Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Crunching the Box Toppers


Ultimate Masters is the latest attempt by Wizards to find out how much we’ll pay for new cardboard. It’s well established that we’ll pay a lot for old cardboard, and they got a glimpse of our madness with Mythic Edition, but UMA is the logical next step.

What they mean by ‘It’s the last masters set for a while’ could mean any damn thing they want, but the Box Toppers are truly a well-designed attempt to drain our wallets dry.

This week, I want to go over the list of those cards and see where they are starting, and offer my thoughts about where they will go.

I do think there’s going to be more of each Box Topper (which I’m going to call a Boxterpiece from now on) than there was for each Mythic Edition planeswalker, but I also think that the demand for these will be much higher, since Wizards basically took the list of the most expensive cards in Modern, deducted Jace, Mox Opal, and the fetchlands, then reprinted the rest.


For current numbers, I’m looking at completed sales on eBay, as we only have a small trickle into the major card sellers.

So let’s talk cards!

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – Selling for $150-$300 on eBay – Will eventually make it to $100-$150 range. Can’t be played in Commander, but is a 3-4 of in the Legacy decks that Sneak and Show.

Karn Liberated – Selling for $430-$200 – Going to hold in the $200 range, big mana and fabulous prizes are always going to be a big draw. Not the most popular in Commander but still sees a lot of play (8k decks on EDHREC).

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – Selling for $100-$200 – This will settle into a $50-$75 range. Two people needed one REAL BAD early on and paid more than $300 on eBay. Others waited and got $100 or so.


Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – Selling for $90-$200 – The last three sales have all been sub-$100, indicating that there’s farther to fall, likely into Kozilek’s $50-$75 range. Keep in mind there’s FTV versions of this card, and not of the other two big Eldrazi. The trio is getting their third printing together, too.

Snapcaster Mage – Selling for $200 – I can see this keeping its price and even trending upwards. It’s one of the most popular creatures in Constructed Magic, in both Legacy and Modern, and is in 12,000 Commander decks online. I won’t be shocked when this is consistently the highest-value card out of all of them.

Temporal Manipulation – Selling for $80 – There’s only three sales, at $100, $80, and $56. The Judge Promo is at $90, and I’d be interested in knowing which there’s more of. I suspect this will stabilize in the $80 range.

Bitterblossom – Selling for $150 – Six copies have sold, five accepted best offers, and the one auction ended at $150. It’s not terribly popular in any format, so I think it’ll settle down and be $60 by Valentine’s Day. Yes, that’s less than the pack foil or the 2011 judge promo.

Demonic Tutor – Selling for $175-$300 – I’m very torn on this card. It’s super-iconic, but there’s also a Judge version (which was in the Helvault promo, if you were playing back then) that’s already at nearly $300. That’s a much scarcer version, so I think the Boxsterpiece will end up between $150 and $200.

Goryo’s Vengeance – Selling for $115 – $150 – A rare in Betrayers of Kamigawa, the pack foil is currently $70. I don’t think this will exceed that price, and given that demand is relatively small (There’s really only one deck that plays it) a price of $50ish sounds about right.

Liliana of the Veil – Selling for $300+ – Three people listed this card on eBay for $500 and took best offers. Her pack foil is $250, and the MM17 foil is a paltry $170. She’s not as widely played as Snapcaster but she’s never really had a strong supply. Keeping at $200+ sounds reasonable, and I think the Boxterpiece will end up near the pack foil’s price.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – Selling for $80 – $150 – I tried to trade for one of these at $150, knowing the price was high, and all I feel is relief that he found a bigger sucker than me. A super-awesome Commander card, this is his first reprinting. He’s got further to fall, though, and will be in the $40 range.

Reanimate – Selling for $60-170 – This is falling quite quickly, and that makes sense, since it’s only playable in Commander and Legacy Reanimate. There are no pack foils, just an FNM version from quite a while ago and the Graveborn Premium Deck. This will end up being one of the lowest-priced Boxterpieces at $30-$40.

I admit, I had no idea he had fallen this far, and now is not the time to buy!

Tasigur, the Golden Fang – Selling for $50-$175 – Oh ouch, to be the one who bought the first one on eBay for $175, and a week later, it’s sold for $50. I am stunned to see that pack foils are back down to the $15 range after hitting $40 as he did in 2015. Gurmag Angler hasn’t stolen that many slots away! With pack foils this low, and he’s about to be a rare in UMA, I’d expect this version to end up near $30.

