Category Archives: City of Traders

What to Wear at Grand Prix: Las Vegas

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 if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.

We’re less than a month away from Grand Prix Las Vegas, and if they aren’t already, soon articles will be abound covering gambling, restaurants, sights to see, pitfalls to avoid, and maybe even what Magic cards to cast.

There remains a hole in our collective coverage though. In the grand tradition of the republican party, we are failing to serve those who need us most. Yes, I’m talking about what to wear to Grand Prix Las Vegas.

Chances are, if you’re a common Magic player, you’ve never given this much thought. After all, the purpose of clothing is strictly to cover your fleshy mass in deference of the antiquated and puritanical social mores that govern our sheeple society. What does it matter how you appear? Function reigns supreme, and the only additional effort ever made is to emblazon your torso with an intellectual property from which you derive your entire personality, whether it be video game iconography, pop nerd references e.g. a tardis, or some otherwise esoteric and creepy imagery, like Morty sensually caressing Twinklestar. Is that a pony? There’s no goddamn way I’m Googling it.

I’m here to disrupt the Magic wardrobe industry. With the forthcoming knowledge, you’ll be lifehacking your way to a more comfortable, productive, and efficient Grand Prix.


Grand Prix: Las Vegas takes place in the middle of June in, obviously, Las Vegas. What’s June in Las Vegas like?

We’re looking at 100 degrees in the shade. The city has done a reasonable job of allowing you to opt out of ever actually standing outside, which is obviously the best way to experience life, but even still, you may occasionally be forced to leave the air-conditioned, serene atmosphere of the many utopic casinos. When the unthinkable occurs, you’re going to find yourself sandwiched between the unflinching furnace above and the unforgiving prison below, an endless abyss of pavement and concrete. The sidewalk will both scrape your knee and cauterize it simultaneously. You will wonder at what temperature flesh melts.

As such, only those whose hematological character closely resembles reptiles will be capable of wearing anything even close to full length pants. But have no fear! We intrepid gamers can bust out the most efficient piece of clothing in our wardrobe. That’s right baby. The cargo short.

You couldn’t build a pair of shorts better engineered for GP Las Vegas. The several inch gap between the top of your Hanes socks and the lower frayed hem of your shorts provides remarkable airflow underneath the cavernous cloth. It’s going to be hot in Vegas, and little else does as much as a pleasant breeze to mitigate that heat. Where pants would trap all of that sweltering desert air against your body, cargos will provide ample room for the breeze generated by passing cars to cycle air around your stuffy nethers.

Of course, we shouldn’t overlook the entire reason we own these bad boys: the pockets themselves. As a Magic player, your life in a convention hall is one of constant inventory management. Whether it’s your Fate Reforged Game Day Champio playmat with fifteen SCG IQ top 8 pins, your Crown Royal bag of dice, or spare sleeves adorned with naked anime dragons, you’ve always got something that needs stashing, freeing your hands for more important tasks, such as unapologetically groping yourself in plain view of all.

Yes, the cargo pockets are a remarkable invention that has improved the quality of life for Magic players worldwide. They are the pinnacle of utility, and only Chads and their ilk could be dumb enough to reject such a functional garment.

Cargos are at once an item of maximum comfort and of perfect efficiency. You’ll feel great wearing them, and you’ll look wicked awesome at the same time, all while easily and conveniently transporting any Magic-related paraphernalia. Functional and fashionable, flexible and infalliable, our cargos are our favorite item in our closet (i.e. crumpled up on the floor) for a reason.

But what if I told you that there’s an even more ideal garment? Gentlemen, m’ladys, I present to you the pinnacle of Magic: the Gathering Convention attire:

Yes, the awe-inspiring utilikilt. Even our battle-tested cargo short seems a shameful display of inefficiency in the face of such practicality that could only have been bequeathed by the great flying spaghetti monster. First and foremost, the kilt construction provides unparalleled freedom of your legs, useful in many situations, such as separating your knees as far as physically possible when sitting on a crowded train. Open construction also facilitates maximum ventilation, making for the most pleasant experience possible in the face of such oppressive heat.

Beyond the superior freedom of movement, wearers of the utilikilt are equipped with the most modern and expansive pocketing system currently available in civilian legwear. Cargo pockets on shorts have always been constrained by the size of your leg. Sure we can opt to size up when picking up cargos in order to expand pocket volumes, but we’re talking a few percentage points here. No longer are we so shackled. Now, wide-reaching and deep pockets can comfortably wrap 270 degrees around your front section. A playmat? A deck box? No problem! You could shove an entire pauper cube in a utilikilt pocket!

