Category Archives: Casual Fridays

The Signals and Problems with Commander Masters

Previews for Commander Masters are in full swing, and I’m pretty excited. I love a different draft format and I really love a chance to buy staples when they get to their lowest price in years. What I’m also noticing, though, is that this Masters set is going in new directions, some of which I really don’t like. Allow me to explain why.

First of all, let’s get into the price disparity of this set. Masters sets (sets that are targeted reprints) have been more expensive since the days of Modern Masters 2011. Chronicles was the same price as other boosters at the time, but that was so long ago that it doesn’t really matter. Starting with MM11, Wizards knew they could charge more for these products, and in recent years, they have really turbocharged this concept.

Collector Boosters have done an excellent job at giving players a spectrum of choices for their cards/collecting. One end of the spectrum has the basic nonfoil of a card. The other end has the most premium version possible, from a Neon Red Hidetsugu to Serialized Elven Sol Rings. Players always had a choice before between foil and nonfoil, but only relatively recently have we gotten such a wide variety of choices.

There was quite an outcry when VIP Boosters came out in Double Masters, but Wizards made a whole new frame and art for the chase cards and there were guarantees about what you’d get, or at least have a crack at. Now, Commander Masters has its Collector Boosters for about the same price, and there’s much less outcry. We’re used to this now, and they know it.

For those of you who hate the idea of a single booster being around $75, no matter what’s in it: You’re outvoted. I hate to be the bearer of such bad news, but the only way Wizards stops making boosters like this at this price point is if people stop buying them. So far, I’m not seeing that happen, and while the card choices are sometimes mystifying for this set, they aren’t horrifically atrocious.

Still, these Collector Boosters are $75 a pack, compared to the $30-35 you would have spent on the Modern Horizons 2 Collector Boosters or Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings Collector Booster. (I’m aware that single boosters at your LGS can cost more.)

Commander Masters is also uniquely huge in terms of the cards involved. I’ll have the full math up soon, when the entire set is previewed, but there’s 135 rares and 35 mythics here. Double Masters 2022 had 120 rares and 40 mythics, as a point of comparison. Even with the formulations of multiple rares per pack, this is still a whole lot of variance to deal with, and that’s part of the gambling experience. You know you might not hit it big, but when you do, the dopamine rush is so very wonderful.

I wasn’t expecting to get serialized cards every set, but it seems like an easy way to goose the value of the opened cards if you have some number of big hits in there. Even the crappiest of the BRO serialized are $100 or so, but leaving them out of this set feels like a miss. However, now that we’ve had this experience in multiple ways, we’re always going to feel a little let down when serialized cards aren’t a thing in a set. We’ll learn to cope with that feeling over time.

Those are the big-picture problems with Commander Masters. These don’t make the set a must-avoid, but they do indicate that Wizards is going to keep on pushing the limit of what they can get away with and still make amazing, if not record, profits.

On a more specific scale, Commander Masters has an amazing number of cards that were recently printed in some other way and are now getting hit again in rapid succession. It doesn’t bother me that cards get duplicate printings, especially when they have notably different art/frames, but what it signifies is that there is no person/department at Wizards who is responsible for managing what’s getting quick reprints.  

The Secret Lair – Commander Masters pipeline feels especially egregious this time around, as cards like Nekusar, the Mindrazer and Yisan, the Wanderer Bard were inclusions just a couple months ago. I don’t think this is a ‘new normal’ or anything, I just think it reflects what they are up to: adding cards based on current values and how they fit into a draft environment, not so much worrying about ‘did we just print that?’ 

We’ve also got some cards that were put into the Lord of the Rings and yet are also present here. The Great Henge got a Surge foil, other cards were in the Commander precons, and yet there’s more reprints coming. Toxic Deluge, Chromatic Lantern, Decree of Pain (and a SL here too!) and more got this one-two punch, helping prices likely stay low. 

I expect more of this going forward. Whoever’s in charge is overworked, or they aren’t coordinating, or last-minute changes…this is something we should not be shocked by in the future. I remember being shocked that Iona, Shield of Emeria was in Modern Masters 2015 and then immediately in FTV: Angels a month later. 

