Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Don’t Say 10k

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Using EDHREC or, if you want to do it the hard way, I guess, other sources, it’s easy to see which cards are getting played in Commander and which aren’t. Look at a set and see what’s getting played with. That used to be enough information for us. Barring reprints, cards were printed the same amount, roughly, foils were flat and still special and older cards went up when new cards made them matter again. The problem is, the more they wanted us to buy, the more the cards had to be good. They need to keep pushing the gas, which means more good cards per set, more sets, which means more cards you need to play. Do you build a new deck or take cards out of the 3 week old deck you’ve played twice to make room for the new cards that made your old ones obsolete? And if a card is too good to be made obsolete, do you take comfort in that and invest or do you worry about what the card that makes people stop playing Dockside Extortionist is going to look like? I personally worry about how just getting played a lot doesn’t matter, and also doesn’t seem to be useful for figuring out where prices will go. Let’s look at a few cards, shall we?

Forgive my hasty alignment using paint of all programs, I don’t want to take the time to fix it because I wanted to make a point. Both of these cards are played a lot in new Elesh Norn decks, and in the format in general. One costs more than the other despite being newer. Does that mean Terramancer is played more across the format?




No, in fact. There are lots of versions of Welcoming Vampire, and Deep Gnome Terramancer was in a set that has a lot of really good cards. Do I expect Terramancer to hit $10 when Welcoming Vampire is played more and hasn’t come close? How many reprints and variants and promos does it take to drag a card down to being a buck less than a card played half as much? As there other factors at play here?


The real question here is that whether Deep Gnome Terramancer is a good pickup at under $5. We’d love for it to hit at least $10 if we’re outing at retail prices, much more if we want to clear our shipping costs buylisting them. Is this sort of spec dead? Moreover, is being a format staple even good enough anymore?


We used to be impressed by a card being in 10,000 decks as far back as EDHREC measured, and one of the reasons I cautioned against arbitrary levels like that was that the number would have to constantly change and no one would know where it should be. At this point, is 22k enough? Why can’t 41k and a year of time offset multiple promo versions? What trajectory is Terramancer even on?



If 4 is the floor on this card and it’s already rebounding, will it pull farther away from Vampire despite being played less? What are we to make of these contradictions? Worse, is being in 40 or even 50k decks enough anymore? With all of the new keywords comes enablers and that means cards get more and more specialized until the decks build themselves. We used to be at a sweet spot where staples were an index and individual cards being buoyed by new releases meant some narrow cards would get a new look and that scrutiny would lead to buying and price increases. Now, the cards are so specialized that people are basically leaving the precons as-is a card being in a 40K deck matters more than being in 40k decks, you know?



The neon Hidetsugu and the promise of extended art foil Boseiju and foils of the EDH precon cards continued the unsustainable trend of collector boosters being opened until the prices were all meaningless. Is The Reality Chip a buy at $3? More than that, are we OK with a game where the 9th most played card in the most popular format is $2.50? Let me rephrase that, of course I want a game like that, but is it worth doing Mtg Finance the way I have done Mtg Finance the last decade if the demand can’t ever catch supply?


The days of snagging like 100 cheap copies of something you think is going up on TCG Player seem over. Mtg Finance has always been “adapt or die” and after taking a month off to grapple with how I felt about my current approach to Mtg Finance, I think I am ready to adapt. To that end, I’ll be spending the next few months developing and reporting on new techniques and pointing out times where my old approach pays off.


It wasn’t that Kibo, Uktabi Prince couldn’t move prices, it’s that Ravenous Baboons were the only card the really went anywhere. The price immediately went back down as there wasn’t much real demand since the card doesn’t especially synergize with Kibo and it was more likely just an old Monkey people remembered because they’ve been playing as long as me.


My current method, which we’re updating, is still useful for paying attention to movement, usage, relative ubiquity. Staring at the Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines page on EDHREC doesn’t feel like it used to where specs would leap off of the page at me. I just see the same mono-White Blink deck stuff that I said would go up based on another White Blink commander but didn’t. Cards used to be cards, but now the product matters a lot. Limited releases like Baldur’s Gate give us stronger signals, faster. Look what is in 40k decks and has been out exactly as long as Deep Gnome.



Moving forward, I’ll be targeting older cards for specs and only straying into newer card territory when it makes sense to do so, or if it’s in a dynamite set like Baldur’s Gate. I think Baldur’s Gate has more to give us, so I’ll be diving directly into that set next week. Until then, I usually include specs and this week I mostly told you what not to buy, so here are some presented without explanation.


Foil


Non-foil




Until next time!

Pro Trader: Easing into 2023

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It’s a new year! New year, new me! Ish! Probably not that different! I don’t feel that different! And I took a few weeks off and got my head straight and finally offloaded some of my stress and now it’s back because we have Phyrexia: All Will Be One spoilers! It’s not a hard job but some days I feel like Lucille Ball watching those chocolates come down that conveyer belt and other days I feel like Lucille Ball watching those chocolates come down that conveyer belt but one of those chocolates is a card I want for a deck and I’m like “Oooo, a piece of candy” and that makes it all worth it! Let’s get up to some old tricks for a new year and look at the non-zero number of new decks we have to poke around at.

There isn’t a ton here, but these are all fairly interesting commanders. I don’t expect to see Elesh Norn remain the top commander in the set for lots and lots of reasons that you can skip reading if you know about but in case you’re not super familiar with EDH, Elesh Norn is White and that’s a bad choice. That said, I’m absolutely building a Seance deck with Elesh Norn and this sentence inspired this tweet.

