Category Archives: City of Traders

The Watchtower: 11/14/16


By: Travis Allen

Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

Razorverge Thicket

Price Last Week: $8
Price Today: $8
Possible Price: $15

Tom Ross, fan favorite, gave viewers yet another deck to be excited about this weekend. In a departure from the typical GR build, he showed up to to the SCG Modern Open with GW Tron. It looks much like the GR build, with only a few small tweaks. He’s ditched the Pyroclasms for Path to Exiles, likely as a response to the more singular and/or recursive threats of Shadow Zoo, Infect, and Dredge. Two World Breakers snuck in alongside two Ugin, the Spirit Dragons, and other than that, most every other card in the main deck is familiar.

His largest departure from the standard Tron world is that, because of the color shift, he eschews Grove of the Burnwillows for Razorverge Thicket instead. Razorverge Thicket has quietly been climbing in price and popularity in Modern for quite some time, as Melira, white Tax builds, and various Collected Company decks all employ it, as well as a smattering of other strategies. Grove of the Burnwillows was an expensive and prohibitive card in Tron, and switching it for Razorverge Thicket is going to open the door for more players to get in. Not only will players looking to pick up this build of Tron need copies, it also validates selection of the land in other strategies when players wonder what GW land they should be using.

Razorverge is in the $7 to $8 range today. We shouldn’t expect too dramatic an upward shift in price just because of Tom’s success, but this certainly provides a boost to a card that’s got the exact same supply profile as Blackcleave Cliffs, which hangs around $20 today. Razorverge isn’t played quite that much yet, but will it be within the next six months?


Cryptic Command

Price Last Week: $20
Price Today: $20
Possible Price: $35

Another surprise deck to show up in the top 32 was Madcap Moon, placing 25th in the hands of Robert Graves. This is essentially a UR control deck that incorporates the Madcap Experiment/Platinum Emperion combo, which for the uninitiated, is a four mana sorcery which, if it resolves, “tutors” and puts a Platinum Emperion into play, handily protecting the controller’s life total. It’s far from a hard lock against the format, but strategies like Dredge are going to find it maddeningly difficult to beat in most situations.

Madcap Moon was running two Cryptic Commands, and it wasn’t the only deck in the room to do so. Kyle Boggemes’ Jeskai Flash was also packing a pair. Cryptic used to be a major component of Modern, falling by the wayside in recent years as Infect gained popularity, and has been further suppressed by other ultra-fast builds such as Shadow Zoo and Dredge. If Wizards ever pulls the handbrake on these strategies, say by removing Become Immense from the format, blue control strategies will be poised to come roaring back. Ancestral Visions has already started to crack into Modern, and slowing down some of the fastest decks in the format would make a lot of room for blue control strategies, of which Cryptic would be a key component. Add to this the printing of Torrential Gearhulk, who does a Snapcaster Mage impression in some cases better than the original, and you can see that the seeds are sown.


Prices on Cryptic have fallen hard over the last several years, with a second reprinting in Modern Masters 2015 dragging the card all the way to $20. This is a historical low for the card, and with any renewed interest in blue control in Modern, expect prices to climb convincingly towards $30 or more.


Collective Brutality

Price Last Week: $5
Price Today: $5
Possible Price: $12

Razorverge Thicket was the one standout card in a re-imagined familiar archetype. Cryptic Command is a once-powerful tool that is beginning to peek its head out in blue control strategies. Collective Brutality is neither of these. Instead, it’s a cog in any number of machines. Dredge. Grixis Delver. Jund. Lantern Control. Mardu. Kiki-Chord. And that’s just what showed up in the top 64 this weekend. Whether you’re aggro or combo or control or somewhere in between, chances are being brutal works for you.


Collective Brutality’s appeal comes from the fact that its escalate cost doesn’t cost mana, but rather, asks only that you discard cards. This is a harsh penalty for some strategies, but for others, it’s at least manageable, and in others, pure upside. I wonder how often Dredge gives their own creature -2/-2 just so that they can discard another Golgari Grave-Troll. Given how popular this is with so many disparate strategies, it’s unlikely this won’t be useful in Modern for a long time to come. People are always going to want to shovel cards into their graveyard, and Collective Brutality is always going to be happy to let them.

Brutality’s price jumped from sub-$2 back in late August to over $4, and has steadily ticked up to $5 or $6 today. It was printed in Eldritch Moon, a small set followed rapidly by both Conspiracy: Take the Crown and Eternal Masters that lacked the Masterpiece Series that was found in both neighboring blocks. These factors position EMN singles to reach higher prices than either Battle for Zendikar block or Kaladesh block. We saw Kolaghan’s Command hit $15 within a few months of release, primarily on the back of its Modern play, and it’s not unreasonable to think that Collective Brutality could manage the same thing. Make sure you collect your set before prices become brutal.


