Category Archives: Casual Fridays

The Plan for the throne

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We are on the cusp of real Theros: Beyond Death previews, to start around the second week of the New Year. It’s the time when we’re mostly done with Throne of Eldraine, but don’t have another set to deal with. 

Our plan, though, is to prepare and stock up on Eldraine cards while they are cheap. Supply is at a maximum for the regular cards and the assorted Showcase cards, we’re not going to see a huge influx of Storybook cards out of nowhere.

There’s a case to be made to buy everything, but that’s for those who have deep pockets and unlimited organization skills. Instead, let’s focus on the cards that could gain quite nicely over the 18 months between now and when Eldraine rotates…

One thing to notice, that I think I’m going to have to research more carefully: The prices aren’t in line with what I expected. Generally speaking, the nonfoil special version (extended art or storybook) is a bit more expensive than the foil version of the regular card. That’s likely the new reality, at least until they change the distribution numbers on us. The prices have had a couple of months to settle out, so I believe these. 

To be fair, I’m not shocked that the prices line up, as having just one or two foils can cause your competitive deck to be called out for warped foils, but the Showcase nonfoils are an upgrade that’s inexpensive and less worrisome.

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Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off ($1 regular/$3.50 foil/$6.50 Storybook/$22 foil Storybook)

James and I talked about this card on the most recent MTG Fast Finance, and there’s two cases to be made for this card. First, it’s the only wrath effect that survives Standard rotation next October. We might get more of such effects, but I like this as a spec for just that reason. James pointed out that what we might get in Theros is an influx of playable Giants, which turns this card into an uneven effect. We already have Bonecrusher Giant, it wouldn’t take too many more Giants for me to be all over such an unfair deck.

Even better, it’s a mythic that can be had for a dollar. Yes, there’s a lot of copies out there, but buying for a dollar means that when you buylist them for $4 each in store credit, you just turned $25 into $100.

Bonecrusher Giant //Stomp ($2.50/$3/$4/$7)

As you can see, I’m on board with the ‘Giant deck is good!’ line of thinking. Really, this is an amazing card, as point removal and a very aggressively costed creature. Remember, it’s a 4/3 for 3 mana and its ability is to punish your opponent for spending a spell on it! For those stats, I’d expect a ‘can’t block’ or other drawback.

Murderous Rider // Swift End ($6/$7.50/$8/$15)

Removal is good. This is very good removal with wonderful upside. I’ve written about this before but would have felt silly leaving it out of this list. I especially like the foil Showcase versions for long-term growth, but the play I’m making is trading for every regular nonfoil I can find.

Gilded Goose ($6/$8/$14/$38)

The little goose that could is making waves in most formats. There’s a lot to be said in the older formats for a one-mana creature that comes with a free artifact. Paradoxical Outcome decks that use Urza for mana really love this too, as does a few other strategies. Really, we should have seen this coming. 

The price ramp is real on this, too. I think that the play is in the Showcase nonfoil, but we’re in a Standard that has no other mana accelerant on turn 1. If you’ve ever has the feeling of putting down your three-drop while your opponent simply played a tapped shockland on their first turn, you know the joy of being super far ahead. 

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The really lovely thing about Goose as a spec is that no one plays less than four. Or they shouldn’t, at least. So when someone needs to pick these up, they will pick them up four at a time, making this a much more in-demand card when the deck shines. Get your regulars for Standard and fancier ones for long-term holds.

Robber of the Rich ($2.50/$5/$6/$25)

If you’re thinking that it’s a big jump from $6 to $30, you’d be right. TCG has about 15 copies under $25, but 30 more above that, so the price is a bit of a moving target. If you get to play one extra card off of this, it seems amazing, being that it’s likely gotten in for 4-6 points of damage. I’d love to see this in Burn mirrors, but that’s me being greedy.

Rankle, Master of Pranks ($8/$11/$17/$50)

Rankle’s big draw is as a top-end finisher in Pioneer’s version of Mono-Black. That deck lost out on Smuggler’s Copter but has kept on being very very good, and Rankle is a backbreaker as a top-end threat. There’s a few Standard decks that want to play the hasty Faerie, but the main draw is currently in the nonrotating format. 

Fabled Passage ($17/$24/$37/$98)

Fabled Passage is the fourth-most popular land in Standard. It’s ahead of Plains, Mountain, and every shockland. Decks generally aren’t playing the full four, but it’s in all of them for at least 2 copies. It’s also the only fetchland that’s Pioneer-legal, and that’s accounting for a big part of this price. 

I want to reiterate that this is the price when the card is at max supply. There’s a lot of room for it to grow, and if you play Standard at all, I strongly urge you to get your playset now, rather than waiting till it’s $25 or $30 for the nonfoil regular. Remember, this has TWO YEARS to get popular in Standard and it’s already popular in Pioneer.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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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Hearts of Glass

The Secret Lairs are shipping, and there’s a surprise waiting in there!

