event there’s always going to be drawn out games in Modern) and you’re hungry, tired, and your friends all lost twice in the first three.

You’re 3-2. If you stick it out, you MIGHT make day two, if you won your next three. You’re still alive for it, you’d feel bad if you dropped, but all there is to eat is the $15 hamburger in the lobby, whereas your pals are headed to a Vegas buffet for maybe $30-$40 a head.

I’ve been there, and that feeling sucks.

It’s not that Dominaria is a bad set, or that Modern is a bad format, but for me, I don’t want to play one deck for nine hours and have no chance to go eat, talk, relax, trade, or browse vendors.

If your skill is high enough, or you take that much joy in your deck, then by all means. Allow me to link you to a story of me at 4-1 and doing dumb things starring Owen Turtenwald. That might have been the end of non-team Main Events for me.

I’d really like to make Day 2 of a Limited GP, and yes, that means I’ll have to enter those events. I won’t get infinite chances to do so, but especially in Vegas, side events and freebies will be my jam.

The Prize Wall

If you’re a regular consumer of MTG Fast Finance, you may remember that I ranted about this topic on the show back in January. I loathe the prize wall as a method of paying off victors. I understand that the events need a currency, and booster packs are either the best thing ever or terrible EV, but the execution by ChannelFireball was terrible in January and I’m hoping for better things in Vegas and in Sacramento.

My issues with the Prize Wall are as follows:

Inconsistent Pack Pricing – Dominaria will be 10 tickets, that’s pretty straightforward and you’ve got a 22% chance of opening a card worth $3 or more. All the Standard sets should be 10 tickets per pack, but then things get wonky. At GP Toronto, for instance, Modern Masters 2013 packs were 150 tickets, but those can be had for $25 on TCG. That’s a multiplier of 15, when the price is only about six times more. I understand you’re about to get at me for worth and cost and all those things, but I simply don’t like how the prices are so hit and miss.

Timing – The prize wall is a feast for the senses on the first day and maybe the second. People are eagerly trying to save up 1500 tickets for a foil uncut sheet, or draft enough to snag a Revised dual land. Know what they aren’t doing? Using their tickets early! The people who get a lot of tickets early on have a massive advantage over the people who saved till Sunday afternoon and are now down to the dregs of what’s left. I freely admit that if CFB restocked better/faster than I’ve seen (again, I’m hopeful but realistic) then I’d have less of an issue here.

Closed Currency – I wrote a lot about PucaTrade in the heyday, and I’ve written a bunch about Cardsphere, which is just better, because Cardsphere uses actual dollars and PucaTrade used only their own currency of PucaPoints. The closed currency means that at the end of the GP, when you go home, your prize tickets are worth nothing at all. You HAVE to shop from the prize wall to get anything at all. There’s not even a way to convert it to vendor credit, though I suspect that will come,  or allow vendors to trade for tickets. There’s a real market for trading tickets, even if you’re not supposed to it’s quite common.

The Side Events

First off, here’s the schedule. Let’s address the on-demand events.
Twenty bucks for a draft, a little higher than most LGS but you can do as many as you want. I prefer paying less and having less prizes, but this is not outlandish.

They’ve upped the price of Chaos Drafts to $35 and now you get to draft the packs before you draft the cards. This is godawful EV, but as I mentioned, EV is not the same as fun, and I am going to do this at least once. Note that the payout is the same as a Dominaria draft. Yuck but I love randomness! I’m so logical, except when I’m not.

If you do a Masters 25 draft for $35 you’re kind of nuts, from an EV perspective. You’ve got a 17% chance to open a rare or mythic that’s even $10, or a 6% chance to open a card that has the same retail price as the draft. Go have fun, but like myself and the Chaos Drafts, know that you’re paying a steep price for your fun.

The lands are sweet, but not crazy valuable.