Perhaps the true icing on the utilikilt cake is that these garments have never been subjected to the lamestream ridicule that has been unfairly heaped upon cargo shorts. With bold khakis, blacks, and plaids, you can stroll into one of the many upscale casinos or restaurants with confidence that you’re making a true fashion statement: I’m here, I’m a #gamergater, get used to it.


Once you’ve got a few pairs of cargoes or utilikilts in the luggage, your next step will be shirts.

First things first: absolutely no collars or buttons. I can’t believe I even have to say this, but I better, just in case. Collars and buttons both are holdovers from the days before synthetic fabrics and stretchable cotton. They have no place on God’s chosen garment, the t-shirt. Who are you, a stuffy salaryman?!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the only question is what shirts to pack. For a Magic Grand Prix, I’d avoid anything Magic related. It’s sort of like how you’re not supposed to wear anything with a band’s name on it to that band’s show. (So I hear.) You’ll still want something that proudly displays one of your interests though. You know what they say; a shirt unadorned is a life unlived. Don’t miss this opportunity to broadcast to all your niche hobbies and passions! Loving Adventure Time is unique and distinct; broadcast that thing which so pointedly makes you, you!

Keep in mind that the primary task of the t-shirt is to notify everyone that spots you what media you consume. To know what video games you play and tv shows you watch is to understand you. In this your shirt serves the purpose of identifying how best to communicate with you. None of those “fashion” garments can serve such a useful role. It’s amazing that a singular piece of clothing can so facilitate social interaction, but by Thor’s hammer, they’ve managed.

Within these bounds, there’s an impressive array of choices. Perhaps you opt for video game shirts. There’s countless variations on the triforce. Promotional shirts from Gamestop are always a great choice, especially if they’re for a game that isn’t even playable on a current gen system. I’ve seen shirts that mimic the jacket and hood from Assassin’s Creed, which are great at tricking people into thinking you’re dressed much more elaborately. One can never go wrong with anything chocobo-related either.

If television shows are more your speed, you’ve got a similarly large number of choices. How about a shirt designed to look like a Star Trek uniform? Threadless has pages upon pages dedicated to various Dr. Who and Star Trek symbols. One shouldn’t miss the opportunity for a simple iron throne or Lannister crest either. And if you desire more granularity, you’ve got it. How about Frylock wielding a lightsaber? Or Calvin and Hobbes dressed up as Rick and Morty? Whoever you are, you can put the whole of your identity in an 8” by 12” image on your chest.

One needn’t stop there either. This guide won’t attempt to tackle the wide, wide range of accessories and the bigger brother of accessories, cosplay, but there’s so much you can work with. A sporty fedora won’t be unpleasantly warm, and “debonair” springs to mind in all those who lay eyes upon the gentlemen wearing one, especially when you’ve got it decked out in pins. (Bonus points if they tell us what faction and class you are in WoW.) There’s infinity scarves, PIP Boys, and pendants too. Your only limit is what’s in stock at ThinkGeek!

And of course, a decorated shirt doubles as a means of connecting with likeminded individuals when you’re outside of the GP space. It’s sort of like a visual secret handshake. Now when you’re out at Outback Steakhouse or one of Vegas’ many gentlemen’s clubs, you’ll be able to spot fellow gamers at a distance, and they you. You’ll have no problems making friends at the blackjack table when you’re a shining beacon for all the other Skyrim fans in the building. Fus Ro Dah!


You’ve got some flexibility when it comes to footwear. The default option is the sneakers you’ve been wearing for the last six years. They’ve served you well this long, no reason to stray. This doubles as a hip fashion statement, as that “lived in, worn, likely to leave a stain on your carpet” style is all the rage.

If you don’t have a handy and familiar pair of Nikes, your default work shoes will more than suffice. That’s the beauty of the Sketchers slip on, whether they are your traditional black pleather, or a more adventurous brown pleather. As an added bonus, the functional aesthetic of the slip on dress shoe will match well the same functional aesthetic found in a utilikilt. You’re also safe to wear both full length dress socks or the warm weather friendly athletic cut variants.