Balefire Dragon – selling for $60-$70 – This has remarkably been the price for all the completed auctions. I think this is a good price, too, given that it’s a mythic again and the pack foil is about $30. Dragons are super popular right now! It’s going to drop a little, but not below $40.

Also, everyone forgets you can splice it onto Arcane!

Through the Breach – Selling for $200-$300 – My favorite new art, as it shows both a story moment AND a frequent tournament play. The first three auctions ended at or near $300, the more recent three took best offers under $250. It’s not popular enough to hold this price, and frankly, I don’t expect it to go much over $100. The people who need it need a playset, but no one else is going to be interested. The pack foil is $100, and the Invocation is $80.  This is so much more awesome in art than either of those, though.

Eternal Witness – Selling for $120-$150 – I’m pretty shocked at this price, given that the pack foil and the early FNM version are both near $40. This will be the most expensive Witness, that’s a given, but more like $75. It’s the most popular creature in EDHREC’s database, being in 43% of all the decks ever posted there. Fifty-five thousand and change.

Life from the Loam – Selling for $100-$150 – Dredge is ascendant in Modern right now, and Legacy Dredge is a thing of beauty too. Loam is also a delight in the Lands decks, and seeing enough play to spike the nonfoils to the $30 range. Pack foils are $100, MM13 foils are $50, and I’d expect this version to settle in between those.

Noble Hierarch – Selling for $150 – This is one of the most popular cards in Modern, and the most popular creature overall. There’s also a range of foils to choose from: the pack foil in Conflux, the MM15, the Pro Tour foil, and the sweet old-border Judge version. The good news is that if you’re playing this card, you don’t shave to three of them, you’re playing four or none, so demand is real. I think this price will tick downwards a little, but not too far.

Tarmogoyf – selling for $500ish – I believe this is the only card to be in all three Modern Masters sets, but if there’s others, do let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Three of these have been listed on eBay, all asking more than $500, but they all took a best offer. Pack foils are $700 or so, and the cheapest foil is the most recent, the MM17 at $100. Is this a $500 card? Maybe. I genuinely have no idea where this will end up, but it seems a given that it’ll be more than the $200 of the MM13 foil.

Vengevine – Selling for $75-$150 – The pack foil, from way back in Rise of the Eldrazi, is at $80 and the WMCQ foil is about $50. Vengevine has had a real renaissance lately, and this is another one that people tend to play the full set of. I think this will be neck-and-neck with its pack foil, around $75.

Come back next week for the other half!


Cliff 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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The Reserved (Shopping) List

Did you know that Wizards is capable of very bright ideas, like goosing the value of Ultimate Masters (The names are getting out of hand. I’m fully expecting UltraMegaZord Masters soon) in order to justify $14 packs, and also cheapskating PT players by making them buy their own swag at PT Atlanta this weekend?

Even typing that sentence out makes me shake my head. Sure, a certain % of players have a bunch of shirts and water bottles, and someone wants to pinch that penny. The optics are godawful though, and they are severely underestimating the appeal of things you’ve earned as souvenirs. I’ve got an MTGPrice shirt from four years ago. I regret to say that my official MTGPrice playmat was stolen about 18 months ago. These are things that have high sentimental value, even if the shirt is faded and I’ve got a dozen playmats.

Wizards has been consistent in one area, at least: The Reserved List. I fully admit that on Twitter, I’ve got ‘reserved list’ and ‘RL’ muted, just because the conversations are so cyclical and predictable.

Standard and Modern and EDH can drive value, but the RL has been a source of financial interest for some time, and even if some of the buyouts have been artificial, they’ve still allowed prices to climb, and a lot of those gains have stuck.

Today I want to look at some RL cards that have potential, either from a unique effect, EDH play, or other factors that make it a good target.

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Cliff 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.


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Anatomy of a Buyout

About twice a year, someone at my shop asks me if I’m *that* Cliff and I get to talk about either hot tips or the newest spikes in price. I like to take that opportunity to ask what I should be writing about, since my perspective is, well, just one among millions.

That happened this week, shoutout to Matt, who nominated this topic: What happens during these random-ass price spikes that have been happening at an incredible pace for the last three years?

Let’s take a trip through what happens in a buyout, and examine a test case.

We’ve seen a ton of these. My favorite is Narwhal.

That’s a tooth, you know.

Yup, this super-bulk rare, once overpriced at 25 cents, is now actually being bought on Ebay for about $1.50-$2. There was a brief shining moment where the listed price hit ten dollars.