Well, it’s not really a surprise anymore, and that’s a HUGE relief. 

Let’s talk about the stained glass planeswalkers, at least the ones we’re getting in the Secret Lair drop…

First of all, it appears that there’s only 15 of the 36 planeswalkers in this drop. An asymmetrical number, to be sure. I don’t think there’s mystical significance, and we are already able to get some prices, thanks to Wizards’ decision to print a bunch ahead of time and then print more to fill the demand. 

Blessedly, everyone who wanted one got one, and a max of ten. The different price points are interesting too–I can’t remember the last time the offered price on these varied, as they know that some of these sets are more valuable than others.

CardStained Glass Market PriceJP Alternate Art in Foil
Teferi, Time Raveler$92$94
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God$72$80
Jace, Wielder of Mysteries$30$50
Ral, Storm Conduit$15$27
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales$14$45
Gideon Blackblade$14$41
Domri, Anarch of Bolas$13$19
The Wanderer$12$10
Ashiok, Dream Render$10$43
Angrath, Captain of Chaos$10$5
Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord$9$40
Nahiri, Storm of Stone$8$9
Ajani, the Greathearted$7$13
Teyo, the Shieldmage$7$7
Huatli, the Sun’s Heart$5$8

I put the prices for the alternate-art planeswalkers up because it’s a handy comparison. How far will we go?

Clearly, we won’t go as far. The stained glass is only in the background, making the change minor and the price bump not as significant. I’m a bit surprised by this, because I don’t have any figures on Secret Lair sales, but I’d have to imagine that there’s a larger number of Lair sales than foil JP walkers.

It’s also worth mentioning that we haven’t reached saturation on the Secret Lairs yet either. Lots of copies are still being printed or shipped, and that’s a lot more copies of these stained glass cards coming into the market, lowering the price further.

So where will these settle? Well, that depends on their playability. 

Teferi is clearly going to be the winner in this regard, as he’s super-popular in Legacy and Pioneer, with a healthy dose of Modern and Vintage in there too. His star isn’t shining bright in Standard at the moment, which makes his price that much more likely to stick. If you haven’t embraced the warm, cozy feeling of having Teferi, Time Raveler in play during a Commander game, I strongly urge you to try it out. Feels pretty amazing, knowing you’ll get to do your thing.

Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God is going to fall a bit farther, I think, probably to the $30-$40 range. This is the FIFTH version of this card, as you can get it in original pack art, Mythic Edition, SDCC, Alternate Art, and now Stained Glass. For a mythic, that’s a ton of copies, and it allows people to pick the art they like best and roll with it. I don’t like this card long-term, precisely because of the glut of copies around. If it does go up, it’s going to be after a long, long, long incubation period, and I have other places to put my money.

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Fun Fact: NBDG just broke the tie with Liliana Vess and Jace Beleren, as ‘card with most arts’ when all of them were stuck at four. (Do you know of others? Drop a comment or hit me up on Twitter @WordOfCommander)

I think Jace, Wielder of Mysteries can stay at $30, and given the win condition he represents in a lot of combo decks (especially in Commander, where it’s not always easy to make three players draw their decks) this price is likely to be sticky. Just enough people are playing copies and this is a nice upgrade over a regular copy without breaking the bank for the foil JP alternate. 

The rest of the prices, at $15 or less, I’d feel okay about picking up now if you want to collect the first half of the stained glass set. This is the time to buy, as people get their Lairs in the mail and open them, seeking to gain what value they can. Once these are opened, that’s it. 

As I wrote three weeks ago, collecting Magic cards and then hoping for a rise in value just because you picked up special versions is a losing play. You might want to get a stained-glass set of Teferis, and I’d support that because Teferi is a very good card in Eternal formats. The price won’t go up because it’s stained glass, it’ll go up because Teferi is really good.

Rest assured, if you’re collecting the set of Stained Glass (to match your WAR originals and your JP Alternate Art) you’ll have a chance to buy the rest of the planeswalkers that didn’t get the stained glass treatment this time. Maro alluded to it on his blog, and even if it takes a while, they will get to it. 

Might take a while, but I think they are on a shorter timeline than a project like Sword of X and Y completing the cycle. 

There’s some real winners in the 21 left to be printed. Nothing is going to match the prestige of a foil Amano Liliana, but this version of Narset, Parter of Veils will command quite a price, as will the Karn, the Great Creator. When we’ll get these cards is entirely subjective, but I’d be willing to bet that they will be released before War of the Spark rotates out of Standard this coming October of 2020. Just be patient!