Turbo Town Constructed has the best ratio of money to tickets that I can find. Both players pay a combined total of $10, and 40 tickets are given out. That 1:4 ratio is better than all the others, considering that the Dominaria drafts are $160 paid and 440 tickets are given, a ratio of 4:11 (Turbo Town is 4:16, for the comparison) and now we’re doing more math than I want to. If you want to grind tickets, that’s your play, and it’s got the benefit of being fast, so you can take breaks as needed without being stuck in a five-round slog.

The scheduled events are more about your enjoyment of the format in question and how many rounds you want to play of that format. The EV in terms of tickets is really not good for some of these and average for others. For instance, the RTR block throwback draft at $20 has a 4:9 ratio of tickets at max players. Even the double-up Sealed, if I presume there’s 256 players, will have $12,800 paid and 42,240 in tickets given out, which comes out to 1:3.3 as a ratio.

I think the Beta draft is a brilliant promotion and it’s something I’d never ever participate in. The chance that these are unsearched Beta packs is zero, to my mind. It’s free money for them, and Beta packs are 100% searchable. Observe this video of it being done with a Fallen Empires pack. Given the enormous prices of Beta Power and Duals, someone went through and with infinite patience, checked the cards in the packs. As a result, if there’s no Power, no duals, you just shrug and say, “That’s Beta!” and sigh because basic Island is on the rare sheet.

Pure Value

There’s some really great things to do at the GP which will cost you little or even turn you a profit:

Vendors – This is an excellent opportunity to gather up a bunch of cards, bring them to vendors, and turn a lot of little things into one big thing. Myself, I’m hoping to turn a stack of recent picks and hits into a dual or two, and even if you don’t like the hunt for value, you can lose hours just admiring all the super-awesome things for sale.

Artists – TWENTY-SIX different Magic artists will be present at this event, and you need to understand that they mostly weren’t paid to be there. If you get cards signed, leave about a buck per signed card at a minimum. Read Noah Bradley’s words. Be professional and courteous. Gush freely, don’t put your drinks or other stuff on their tables. Buy a print, and get it framed.

Cosplay – People are going to dress up as Magic characters, and that’s awesome. Making costumes like this is great fun for all involved. Talk to folks, spellsling with them, follow them on social media, contribute to their Patreon, etc. Do not be an asshole about what they are choosing to do or how they look. If someone wants to dress up a little or a lot, that’s a choice that increases their enjoyment, and you’ve no right to diminish that at all. Don’t ogle, don’t grab, don’t touch someone. Putting on a costume isn’t asking for anything.

Commander – If you dig competitive Commander, by all means play those games or join those events. Not my bag, but you do you. I can highly recommend gathering a pod of you and friends and adding the spice of tickets as a reward for playing, that’s a way to keep games moving at a lively pace instead of endless politics. I love playing Commander with new people, and if some have more tuned decks than mine, well, the games didn’t last long and I can move on.

Trading – As someone who does a lot of trading, and loves to hunt through binders, please, I beg you, take the stuff you won’t trade and have some way to let me know. Upside down, the last page of the binder, special sleeves, etc. Stay away from any solo trader who says the word  ‘buylist’ and look askance at someone who says ‘value’.

Cube Draft – I 100% saved the best for last here. I love Cubing. I think it’s the highest form of Magic, and it’s a way to give people a new and awesome experience. I’m bringing my Busted Uncommons cube and my Silver Borders cube, both of which are fun experiences. I haven’t built an expensive cube yet, so I’m comfortable playing with strangers. If you don’t want to bring your pricey cube, I totally understand. Every Cube Draft I am part of–and I’m hoping to attract other Cubers–is free and time very well spent. Just look for me all weekend, I’m not going to be hard to find.

Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for nearly five years now, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. He’s the official substitute teacher of MTG Fast Finance, and if you’re going to be at GP Vegas, look for the guy under the giant flashing ‘Cube Draft’ sign and he’ll have you drafting in no time!

Track your collection's value over time, see which cards moved the most, track wishlists, tradelists and more. Sign up at - it's free!


