Category Archives: Casual Fridays

The Value of Arena

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I’ve played a lot of Magic Online. There was a two-year period, from about 2007 to 2009, when I could only play online, as there was no good card shop near to me. Even after repeated culling of the collection, I’ve got something like 50k cards online that I’ll never be able to use in person.

I’m all too familiar with the financial model of MTGO, where you buy digital packs for the same price as paper packs, because there’s a time period when you’re able to collect a whole set and then redeem it online. Some card shops/vendors exist off of that model alone, managing their ticket inventories and buying sets online for the sole purpose of redemption.

I’ve pretty much stopped playing on MTGO, except for Momir Basic, a format that speaks directly to who I am as a gamer. Random, swingy, with just enough skill.

With all of that said, I can’t believe what I’m about to say: Magic Arena is phenomenal value, and let me explain why.

I have been resistant to Arena pretty much from the beginning, dismissive of the weird shapes, unnecessary animations, and apparently frenetic pace of games. I like watching drafts on MTGO; couldn’t stand it if that event was Arena.

That changed a few weeks ago when the Omniscience Drafts were held for a couple of days. Arena’s able to fire off short-term format variants, and those can spike interest from players who aren’t otherwise interested, like me. OmniDraft offered a combination of two things: Dominaria, a set I had done well with and knew the card pool well, and the potential for doing a lot of broken things very quickly.

So I decided I’d try.

I downloaded it, picked a username, sat through the tutorial so I’d understand what was popping up, and bought the Welcome Bundle of 2500 gems and five packs for $4.99.

Having been trained on MTGO, I thought packs I won/bought would be used for drafting, and part of going infinite, but nope. (More on that in a sec.)

The OmniDrafts were 750 gems and my first one went well, but I got crushed a lot and some on the first turn, an experience I dearly wanted to give others. I did some research, reviewed some strategies, and went on a tear.

By the end of the event, I’d done eight drafts, I had 3000 gems, and a couple dozen packs.

More importantly, I’d gotten a whole lot of hours of fun for a mere $5, and I had a collection with some excellent Dominaria cards to start me off.

Now, let’s pause here and reflect on what I’ve spent and what I’ve gotten, but most important, what I’ve discovered.

I’ve said repeatedly that there’s no better ratio of money to amount of enjoyment than Cube drafting, and I stand by that statement. It’s a fantastic investment, and depending on the format and your willingness to print out a picture of a card and slide it on top of a land, can be exceedingly inexpensive.

Arena is in the ballpark for me, and I’m quite impressed.

Since that weekend, I’ve done three more RNA drafts and I have to say that they offer delightful flexibility on timing. I can do the draft, choose all my cards, and then not play for two days if my schedule doesn’t allow it. That’s a level of convenience that I’ve never experienced before.

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I love drafting. I’ve been doing it long enough that I’m rarely going to draft a clunking monstrosity of a deck, and I can usually squeeze a couple of wins out of a deck. That’s helped me not have to spend more money so far, but what I’m finding is that I’m interested in playing Standard for the first time in a long time.

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I’ve written before about the Gates deck, and the existence of such a good deck that has such a minor cost in paper Magic. Hydroid Krasis is a nice touch for a ramp deck, and a couple of those are as expensive as the rest of the deck.

No, I’m not going this janky, but I’d think about it if it were possible.

On Arena, every card of the same rarity level is worth the same, and this is blowing my mind. I did well in an RNA draft with a Gates deck, and then immediately moved it to Standard. I added a couple of wildcards, and boom, I’ve got a mid-tier deck that I enjoy playing and is helping me win. I’m not cleaning up in events, but my goal is to grind some free-to-play action, get more gold, which I’ll use to enter drafts.

I had really low expectations for Arena, having been trained to the mediocrity of MTGO, but I’m a convert now.

I haven’t yet had to buy packs, and I’m not hardcore enough to try and grind up to a tier deck in Standard, but I am having a delightful time playing Magic at home, and that’s an experience I haven’t had in a while.

One thing I didn’t notice until I played Arena: there’s a lot of downtime in games, and Arena games just go faster. It’s difficult for me to put a finger on exactly why. Is it the auto-tapping and triggers that have just one target? There’s less clicking than in MTGO, that’s for sure. Is it the fuse-timer system? Is it something else? I’m not sure but my goodness it’s noticeable.

This is a lot to say but here’s the most important thing: Arena is a good enough program and ecosystem to win me over, and I was a skeptic. I didn’t think it was possible to have a good Magic game online, and now, I’m impressed.

It’s worth noting that this is still in Open Beta mode. There’s ideas and functions they haven’t gotten to, ideas they are tweaking. Most notably, the game was built on Unity, an engine that allows for cross-platform gaming. That means not only will there eventually be a version for Mac, something MTGO hasn’t had in its 17 years, but a mobile version seems quite likely too.

Good Magic games on my phone would be both very good and very bad for me. I sense screen time limits coming!