Ajani Vengeant

Price Last Week: $11
Price Today: $11
Possible Price: $20

We saw Ajani show up in exactly one top 32 list this weekend; Sun and Moon, which takes its name from playing Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Blood Moon in the same deck. (Yes it’s a bad name, not because it doesn’t tell you what the deck does, but because it’s named after a card that isn’t in the deck.) It’s a RW control deck that also uses a full set of Chalice of the Void in the main to eventually lock the opponent out of playing much Magic, and Ajani plays a bridge role in stymieing mana, zapping threats, and gaining life while working towards a game-ending ultimate.  

He showed up last weekend too in Ari Lax’s Restore Balance list. We didn’t see any of that this weekend, but we know it’s on the radar, and we know it played several Ajani, much to the same effect as Sun and Moon. That particular strategy likes its planeswalkers, as they persist through balances.

Ajani Vengeant has three printings to his name; his original release in Shards of Alara, a Duel Deck release now over five years old, and the prerelease promo that was given to everyone that showed up to a Shards of Alara prerelease event. Relative to most popular Modern mythics, such as Liliana of the Veil, this is a small volume of product.

Prices on Ajani haven’t moved yet, and we shouldn’t expect that to happen rapidly. With Modern Masters 2017 on the horizon, it’s possible his price will freeze in place as people wait to see if he shows up in the “returning planeswalker that isn’t the one people are getting excited about” slot. Still, he’s seeing more play today than he was a few months ago, and with Nahiri, the Harbiner pulling hard for RW to appear as a color combo in the format in a way it didn’t before, Ajani may be poised to start sneaking north to $20. Keep an eye on the best planeswalker people forgot about.


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UNLOCKED: The Watchtower, 11/8/16

By: Travis Allen

Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

I’m posting this Tuesday night, November 8th. God I hope Trump didn’t win.

Restore Balance

Price Last Week:$4
Price Now: $4.50
Possible Price: $20

A couple of weeks ago Ari Lax put out videos on SCG of him playing this deck in a constructed league. After 5-0ing, he was impressed with how the deck performed, stating that it had pleasantly surprised him. Fast forward to a couple of days before this weekend’s Modern GP, and he sent this tweet:

Ari ended up playing the fun deck, which was Restore Balance, and went 10-5 with it. His two-sentence Twitter tournament report was “Deck is great. Like really great and only has room to improve.” No damning by faint praise here! The deck functions similarly to Living End, that is cascading into a Balance at instant speed, as early as turn two thanks to Simian Spirit Guide. (Don’t worry if SSG gets banned though; it’s rare that you actually want to Balance on turn two. More often than not, SSG is used for turn two Blood Moons.)

As a Time Spiral rare with no reprints, Restore Balance is about as good as it gets spec-wise. It’s from one of the least-opened sets in Modern, is extraordinarily powerful in terms of the raw impact on the board, and is perfectly unique: there is nothing that replicates or approximates its function in the format. The closest you can come is Living End, but that strategy plays out dramatically differently, as it depends on the graveyard, the red zone, and doesn’t pressure your opponent’s mana base and hand nearly as well.

While the right time to buy Balance was in 2013 when it was still under $2, there’s still some meat on the bone at $4 to $5. Given the supply profile, $5 isn’t an inflated price for a card that sees occasional tier three play. If the deck ever takes off — whether because it actually starts winning events or because Saffron Olive writes about it — $20 wouldn’t be an unreasonable price point. And if the deck ends up legitimate tier 1.5? What’s Ancestral Visions right now, like $40? $50? I’m staring at my pile, drooling, waiting for the day.


Snow-Covered Mountain

Price Last Week:$2
Price Now: $2
Possible Price: $5

Hands down the most thrilling (depending on your perspective) thing to come out of GP Dallas was Skred Red winning the whole thing. Skred is a one mana instant that deals damage to creatures based on the number of snow permanents you control, and can quickly find itself the hardest hitting damage spell in the format. Skred doesn’t go upstairs, but it’s unrivaled in efficiency and scaling.

Skred is a common though, and foils have been $10 for nearly a year, so there’s not much to work with there. Scrying Sheets was exciting Sunday morning, but by Sunday night it had already doubled, and given that the deck only plays two copies, it’s probably not worth getting involved with.

Koth of the Hammer is worth keeping your eyes on. He’s been above $7 since Dragons of Tarkir, but supply is low and excitement is high. If Skred ends up as something more than a flash in the pan, we could see him climb as high as $15, which makes him a tantalizing pickup at the trade tables.

The most interesting card out of Skred Red is probably Snow-Covered Mountain. It’s been printed twice, once in Ice Age and once in Coldsnap. As a common land in two sets supply is definitely on the higher side, but keep in mind that lists run in the neighborhood of 20 copies. 20! On most specs it doesn’t matter how powerful the card is, you’re only ever playing four copies in a deck. But since Snow-Covered Mountain is a basic land, it shows up at five times the frequency of any card in the deck. That changes the equation considerably.

Copies are floating in the $1.50 to $2 range right now, and have been drying up rapidly since Sunday evening. Coldsnap copies will be preferred, since they’re cleaner looking than the Ice Age copies, but either will suffice for players looking to build Skred Red. (Why is this deck not called SkRed?) Once the dust settles these could land in the $4 to $5 range if the deck is playable, and possibly north of that if it’s a true contender. The fact that they’re a nightmare to reprint (where is WotC going to put them?) only makes them that more desirable.

Ancestral Vision

Price Last Week: $45
Price Now: $45
Possible Price: $70

Skred Red may have taken it all down, but Grixis Control was in second place, packing a full set of Ancestral Vision. Vision is the least understood and least familiar card in the list, and has since its banning done less than was initially expected. Of course it hasn’t been completely absent from the metagame, with token appearances in occasional in leagues or T64 lists.

A high-profile finish such as this will remind players that yes, it is legal, and also shore up the price. Of course, it doesn’t need much shoring up. This has been in the $40 to $45 region for months; basically since it was unbanned in April of this year. This brings up an interesting question though. If the card has seen only marginal play at the absolute best, but its price hasn’t flinched, what’s going on?

I suspect this is predicated on the idea that the card is in fact busted, and just because it isn’t dominating Modern today, it doesn’t mean it won’t be tomorrow. Essentially, people that own copies are fine not selling for less than $40 because they think they’ll be able to get at least that much down the line.

This makes it tougher to work with for us, since we’re not seeing the price relax enough to start picking up copies. Still, we can tell there’s something of an expectation and desire for this card to be a pillar of Modern. I sold all my copies when it was unbanned, but if I had any left, I’d be hanging onto them here.


Golgari Grave-Troll

Price Last Week: $13
Price Now: $13
Possible Price: $25

While Skred Red may have been the from-out-of-left-field deck, Dredge is still a newer archetype in Modern. It’s been on the fringes since the format’s inception. Golgari Grave-Troll’s unbanning stoked the flames a bit, but it was the printing of Cathartic Reunion that poured on the gasoline. Dredge has been a tier one contender since.

Throughout all of this, GGT’s price has been surprisingly stubborn. His lowest point was early this year during Eldrazi Winter. There was some action leading into the Eternal Masters release, and then again some time after Eldritch moon, but perhaps most surprising of all, he’s been on a decline since the Kaladesh release. You would think that the arrival of the best dredge enabler in Modern would put upwards pressure on the best dredger in Modern, right? Magic finance is weird some days.

With Modern Masters 2017 approaching next summer, a lot of cards are going to be reprinted. Cards like Bloodghast may make their first Modern Masters appearance, and the reprinting of other accessory cards would add to the appeal of dredge as a deck. So long as the mechanic stays out of MM3 — which I expect it will — we can fairly safely assume GGT isn’t in line for a reprint at any point. If Dredge as a deck continues its strong performances, perhaps with a big W once or twice, we could see GGT double or even triple in price as other parts of the deck become more accessible.

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PROTRADER: Pulling the Plug

By: Travis Allen

Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

Wizards finished upending the Commander 2016 spoiler cup into our lap on Friday, and subsequently the full set list has been available for several days now. Even if you aren’t a fan of the format, there’s something here for anyone that ever casts a Magic card. Following in the footsteps of Conspiracy: Take the Crown earlier this year, C16 is packed with mid-value reprints that land all over the place in terms of demand profiles. We’ve got casual all-stars like Sol Ring and Solemn Simulacrum, out-of-left-field cards like Iroas, God of Victory and Wheel of Fate, and even some Legacy action with (not-a-reprint) Magus of the Will. Regardless of how you like to play the game, there are reprints or new cards in here that you’ll be glad to take advantage of.

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expensive cards

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PROTRADER: Rotation Dead Redemption Two GPs

By: Travis Allen

Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And watch this YouTube channel to keep up to date with Cartel Aristocrats, a fun and informative webcast with several other finance personalities!

Did you catch the results of GP Kuala Lumpur? Here, let me show you what happened.


That’s it. That’s what happened. That’s all of it.

Six of the eight decks were UW Midrange or UW Flash, a blurry distinction at best. That’s six decks that are nearly identical; Spell Queller, Reflector Mage, Smuggler’s Copter, and Gideon.

Oh my, the Copters and Gideons. 32 Smuggler’s copter — that’s 100% saturation — and 31 Gideons, which is 97%.

GP Providence was better, but probably not by enough. 16 Copters and 10 Gideons. 10 Gideons isn’t an alarm-worthy number at all. 16 Copters is, maybe. 16 certainly wouldn’t warrant a second glance most of the time — there were 16 Grim Flayers, for instance — but given that there were also 32 copies at Kuala Lumpur, it looks bad. This reminds me a lot of the Eldrazi weekend from earlier this year. It was that big Modern GP weekend in March, with three concurrent Modern GPs. It was something like 7/8 Eldrazi, 5/8, and 3/8. Or something like that. It was rough.

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expensive cards

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