Please follow and like us:

Battlebonding For Fun And Profit

Oh happy day, we have the new multiplayer set in hand and early reports are that the set is super fun to play with and to draft.

I haven’t done either of those things yet, but I’m planning to at GP Vegas! That’s going to be a very good time, and it’s also where I’ll get to see a lot of vendors who are furiously opening product, and selling to those Commander players and Cubers who have to have the newest thing right now!

And good grief, there are a few cards that are begging to get played. Time to take a look at where they are now, and where I’d want to start buying.

Doubling Season ($37)

Oh yeah, this is currently the most expensive card. Got to love $4 packs! Let’s take a look at where the original has been, price-wise.

Double those crystals!

And just in case you think it’s a fluke, here’s the Modern Masters (2013) edition:

Double the…entwine?

There’s 13k decks running this, and there’s an awesome overlap for ONLY this card at the intersections of tokens, power/toughness counters, and planeswalkers.

This is a card that will bounce back. Not only will people finally be able to put one into a deck at a reasonable price, but lots of people who open one are going to jam it into a deck (rightfully so) and lot let it enter circulation. It’s a mythic, too, so there won’t be that much supply. We’re about to start M19 preview season, and I don’t think Battlebond is going to be opened all that much.

So put all that together, and I think this falls a little farther, but not much farther. My guess is $30 is where it levels off, and that’s a point you want to get in at, either for your personal copies or to go up long-term.I think that in a year, it’ll be back to $50-$60, as this is one of the filthiest of casual cards. Too many decks want this for it to stay low.

Land Tax ($16)

This is going to fall too. It’s also a mythic, but there’s a smaller set of people who will run this card. It’s a very good card, enables all sorts of stuff, but it doesn’t scream ‘BREAK ME’ the way Doubling Season does. Playing it turn 1 might get you killed in Commander, if only because it’s constant shuffling of your deck.

As a spec, though, it’s hard to beat. It’s in 10,000 decks on EDHREC and I thought that would be lower. The greedy-smile art of the original and the reprints aren’t as pretty as this is, so I’m going to be hoping to get in under $10, with it climbing back to $30 within a year or two. It might fall even further than that, as this hasn’t been printed since it was a Judge Promo in 2010. That’s a long time for copies to dry up, so there might not be too much demand left to fill.

True-Name Nemesis ($15)

First of all, I loathe this card and I want to see the price tank hard. This is seeing some Legacy play, and that’s why it’s been a $30 card. It was in exactly one Commander 2013 deck, so the supply was never huge (caused a whole set of Nekusar cards to spike!) and the demand has mostly been met.


The problem is that in Commander, the only other place that can play it aside from Vintage and Cube, this card kind of sucks. It dies to all the mass removal and there’s two other players who can be talked into dealing with the card.

This is going to drop under $10. The demand isn’t there, and even as a mythic, I’d expect this to have a pretty slow growth curve, at least until Legacy Merfolk wins the PT. (That’s a joke. Don’t buy this unless you’re willing to wait a super-long time)

Seedborn Muse ($10)

Another card that asks the question, “What does a card have to do to get banned in Commander?” this is one of my least favorite creatures of all time.

Still a terrifying card, even if I hate it.

My personal feelings aside, this is the easiest money you’re going to make. It’ll fall farther in the next couple of weeks, but that’s okay. It’ll level out at $7, maybe even $5, and that’s when you dive in. You’re going to buy these cheap, and then have them for trade when they are back to $15 in six months and $25 in eighteen months.

There’s been three printings, all full sets, none since Tenth Edition in 2007. This is another card that all the new players aren’t going to want to trade because it’s so damn awesome! It goes into any green deck ever, nearly 12k decks on EDHREC. Get the ones you want, get a few extras, thank me later.