These spikes are nuts, and mostly artificial. The psychology of it relies on greed, and the fear of missing out. The idea is that you don’t want to miss out on the easy money. (Another time, we’re going to get into details of how it’s not really that easy in most cases, but Travis’s seminal article My Spec Quadrupled and I Made 75 Cents Each tells a lot of that story.) If you buy it RIGHT NOW then you’ll be able to sell into the ongoing hype!

You also need to understand the methodology that we use (and other sites use as well) as price aggregators. We trawl TCG and other major retailers for what price they are buying and selling at, looking for changes from yesterday’s data.

A single store/organization, even the big ones like a Star City or a ChannelFireball, has a finite number of copies, and when those are gone, they are listed as sold out. There’s literally no price information, so that’s a piece of data which gets lost.

The data that remains is the current price listed. Not what the card has sold for, but what people want for it, and that’s a very important distinction.

Speculators have to decide how hard they are going to go after a card. You’ve likely heard us on MTG Fast Finance talking about the available copies on TCG as an indicator of supply, demand, and the third factor, individuals who bother to sell on TCG. Most players don’t sell there, but those who do are helping set the market. If the investment is made to buy out most/all copies of a card, only the most optimistic of prices is allowed to remain.

Price aggregators look at the range of prices available, but algorithms aren’t able to monitor completed sales yet, only look at what’s listed for sale at that moment. So a speculator buys up all ~150 copies of Narwal at let’s say $1 each. Then it spikes to ten because only the speculator’s $10 copies are still for sale, and the circle is complete.

Don’t overlook the non-near-mint cards when evaluating a market. If the NM is listed as being $20, but the LP version is still $5, then you know something’s up.

With the concepts clear, let’s do a test. We’re looking for a card that has low supply on TCG, low stock in other places, and has an attractive price. Matt suggested this card, and he’s on point: Life and Limb.

It’s a rare from Planar Chaos, those many years ago. It’s foil.for those who like that, it’s not on the Reserved List, but it can be abused in lots of ways, plus it’s big for a recent trending Commander: Slimefoot, the Stowaway.

Let’s see. TCG copies?

A wide range on one screen!
and page 2, the more optimistic ones.

Wow. 17 copies, ranging from a $7 LP foil to a $34 Near Mint.

Let’s look at Ebay’s completed sales, because we want to see what it’s selling for, not what people are asking for it.


Two sold listings in two months. One LP at $5, one NM at $30+.

Let’s check in with a couple of other retailers.

Yep, super pricey.
No wonder it’s sold out at that price!

I want to add that Card Kingdom has two ‘VG’ available at $17, eight ‘EX’ at $23, and two NM at $28, I just don’t like how they display the versions available. Too much clicking for my tastes.

With this data in hand, we can say this card is poised to tip over, because there’s very little stock under $20. A few hundred bucks and there’d be no copies left under $30. There’s not likely to be a lot of these in binders, but given the small supply of Planar Chaos foils and just enough casual appeal…Most players aren’t going to dive for their Commander decks and dump a spiking card onto the market.

Our speculator buys up all the sub-$30 copies on the internet. So the only prices left are the expensive ones, the most optimistic of the TCG player listings. And Star City, for that matter.

If you’re investing in a random card like this one (not too random, given that there’s not many left and most people want top dollar for it) your hope is that the buylist price makes it high enough for this work to be worthwhile.

The aggregators can’t see any prices under $30, and now the average list price is going to go up, because it’s averaging the prices of the most optimistic TCG sellers.Eventually, the low-priced ones are all gone, leaving only the people who were hoping for a spike that have theirs listed at $60 or whatever.

So now there’s price alerts all over, that these foils have doubled in price. Those who still have theirs listed (the most optimistic) will then raise their prices, mostly, because they don’t want to sell too soon.

The speculator would really like to have the buylist price at stores go high enough that the extra copies can be sold to them in large amounts. Individual cards sold on eBay take forever and the cost of shipping and insurance is all on you.

Whether or not the speculator sells out into the hype, the price will trail downwards. We saw this with Narwhal, but here’s the important thing: the card is now $1.20 as opposed to the original price, and we’re something like 75 cents in pure profit each.

Also note the rapid decline, you either sell out fast, or you’re holding for the super long term. Our speculator might take either route, and there’s no telling which you’ll do at which time.