As you can imagine, being printed twice in a row with more premium versions means that all versions of a card will impede its growth going forward. Staples aren’t what they were, because Wizards has made so many cards that are just so good over the years. The Great Henge will recover, but with so many copies and with a selection of treatments, it’ll take longer than if just one set had had the card. 

I made the joke on Twitter that I couldn’t wait to buy cheap copies of The Party Tree version, and that’s still true, but now I’m going to wait longer to do so. I don’t want to move too early and I also don’t want to get caught if they print it a third time in four more months.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone who isn’t a member of our Discord to join up, because we’re pioneering and perfecting methods of making money off this game even as the underlying rules change from set to set. It’s a wild world out here, and we’re still helping you make and save money.

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.

Checking in on Phyrexia: All Will Be One

It’s been about five months since Phyrexia: All Will Be One came out, and that’s around the point at which I like to look at a set, checking for deals and thinking about what I want to stock up on in anticipation of future growth.

The timeframe for ONE is an impressive thing: It’ll be Standard legal until the fall of 2025. I’m not ready to spec on Standard cards only, but if a card is good there too, in additional to the casual and Eternal formats, then that’s a lovely bonus.

So let’s take a peek and make a list, shall we?

Some caveats before we get into the list: I’m using EDHREC data, which is the best indicator we have access to. The casual popularity of a card can also be reflected in a card’s price, but EDHREC stacks up only the information from the most connected players. For example, I’ve never uploaded a deck there, though I really ought to. It’s good data, but it’s a self-selected sample of data. 

Additionally, keep in mind that we live in an era of constant reprint risk. Secret Lairs, Commander decks, reprint sets…all of these add up to a certain amount of danger that spec purchases will get tagged again. There’s no evading this, but since this set is just a few months old, I’d be surprised if anything here was reprinted in 2023. Next year, though, I have different expectations. With Standard having a three-year period, I won’t be shocked if there’s a supplementary set of Standard reprints.

I also want to call attention to the collation of ONE. This is a set with a very high amount of variants. In addition to the original frame, we have showcase, manga, borderless, step-and-compleat foils, and oil slick foils. Plus the concept versions of the Praetors. And the Phyrexianized Planeswalkers. That’s a lot! Where possible, I’ll make it clear whether I think the best profit will be from the most premium versions or if I think you should brick up on the more basic versions.

Cankerbloom (Cheapest version at 17¢, most expensive $1, in 32,000 decks on EDHREC) – I’ve never really cared about making money off of uncommons or mythic rares, and Cankerbloom is going to make us some money. It’s been very rapidly adopted as a card that does a lot of good things, and gets around Elesh Norn/Torpor Orb. Those effects are remarkably effective at shutting down a lot of casual interactions, and creatures are pretty easy to recur in green decks. I think I’d prefer to have a stack of the step-and-compleat foils, rather than try to get a couple hundred of the regular nonfoil, but the big out of a buylist or two surely appeals more than the slow drip you’d get with selling the special foils to Commander players one at a time.

The Mycosynth Gardens ($2 to $10, 28k decks online) – Amulet Titan decks are in love with this card, as their whole deck is based around getting lands into play as fast as possible. Gardens can become an extra Amulet very easily, and that puts the deck into overdrive. The Commander demand is there, but what’s also great about this land is that it’s so wide-open a card. Every artifact that comes out makes this card better. Here, given the big gap between the basic versions and the FEA copies, I’d prefer to have a stack of the regulars. Having this go to $5 means you’ll buylist each one for a dollar or two more than you paid, and that scales nicely. The FEA copies will take longer to drain out.

Conduit of Worlds ($3 to $4.50, 29k decks) – I’ve played with this card and it’s exactly what you want in Commander. Fetchlands are glorious with it, and the long-term card advantage from the recursion is very real. The cost is low, the card is cheap, and there’s not too many FEA copies on TCGPlayer as to have me worried. The premium versions are definitely where I want to be for this card, as it’s Commander-centric and those are going to be the folks who make it happen.

Thrummingbird (10¢ to $1.25, 43k decks) – This is a reprint from Scars of Mirrodin, which is why the EDHREC number is notably higher than the other cards on this list. Proliferate decks are capable of being poison, superfriends, +1/+1 counters, you name it. The Bird is cheap and can almost always find someone to hit and get your proliferate on, and I want to have a stack of step-and-compleat foils ready for long-term gains. That’s the only fancy version, and should pay off in the end.