Any new mythic at $1 or less

That’s right, this is blanket advice. Some of these cards look bad. Archfiend of Despair is eight mana. Arcane Artisan is slow as all hell. Brightling, even at three mana, doesn’t have a lot of immediate impact on a game.

Doesn’t matter at all. This is pure speculation on cards that are not going to be printed for long, quickly overshadowed, and when something happens and they hit, you’ll be there to sell into the hype!


Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for nearly five years now, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. He’s the official substitute teacher of MTG Fast Finance, and if you’re going to be at GP Vegas, look for the guy under the giant flashing ‘Cube Draft’ sign and he’ll have you drafting in no time!

Please follow and like us:

Entry Points for Dominaria

The Pro Tour is this weekend, and I have to say that I have no idea what’s going to get played. Standard has a couple of really good decks, and a whole lot of good-but-not-great-but-damn-it’s-fun decks.

It’s also worth mentioning that we are a mere five weeks away from the Core Set 2019 prerelease.

Honestly, we are getting the Pro Tour this weekend, Battlebond is for sale the weekend after, then it’s GP Vegas, and then just a couple weeks to the new set.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that we are almost to maximum supply on Dominaria. It’s time to look at where some prices are, where they might be, and where I want to be buying, in anticipation of unloading them later with notable gains.

For all of these cards, I don’t expect a lot of movement downward in the next few weeks. The market has had time to determine how good or bad cards are, and lots of them have fallen to the lowest price they will be at.

It’s possible that these cards could fall another 10-15% if people don’t play much Battlebond and just dive back into Dominaria drafts when they are available at the local store, which is a risk I’m willing to take on given the forecast for these.

Also, we could see prices fall further based on future Dominaria needs. Let’s say Karn, Scion of Urza stays at his current price through the end of Dominaria, about $60-$65. It doesn’t take much foresight to see his price hitting $80 or higher around Christmas. Remember, Chandra, Torch of Defiance was once nearly $50, and that was in a set that had Masterpieces!

How soon we forget…

If Karn is that high, and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria climbs from around $35 to $50, which is totally reasonable given Teferi’s adoption in Modern, then we’ve got two jackpot cards.

Remember that the distributor price for boxes is about $75, so hitting on one of those two cards makes opening boxes a very appealing idea for stores, who would then have a ton of the rest of the set to sell. That might depress prices further, and it’s got me pretty concerned.

I freely admit I’m not going deep on anticipated Standard demand. While I am thinking about Standard, my background is as a filthy casual and there’s other tasty targets to stock up on.

Oath of Teferi (75 cents in nonfoil/$5 foil)

I freely admit that every time a NM Foil comes up on TCG under $3, I’m putting it in my cart. I dearly love what this card enables in one of the most common archetypes in Commander: Planeswalker Superfriends. Doesn’t matter which flavor of the deck you’re running, it’s either Atraxa or someone 5-color as the Commander and this Oath is busted like nothing else. Yes, The Chain Veil does the same thing and is colorless (and is in nearly 4000 decks), but this offers no drawback and affects the board when it shows up.

The easy way to tell if a card is going to be popular in Commander (aside from just checking EDHREC, where this is only in 200 decks so far) is if it’s a win-more card. This is absolutely a win-more card. You’re doing great if you have Planeswalkers in play, so now you get to double up! Winner! Don’t underestimate the dopamine rush of having this card in play and going through all of your ‘walkers to get max value.

4500 Atraxa decks, only 200 of any commander playing this. That will change.

Oath of Teferi is not going to go up in value anytime soon. Dominaria is super popular, but the supply of foils is going to be drained, slowly and surely, and won’t be this cheap for long. If nothing else, buy your personal copy now, and a spare or two. You’ll thank me when this is $10 in 12 months.


Mox Amber (currently $14/$45)

I admit that I thought this would fall farther, faster. The early adopters got theirs, I opened three in three drafts (one foil) and traded them all immediately, like they were radioactive. The curve for both versions has flattened out, though, and there appears to be just enough demand for its current leveled-out price.