For the more casual traveler, the flip flop will provide maximum cooling potential in a smart package. Flip-flops have the unique quality of airing your feet out, and any associated aroma, everywhere you travel, whether it’s the Magic table, the dinner table, or the roulette table. Don’t worry about wearing them in a casino either. You’re on vacation! This isn’t the time to be putting on airs. Truly the greatest way to experience all Vegas has to offer is in oversized basketball shorts and flip flops. Boldly proclaim to all that you belong here by plopping down at the Texas Hold ‘Em table in the most comfortable clothes you own. Fish dress up, sharks dress for comfort. Don’t forget that sometimes convention halls can be chilly if they overdo it on the air conditioning though, so make sure to put a spare pair of socks in one of your many pockets in case your feet get cold. (Score one for cargos!)

Of course your best choice is the ever-popular Vibram’s. In a concrete jungle, these are the most natural footwear you have access to. With nearly as much airflow as the flip-flop, the rugged control of the hiking boot, and the comfort of the sneaker, you’d be hard pressed to find a more suitable shoe. Perhaps the only downside is the opinion of a few muggles, but you know what they say about dragging people kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Also, everything I just said goes for women too.

Seriously though folks, Vegas is going to be a blasted hellscape. When temperatures are that high, “form over function” can only hold up for so long. Here’s what you should actually do. And remember the number one rule of fashion is to wear clothes that fit, whether you’re 100 pounds soaking wet or you make the cut for top weight every FNM.

First of all, don’t wear cargo shorts.Unless you’re an Abercrombie & Fitch model in 2001, they’re going to look sloppy on you. Even David Beckham and Leonardo Dicaprio can’t save them. Sorry guys. Not only do they frequently end up far too loose and baggy, thus violating the prime directive, they’re unkempt, immature, and the reddest flag possible that no individual in your life cares enough about you to take you aside and speak to you about your life decisions.

Beyond the “no cargos” rule, there’s actually fair flexibility. While tan and light-colored shorts are a standard for a reason, there’s nothing keeping you from opting for more adventurous colors and patterns. Salmon, bright blue flowers, or green stripes can all work if you pair them with the right top. (I’d avoid plaid shorts unless you know what you’re doing, since they get dangerously close to golf wear.)

Keep them at the knee or above too. 15 year old you may laugh, but I guarantee you that no grown man has ever worn shorts that fell three inches below the knee and not looked like he had an “ass, ass, or ass, nobody rides for free” sticker on his 220,000 mile Jeep Wrangler. Keeping the hem at or above the knee won’t make you look like a dweeb or a nerd. (The Magic cards in front of you have that covered.) No, you’ll look like an adult rather than a high school student.

Shorts are passable in casinos, but the later in the day it gets, the worse a choice they are. Daytime gambling in shorts is fine, but by 10pm, you’re going to look like a total rube to everyone that’s been there before, even if you’re wearing them well.

For full length legwear, linen pants are a good place to start, and are both the most comfortable and the most casual of acceptable men’s pants. They’re better suited for tropical vacations, but if you absolutely can’t wear anything else, they’re at least better than shorts.

Your best bet is an actual pair of pants. Dark dress jeans or slacks, ala Dockers, would be completely fine. There are lighter fabrics available that will be more tolerable in the heat and also won’t be out of place at the office. Don’t feel like you need to be in these all day either. Plan on taking a trip back to your hotel room after you’re done with the convention center each day. Play Magic in shorts until whatever time, head back to the hotel, rinse off if necessary, put on an evening outfit, and then plan your route to your next stop that involves as little time outside as possible. Operate on the assumption that you’ll have two outfits a day and you will maximize your comfort while not looking like a manchild when you go out for dinner, shows, and gambling. (And don’t forget that if you’re venturing to Vegas’ more impressive restaurants, they may not even let you in the door if you aren’t dressed appropriately. Check their website for direction, and call if you aren’t sure.)

Since I’ve banned you from an excess of pocketry, you may be wondering how to deal with lugging all your crap around. There’s only one answer; bring a bag. I’m not a fan of backpacks unless you’ve really got a lot to bring, but so long as you constrain it to the convention center, you won’t look out of place. If you’re willing to travel lighter, a small satchel is easy and convenient. I’ve got a single strapped bag that’s just large enough for a deckbox, life pad, and a couple of die, and I use it at least once a week.

When it comes to tops, t-shirts are fine. But — and I can’t stress this enough — the only time you should be wearing a print tee is if it’s related to the event. What’s that mean, exactly? Shirts with your pro tour team’s name, your LGS’s logo, an organization that’s sponsoring you, or something similar are completely fine. What you shouldn’t wear are shirts with anything related to video games, any game other than Magic, video games, bands, or really any other logo/text. Sorry. I know that I’m going to get a lot of shit for this, but in general, they don’t look as cool as you think they do. There are exceptions to this — there always are — but like all rules that can be broken, if you have to ask, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Otherwise, plain tees that fit well are fine. V necks especially look good, but they’re harder to wear if you aren’t in shape. If you’re thin or a regular at the gym, uncomplicated V necks are great. If you’re a larger guy, stick with just a flat colored, clean, fresh tee.