The Dominus Cycle (very wide range, 11k to 23k decks) – All of these cards are very good at what they do, doubling something you want doubled. Sometimes you want these as the Commander, sometimes in the 99, but there’s few decks that don’t enjoy these interactions. The Oil-Slick versions are the lowest-supply versions and have already felt that pressure, so if you wanted to go for a different version, that’s totally understandable. The SAC versions are sweet, but I think for these I’d prefer the growth potential of the regular frame now. They are surprisingly cheap for many of them, and I’d be expecting the regulars to go $10 to $20 before the super premium ones go $40 to $80.

All Will Be One ($11 to $30, 17k decks) – This is another card with very open-ended potential. Every card they make with any kind of counters makes this good. Did you know that you can cast this enchantment, play a Dark Depths, and smash any target for ten damage! Helix Pinnacle is now two kinds of win condition! There’s also some infinite combos as well in Commander, such as Quest for Pure Flame.

We have a complication here, though: This card has regular, foil, and then Oil-Slick Foil. No FEA, no Showcase. This makes the Oil-Slick a much more attractive target to me, and while it’s a higher buy-in at $30, this will have combo potential with every new card and should get new combo enablers pretty regularly.

Ichormoon Gauntlet ($3 to $18, 12k decks) – I mentioned Superfriends decks with the Thrummingbird but this is another regular or Oil-Slick card, and so you should grab what copies you can. Don’t sleep on the mini-proliferate ability either, as that can get way out of hand too.

Venerated Rotpriest ($2 to $6, 15k decks) – When it came out, this card was all over the place, making a combo deck possible in Standard and Pioneer, especially with tutor effects and copy effects. The premium versions are cheap, but I’m more in favor of the basic versions so that you can sell matching playsets easier when new combos appear.

Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines ($30 to $110, 35k decks as card and commander) – Hate her or adore here, MOM is a beast in Commander and has the price tag to match. There’s SO MANY versions of her, so you pick the one you like and get that. A reprint on this card is inevitable, though, so whatever you purchase should either be for personal use or you have a specific and quick turnaround planned for the card. 

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.

What to do about LOTR in the Long Run

We’re a couple weeks into the  Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings set, and hype is about to flip over to the Commander Masters release at the beginning of August. LOTR has done some interesting things which I’ve written up already, but today I want to give you my long-term and short-term plans for the set. There’s some dynamics at play that might not be on your radar, and these will inform your buying.

First of all, let’s talk longevity. The hype cycle is about to move on to Commander Masters, and then Wilds of Eldraine, and then we’ll get the information about next year’s releases, and so on, and so on…

You might be thinking that LOTR is a product with a short turnaround time. That’s not what will play out. Aaron Forsythe, director of Magic R&D, has said that this product will be in print for an extended amount of time, in addition to the holiday release that’s planned. (More on that in a minute.)

So what I’m expecting is a pattern much like Modern Horizons 2, a product that wasn’t the draft format for a long time, but had a steady supply of cards pushed into the market for a very long time. Fetches are the cheapest they’ve been since they were in Standard, and we’re talking OG Zendikar Standard here:

I know that graph isn’t perfect, but we’re going over data from 2011, and it gets tricky on that sort of timeline. 

I bought some retro foil fetchlands more than a year ago, expecting them to appreciate, and instead, they’ve gone down even more! That’s the effect that a constant flow of product has, and it’s why I’m not going to spec on any LOTR cards for some time…with one exception.

If you want cards for personal use, in Cube, Modern, whatever, go ahead and get those. You’re going to get good mileage and enjoyment out of them, so go ahead and get what you need/want. Also because of this timeline, I’m going to vote against buying the full borderless panorama scenes, unless you’re setting it up for just yourself. There will eventually be a market for these scenes, but buying in now is super early. Be more patient, and it’ll cost you a lot less.

My exception, though, is The One Ring itself. We’re getting a glut of these right now, and I’m expecting to get at least one more special version in the Holiday edition. The gift bundles are just landing, and that’s going to add a lot of copies…but this is also an extremely good Commander card, and when a card is taking over Modern AND Commander, watch out for its price.

The One Ring is going to be a staple until it’s banned, which probably means it’ll be good forever. I don’t think I’ll have a good window to get in cheaply before the Holiday edition arrives in November, but sometime around Valentine’s Day, after the end-of-year sales and such, I’ll be ready to evaluate what copies I want to buy. Still too many unknowns about that set to make firmer plans as yet.

Speaking of the Holiday release, a new frame was revealed way ahead of time, and that makes me really pause on LOTR cards at the moment, because we’re getting a mix of old and new, it seems, plus a new Showcase frame. That much uncertainty makes me want to be patient, have plans but be flexible with those plans.

If we knew that it would be a completely new set, then that would clear up my plans, but we’ve been given very little information about the set and what is in it. We do know that there will be a new set of scenes, even coming with a frame for displaying those cards together. Since we don’t know the cards or the pricing, it’s hard to get too excited, because if we get art cards for display plus the actual game-use cards, those prices will get quite low indeed.

I’ve written a lot about the foil extended art cards only available in the Sample Packs, and unless you’re buying in significantly below TCG or Ebay’s listed prices, I can’t tell you to buy these for long-term growth. If you want a card for your deck, get it, but I have a hard time thinking that these will go up or down significantly. In eight months, we might see prices a bit lower, but the quantities are so low that the usual pattern of undercutting each other won’t really apply.

Again, the Sample Packs come with the Commander precons, so now that the big operations have gone through their allotment, they are unlikely to hit a big batch of those special cards. The main way that more copies will come on the market is from Commander players who buy the deck and decide to sell the card rather than keep it and put it into a deck. Greed is a powerful motivator, and for a lot of folks, it’s a no-brainer to sell a card for $60 or more that you opened in your $60ish Commander precon.

Finally, the Realms and Relics subset is a strong ‘wait and see’ right now. All three versions are getting cheaper as time passes, and as this set stays in print, the nonfoils, the traditional foils, and the surge foils are all going to trickle downwards in price. I’m very excited to pick up some of these cards at cheap prices, but the key is being patient for the bottom of the market. 

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.

Deep Dive on FEA cards in Lord of the Rings

It’s here, it’s here, thank goodness the precious has arrived fully!

However, as I wrote about last week, there are some really specific things going on with this set that are outside the normal experience, and it’s worth going over the details here. There’s money to be made as well!

So let’s talk about the choices Wizards made here, and how different the situation is with Foil Extended Art (FEA) cards from Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings.

In most sets, FEA is a treatment given to the cards that didn’t get the Showcase treatment. For this set, Lord of the Rings, the showcase is a Ring-centric frame, like this:

It’s a neat l;ook, works well with the stuff that’s going on, and while it’s a little plain, it makes a lot of sense for the set. The Script around the edge is probably pretty sweet in foil, too.

For this set, we also have Borderless cards that are part of a Scene:

Generally speaking, in past sets, if a card didn’t get a special version, it would get an Extended Art version, where the art from the regular frame version would be extended to the left and right, keeping a border on top and bottom:

It’s not uncommon for a card to have an EA frame as well as some other special version. In Modern Horizons 2, there were several versions of fetchlands: Original, EA, Etched Foil, and Retro frame.

For Lord of the Rings, there’s an additional wrinkle with the EA cards: foils are not in the Collector Boosters as usual. Instead, the FEA versions can only be found in the two-card Collector Booster Sample Pack that comes with Commander preconstructed decks. I gave a mathematical breakdown of what your odds are for pulling specific cards last week, but the tiny numbers of FEA cards in circulation have me looking for more data. If you’ve opened ten or more of these packs and happened to write down exactly what you got from that mini-pack, hit me up on the Discord or on Twitter.

Since last week, I’ve been scouring ebay, TCGPlayer, most of the big sites for FEA cards and I’ve mostly come up blank. I preordered some on TCGPlayer, but more than half of those have been canceled on me, stating they don’t have the card after all.