The supply is gluttonous, though. There’s 350 non-shiny versions on TCG right now, and another hundred foils. That’s a lot of people who’d need to buy in to raise these prices. Plus, unbelievably, more people have entered this Mox into the EDHREC database than they have Oath of Teferi!

This is just an oversight right?

Mox Amber is showing up in the Aetherflux Reservoir deck that’s trying to blast people with the giant space laser, but while that’s janky fun, it’s living in an Abrade/Thrashing Brontodon world. That’s pretty rough, and most of the deck rotates out in September.

This has farther to go. I’m going to be patient with this, and I’m definitely not getting any until much later this year, when I’m looking for a range of $10/$30. I think Modern will break this card eventually, making the foils a safer place to park some value.

Damping Sphere ($2/$25)

Yep, that’s a foil multiplier of over 12x, and that’s entirely due to its rapid adoption in Modern as a super-popular sideboard card:

Gotta love Modern. Seven ones, a two, a four, and an X.

Note that while it’s in 12% of decks, the average number is just under two. That means people aren’t loading up on it, they are packing 1 or 2 and that’s it. Because it’s cheap and colorless and it wrecks entire strategies by itself, look at the variety of decks playing it:

Are we missing anything? That’s right, Big Mana decks aren’t playing this!

Control, aggro, combo, midrange…all the colors are represented too. There’s little reason not to have a couple of these around.

This card is going to act like a rollercoaster. It’ll fall out of favor, then Tron/Storm/Ad Nauseum/whatever comes back into style, then this will be the ubiquitous sideboard card again.

That said, this is the price when we are at peak or near-peak supply. We aren’t in Fatal Push territory, but right now is absolutely when you get the ones you’re going to use. It’ll be $5 by the end of the year, and the foils are going to be opened less frequently than you think. Spending $25 now might seem silly for a two-of, but in a year, the Sphere will be at least $40 in foil.

Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for nearly five years now, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. He’s the official substitute teacher of MTG Fast Finance, and if you’re going to be at GP Vegas, look for the guy under the giant flashing ‘Cube Draft’ sign and he’ll have you drafting in no time!

Please follow and like us:

The Floor on Masters 25

I know we are all going crazy with excitement for Battlebond, whose full card list I believe drops this morning, but our most recent special set is much more on my mind.

You’re thinking that the packs are super-overpriced at $10 and you’re right, but there’s a deeper idea: We are so done opening Masters 25 that it’s time to assess what the bottom of the market is.

We don’t have a lot of hard data, but we have some strong anecdotal data. Boxes are still available for a close-to-distributor-cost of $150 shipped on eBay, off of an MSRP of $240. Currently, 13 of the 68 rares and mythics have a retail value of $10 or more, making the packs a terrible gamble. If you buy at the eBay price, you’re at $6 a pack, but that’s still only 18/68 which make your money back per pack. I don’t like those odds at all, a 26% chance. Yuck.

A much safer alternative is to look at where prices used to be and where they have gotten to, then figure out if that’s someplace to park value until it goes up. So let’s get to the cards!

One caveat, though. All of these are reprints and are not safe from showing up in a Commander deck or some other special set. If they get hit again, you’re going to have to be patient till it comes back, and that might take a long time indeed.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben nonfoil ($11, was $21 at peak)

In a lot of ways Thalia is the poster child for what a special release reprint wants to do. She’s very commonly played, across Cube, Modern, and Legacy, and had only been a WMCQ promo since her original printing in 2012. Her stock had been super-high, but it’s dropped by half and I think now is the time to get in.

Her pedigree is above reproach, and the only question is how many copies of her are out there. She’s a three-or-four-of in Modern Humans, a deck that might not be Tier 1 by all definitions but it’s very popular to play and that’s good enough for me. I’m not terribly interested in the foils at around $20-$25, because there’s original foils and the super-awesome close-up version from the WMCQ.

