Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Commanding Value

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Readers,

You know what I don’t talk much about? The prices of commanders themselves. If you go back through all 3 or 4 years I’ve been doing this column, one thing that sticks out right away is that I duck that issue a lot. On one hand, I think the price of the commander is a little tougher to figure out and I like to do easy things. Am I doing a disservice to people by pointing out easier and more likely specs? From the standpoint of you wanting to hear about specs, I am not. If that’s what you’re after, a spec is a spec regardless of the type of cards it’s on. However, I’m sure a non-zero number of my readers (and most of my podcast listeners) are also looking for advice about how to play the game cheaper, and knowing if and when to buy commanders is a useful part of that, so I’m going to crunch some numbers today.

The precipitation of this topic was a well-known member of the community messaging me privately to ask about Morophon as a spec. This is the type of question I typically try and duck but I’ve been writing about EDH finance for quite a long time and it’s probably a question I should be able to answer. Some commanders are worth a lot of money. Some are not. They are printed in Commander sets, supplemental sets, as foils only, as box-topper promos only, reprinted in Commander anthologies or regular sets or as judge promos. There are a lot of variables, but isn’t that true of anything? Don’t we know which cards (like Eternal Witness) will shrug off a reprint and which cards (like Gilded Lotus) won’t? We should be able to figure out whether Morophon is a good spec at its current price, even if it means talking about a LOT of variables.

The Card Itself

The number of total eligible commanders keeps changing so I will just say that at the time I wrote this, there were about 1,000 commanders on EDHREC and that puts this just outside the top 10%. It’s early – Morophon has only been legal for about 3 months, so climbing to the 90th percentile for commanders in that period of time is pretty impressive. It’s around $5 as a mythic, which means it has a higher upside than some other commanders which are non-mythic rare. $5 is a fairly reasonable buy-in.

This is a catch-all commander for tribes without a tribe, which helps it considerably. As new tribes get added without commanders, a certain number of new players will pick up Morophon to helm those decks. Morophon is also more reprintable than some set-specific commanders, and that’s a factor as well. Finally, Morophon has foils and non-foils, which isn’t always the case for commanders. There’s a reason for this.

Stats

How many of the top commanders have both a foil and non-foil option? It’s fewer than you think because a lot of the top commanders of all time per EDHREC are from the commander precons and only have a foil copy.

This is a little hard to see, but it’s a snapshot of the top commanders over the last 2 years. Of these 21, 13 are from a commander precon and of those 13, only 2 (Animar and Kess) have a non-foil option. So far, the commander in 21st has 3 times as many decks as Morophon.

Is $5 too cheap for Morophon? Of these 21 top all-time commanders, 9 are worth $5 or less. Of those 9, 6 have been reprinted outside of a Commander Anthology (I’m not convinced Commander Anthology affects prices a ton). The remaining 3 at $5 and under with no reprints are Nekusar, Lord Windgrace and Gishath. Nekusar has a judge promo, Lord Windgrace is a year old in the least valuable Commander 2018 deck and Gishath is basically hanging on with only EDH demand. I think Gishath is the only interesting card on that list. There aren’t too many cards like Morophon in the Top 21, which is fine.

Gishath’s Gishgraph looks like the card is going to grow a bit. It hasn’t rotated yet but it is also not really being buoyed much by Standard and looks to be picking up. Casual players love big, dumb dinosaurs and while I am really shocked to see Gishath in the Top 20, the numbers appear to be telling the truth.

With the most popular commanders not having a lot in common with Morophon, maybe we should look at commanders with about as many decks.

5 Color

Is Morophon the second coming of Sliver Overlord or is it a placeholder commander in 5 color decks? People building 5 color decks now have a lot of options for their placeholder – it’s not all Karona and Cromat. Najeela is perfect for aggressive builds and Golos has actual good abilities. Jodah can cast your spells. Morophon is incerasingly going to get sidelined by better and better 5 color commanders and every tribe that never had a commander and gets one chips away at his utility. The two cards closest to how much use Morophon sees now are Niv-Mizzet and Horde of Notions.

Kinda too soon to tell, here. People are still drafting WAR and every card in that set is $3, even the uncommons.

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Horde of Notions is from a much “better” set in terms of value since boxes of Lorwyn are a mortgage payment and it was trash before its 2015 reprinting. Pre-dating the mythic era and still being dirt tells a sad tale about Morophon if it continues to hover in the same number of decks as Horde. One thing I will say about Horde is that a lot of Horde decks were built before EDHREC can scrape them and Morophon has been built a lot more, lately. Another thing I will say is that Elementals just got a ton of sick new cards and no one is building Horde, so it means once people sort of forget about Morophon, he likely stays forgotten. It’s cool to be able to give your Squirrels +1/+1 and make them G cheaper, but I think once you compare Morophon to cards with similar demand, the picture is pretty bleak.

More Generally

So how do we evaluate new commanders? I think we should run down a list of questions to find the cards to compare the new commander to and test it out.

  • Are there both foils and non-foils?
  • How many decks is it in? (Better for older cards)
  • Is it rare, mythic or uncommon?
  • Is it only in a precon?
  • Is it reprintable?
  • Is it likely to become obsolete?

Once you find the right card to look at, just check price trajectory and you should get a sense for what’s up. Let’s look at an old commander and a new one.

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  • Are there both foils and non-foils?

Just non-foils – only the face card got a foil that year.

  • How many decks is it in? (Better for older cards)

414, but the raw number matters less than its rank – 201 out of 1,000, so 80th percentile.

  • Is it rare, mythic or uncommon?

Mythic, but that matters less for precon cards

  • Is it only in a precon?

Yes, but there was a commander anthology (didn’t do much to Meren’s price so probably didn’t here, either).

  • Is it reprintable?

Not especially

  • Is it likely to become obsolete?

Not especially.

We have a lot of graphical data for Mazirek and while there was some interest around the time they printed a bunch of new Golgari cards in the new Ravnica sets, ultimately interest has tapered back down. This is likely $5ish forever while its deckmate, Meren, flirted with $20. If I didn’t have the graph to look at, I’d likely conclude that $5 was appropriate for this card. If I had to pick a card to compare Mazirek to, I’d go with Taigam.

Taigam is in about as many decks, is overshadowed by better commanders in its precon and is the same price now. Could we predict Taigam’s price trajectory based on Mazirek?

It’s damn close.

Would this seeming to work out on a card I selected fairly randomly work on a newer card whose graph won’t help us out much, which is our situation with Morophon? What about a card that’s new enough to be standard legal?

  • Are there both foils and non-foils?

Yep

  • How many decks is it in? (Better for older cards)

1143 so far, 90th percentile

  • Is it rare, mythic or uncommon?

Mythic

  • Is it only in a precon?

No

  • Is it reprintable?

Eh, it has a set-specific mechanic and isn’t used enough to be a judge promo. This would be tough.

  • Is it likely to become obsolete?

Not to people who like her for flavor reasons and anything that draws this many cards in the colors artifact players want would likely be a mistake to print (not that they won’t – look at Chulane).

Before I cheat and peak at her graph, I imagine her price was around $3-$5 then dipped and is pretty flat right now. I also think the foils are roughly the same graph shape.

Except for the part about the price being flat now, I was pretty close. The price is in flux but it’s all within a buck so who knows? The foils are a different story.

I would not have guessed $8-$10 on the 55th-most-built commander on the site. I personally think EDH foil demand is overstated and that large volumes are tough to move (which is why I think they’re fine for one person but not an entire readership so I don’t recommend them) but I am also a little surprised. I think it goes up from $10 over the next year or two but I also don’t want to run out and snipe all of the $8 copies on TCG Player. This is sort of confounding, which is why I stick to cards that Jhoira decks made go up in price and ignored Jhoira herself.

If we want to pick out a historical card to compare Jhoira to, we can try to estimate what the price trajectory will look like over a longer timeframe. I have a good pick for this.

That’s a hot price-tag for a card a few years older. What were the past few years like?

Could we expect Jhoira to shoot up in a year or two like Xenagos? Let’s check one more thing, first.

Xenagod isn’t the perfect comparison for Jhoira because it’s in 3 times as many decks (for now) as an inclusion. If you’re dealing with a commander, don’t just check the number of decks it’s helming, you have to check how many copies are in use.

That’s better. What does the future potentially have in store for Jhoira?

Are we right, here? We might be, we might not be. But we at least have some criteria to narrow our search to cards that are good corollaries and checking their price trajectory.

I likely continue to ignore commanders in favor of the cards they make go up, but now if someone asks me the question, I have a method for trying to answer them, and now you do, too. That does it for me this week, tune in next week where I’ll have actual specs. Until next time!

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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Unlocked PRO tRADER: Winners And Losers

You know that article I write every week? Well I’m back with it, and this week I’m doing the this week version of it because, and I promise this is true, THINGS ARE DIFFERENT. Specifically, people are moving on to different top decks on EDHREC. 

Over the past week, these decks have emerged. If you don’t remember what it looked like last week, maybe the monthly trends will be instructive. 

Elshe is getting more popular, as is Kadena. Ghired got very popular, too, and it stands to reason that the kind of try-hards who would make a K’rrik deck will add their list to EDHREC immediately for theorycrafting purposes and the kinds of players who make durdle decks like Ghired wait until they physically have cards. Laugh all you want, Godsire is $30 and nothing from K’rrik has even moved. Well, nothing much, anyway.

This has likely hit its immediate ceiling, but it’s not $5 everywhere, so snap those cheap copies while you can, amigos and amigas (a kind of computer, I think). I think the fact that this is a non-mythic from a recent core set and hasn’t impacted Standard yet may put its ceiling right around 6 or 7 bucks but what do I know? I also think if this drops near rotation, it might rebound a bit, but I think the days of EDH cards tanking at rotation are basically over. That’s a whole different article I’ll write someday soon. 

I think K’rrik might be responsible for some other moves, if Coolstuff Inc (a website that employs me) is to be believed (I think they are).

Gray Merchant in their Top 10 doesn’t feel like an accident. I think Both K’rrik and Chainer decks want Gary. You can loop Gary very easily in Chainer and I’d share my Chainer picks if he were making more of an impact. Read my article from Coolstuff (a website that employs me) this week and check out my list. Probably nothing financially relevant, but I use Chainer with a Goblins theme and it’s pretty strong. Chainer likely overtakes some Core 2020 decks next week so we can talk about it then. 

While we’re on the topic of K’rrik, a topic I didn’t want to get much into, there’s a $6 price gap between Card Kingdom and Strike Zone/TCG Player/Troll and Toad

This is not an $11 card, so act accordingly. 

I wanted to talk about Elsha this week, but it’s probably fine that we spent some ink on K’rrik because what it was moving wasn’t as clear before. Elsha seems… solved. 

The high synergy cards from the deck show it’s a pretty basic spellcaster deck, but I think there are undervalued cards. 

I mention these and cards like them quite a bit but I think there’s something to be said about all of them. I like Helm of Awakening a lot more than most people both as a spec and as a card. I really don’t care if they get a spell reduction in a deck not built to take advantage of it if it means I go off with my deck. My spells costing 1 or 0 is all that matters, I don’t care if they cast a big, dumb blocker a turn earlier. Cloud Key is getting into that “ripe for a reprint” range, but since they don’t seem inclined to print anything that costs more than $7, I am thinking it could just never get touched. Future Sight is a weird set and it has expensive cards in it because of course it does. 

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People are all done opening these packs, it’s time to buy a card that’s $2.25 on a buylist and on sale on Coolstuff and Miniature Market for $3. I don’t have much else to say about this card other than that I love it and it rules and it’s the kind of thing I want to be doing in Magic and if I could justify this and Swarm Intelligence and Sunbirds’ Invocation in a deck, I’d play them all. Maybe I can if I play junk like Seething Song… I digress. 

This is legitimately $37 on ABU Games. I don’t think it will stay in the “half of that price” range for long. Usually it’s Card Kingdom who charges the most (they can, it’s fine) but ABU sending a strong signal. In general, stores with very generous buylists will charge more than other sites that pay peanuts and a trade-in bonus can make your hotlist cards essentially the same as cash even with a markup, so watch for deals. $37 isn’t a deal, but you may find yourself in a year wishing you’d paid $22. 

That’s all the news that’s fit to print. We’re in Throne of Eldraine spoiler season already, so check this space for info about that. Until next time! 

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Finally, Some Usable Data

I got the data like Arby’s got the meats. If I were to continue rhyming, there are a lot of different directions I could go in like “beats” or “treats” but I’m bored with this already. Everyone knows Battle Rap is the purest form of rhyming and I’m not going to dredge up painful memories of the summer when the other battle rappers found out I played Magic. What I will dredge up is pleasant money-making opportunities, which is why you clicked on this article. Let’s do the thing, shall we?

This isn’t quite what I expected because Ghired is, well, terrible. However, we need to think less like a spike and more like a casual if we’re going to truly grasp what EDH trends are driven by. We can wait for data, but when competitive players turned speculators try to guess what’s going to happen, you get Vannifar specs in a world full of Teysa decks. That rhyme was uninentional. You want to know what was intentional? Look at the first letter of every sentence in this paragraph.

People are building Commander 2019 decks, and not the ones we expected, either. But let’s take a look at some data real fast, shall we?

Probably not what we would have predicted 2 years ago. The spikes were all over the Wizards deck and cards like Wanderwine Prophets and Anthroplasm and all sorts of other Wizards spiked but never really did anything. Kess was better in Legacy. The Mairsil deck was solved day 1 and it was boring and slow and scooped to graveyard hate. I don’t even remember what the other one was because no one ever built it and that I can’t remember it actually strengthens my point. My point is, Ghired and Atla Palani may end up winning out in the end but I guess the end is starting way sooner. Kadena seems to be the spikey choice but there are way more people that want to do Rakdos things, it seems. With that in mind, let’s see if Anje has anything for us because I’d hate to have to delve into Ghired this early in the cycle.

It’s a trash deck full of trash cards. I can’t think of a constructive way to say that it’s a hash of every cheap spell with madness, including stuff that should never see play in EDH like Gorgon Recluse and Strength of Lunacy, two cards you have to look up. If this continues to be a top deck next week, I’ll re-evaluate but from where I am standing, no one is doing anything interesting with Anje despite it being the top deck of the week. If there were money to be made, I’d tell you about it. I’m sure I missed something and, if so, drop it in the comments section. The link to the page is here but I imagine you can find it on your own. Here is the average deck. It’s super boring.

I’m not harping on casuals in any way. Casual cards for casual players are my bread and butter. I literally quit going to SCG Opens when Dark Ascension came out because trading with spikes was so miserable and I started mainly focusing on GPs. The fact is that building around mechanics is a pretty lame idea because it limits your options a whole lot and they didn’t even pick good mechanics. You’re going to maybe make short-term money on Ixidor but you basically would have had to have already had them. I don’t know what goes up from this besides some commons going from bulk to picks and I’m not going to waste your time with a whole article on what is a 5 minute segment on my podcast. I will say peruse the whole list but I looked into this a lot and didn’t find anything.

These are basically gone under $4 right now. I don’t like the new price as a buy-in, but if you find these in bulk boxes like you’re liable to, yank them and try to flip them for around $4-$5 if you can.

I think I want to look at Ghired next. It’s just as obvious and most of the decks on EDHREC have a high volume of cards from the precon right now, but there could be some gems.

Shooty boi goes in enough decks that I’m pretty sure it will break out in one of them. Hard to reprint, very strong, very casual, very Jamie Wakefield, this card is something that you could play in Grismold decks as well so that’s two precons that potentially give us commanders that want this. Each upkeep, not each of your upkeeps. It’s on a down-swing which means I don’t love the graph shape so maybe you wait for these to begin to rebound or, go full Wall Street and buy a bunch and if the price lowers, buy twice as much so your average unit cost is lower and you feel better about throwing good money after bad. I don’t know, this is a good card, whatever.

Poor Man’s Earthcraft, as it likes to be called, is also downish but we saw a pretty recent period where buy price went way up. Its current retail is what buylist used to be and with this card being tough to reprint and powerful in token decks, decks which are always getting made since they’re easy and casuals like them, I think this has long-term potential. I can’t see being sorry I bought in at $4.

Growing Rites is a card that’s also really hard to reprint. I can’t see a flip card in a precon and I can’t see this becoming obsolete because they decided to go a little closer to Gaea’s Cradle in a new card, Lotus Field notwithstanding. I think this is just a card that goes up in price, and with Card Kingdom getting $12 out of this, I think paying half that on TCG Player is doable, especially since that puts the spread near 0.

Card Kingdom sold out at $17. I think this is due to jump and it’s not like Battlebond boxes are getting busted anymore. Not much to say here, this is good in more decks than just Ghired and the store where casual players overpay for cards sold out of this at a high price. Seems fairly obvious.

That does it for me this week. I am really frustrated with Commander 2019 and that may be another article or future podcast rant. There isn’t much room to improve these decks because of the mechanic theme so expect the next set to impact Commander with people hungry to actually build a deck. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: My Article, But Kadena This Time

Hey, you know that article I write every week? I’m doing it about Kadena this week.

Why Kadena?

Because I think Kadena is good and the data almost bears out that it’s going to be an important deck.

I expect Kadena to overtake Kykar once the cards are out but I actually don’t know. I think my instincts are pretty good – I say K’rrik was way too far down on the list last week and look what happened. Kadena is more than just a bad Animar and I think people are going to want to build with it. Here are cards that matter.

Probably a little late to maximize our profit on this one (I didn’t see it going up quite yet) but this card is basically good in every format and it’s especially good in Kadena. You can play the top card of your deck as a Morph with Forge in play and you can do it for free once a turn. If you hit a whammy like a land, Forge can re-roll for you. This card is meant to go hand-in-hand with Kadena and with it unlikely to ever get cheaper, I think you snag these under $5. There is precedent for EDH staples with cross-format applicability hitting $10 while still in Standard and I think Forge is a strong candidate for joining that club. Don’t sleep on these.

As long as we’re talking about Forge, here’s another card equally good in Kadena.

Vizier is on its way up and Kadena decks peeling a Morph creature off of the top of the deck and being able to fix the rest of their mana to boot is upside. Kadena lets you Morph one creature a turn for free and this lets you bypass your hand for that sweet value. They get information, but so what? Let them know what’s coming. Vizier is the 10th-most-played card in Amonkhet after Anointed Procession and the bicycling lands and a few others and it’s demonstrating the price can go up. This isn’t quite its floor of $2.50 but with it being somewhat tricky to reprint, I think we have some climbing to do.

This is a card that is similar to Ugin, The Ineffable in that it’s being used to churn out Morph creatures. I think this has more upside than Ugin and it’s a card that flirts with high prices every few years. It’s only going to take one card that breaks this for this to be $15 dollars or something absurd and I get these as bulk rares sometimes. This has been above $5 twice and that means they’re getting more and more scarce in binders. I think this could pop at any moment and a Kadena deck on Game Knights or something like that could be all it takes. I am suspicious of cards with explosive combo potential and this has it.

Similarly, Anvil is a card that already demonstrated that a feeding frenzy based on new tech could spike it out of control. I think you HODL these on that basis and just know that a second spike basically makes these $8 forever because no one is going to find the copies in bulk rare boxes. People are racing to the bottom but this card is very good in Kadena decks because it makes your morph creatures a mere mana and that’s pretty useful. I think everything I said about Heartless Summoning applies here. With these around $2, you could treat these like lotto tickets and squirrel away $50 worth for the next time it hits $10.

This doesn’t have to hit $27 again for it to be a good idea to buy this at $4.50 on TCG Player. This has good underlying metrics, Core Set won’t be opened any longer than people have to open it and it’s good in Kadena among other decks. You get to play a free Morph with Kadena every turn, so if you can do it on their turns, you can get x free creatures a turn cycle. That’s pretty useful. Vedalken Orrery is expensive and this is not so seriously just buy a ton of these. Could they put it in a future core set? Possibly, but it won’t be Core 2021, that’s for sure.

That does it for me. I think Kadena is a bad Animar, personally, and there are more exciting decks to build but I don’t go by what I like, I go by what the EDHREC data tells me people are building. Also, I brewed a Kadena deck this week on Coolstuff and I don’t even hate it. Anyway, that does it for me. Until next time!

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