The big operations will crack precons for selling the singles, but it’ll be hard for the precons to keep any value that way and the Sample Packs have a lot of cards in there that are repeats of cards already in the Collector Boosters. I watched a YouTube video with 80 packs being opened, and they got four foil mythics: Two of them were FEA versions of ‘face commanders’, which are the eight cards already in Collector Boosters. One was a Foil Borderless Scene card (also in those boosters) and there was a single FEA Palantir of Orthanc in that stack. 

This set is already a lottery-ticket dispenser with the special Rings and the Surge foil Realms and Relics, they didn’t need to add in the FEAs this way but here we are, with TCGPlayer having no FEA versions (yet) of most of these cards, or if there are any, they are at absurd prices.

Complicating this is that the majority of players who buy a preconstructed Commander deck aren’t going to sell the Sample Packs cards online. They will open the bonus pack, get a sweet foil, and look for a deck to put that card into, or perhaps pop it into a binder for trading. It won’t go on the usual sales sites, lowering the available quantities even further.

So in these first weeks, we’ll want to pay attention to the cards whose only premium version is FEA. If there’s an FEA and a Borderless/Showcase, I’ll notice it but players will have a clear choice. For instance, Delighted Halfling has a FEA and a Borderless Scene. The FEA has sold consistently over $40, and the Scene version in foil sells for a dollar or two more than the regular nonfoil. Given the card’s popularity, I’ll be watching, but I’m leery of a $40 card the first weekend turning into the $70-$80 I need for a reasonable profit after taxes, fees, and shipping.

FEA The One Ring is going to be really rare. Remember that The One Ring comes in bundles, so copies of the card will be all over the place, along with the Scene version, but FEA is going to be the most expensive version for quite a while.

Let’s get granular here about specific cards. Wizards has released the official list of what has an FEA and what doesn’t.

What does:

Andúril, Flame of the West
Arwen, Mortal Queen
Call of the Ring
Display of Power
Doors of Durin
Forge Anew
Horn of Gondor
Horn of the Mark
King of the Oathbreakers
Lotho, Corrupt Shirriff
Mithril Coat
Palantír of Orthanc
Phial of Galadriel
Radagast the Brown
Rangers of Ithilien
Sauron’s Ransom
Shelob, Child of Ungoliant
The One Ring

Now, here’s the table for the cards that do not have Extended Art versions:

Borne Upon a Wind
Dawn of a New Age
Delighted Halfling
Elven Chorus
Fall of Cair Andros
Flowering of the White Tree
Glóin, Dwarf Emissary
Goldberry, River-Daughter
Hew the Entwood
Isidur’s Fateful Strike
Lobelia Sackville-Baggins
Moria Marauder
Press the Enemy
Shagrat, Loot Bearer
Sharkey, Tyrant of the Shire
The Battle of Bywater
The Ring Goes South
The Watcher in the Water

It appears, according to TCG and other sites, that these are all in such low quantities that it’s hard to be sure that foils of all of these actually exist. I know of the preordering I did, none of the cards from Jumpstart or the Starter decks were fulfilled. I’ll update this article as needed throughout the weekend if I get reports that these foils exist. It’s quite possible that only Main Set cards got FEA treatments done, and those are mixed in with other foil variants in the Sample Packs.

The small quantities and the difficulty opening one, combined with the range of changes, is also probably causing a fair amount of mislabeling and/or incorrect inventory. People who open a lot of Collector Boosters but don’t read up about the drop rates might think, “Oh yeah, we get a handful of FEA cards every set” but those aren’t going to pop up here, leading to cancellations.

Those 25 Main Set rares and Mythics are the cards I’m especially keeping an eye on. The assorted ‘Surge Foils’ might become targets once we have more data, or perhaps an announcement. Mithril Coat is worth playing alongside Hammer of Nazahn, or maybe replacing it completely. Elven Chorus is a card just about every Green deck ought to play. Horn of the Mark is a draw engine for aggressive decks, just the thing to keep the aggression flowing, and so on.

The big caveat here is that if you plan to get some FEA cards and resell them for a higher price, you’re going to have to move fast. The Holiday Release will have at least one new frame, but also might include FEA cards, putting more into circulation. The cards I’ve preordered, I’m planning on turning over before August is over, just to avoid any potential reprint risk. It may turn out to be fine, but we won’t know till it’s announced or leaked, and then it’ll either go crazy or drop like a rock. I don’t want to be holding rocks.


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.