This was exactly the printing she needed to make her price reasonable, and picking her up now in the $10 range means that in a year to 18 months, I’ll be looking to get out in the $20 range.

Eidolon of the Great Revel foil ($17, was $40 once)

Now this one carries a bit more risk, but hear me out. Eidolon’s surge in price, especially in foil, was 100% due to the combination of the 4-of inclusion in every flavor of Burn deck but also that Journey into Nyx was not opened in very large amounts, even by the standards of back then. Eidolon’s price has been trending downwards too, but the conditions are there for this to bounce back. It’s not in Legacy much but it’s a four-of in the deck that just won’t go away. I don’t think it’s going to ever spike, but I do think it’s worth getting at this price and waiting patiently. There isn’t going to be another foil printing for some time, and when Burn gets good again, you’ll be ready to sell for $35+.

Cascade Bluffs nonfoil ($7, was $30 once)

Quite frankly, I’m a fan of all of the filterlands. They are high on the list for the cards I want to have most in Commander games, because one land enables intensive mana costs. Rugged Prairie is besties with both Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and True Conviction.

With all of the filters below $10, except Twilight Mire at $11 or so, now’s the time to buy the ones you need for your Commander decks and a few extras for the spec box/your future decks. The value is going to grow slowly on this, and they will likely reprint this in another five years, but there we are.

Foils are not a target for me, as the original foils are high in value and there’s also Expeditions to go chasing after.

Rest in Peace nonfoil ($5, was $9)

I’ve written about RIP before as a fantastic Commander card and one of the best sideboard options in Modern. Yes, it turns off your own graveyard shenanigans, but it hoses some very popular decks and strategies. It’s unconditional, cheap to cast, and has effects that are both immediate and long-term.

Yeah, you could have gotten this at under $2. Those days are gone though.

The foils have about a $10 gap between original Return to Ravnica and the Masters 25 version, and while I expect that gap to close, I think there’s more to be gained by going in on these at sub-$5 and then just waiting. It made $10 once before, and it’ll get back there thanks to Modern.

Eladamri’s Call ($3, was $11)

A reprint we haven’t seen since Planeshift, this card took a bath and while there’s a lot of inventory now…that won’t be the case forever. It’s already in 7500 Commander decks on EDHREC and it’s as good as you want it to be. An instant, puts into the hand instead of on top of the library as Worldly Tutor does, but it is two colors.

This sees enough play that I like getting in cheap. I don’t want to chase the foils here, as someone who wants foils is probably going to go drooling over the original border foil, and that’s as it should be.

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea ($3, was $14, A25 foils are $10)

Who doesn’t love to draw cards?

Here’s another card that had a high price only due to the low stock. Saviors of Kamigawa was forever ago, and while this is only in 4500 Commaner decks it’s also a fun-of in the assorted flavors of Taking Turns decks in Modern. There’s a big gap on these, between the Masters 25 version and the originals, likely just due to price memory. No one who bought foils for $20 is going to sell them cheaper, they are going to wait. Same thing for the nonfoils, but a gap this bi9g won’t last forever. The card is underpriced, and you should buy a couple.

Bonus BattleBond Information: The coin-flipping cards are spiking as people realize that some people really, really, REALLY love flipping coins and now we have a legendary set of Partners who love flipping coins. One that hasn’t moved–yet–is Goblin Bomb, which is also on the reserved list. I haven’t bought any–I have a playset left over from when I had an actual coin-flipping deck in 1999–but there’s 45 copies on TCG as of Thursday night and they aren’t going to last long below $5, and I’d expect a spike to at least $10 is not $20, which is what you sell into because the Bomb only deals 20 damage. Quaint, no?

Cliff has been writing for MTGPrice for nearly five years now, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. He’s the official substitute teacher of MTG Fast Finance, and if you’re going to be at GP Vegas, look for the guy under the giant flashing ‘Cube Draft’ sign and he’ll have you drafting in no time!

Please follow and like us: