Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Naughty or Nice

By: Cliff Daigle

It might be an over-used trope, but since this is the day after a major holiday, I thought I’d present my year in review, of the good and the bad.

Naughty : Everything MTGO

Sad but true that this should be a flagship. Duels of the Planeswalkers, as a watered-down version of Magic, is a lot of fun to play! Imagine you’re a new player, you’re good enough at Duels and you’re ready for ‘the real thing’ only to find out that it’s buggy, slow, non-intuitive, and ugly.

It’s been this way for quite some time, which is the worst part. I’ll give you that it is more stable than when I played in the long-ago days of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor, but there’s still a legion of other things that need to be addressed. The problem is not with the game: We have several years of consecutive, record-breaking growth. The online version should be able to offer the gameplay and strategy elements of the game, while in-person play adds a social context.

Nice: End of Core Sets

I could not be happier about this change. It’s true that the summer sets offered a change of pace (notably, M14’s focus on Opportunity after the blistering speed of RTR and Gatecrash) but there was a sacrifice of story and a loss of continuity.

Core Sets did offer the chance to return to some fun mechanics (Bloodthirst, Convoke, etc.) but that’s a goal that will be easier to accomplish in an independent world. I’m not worried about the frequency of reprints.

Naughty: Born of the Gods

It didn’t add much and took a lot away. It offered some interesting and fun cards, but it was just not the right fit for anything. Inspired turned out to be difficult to use and not often worth the payoff. Tribute gave your opponent all the power, and let them choose what they could deal with. Luckily, Wizards recognizes this issue and won’t have to deal with three-set blocks anymore.

Nice: Reprints Aplenty

We are in an era where only the Reserved List is safe. Putting the Onslaught fetches into a big fall set was an awesome move, making those lands Modern-legal AND knocking those prices down into easier realms.

The effect on Zendikar lands is noticeable too: We’re not asking “Will they?” but instead “When will they?” reprint these lands. This is going to be their policy going forward, especially with regard to lands. If you are expecting your Tarmogoyfs to hold their $200 tag, I don’t think that will be the case forever. Wizards will continue to judiciously reprint cards, especially Modern-legal ones.

I have enjoyed the effect of a Core Set reprint on Commander cards, especially Chord of Calling and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Conspiracy, Commander, Duel Decks, PTQ-only foils, new judge foils…we’ve got a lot of ways to get extra copies of a card into circulation.

Wizards now has two cases of reprint-only sets: Chronicles and Modern Masters 1. By modern standards, Chronicles had a tiny print run and the cards looked noticeably different than their originals. If that happened today, I don’t think the reprinted cards would take much of a hit, especially with white borders!

Naughty: Cheaters

Jared Boettcher. Trevor Humphries. Alex Bertoncini.

Three very successful players. One Rookie of the Year. One winner of more than $20,000 in the past year. One ‘rehabilitated’ cheater. All banned for at least three years for having the gall to cheat on camera.

Lots of words have been written about the awful effect a cheater can have on a game, but this bears repeating: You have to have enormous confidence in your trick to try it on camera. Professional magicians can get caught by slo-mo cameras. Your minor-league shuffling trick will get caught.

Nice: Getting them!

As a community, there’s issues we have to deal with, and our response can be lacking. Luckily, cheating is a very galvanizing topic, and with high-definition footage available on YouTube, it can be parsed into frame-by-frame GIF files for endless scrutinization.

We did good, by noticing it, reporting it, and letting the DCI take care of things. We will also be on the lookout for anyone who shuffles our deck differently from how they shuffle their own. It sucks that we have to, but these cheaters only got to be on camera by winning lots of not-on-camera matches.

Naughty: the prize wall with Cascade Games

This was a feature of GP Los Angeles and apparently will be present at every Cascade Games event, including the upcoming GP Vegas for Modern Masters 2015. I don’t mind having something to work for, a chance to accumulate prize points and redeem them for sweet Magic things or just a ton of packs.

My issue is putting side drafts at a GP up to $20. Sure, it’s nice to get 3rd or 4th and have 50 tickets which can get you five packs of Khans, but at $20 you’re going to be drafting less. Offering these drafts for $20 or the simple drafts for $10 is a way to let us decide how much to spend.

Nice: SCG’s $10 drafts

Star City Games may have high prices on singles, but this is my favorite part of an Open coming to town. I can draft and draft and draft, and focus on getting better at the format. After a few drafts in a row this way, you’ll have mastery of the combat tricks at least, and likely many of the archetypes.

Plus, drafts at $10 is less than MSRP for packs, and that always gets me happy. It’s not Buy-One-Get-One good but it’s still something to be a bit thankful for.

Naughty: $10 MM 2015!

Good grief, $10 per pack? Is this just a straight-up cash grab from Wizards? What could they do to these packs to justify it? Guaranteed foils were worth $7. Are we getting double rares? I don’t think we’ll get much more, but the card choice will likely determine the worth involved.

My favorite piece of speculation is that there will be a foil token in every pack!

Nice: Worldwide Distribution of MM 2015

There will be three Grands Prix held at the same time, all the same format: Modern Masters 2015 Sealed Deck. This is unprecedented, and is done to show the demand for the format. Hopefully, a larger distribution means that I’ll get to do more than the one MM draft I did last time.

There will be three languages available as well, a change from last time and adding another chance to make your Commander deck that next level of unique.

Join me next week as I make some resolutions for the new year!


What to Spend My Bonus On

By: Cliff Daigle

Hypothetically, if you got a Christmas bonus, what would you spend it on?

Right now, there are multiple websites trying like hell to get you to spend money, to buy singles/sealed/stuff at a range of discounts.

This is an excellent time to buylist some things for store credit, with the appropriate bonus for getting that credit, and get things in return while paying very little markup. I can’t tell you everything to buylist (last week’s article is a good start) but I do have some suggestions on what to pick up.


Foil Fetchlands

Sure, foil Delta is nearly $100, foil Strand is $75, but the other three are about $50. This is a great time to pick these up, because they are about the lowest they will be for some time. There is still some Khans to be opened (the draft format for three months will be Fate Reforged – Khans – Khans) but the price on foil fetches probably won’t come down all that much.

Full disclaimer: if Mire, Foothills, and Heath all go lower and hit $40 before Dragons of Tarkir comes out, I’ll be buying even more with whatever money I can.

It is also worth noting that there are two other foil versions of these fetches out there. There are Onslaught foils and Judge Gift foils, each with different art and a different appearance. This means that there is a very real cap on the value of the Khans foils. This cap is much higher for Delta and Strand, due to how much those two are played in Legacy. It is unclear how much Modern demand is going to sway the prices over time. Will people simply move their fetches from one deck to another?


Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

He’s dipped under $20 and has a chance to go lower, since drafts and sealed are still going to have lots of KTK to open. The card’s power level is not in question, but the casting cost and inability to have two in play are the biggest problems with jamming him as a four-of.

In practice, this ultimate doesn’t see much play because the opponent is dead after some hasty dragon hits. Still, the power and flexibility are undeniable, and this is an easy pick to go up in value during the next block. I totally agree with Jared here.


Gods, foil and non-foil

Honestly, I can’t see the prices going down much more before or at Theros’s rotation in ten months. Most of the Gods are $5 or less, for some of the most flavorful and powerful mythics around.

All of them at least deserve consideration for EDH, in decks or at the helm. Picking them up now is simply an investment in the future. These are *probably* safe from reprinting for a couple of years at least, and even then, it would be supplemental, and likely not foil.

Foils are especially worth it. Before too long, someone will open your binder and exclaim in delight. It’s up to you how long you want to wait.


Dual Lands under $75

Basically, any of them that don’t produce blue mana. There is a big price gap because blue is easily the best color in Legacy, and lands that can’t help with that do not have the same demand.