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

(Yeah, my title is a Blondie reference, and I’m fully aware that the song predates Magic and most of its players. )

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Be Not Afraid

It needs to be said: 2020 is going to be a rough year for some of our collections.

Wizards is planning on releasing a swarm of Commander-oriented products, and there’s going to be no caveats like “Well, I’ll get a foil, Commander decks don’t print foils” or “This mechanic is really niche, they won’t reprint this for a while” or my favorite “If they put this expensive card in a deck people will only buy this deck like True-Name Nemesis all over again!”

This came up when we were recording MTG Fast Finance the other night, and it’s true: The Mystery Boosters in stores will have some number of foils, and that’s in addition to the product already being opened in GP events. 

We’re going to experience 2020 as a minefield of reprints, and some of us are going to get caught. Fear not, though. There’s some principles to apply here and some condolences to fan ourselves with.

Principle #1: Diversify!

I don’t imagine there are many of you who buy lots and lots of copies of a card. I’ve gone crazy three times, all for cheap cards, and it’s all bitten me on the ass: 50x Prophet of Kruphix at a buck each, 80x foil Avacyn’s Judgment at 75 cents, and 100x Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering at a quarter each. 

None of those have worked out for me, though I take some comfort in being able to buylist the Prophets and even my money out if I needed to. My rationale for each of these was sound, and since they were all quite cheap, I went a little overboard. 

Please don’t do this. Buying hordes of a card and pinning your hopes on it is an easy way to loathe yourself and your bulk rare box. Instead, limit yourself to a certain number of copies or a certain dollar amount. They aren’t going to reprint everything you buy.

Principle #2: They Can’t Reprint Everything! (aka the Oracle of Mul Daya Problem)

I do think Oracle will get reprinted, and for right now, I wouldn’t be buying copies. The problem is that Commander is such a wide format, with so many things at prices which indicate a need for reprints, Wizards would need several years straight to catch up with everything. Plenty of cards are going to fall through the cracks, and we’ll be shaking our heads at how they messed this up yet again.

Principle #3: Even if Reprinted, Staples Remain Staples

Let’s look at the price graph for a card that really exemplifies Commander: Doubling Season.

I can’t chart all of the follies on this card’s price, as we can only go back in time ~8 years and this was released in 2010, a Judge Promo in 2011, a *rare* in Modern Masters 2013, and then a mythic in Battlebond for the summer of 2018.

And still, the cheapest version of the card is nearly $50. Every time it’s printed, it takes a slight dip and then starts climbing again. Commander players open this card, trade for this card, buy this card, put it in one deck after another, and the overall effect is to remove copies from circulation, increasing the price. 

Almost exactly a year ago, in December 2013, the TCG price on this was $35. That was after a summer of the incredibly fun Battlebond experience, and the price slid for a few months as a result of the new copies coming into the market. Then those prices started climbing again. We can’t help it. The card is just too much fun, and sits at the intersection of three overarching themes: planeswalkers, +1/+1 counters, and tokens.

Doubling Season will get printed again this coming year, and when it does, buy some spare copies. This idea holds with any Commander ‘staple’ that gets reprinted in the coming year. Want another example? How about Mana Crypt: 

The new printing made it under $50 when it was being opened. This is played in Commander and Cube. That’s it. It’s getting printed in the new Mystery Boosters and if you like value, wait a while and buy yourself an extra copy or two of this, and then be patient. You’ll get there again.

Principle #4: If Not Reprinted, Price Spikes

We saw this every year with Modern Masters, and frankly we see echoes of it with every set that has reprints, whether it’s a Masters or a Horizons. A great example here is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Nykthos has jumped in price recently because of Pioneer, but the next set is crying out to reprint the card. Cards like the Cavalier cycle and the hybrid uncommon cycle in Eldraine are pointing up towards a reprint…but if it’s not there, this immediately becomes a $30 card and will stay that way until its time in a Commander product. 

Principle #5: There’s always Standard

With Eldraine having two years to make a splash in Standard, that set is fully ripe for the picking once we start opening Theros Beyond boosters. Buy your Murderous Riders and Fabled Passages now, because those are format staples and will have 20 months to make an impact. Traditionally, the time to sell will be about a year after opening, or eight months before rotation. That’s usually when the price is highest. 

Focusing on Standard might make you long for the profits of obscure foils but if you really hate the risk associated with Commander for all of 2020, maybe you’d be more comfortable staying away entirely.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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Mystery Solved!

Normally I’d be all over the Mythic Championship, held at MagicFest+ Richmond, which included a Hall of Fame induction and some more changes to the Players Tour…and I can’t keep it going. Why is high-level Magic so confusing?

