Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Value of a Symbol

By: Cliff Daigle

I have one all-foil Commander deck. It’s tribal Vampires, with Garza Zol, Plague Queen at its head. I didn’t plan to foil it out at first, it just sort of happened that almost all the creatures were foil and I kept finding good prices and trades for the lands and accessories. Eventually, I was 80% foil and took the plunge, swapping out things that could never be foil (Oh, how I miss having Shauku, Endbringer!) and trading for foil filterlands, scrylands, etc.

One thing I didn’t have until recently was a foil Reflecting Pool, because there was only one foil version from Shadowmoor. It has been super-pricey due to a printing error: all of the foils have a Plains watermark, increasing the collectibility. When Conspiracy came out, I knew this would be my chance to get a foil Pool at a reasonable price. 

Imagine my surprise, though, when I see that there’s a significant gap between the two foils, with the same text, art, and frame! There are indeed some people who feel strongly that they have to have the original (in this case, the first available foil, as the Tempest version has no foil) and are willing to pay a high price to have that. Wrong watermark or not, that’s a big jump in price due to collectors.

In honor of them, I’d like to share with you a few examples of how much value being ‘original pack foil’ can add. My goal here is just the cards that have an expansion symbol of difference, and I encourage you to add your own to this list in the comments. I’ve looked for them, but I am not perfect.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath – $20 for Timeshifted foil, $30 for Legions foil

Just $10 to get rid of the purple expansion symbol seems worth it. The Timeshifted sheet causes all sorts of collector headaches!

Eternal Witness – $25 for Fifth Dawn foil, $11 for Modern Masters foil

One of the most busted cards in Commander, the foil prices are surprising. There’s an FNM version with similar art by Terese Nielsen, but the easily-recurred way to reuse anything has massive casual appeal.

Elspeth, Knight-Errant: $89 for Shards of Alara foil, $65 for Modern Masters foil

Shards block foils have additional price pressure on them, thanks to the all-foil packs Wizards printed at the end of the block. This higher number of foils is mainly pushing prices on commons and uncommons down, and not that many people were willing to drop $15 on a single booster.

I once did a draft with these though, and it was a lot of fun to have all foils!

Blood Moon – $64 for 9th edition foil, $55 for 8th edition, $45 for Modern Masters

How I wish we had some hard sales numbers on the different sets. It’s entirely possible that there are a lot more MM foils out there, because 8th and 9th were close to the dark days of Magic. This was a surprise find, though, I thought these would be more expensive, considering how good they are in Eternal formats, and how often Legacy and Vintage like to foil out their decks.

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker – $27 for Conflux foil, $16 for M14 foil

Another card that had extras due to the foil Shards packs, there’s also a Duel Deck foil with very different art to be had for the same price as a nonfoil.

Progenitus – $39 for Conflux foil, $28 for Modern Masters foil

The FTV foil is frankly unappealing next to the original, which had great tricks with clouds to make it clear just how huge The Soul Of The World is. If you have the extra $11 for the original, go for it.

Glen Elendra Archmage – $65 for Eventide foil, $27 for Modern Masters foil

A gap of a few dollars doesn’t surprise me too much, but this being more than double is really surprising. Looking at the price history for the Eventide foil, the price went up when Modern Masters was around. To be fair, that summer, lots of things went up as the hype to join the format was at its peak. Things have stabilized since.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth – $53 for Planar Chaos, $19 for M15 or FTV

The FTV is the same art but it is also the same vertically shiny foiling process that turns some people off. If you wanted to skip that, I’d respect your choice. This was the only foil available for some time, which may be why the price is still so much more.

Woodfall Primus – $34 for Shadowmoor foil, $18 for Modern Masters foil

For a long while, this was a strong option for Reanimator decks, blasting lands and setting the other person back significantly. And perhaps to do it twice! Ashen Rider is just an upgrade on that process, though.

Jace Beleren – $29 for Lorwyn foil, $17 for M10, $19 for M11

Weirdly, this effect is in place for Garruk and Liliana as well, but not Ajani or Chandra. Ajani Goldmane has a Pro Tour foil that might be affecting the foil prices. Garruk and Liliana have Duel Deck promos, as well as Duels of the Planeswalker cards, but these are still showing big steps in price from set to set.

If you’re hardcore about getting the first foil, be my guest, but keep in mind that in a lot of cases, you’re paying a premium for it. That premium is on top of the premium you’re giving to have foils in the first place. I understand completely, though.

Join me next week as we explore some of the spoiled cards and see what you’ll be seeing at kitchen tables for a long time!

Price Warps

By: Cliff Daigle

I’m trying to collect a foil set of the draft-altering Conspiracy cards. It’s slow going for someone who doesn’t want to just buy them off assorted vendors. I much prefer to save my money and accumulate through trading.

The rare foils are not just in demand, they are hard to find. Those who want them want them BADLY and when they are acquired, they leave circulation as they enter into Cubes.

With the number never being too high to start with, and the urge to acquire very strong, that leads to a lot of weird things happening when it comes to pricing a card.

Last week, I found someone with a foil Lore Seeker on I opened a trade and thus began the dance. Deckbox has a pricing algorithm of its own, since it no longer takes directly from TCGPlayer’s mid. When I added foil Lore Seeker to the mix, the value went up by $200.

This trader wanted five foil shocklands and a Badlands from me for this Lore Seeker.

Feel free to do a double-take at that price. Naturally, I flip tabs to MTGPrice and there it is at $100…but only available at Amazon or HotSauce. Hmmm. Fishy.

When there is a small supply of something, the few data points available can really warp perception. We’re good, but we are prisoners of the data.

I decide to look at a few other places. TCG has four available, three at about $200 and one at $100. Wow. My first reaction is something like “Really?” TCG allows you to price cards at whatever you want, so usually, what’s listed is stuff that stores or individuals really want to sell. These strike me as ‘hopeful’ prices, from three vendors who are okay sitting on cards as long as it takes.

There’s one place that allows you to not only sell, but it lists what things have sold for: eBay. Let’s see…foil Lore Seeker…completed listings…sort by date….presto!

Here is what foil Lore Seeker is selling for. There’s a range of prices, some luck, but there’s certainly nothing that sold for triple digits, and only one over $50.

What’s really telling is that lots and lots of vendors do not have this in stock. I don’t think there’s an organized buyout–I simply think that Cubers want this card very badly. It’s getting snapped up when it shows up, because it allows for another booster pack when it is drafted.

The Seeker is getting a very overinflated treatment. Conspiracy foils (see the cards here and the Conspiracies here) are about where you’d expect, with the mythic and Legacy/Vintage foils commanding a real premium. Foil Dack Fayden, as an awesome Vintage card, is not a surprise in the $250 range. Foil Marchesa, the Black Rose, as a sweet Commander card, is not that shocking at $90.

There’s an outlier at the top of the Conspiracies list, though: Worldknit. This is another incredibly sweet card to put into your Cube, because now you get to play everything ever! It’s got a Fair Trade Price of $100…with one Amazon seller. Uh-oh. A little searching on that, though, shows us that plenty of those can be had for around $15, on eBay or other sellers we don’t list in the FTP.

So when someone quotes you a ridiculous price, or at least a price that feels ridiculous, check it. Check it several ways. If it still feels like too much to you, walk away. There might be a buyout happening, or a price warp. Don’t trade $200 worth of cards for something that sold on eBay last week for under $20.

Commander 2014 Preparation

By: Cliff Daigle

Yes, I’m thinking a lot about a set of decks that aren’t going to be available until November.

I’m of two minds about this set.

From a playing and flavor perspective, I’m stoked beyond words. I’m hoping to see Teferi, Serra, Freyalise, Jaya Ballard, and Leshrac as overpowered Planeswalkers and eventual judge foils. (There’s going to have to be a foil version somehow. They know that we want a foil to be our Commander!)

From a financial standpoint, I don’t think there will be a lot of immediate opportunity here. The first Commander set was put together and printed when the player base was significantly smaller, and while sealed product is at a premium, there aren’t many standalone stars.

Wizards has demonstrated this past year that if the preconstructed decks are bought in disproportionate amounts, then they will print disproportionate amounts. True-Name Nemesis is the case study. It started out at $50, as befits a powerful blue creature in Legacy in a limited printing. It was impacting the sale of Commander decks, as Mind Seize couldn’t stay on shelves.

The company turned around and started printing and sending out two Mind Seize per case instead of just one, and the demand appears to have been met, as TNN is down to $25, a price at which it’s not cost-effective to hunt for the deck.

The decks still carry a lot of value in the singles, but without the big-ticket item to immediately sell via buylist (and the rest of the deck doesn’t buylist well) things are in a reasonable state.

The reprinting policy is extremely relevant to us. If one of the five mono-color decks blows up this winter, the price will not hold. There’s a chance that if True-Name Nemesis isn’t reprinted, it might creep up again (more on that in a second) but the initial demand was met through adding additional supply.

Here is the behavior you’ll need to have for the five decks in November: Buy it soon, sell it fast, don’t try to make too much for too long.

The decks being mono-color offers the opportunity for many reprints of cards that could use it. I would expect a combination of very old and semi-old cards to go with the brand-new ones. I think that Wizards will use these products as a way to increase supply of some cards. If these cards are reprinted, there will be a drop in value, much like with the Commander 2013 cards.

In some cases, the price of a card will be unaffected by a reprint, or scarcity will keep a higher price. Hua Tuo, Honored Physician is an example. Hua Tao did not have a high price due to the ability, but the scarcity of the set. The same card in Commander 2013 is worth a dollar, and the original lost about $40 in value.

In case I haven’t made it clear: I don’t think there is much long-term value to be gained by trading or buying into expensive cards that can be reprinted in the next year. The combination of MM2 in May and these Commander decks creates too much uncertainty for my taste. Better to focus speculation energy and money on Standard cards. I mentioned a few reprint candidates two weeks ago, and here are some more. If you have any of these in quantity, I strongly urge you to cash them out or trade them away.

Linvala, Keeper of Silence – This angel is around $50, and is overdue for a reprint. Her ability is very relevant in keeping down the Splinter Twin decks of Modern, and is also great in dealing with the many utility abilities of Commander. This angel and Avacyn are locks in my mind to be in this set or Modern Masters 2. There’s a good chance that this deck has a tribal Angel feel, which would open up cards like Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Iona, Shield of Emeria as well.

Aven Mindcensor – One of the more expensive uncommons in Modern, a fresh injection of copies would tank the price by half or more.

Bloodghast – This card would work exceptionally well with the spoiled Ghoulcaller Gisa, with repeated sacrifices. I can see Gravecrawler being an easy include for the same reason.

Death Baron – Gisa’s tokens are Zombies. Making them better and deadly is very strong.

Nirkana Revenant – In an EDH deck with around 30 swamps, this is just ridiculous. Doubling mana is a favorite thing in casual formats, and using that mana immediately is a real beating.

Phyrexian Obliterator – It increased in price twice, is more than $35, and will never be easier to cast than in a mono-black deck.

Consecrated Sphinx – In a multiplayer game, this is capable of taking over. An opponent getting a copy means that two players can draw their entire deck!

Kira, Great Glass-Spinner – I like the benefit and drawback to this ability. You’ll have to pay twice to equip something, or use a different ability.

Spell Crumple – In case you weren’t aware, this is a $6 uncommon that was a two-of in one of the original Commander 2011 decks. A reprint will cause this price to plummet.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking – Yup, she’s more than $20. Watch out, because it’ll go much, much lower when she’s printed again.

Craterhoof Behemoth – A choice finisher in token or swarm decks, this seems like a for-sure include in the mono-green deck.

Oracle of Mul Daya – Oracle’s price was never this high when she was in Standard. Look at what this offers, and then Courser of Kruphix. Adding life and toughness while lowering mana cost does a lot for the card!

Regal Force – Oh, it feels good resolving this and drawing ten or more cards. It’s appropriately expensive.

Vigor – I realize that this is a card that dies to targeted and mass removal, but it’s really awesome until it gets killed. It has a price that reflects how popular it is despite being so easy to kill.

Dragonmaster Outcast – Oh, I hope this is in Khans of Tarkir block. If not, this and Kargan Dragonlord are strong candidates for the mono-red Commander deck.

Magus of the Moon – A Modern card that can be its own answer (my Hallowed Fountain can now cast Lightning Bolt!) this represents a very strong ability, and a card that would go lower when reprinted.

I don’t think that all of these are going to be in Commander 2014. I think there’s a good chance of them being printed in that set (or Modern Masters 2) and these are cards I don’t want to have in stock when their price tanks.

My Long Term Binder

By: Cliff Daigle

I would love to tell you that I am a true financier when it comes to Magic. I wish I could say that I buy hundreds of a card on speculation that it will rise, and cash out handsomely when it does.

If you follow individual writers on Twitter, you’ll see that some of us do indeed carry out this large-scale investing. I admit, I’m jealous sometimes when I see that Travis bought 50 of something or Jim has picked up a stack of sweet Japanese foils.

I’ve got two kids under the age of two, so I simply don’t have the funds for large speculations. If I have gone deep on a card, I’ve traded, laboriously, for every copy of that card.  I make it to FNM as often as I can, but I also do a lot of online trading.

For example: when Jace, Architect of Thought was $8, I traded for four. When it spiked last winter, I turned those into four Cavern of Souls and three Abrupt Decay. I’ve traded those Decays for six Hero’s Downfall plus a little, and two Caverns for five Thassa, God of the Sea. When those go up, I’ll trade for things I want for EDH decks, or more value in the future.

Today, I want to walk you through my long-term binder, and hopefully you get a sense of how to grow your collection’s value over time.

If you’re a regular reader of mine, some of these will sound familiar. I practice what I preach.

36 Prophet of Kruphix
Acquired at: $2
Target price: $5
Expected timeframe: One year or more

Yavimaya Coast being in Magic 2015 and Khans being about enemy wedges means that blue-green is a viable choice for colors this fall. If Riku or Animar are reprinted, expect Prophet to take off with either of those cards. Prophet is redundant in multiples, but this is one of the best things you could be doing in EDH, until it gets banned. It hasn’t yet, so I’m optimistic.


27 Thespian’s Stage
Acquired at: sub-$1
Target price: $3 or more
Expected timeframe: Years

This went up to $2 when the combo with Dark Depths was revealed, but it remains one of the best things you can be doing in Commander games. This is a cheap pickup and has good potential, as long as I can be patient.

8 Soldier of the Pantheon
Acquired at: $1.50
Target price: $3
Expected timeframe: less than a year

I think this would have a higher price if Selesnya Charm could target it. There will always be a white aggro deck, and this is two power for one mana with upside. I’m not expecting this to go crazy, just enough to make it worth trading away. It’s so low-risk anyway, even a modest gain will pay off nicely.


10 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Acquired at: $5-$10
Target price:$10-$15
Expected timeframe: winter

This is a card I’m expecting to trade away at the height and then trade for a few at rotation in a year. I really like the long-term prospects on this, considering how good is is in casual formats. If devotion is a thing, it’ll need several of these and I’ll be happy to trade these away at an increased price.


8 Aurelia, the Warleader
Acquired at: $4
Target price:$8-$10
Expected timeframe:a year or more

I traded for these before we knew what Iroas, God of Victory did. Her price went up just a little, but she’s a mythic angel that does ridiculous things in the two most aggressive colors. I don’t see this sinking much when she rotates in October, and going on a slow upward climb. If you haven’t seen this used as a Commander, you haven’t lived!


7 Rise of the Dark Realms
Acquired at: $2
Target price: $5+
Expected timeframe: years

There’s not a lot else you want to do with nine mana. This being a mythic means that there’s a lot less as compared to In Garruk’s Wake, which is only a rare. I’m sitting on these for a long time. There’s a combo currently legal in Standard, this and the Wake. Kill them all, and then take it all.


8 Thassa, God of the Sea
Acquired at: $6
Target price: $10-$20
Expected timeframe: winter

This is a card I’ve been going for as a short-term target. It hasn’t showed up in Modern much, but it’s really powerful in heavy-blue decks. It sees some play now but that was when this was in print, and it will only take one strong finish for these to go through the roof.


10 Hero’s Downfall
Acquired at: $5
Target price: $10
Expected timeframe: winter

Another short-term target, this has got some great potential as this is an answer to lots of problems. It’s been $10 before as a card that was still being opened, and it won’t take much to get back to where is was, or higher


4 Foil Boros Charm
Acquired at: $8
Target price: $20
Expected timeframe: whenever Boros Burn wins a Pro Tour

I am sitting on a playset of these, because the foil price is so much higher. The charm is a great EDH and Cube card, and is a key Burn card. I’ve got a playset and a couple more in Commander decks, and I have no trouble seeing this get to a high price when something happens and it blows up. The nonfoil has already had an extra printing in an Event deck, so I’ve focused on foils.

That’s my Hold binder. Are there things I should add to it? What and for how long?