Wizards appears quite committed to the Reserve List, so anything on there can only go up. Duals like Taiga or Plateau are overdue for a price correction.

A note of warning, though: it’s my experience that Commander doesn’t need duals to function. Sure, adding duals makes a manabase sing (especially with cheap KTK fetches!) but the fixing is so good and so plentiful that duals and even shocks are not required.

If you have deep pockets and want to go for it, the Power 9 have been on a major uptick since about GP New Jersey. I don’t deal with Moxen and such (at least since I sold a Sapphire in 1998) but I’d also be an advocate for the judge foil of Gaea’s Cradle. It’s a unique effect, in a chase foil, and does see some Legacy play, where high values are the norm. The nonfoil has gone up noticeably in the past year as well.


Foil Shocklands

These could be had for around $30-$40 at Return to Ravnica block rotation and have already appreciated some in value since then. I’d love to drop a some money on more, and put them away until they hit $70 or so.

Casual players always like foils, but there is an emerging trend to pimp out your Modern deck too, and that means shocklands. Go forth and pick them up. At worst, they will remain flat for a couple of years and won’t lose value. They will be excellent trade bait in your binder, too!

Again, this is a set of cards that has an upper cap. The original Ravnica block did have foil shocklands, and those carry a true premium. The foils from RTR will never get too high, thanks to the originals.


At Their Peak

By: Cliff Daigle

It’s the end of the year, and while rotation for what’s currently legal is more than nine months away, I want to be thinking about what to keep and what to move.

I’m comfortable getting out of a card if the value has gone up and I can get my profit, either in cash or in trade. I’m not going to sweat Standard cards gaining a little more, I’d rather keep hitting my singles and doubles than always swinging for the fences.

The cards I want to trade or sell right now are cards that are going to lose value at rotation, and I want to be ahead of that trend. I might keep a playset for decks (these are good cards after all) but these are cards that are not seeing enough Modern/Legacy play to justify holding their price in a few months. These cards are at their peak value, or already trending down from the peak, and I don’t want to wait until they hit the floor.

Just a heads-up: These are going to look a lot like some lists from earlier this year, about things to trade for.

Hero’s Downfall

I told anyone who would listen to get in at $5 and now I’m telling you to get out at anything like $10. It is a fantastically versatile spell, with no restrictions or problems, aside from costing three mana, and double black at that. It’s not good enough for eternal formats and you should not be keeping yours much longer.

There is a chance that this card makes it to $12 or $13 if a series of decks win with it, but it’s already in very wide use. Simply put, there’s a lot in circulation even as there are a lot of decks using it. It’s the 5th most valuable card in Theros, and will not stay there forever. In fact, it’s already started to decline to $9, and it might go lower. Get out now.

Stormbreath Dragon

It’s played in less decks but it’s a very good card in a range of strategies. It’s also a mythic, as compared to a rare. This dragon is good enough to be featured in assorted casual decks, but the price trajectory is more like Thundermaw Hellkite. I’ll be expecting this to drop to under $10 as rotation approaches.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

If you have any spares, get out soon. Her Duel Deck is landing in late February, which is when thoughts of rotation start appearing all over, and you want to be ahead of that trend. I think her price will get to $15-$20 even at that point, and may even hit $10 at rotation, which is when I’d want to pick her up. Elspeth’s third card is outstanding in a range of casual decks (Soldiers, tokens, planeswalkers) and getting her at her lowest is going to be a winner.

Sylvan Caryatid

It’s seeing a little Modern play in Jeskai Ascendancy combo decks, but not enough to stay at $10, especially with a Buy-A-Box promo version out there. Keep your playset for your deck, and move the rest.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave

Everything that is true of Elspeth is true of her, except that she sees far less play. Her abilities are also much harder to use in Commander games, so I have trouble seeing her getting any higher in price than she is now.

Courser of Kruphix

This is seeing some Modern play and I find that intriguing, especially in a Scapeshift list. It’s $12 now, despite being in the Clash Pack, and I don’t expect it will dip very far even at rotation. It’s very good in casual green decks that want to keep the land flowing, though it won’t compete with Oracle of Mul Daya for value. Still, I’d move it out now and take the profit, instead of holding it and hoping.

Temples (especially Malady!)

The temples pop up occasionally in Modern decks and never as a four-of. Malady is the most expensive right now at $12, a price which is mostly due to the relative scarcity of the set it was in. All of the temples are likely to drop at rotation, as they are just too slow for the Eternal formats.

Keranos, God of Storms

The most expensive by far of the Gods at $15, Keranos is a fun singleton in a lot of Modern sideboards. It’s all for his ability, not the creature side. While I do think that this will keep making appearances in sideboards, I think his price will settle to around $10.

Nissa, Worldwaker

I don’t argue the power of her 4/4 land ability, but I also don’t think her $25 price tag will stay much longer. It’s been on a steady decline for the last couple of months as she’s seen fringe play in Standard:


I have trouble seeing her price as going up, since she’s five mana and is an awkward draw in multiples. Most of the decks she’s used in have her as a one-of in the sideboard, which makes her price trajectory even sadder.

Goblin Rabblemaster

I admit, I thought this was a player in Modern, given how ubiquitous it is in Standard decks that play red. But the numbers simply aren’t there yet, so while this might find a home in Modern, for now, it’s time to back away from him. When this rotates, it’ll drop to $7 or so, and that might be a better pickup. Remember that this was the Buy-a-Box promo, and that adds price pressure to the casual appeal.

Stoke the Flames

Speaking of not-quite-good-enough-for-Modern! This is an uncommon at $5, because it’s really good with creatures and cards like Hordeling Outburst. Stoke is all over the place in Standard, but hasn’t made a Modern impact. It seems unlikely to, given the one- and two-mana spells that deal three damage. Four mana to deal four damage seems unlikely, even with a discount available. Warleader’s Helix has seen more play in Modern so far. I would not be sitting on any spare copies of this right now.

You might disagree with me about wanting to get out of these cards right now. I would understand if you wanted to wait, maybe to trade these for Fate Reforged goodies. I’m warning you, though, that the longer you wait, the worse it might go. The drop at rotation is happening earlier and earlier, so I’m trying to be ahead of the curve.


Bad Owners, Bad Policies

By: Cliff Daigle

Let me give you a situation that you might not remember having been in.

You’ve been playing Magic for a few weeks. Maybe a friend taught you, maybe you played Duels of the Planeswalkers, maybe you found an intro deck and just liked the art. You feel ready to head to your local game store and you head there, being told that you can rule at FNM, or something to that extent.

I want to share with you some things to watch out for, as a new or experienced player. These are financial pitfalls that can ruin your experience or turn you off from that store for good.

Rare Redrafting

There is no situation that will sour me faster on a store than the practice of collecting the rares after the last round of the draft and then having first place in the draft choose a card. I get what it’s for: a reward for having won, your choice of the cards that were opened. Instead of the best cards in three packs, you’re looking at the best of 24 packs. Seems like a great idea, right? It’s even good training for a high-level draft, where you’re choosing card quality over card value. 

If you and a group of friends want to redraft the rares, that’s pretty awesome. You’re playing for something of value without needing to have extra packs. If this is how you and seven friends want to draft three times out of two boxes, more power to you.

At the store level, though, there are real problems with a rare redraft. One, it feels terrible to open a sweet card and know that you’re not going to be able to keep it. Imagine that you’ve had a bad two packs of a draft. You misread signals, you opened poorly, someone in front of you changed colors, etc. It happens to all of us. Then in pack 3 of Khans, there it is, a foil fetchland. Congratulations! You view tonight as a win.

With a redraft, though, there is little chance that you’re going to hang on to that foil. Unless you do something sneaky, like take it out of circulation. Draft the card, hide it in a deck box, and don’t tell anyone. They’ll notice at the end of the draft that something is wrong, and that’s the second issue with redrafting: I’ve rarely seen it work where 8 players put up 24 rares. With the foil fetch example, what’s to stop me from swapping in a Clever Impersonator out of my binder once the time comes?

It’s especially egregious to have a redraft in place of prize packs. Stores get excellent prices on their packs, about half retail price for the most part. Stores that charge you $12 to draft and give a redraft as the prize are shorting you on value and experience.

Shoddy buylisting/credit

True story: I went to a game store six months ago and was seeking to sell a Gaea’s Cradle. It had a retail price of about $120 then. I went into the store, which I had drafted at before, and they had a tablet set up displaying their buylist. I could browse what prices they gave without troubling a clerk. I picked out a few things and told the clerk I wanted cash, not credit.

“The price on there is the credit price. We give half of that credit if you want cash.” So I got offered $35 cash on a Gaea’s Cradle.

Needless to say, I haven’t been back there.

Stay away from stores that are trying to make too much money off of individual transactions. It’s just bad business and it’s going to leave you feeling angry that you were taken advantage of in such a way. Not getting full retail for your cards is a part of the game, but getting dimes on the dollar is just too much.

Cheap play area

There are some remarkably awful places to play Magic. I’ve been in stores where neither side of a table had room to get in and out, but instead each player had to pull the table to them, in order to let someone else out. I’ve done a draft in a store that had room for exactly eight players, and anyone extra was going to play outside. Heaven help me, I’ve played PTQs in the cheapest, flimsiest of IKEA chairs.

My wife wins, though. She visited her parents in upstate New York, and for fun, went to an FNM draft. This place, in October, had drafts occurring in an open garage, around a high table with no chairs. She was the only one who brought sleeves!

If you encounter a store that can’t bother to have a place to let you play, don’t give them your money.

On a related note: Don’t stay one minute if anyone ever talks to you about table fees.

Arbitrary store owners/employees

This is less of an issue than it used to be, I hope. I learned to play at stores that tolerated Magic, but who felt in their heart of hearts that everything should be comics or miniatures. I knew, for a fact, that Magic made them more money but they didn’t like having to learn a new game or depend on something they didn’t understand.

So they didn’t bother.

This would lead to store owners who didn’t care, or worse, let some constantly-present customer take over. I know the era of ‘I don’t work here, but I get treated like I do’ isn’t over and that’s a shame, because that can be bad for business.

Perhaps the worst is when a buddy of the owner decides he doesn’t have to play by any rules, and the owner allows it. That store won’t be around long and you should plan for their going-out-of-business sale.

Tolerating cheaters/bullies

If you’re a high-volume trader, seller, or speculator, you might do a lot of business with one store, building a relationship with them over time. This is usually beneficial for you, for them, and for the other players at the store who get access to more cards that they want.

Such things can sour, though, if there’s preferential treatment or awful behavior going on. If the guy who ‘runs’ the card case at a store decides he’s only going to play with Ice Age lands and no sleeves, and the owner does nothing, no one else will play!

Crazy Pricing

Finally, I want to bring up stores that don’t seem to know about the Internet. Sure, a brick-and-mortar store can have a small increase in price over a card’s price online, that’s part of the price you pay for getting the card immediately. If you need it fast, it’ll cost you more. (This is why Containment Priest was $50 on the GP New Jersey floor the morning of the event)

Some stores, though, never catch up. It’s understandable if they get bought out of a card before they found out about a card spiking (maybe they need to become ProTraders!) but I’ve been to more than a few stores that bought at the new price, and then tried to sell it at an even higher price!

Buying singles is generally the way to go. Buying packs and hoping to crack the value is usually not going to give you a return on your investment. Singles, though, are only worth it if the stores aren’t trying to make up for their mistake when buying.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful when you’re choosing a store to play at.

And if you have some ‘awful store’ stories, I’d love to hear them, in the comments or tweet me @WordOfCommander

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