My personal preference, however, are polos. It’s possible to overdo it on these, but in general, they’re flexible, look far better than a standard tee, and have the best ratio for comfort to appearance. I’ve liked Banana Republic polos when you can find them on deep sale, but that happens less and less these days. In general it’s hard to go wrong with a polo. Try and stay on the more subdued side, especially if you’ve got more intense shorts. You don’t want to go through all the work of getting decent shorts and shirts only to realize you’re trying to pair bright pink bottoms with a yellow plaid top.

Polos will pass in casinos too, which is great. I wouldn’t wear them to a high stakes table unless you’ve got a lot of money, but in general, I assume most people reading this aren’t playing at high enough stakes that you’re going to look out of place. They’ll work at dinner too, so long as the dress code isn’t formal. You can even pair (some) polos with a lightweight blazer, depending on the polo.

Should you bring any polos, please, please do not wear crew neck shirts under them. Nothing drags a polo down from “smartly dressed man” to “my mom bought me clothes from Macy’s” like a crew neck underneath. Either pick up some tanks, which are great for keeping the polo relatively clean for repeated wearings, or truly embrace holiday and wear nothing underneath. (Just be strict about smell testing after the first wearing.) And don’t worry if there’s chest hair showing; absolutely nobody is thinking twice about it at all. Seriously.

You can also opt for an oxford shirt. Cuff the sleeves when you’re in the hall playing Magic for a more laid back look, and then you can wear them full length if you’re trying to dress up for a dinner or a show.

Anything more formal than this is great, especially if you’re going to upscale dinners ($100+ a plate), but if you’re doing that, I’m going to hope you don’t need my assistance.

And for God’s sake, PLEASE do not wear, own, or even associate with these things:

When it comes to shoes, low cut casual sneakers are a solid choice that will work for most venues. If they’re a crisp white sneaker, even better. Solid colors without much pattern are great. The more adorned your sneakers get, the harder they are to wear out. On that note, no trainers/running sneakers outside of the convention center. Really, you shouldn’t even be wearing them there. Running sneakers are for running guys. And since we’re on the topic, those awful Vans, DC, etc. shoes that are larger than a Kleenex box are awful too. I don’t care how sk8r kid or emo or fat you are, you look like you’re 12 years old when you wear them. Yes, you do. Stop arguing.

You can get away with clean casual sneakers in casinos and at restaurants, to an extent. Moreso if they’re dark. Another choice that will fit well in Vegas nightlife are the loafer class, which includes of course loafers, driving shoes, boat shoes, and their ilk. Dark loafers will work in most nightlife situations, so long as they’re clean. Most any loafer will work with shorts too, so that makes your life easy. Sperry’s are the most basic and common boat shoe you can buy, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I’ll probably put a lot of time in my Allen Edmond’s dark navy boat shoes. A decent pair of dress shoes would of course be best for Vegas nightlife, but I don’t expect anyone that’s earnestly reading this to go through that much work.

Flip-flops are wearable, I suppose, but absolutely nowhere other than the convention hall. I don’t love it but I get it. Convention halls really do get cold though, so you may find yourself unhappy with wearing flip-flops at the GPs for eight or ten hours.

Overall, make sure your clothes fit, don’t wear anything you thought was cool when you were in 8th grade, and take it a lot easier on colors and patterns than you think you need to. (If everything in your wardrobe is bold, matching is going to be extremely difficult.) Your tees should either be plain or related to a brand you want to advertise at the GP. Polos are a great versatile option, and if you have any lightweight ones, oxford shirts are one step below a true dress shirt that can still be worn in the hall. Shorts should have exactly four pockets, two in the back and two on the sides, and not a single additional one. Keep them at or above the knee, and beyond that, there’s a lot of flexibility in the color and pattern. Low-cut, unobtrusive casual sneakers are a great choice for most locations, and boat shoes can cover a lot of ground too. True shoes are of course the most stylish choice, but those can run afoul of packing restrictions.

If you were looking for fashion advice directed at women, A. I’m sorry, I can’t help you, and B. why me? I’ve always liked sun dresses though.

If you’ve got more questions, or more likely, you want to tell me I’m full of shit, you can argue with me on Twitter at @wizardbumpin.


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.


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.

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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