If you have enough copies, the best play is to sell enough to cover your initial outlay of cash and then sit on the leftovers for a long time as pure profit. Your future might depend on it!

Cliff 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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Five more to come!

I have to admit, I love where Standard is at right now. Nothing is overwhelming, there’s something like five decks I’d play if I was going to a FNM event or a PTQ, and I like tuning into coverage of Standard, whereas five weeks ago I would have rather swallowed a sea urchin.

One thing I know: We’re not done innovating Standard, and there’s a key set of things coming: Ravnica Allegiance and the other five guilds. I’ve got some ideas on what that means for our wallets and trade binders.

What I’m talking about are the lands, especially. We’re about to have all ten shocks and all ten checklands together. It’s going to be an era of deliciously greedy decks, splashing all over the place.

It’s going to be that way for nine months, too, until Ixalan block and Dominaria rotate in Sept/Oct of 2019.

So here’s my hot take: I would advocate picking up Glacial Fortress, Rootbound Crag, Hinterland Harbor, Isolated Chapel, and Dragonskull Summit now, before the rush.

Some of these are already on the uptake, and it’s the distinction between buying now at $5-$7 and buying in two months for $10.

I know you don’t believe me fully, so let’s look at some of the reasons why I’m potentially wrong.

#1: Supply on allied checklands is extensive.

You’re right: The checklands are some of the most-frequently-printed cards in the modern era. They were debuted in Magic 2010, and then reprinted in 2011. And in M12. Plus Magic 2013, and then nothing till they were in Ixalan last year.

You know what happened to those four years of printings? They got absorbed, in large part by the casual market and the Commander crowd. That’s a lot of copies which aren’t going to be broken free. Yes, there’s a lot out there, but there’s also a lot of decks soaking up that supply.

Here’s the graph on the Ixalan version:

I liked the original art better, but that’s me.

It’s gone up by about $1 since being printed. It didn’t even dip at first, as you might expect. It’s just been a steady riser. It’s not going to rise indefinitely–I suspect that rotation will hit this like a ton of bricks–but the Standard demand is really pushing this card.

It’s a pushed price before its favorite guild and best land are printed! I’m going to blame Teferi, Hero of Dominaria for that.

An aside: I think Teferi will hit $70 around Valentine’s Day, and I’d be speculating on him with glee, except that the timeframe for profit is pretty narrow if I’m buying right now at $50. At +$20, the fees put my profit at about $10 per copy if I’m selling on my own. Buylisting won’t be much profit either, he’d have to hit $80 for even the credit bonuses to be worth it. If you think you might be playing Teferi once we’ve got Azorius out, I strongly urge you to buy now.


#2: Shocklands are just better.

Well yeah. No one is arguing that. Shocks are going to bump upwards too. Let’s look at the Return to Ravnica version of Steam Vents, while people are playing Expansion/Explosion and trying real hard to get Niv-Mizzet, Parun into their decks.

It’s super popular in Modern too!

That’s what I like to see: steady upwards progress. Yes, it’s a third printing of the shocklands, but the original was forever ago, and the RTR block shocks got soaked up by Modern and Commander demand. The thing about those formats is that people aren’t terribly willing to break up a deck’s manabase if the lands rise modestly.

I’m not predicting a big jump in the shocks that are about to be printed, but again, I’d get mine now. Jeskai control, for instance, can run the perfect 24 lands for its three colors if desired, and splash into other colors without trying very hard.


#3: Dominaria lands are still available cheaply.

For now they are. Sulfur Falls has already seen a recent increase, restoring most of what it lost in being reprinted:

I’ll listen if you want to argue art choices.

And now let’s bring up Woodland Cemetery.

I miss Innistrad.

Oh yeah. One printing in Innistrad, way back in 2011, and copies got soaked up over time. We’re not left with pretty much the leftover Dominaria copies, and there’s not enough given the demand. Woodland is already back at the price it had when Dominaria came out. We’ve got a fair bit of time till it rotates out, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it hit $9 or $10.

Traditionally, the year after a land is printed is the time where it’s rising, and I fully expect that to continue with these lands and this Standard.  Shocks will get played more than the checklands, but both are going to be used extensively.

The two remaining enemy lands are likely the best targets of all: Hinterland Harbor at $3 and Isolated Chapel at $4. I don’t know what mechanics and goodness we’re going to get with Simic and Orzhov, but I know people will want to play them and the cards are going to go up.

Cliff 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 (next up: Oakland in January!) and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

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