My true interest, though, has been these damn Mystery boosters. I can’t remember the last time a set was completely unknown until packs started getting opened, and that’s an experience I love. I dive right into other peoples’ Cubes, and the only thing I want to know is if it’s got Power in it. Fresh Magic experiences are to be savored, and Mystery didn’t disappoint.

We are going to get the official card list on Monday, but there’s already some things we know and some things worth acting on…

First of all, the only new cards revealed so far (subject to change come Monday) are the Playtest cards. These are printed cards made to look like Wizards’ own internal playtest cards, which are stickers slapped onto older cards. (A friend of mine who designs games once said that the greatest thing Magic ever did was put millions of free cards into the hands of would-be game designers, and now the circle is closed!)

The Playtest cards are super neat and do some really interesting things. They are all marked as “Not for Tournament Play” and I imagine that individual Commander groups are going to decide for themselves if they are going to allow someone to play a Sliver Eldrazi, or the dying-to-be-broken How To Keep An Izzet Mage Busy.

Financially, the Playtest cards are going to struggle to be expensive. Every MagicFest is going to have Mystery events and this will be a thing until they run out of packs sometime next year. There might be one or two that are expensive because of niche appeal or the meme value (e.g. Dr. Richard Garfield, PhD.) but these sorts of things, even if rare, aren’t automatically expensive. I stocked up on foil Cogwork Librarian back when Conspiracy first came out, and over five years, that card hasn’t budged. The Conspiracies from CN2 are the same way. Hard to use and incredibly powerful, the niche wasn’t there and they aren’t expensive.

If you want to collect the Playtest cards for fun, do so. Magic is really catering to those who like different things, and there’s been a run of stuff worth collecting for the fun even if the long-term value might not be amazing: the JPN alternate walkers, the Showcase frames in Throne of Eldraine, and now these. I don’t anticipate the full set of Playtest cards being a super-chase item though.

More relevant financially is that the set is otherwise 100% reprints, and it’s not the Pioneer Masters people predicted/hoped for. It’s a Chaos Draft + Future Sight environment, one where the packs are seeded for color but not rarity. Here’s Gavin Verhey on Twitter: “Each pack has 2 C/U of each color, 1 Multi C/U, 1 artifact/land C/U, 1 playtest card, 1 M15 forward R/M and one pre-M15 card in its original frame.” Theoretically, a pack could have 13 uncommons. Or 13 commons. In browsing streams and Twitter, I saw that the pre-M15 card was occasionally a rare, so double-rare or double-mythic packs were possible too.

Notably, no foils. That’s a big ouch for the people who paid $75 to be part of the first event.

We were told this morning by Mark Rosewater on Tumblr that the game store version of Mystery will not have these playtest cards. Most likely, that’s a foil slot opening up but we will see.

Now, the reprints. They are keeping the original set symbol but these are reprinted cards, and are marked as such by a planeswalker symbol in the lower left. These cards were reprinted direct from the old card files, so the old copyright date and original printed text are on the cards. Odd aesthetic choice, but what the heck.

Thanks to the efforts of people participating in the Discord channels (and really, you ought to be a participant) we’ve identified 15 mythics and 62 rares, as of Monday morning, as well as some reprints in the common/uncommon slot that are notably expensive.

Given that these packs are going to be opened at MagicFests for the next year or so, plus the amounts of Mystery packs going to local stores, I’d expect that all of these prices take a small hit. Keeping the original look, including original set symbol, but adding the planeswalker symbol is probably equivalent to a new card with a new set symbol.

A couple of cards you ought to know about:

Bloom Tender ($50 nonfoil/$300 foil)

Eventide was a small set, and was the last set before Magic’s rebirth in 2009 with Magic 2010 and Zendikar. Stock was never high on this card, and every time it wasn’t reprinted, the price ticked up more. I’m glad we are finally getting more copies of this on the market. It’s not the most broken mana generator, but it’s capable of some disgusting jumps in mana. 

I would expect the originals to lose maybe $10 or $15, before stabilizing. The new ones are going to end up in the $15 range once the initial feeding frenzy ends.

Mana Crypt ($190/$250/$400 Invention)

Let’s take a moment and toast a card that has gone from $50 a bare eighteen months ago to $150 now:

Then let’s reflect on what a new influx of supply means. Is Mana Crypt going to be $50 again? Probably not. EMA was pretty heavily opened by drafters and collectors alike, and we’ll see if Mystery gets the same level of attention. Is it a $75 card? Maybe $100 fresh from a pack? I’m not sure where it ends up but I do know that when the Mystery packs are no longer being opened, I’ll want to pick up a few of these for the inevitable rise. The only worry about this card would be a Commander banning, likely on the same day that Sol Ring gets hit. (So, basically never.)

There’s a lot more to come, but I’m already over my word count and the full list is coming. Maybe we won’t get foils after all? Let’s find out Monday!

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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