Needless to say, I’m in a fantastic mood right now.

I’m building Norn as a Seance deck because I’m a nut, but how are other people building the deck? What cards should you buy? (The answer is Seance). I’m going to tell you because that’s sort of this column’s entire deal.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Things We Learned in 2022

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2022 was a big year for me, both professionally and personally and looking back over everything that happened and that we put up with, it’s amazing we survived this year intact. It was full sensory overload for us 24/7 and it feels like everything I used to like is coming at me too fast, from superhero movies to Magic releases to family and personal milestones. We’re going to wrap up the year by reflecting on how we got better at picking out cards that were going to pop based on clues from EDHREC.

The first thing I acknowledged was something that I had hinted at privately but felt like I didn’t want to exacerbate by drawing too much attention to it was what is dubbed the “Command Zone Effect.” I wrote about the impact of that show on the price of a card like Fervent Charge and how it’s worth subscribing to their Patreon to see the episodes early. Cards that do something crazy, even in a contrived scenario, are bound to pop in the short term and being ahead of the curve.

It is always noteworthy whenever I show tips or tricks about using EDHREC, it might be worth refreshing your memory about it from time to time. I sometimes forget things I’ve learned about the site, and I am looking at ways to make more of our data presentable. 2023 will be a great year for analytics, even the ad hoc, self-taught analytics that you could do yourselves.

This is the first time this year I mentioned Setessan Champion, but I mentioned it a lot after. That card is still way too cheap and if you take nothing else away from this year, get that card. Sell it whenever. If it gets reprinted, buy a bunch of copies. It’s very, very good and it has a extended-art version that is less impacted by a reprint. It’s crazy good, even now.

Baldur’s Gate was one of the biggest sets for EDH of the year and it’s going to be the gift that keeps on giving for a while. I highlighted the cards that mattered then in this article, but I really think it would behoove you to take a look at the set’s page yourself. We got a TON of cards, a TON of cycles, a new kind of companion, Gates support and a ton of Legendary creatures. The set is so dense and we’ve only scratched the surface.

I am not sure how to categorize “Buy The Bottom” but I think it’s the best thing I wrote this year, or at least the article I’m proudest of. Give it a read if it’s been awhile.

With Wizards inundating us with new Legendary creatures all the time, Legendary-only decks seem more and more possible. I wrote about the cards that will get played no matter what the rest of that deck looks like.

This was the first year I really made a habit of going back and checking high-impact sets a few months later to se where the prices ended up when the dust settled, and doing the same for decks was a revelation. This was the first but not last time I made a point to write about my process.

Sometimes I think a card is underplayed and that’s all I have to say about it.

It pays to go back through the EDHREC Top 100 cards, because any cards that got added to that list in the last year are very pertinent. Some of them haven’t quite moved in price despite being very high on the list, so if you want 5 examples of cards to watch, here you go.

In this 2-part miniseries dubbed Brother Vs Brother and Brother Vs Brother 2: the ReBrothering we widened our scope a bit to look at the cards that in general will go up as a result of lots of new artifact decks being built. It doesn’t matter what the individual decks do if you know what the next 6 months of releases will do, so stock up now.

2022 was a year full of slight improvements to my methods and I’m glad I took the time to document them. Signs of growth in my skills at picking specs are encouraging and despite doing this over a decade, I’m pot committed to this life and ready to charge into 2023 with all 3 guns blazing. Until next year!

Pro Trader: The Most Played EDH Cards of 2022

Today I am going to show you the most played EDH cards of 2022. There are some who insist on calling the format “Commander” and I get basically nothing out of being a curmudgeon and insisting on continuing to call it “EDH” except not having to change, which at my age is all the selling point something needs. It was a bad year for people who fear change as collector boosters made foil rares feel worthless, product getting dumped on Amazon made sealed product feel worthless and having to cover 70 new Legendary creatures every 3 weeks made me feel worthless. I know it’s not your problem, but I want to be up-front about my mental health and make it clear that I am not joking that the release schedule had a deleterious effect on mine. Am I a weird outlier because I work 4 jobs in the Magic community and they all want me to write about every set (and every Discord community wants me to hang there, something I can’t physically do)? Or am I canary in a coal mine, signaling that even highly enfranchised and entrenched people like a guy with 2 kids who have Planeswalker names are feeling burnt out? 

What will 2023 bring? They’re hyping the next set as their Avengers: Endgame moment where all of the planar portals jump out and we’re supposed to believe Huatli and Lukka are going to turn the tide. If the set is good, lots of people could start playing Magic. If the set is bad, it will sell a lot, people will complain and 3 weeks later they’ll shell out for the next product. There aren’t any sideways ships in the Suez right now, so I am hoping there will be fewer shipping issues which will cause a bunch of products to stack up at the end of the year like this time. If sets are more spread out, then the format will have “time to work” on the cards that it didn’t get this year. It feels like there are so many EDH decks now that no one card goes up because not enough people build the physical decks they register online because products come out too fast. 

I want to talk about every set that came out in 2022, what the most played card was and whether EDH having so many products could even impact the price of those cards. Let’s get started.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

No surprises here – Boseiju is number 1 with a bullet but the entire cycle is in the top 20. It’s sad to see highly-played utility rares like Lion Sash and Mirror Box end up bulk rares. The Hidetsugu hunt put so many busted remnants of collector boosters that there is basically no chance. No rare played in fewer than 40k decks is worth more than $2 and that’s pretty scary, frankly. This is why I like finding Scourge Rares that are going to go up because they print a new Cephalid Commander, new sets scare me.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.