Cliff ( @WordOfCommander ) has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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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The Life of Standard Mythics

I’ve been telling everyone to buy Arclight Phoenix for about two months now. I’ve got a one playset and two foils, so I’m not trying to buy the market out, but I do want a few of these to sell when they hit it big. I’m quite confident about this card, because of the numbers it’s showing in Modern and Legacy decks.

In our ProTraders-only Discord channel (yes, that’s a thing and it’s awesome!) a player mentioned their Hydroid Krasis, which was amazing in their Vorel of the Hull Clade deck but getting so pricey. What’s a finance-savvy person to do?

Luckily for you, and for that member, I’ve been researching the price arc of Standard’s best mythics, to get an idea of what’s in store for the bird, the jellyfish, and some others.

The rest of this content is only visible to ProTrader members.

To learn how ProTrader can benefit YOU, click here to watch our short video.

expensive cards ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Cliff ( @WordOfCommander ) has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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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What to do with Core Set 2019

Well, it’s here, the long-prophesied straight-to-Modern set, and it’ll be stuffed with reprints and some brand new cards.

Modern Horizons 1 (Serious, that’s the hashtag) is going to make for some crazy crazy price changes but as of right now, I’m staying the hell away from buying anything in Modern. If you’re trying to get things now, you’re rolling dice on what you think Wizards will or won’t do, and I don’t play that game anymore.

I might miss out on a card here or there but I hate going in blind. I need some information on which to act, and we have none, aside from Serra Angel is now 2WW and brings along a planeswalker, and the Cabal Therapist, who’s just a sweet design and how I wish I could sacrifice more than one critter per trigger.

I have one thought about the set, but my focus today is on Core Set 2019, the last in this series of what to buy, hold, and sell this summer as rotation approaches.

I know that the fetchlands have all gone up slightly since Modern Horizons was announced and frankly, that seems silly to me. Modern’s manabases are defined by fetch-into-shock, and right now, the supply of shocklands has never been higher. I don’t know if we’d get enemy or ally colored shocks but I also wouldn’t be surprised if we got none of them. I’ve no way of knowing, and in the absence of any information, I’d say hold your shocks if you have them, and buy the ones you need now. If they are reprinted they are gonna tank and if they aren’t then Scalding Tarn will be $125+.

Now, Core Set 2019 cards!

Vivien Reid ($24 nonfoil/$33 foil)

One of the things that a foil multiplier tells us is the population who’s using a card. The average is 2-3x, so when it’s higher there’s more of a niche demand, Commander or people who just HAVE to play Invasion foil Opt in Modern/Standard:

When it’s lower, as is the case with Ms. Reid, that means people aren’t chasing the foil at all, so there’s a high demand in Standard for this one and not much appeal otherwise. Vivien jumped when the Golgari decks took off, but this is her moment to shine quite brightly in Standard. She answers a wide range of problematic permanents in the format, and gets you a creature or a land, depending on your need.

Sadly, though, she has shown up in almost no Modern decks, and that portends badly for her price. She’s good enough in the format that I don’t think the price will drop much until we get very close to rotation, but then the market is going to flood and no one will be buying.

Keep your copies that are in decks and move the others right away.

Crucible of Worlds ($13/$28 in this set, $19/$62 10th edition, $20/$65 Fifth Dawn, $120 Masterpiece, $66 judge foil)

Notice anything about those prices? Perhaps that there’s one foil at $120, the Masterpiece, then three in the $65 range, and then the lowly $28. For fun, here’s the price graph of the nonfoil original from Fifth Dawn:

Crucible is played in a few Modern archetypes, mainly ones that grind you to a standstill. Crucible plus fetches is endless mana, but add it to Ghost Quarter and in a turn or two, it’s a Strip Mine. It’s also in 13,000 Commander decks, and now I’m totally sold. I’m in and buying.

I like buying nonfoils the most, as the price of entry is less, but at barely 2x the multiplier is appealing too. I think that even though this price was high because of low supply and not huge demand, it’s seeing enough play to make this a prime target. I don’t think its price will go down much more, so feel free to get in now.

Omniscience ($6/$16, Magic 2013 $8/$40, Invocation $105)

I hate Invocation versions of things but I’d respect if you went after that version of this card. There’s about 9k EDH decks running it, plus it sometimes shows up as a funny Show and Tell piece too. Jam those Emrakul turns!

The supply is maxed out, but really, this card is all about the casual player and I’m here for that. I think you should be buying foils up, there’s about 175 total on TCG and not many of them are under $20. This will eventually correct upwards and you should have your copies before then.

Quick hits on Tribal Goodness

Liliana, Untouched by Death ($4/$11): Zombies are one of the most popular tribes, and this version of Liliana excels with the tribe. I will be picking some up at this price for when Zombies hit it big again.

Spit Flame ($1.50 foil): I only mention this because it’s the truth in my The Ur-Dragon deck. Targeted removal is mostly bad in Commander, but getting it back over and over is wonderful.

Sarkhan, Fireblood ($11/$20): Again, a card you love seeing in Dragon themed decks and useless everywhere else. I’ll be patient, hoping the foil drops lower but this is only in 500 decks online.

Elvish Clancaller ($2/$5): The funny thing is, this is barely good enough for Commander being a two-mana lord but it’s nuts in Modern, where extra mana finds extra copies. Stock up on foils now, and sell into the hype when they hit.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager ($20/$60): I’d say buy your foil now for the deck you have, and wait on buying nonfoils. This hasn’t been seen in Standard or any other Constructed format, it’s only in a few hundred decks on EDHREC…and yet the price is this high. The kitchen table players must have soaked this up, as a sweet card and the representation of Magic’s major villain.

Cliff ( @WordOfCommander ) has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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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Buying up Dominaria

Dominaria was one of the best draft sets of all time. I don’t think I’ll ever have as good a time in Limited as I did when I could draft Dampen Thought in 3x Champions of Kamigawa, and Spider Spawning decks will make me happy no matter the format, but Dominaria was awesome.

It also gave us one of the most expensive cards we’ve had in Standard for a while: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and icon of UW control’s ideals.

Teferi represents a test of something I’ve usually been good at: figuring out what price I want to buy at as the price comes down pre-rotation. He’s only one of a few cards from the set that I need to think about, though:

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria ($42 nonfoil, $84 foil, $220 Mythic Edition)

When I’m deciding what to buy in the summer, I start with the numbers. How much Commander play? How much Modern/Legacy use?

Teferi sees some play in the older formats, frequently seen as a 1-2 of in assorted control builds and often next to 2-3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I don’t think that’s enough to keep his price above $40, and I’m expecting a trickle downwards to $30. Am I getting in there? Maybe. The soon-to-be-previewed Challenger decks will make a big difference. EDHREC has him in 1300 decks, which is interesting considering that Oath of Teferi is in 1600 decks.

If he’s reprinted and he drips down to $25 or so I’ll grab a couple but five mana is a whole lot and he can’t close a game like JTMS does. I’m pretty sure I’m not a buyer.

Karn, Scion of Urza ($20/$50/$70)

I’d forgotten that Karn was once significantly more expensive than Teferi:

I mean, holy crap. $60+ for an in-print card? This version of Karn fits into a wide range of strategies, but the minus ability gets him into decks ranging from Death and Taxes in Legacy to Colorless Eldrazi or Hardened Scales in Modern. The caveat here is that he’s mostly a one-of and not a must-play-four sort of card.

That being said, I’m very intrigued, and I’m not going to mess around with the nonfoils unless they drop heavily as rotation approaches. The promo is something I want to buy, especially if I can work eBay/TCG promos for another 10-15% off. I grant you that the second edition of Mythic Edition didn’t sell out like the first did, and supply is still out there, but this is the headliner in terms of what sees play in Eternal formats.

I want to buy a couple of the promos in the $50-$60 range and I’m staying away from the nonfoils unless it gets to $10.

Mox Amber ($9/$25)

I have to say, this is one of the cards I’m highest on right now. The nonfoil is up a little recently, but the foil can still be had under $30 and that’s where I really want to be.

I thought it was a garbage card even in Commander, where EDHREC has it in at over 1800 decks, but I’ve come around and I’m especially convinced that eventually it’s going to get broken right in half in Modern or Legacy. We know how powerful Moxes can be, even with restrictions like Mox Opal has.

I’m a buyer this summer, and hopefully it’s down to the $7 range, but any foil under $30 is something I’m buying or trading for with glee.

Sulfur Falls ($9/$14, Innistrad $9/$18)

The enemy checklands are all tempting but Sulfur Falls is the most played by a healthy margin. Yes, there’s a supply from Innistrad already out there but that was released in late 2011, and time has soaked up a lot of copies.

Here’s the graph for the Innistrad foil version, and keep in mind that the Dominaria foils entered the market in April of 2018:

A modest blip, and we’ve got 17,000 EDH decks taking up copies, plus all the casual decks ever, and the toll that seven years took on the Innistrad copies…I think you should be buying foils at $14, and more so if it trickles down in price.

Especially with the nonfoils and foils being so close in price, don’t mess around. Buy the shiny versions.

Gilded Lotus ($3/$8, M13 $4/$10, FTV $9, Mirrodin $4/$27)

Yes, that’s a lot of printings but I’m going to have a hot take here: The Dominaria art is vastly superior in terms of art and foiling. I think the FTV’s base art is better, but that foiling process sucks and therefore it’s worth less.

These foils were all higher before Dominaria came out, being in the $15-$20 range except for the Mirrodin foil which will always have a bigger premium, since it’s the first and oldest. All the foils have come down in price, but this is in 43,000 Commander decks, the #18 artifact overall, above Top and Mind Stone.

This will correct upwards, slowly but surely, and this is your opportunity to get them at their cheapest. It’s not going to spike, there’s too many copies and versions, but I love buying staple, popular foils when they’re cheap, waiting a little while, and trading them away. I’m a buyer for the foil Dominaria versions at $8, or even less given the right auctions!

Cliff ( @WordOfCommander ) has been writing for MTGPrice for five years now, 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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