Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: The EDH Implications of the Jace and Bloodbraid Unbannings

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There aren’t any.

We good? Any more questions?

Look, if you’re going to insist I write an article this week, we’re going to have to pick a different topic. That’s handy, because I noticed another deck that isn’t new nor are most of the cards in it and I think that’s a good thing. New cards printed in Ixalan block, specifically Rivals of Ixalan have renewed interest in an older Commander because those cards are perfect for an older archetype, though not much else. What happens when cards are printed that are super narrow but seem laser-guided to one established deck? Well, those cards themselves are likely to be pretty worthless financially unless they make an impact somewhere else, but they get people interested in an older deck and that’s worth talking about.

So what’s my thesis today? I’ve been doing this long enough and tracking my older predictions long enough to know what actually happens in cases like this and what happens less often and what happens even less often so I’m going to season my predictions with my experience. I’m going to say “this could go up” less often than I used to because by now I have a little bit better of an idea of what it will take and what has the goods. 50% of the cards we’re going to talk about  are going to likely go up, maybe a little maybe a lot, based on more people building the deck based on it being popular on EDHREC and the cards coming out being so good in it. The other half are cards that were going to go up anyway but I hadn’t really thought about them until I saw people played them in this deck and that reminded me to talk about how the card is at its floor. Both of those are equally valid. You’re partly paying me to think through some stuff for you because you don’t want to understand EDH finance and you’re partly paying me to remind you of cards you might have thought were good pick-ups but forgot about because there’s a lot going on.

 

Let’s get into the money part.

So this has been a commander for a while and it’s being built an OK amount. Per EDHREC’s current sampling data, Sidisi is the 11th-most popular deck so the current number of decks in the database is a little misleading. For reference, there are currently only twice as many deck for Atraxa in our database. This isn’t a problem; remember, we have always used those numbers to establish ratios rather than look at the numbers as absolutes. The numbers help but the more you use them qualitatively and the less you use them quantitatively, the happier you will be because you will get confused by the data less. Yes, I realize I am implying I use “numbers” which have absolute values, qualitatively. Sidisi having 1,880 decks registered on the site is an exact but fairly meaningless amount without context. Quantitatively, that’s about half as many as Atraxa, which has the largest number of decks registered in the database. Qualitatively, we have enough Sidisi decks to bother looking at the cards in it. How’s that grab you? See why we’re not sweating absolute numbers a ton? It doesn’t do us any good. There are only 10 Commanders more popular on the site so let’s assume there are enough Sidisi decks for us to care about it. So what’s new?

Having lots of different data displayed can tell you a lot of information. When you list the most popular decks of all time, Sidisi is 11th. When you look at most popular this month, Sidisi jumps to 9th. When you look at this week, Sidisi jumps to 6th. That means that while Sidisi was always pretty popular, something has changed in the last few weeks. Of the 10 decks more popular than Sidisi of all time, 4 of them haven’t had a new deck registered in the last month and 7 of them were less popular than Sidisi this month or week despite being more popular all-time. Something happened. I submit that the printing of these four cards in Rivals of Ixalan gave the deck quite a boost.

Milling yourself is pretty handy in a Sidisi deck, and giving yourself a chance at a Sidisi trigger every time you attack and bringing your milled lands back from the dead is so useful it feels like World Shaper was tailor-made for this deck. Other decks could use that ability, sure (I personally can’t wait to pants people with Admonition Angel) but World Shaper has been making Sidisi players salivate since it was spoiled.

Journey to Eternity is a great way to keep an important creature alive or just use as a sort of Pattern of Rebirth that gets you a utility land to bring back important creatures over and over. Your graveyard becomes a bigger hand with cards like Journey.

Path of Discovery is another card that seemed tailor-made for Sidisi. In fact, I started tracking how many more people were registering (I don’t have a good way to differentiate between people re-registering an old list or making a brand new one but new interest is new interest) Sidisi decks based on the spoiling of this card. It’s not great elsewhere but it’s dumb here.

Nezahal I could take or leave. What, 3 ridiculous bomb inclusions isn’t enough? It’s enough. Now let’s look at what I think could go up.

Traverse the Ulvenwald

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A historical low for a powerful, 1-mana tutor played in Modern and EDH? Okey dokey. Sign me up for all of the copies. I don’t know if this can get any cheaper but I don’t think you worry. Spend what you can and if it does get cheaper, borrow money and buy even more. There are a lot of copies to soak up but this card is just too good and with it doing such a good impression of Worldly Tutor for a few bucks, I expect people will be getting up on this. It has pretty healthy EDHREC metrics, too.

Worried about the glut of copies?

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Maybe you shouldn’t be. The foils are almost gone and the price is beginning to flirt with $15. That’s going to be a 10x multiplier soon. This is as good as I can feel about a card. If you have $100 extra bucks, buy those last few foils from eBay or stock up on the non-foil copies. Either way, this card will pop and it will be really obvious in hindsight. Instead of saying “I knew this would happen” in a reddit post like an unhelpful person, I’m telling you what will happen before it does so there is still time to buy copies for yourself. You’re welcome.

Cryptbreaker

Speaking of cards about to bottom out, this is a card that deserves a look. Not as reprintable as typical Zombie staples like Undead Warchief or Cemetery Reaper, this is a shoo-in for Sidisi decks. It’s a discard outlet, Zombie-maker and card-drawing outlet all in one card that happens to be a Zombie itself, so you can tap it to itself.

Foils got a bit crazy last summer but that just means another spike will be harder because dealers are sitting on a lot of copies so there won’t be cheap ones to back-fill demand.  I think this could hit that same value again, albeit getting there slowly but more organically and maintain it. I don’t think this card is a reprint risk and the moderate-to-low risk (if we’re being very conservative) is further mitigated in the case of foils. I realize we’re going back to doing core sets. I also think this is safe even in that case.

Other Sidisi

I stopped paying attention when this hit $4ish then started to crater. I sort of got distracted a little when it hit $2 and that sucks because it has basically doubled up. this demand is organic and the blue line representing dealer buy prices is going up right along with it which means no one thinks this is done growing. No one is out buying Dragon’s Maze of Tarkir packs so what was busted was busted and copies are drying up. This is a good card in its own right both as a Commander for people who love mono-Black decks that can tutor for stuff and creatures that have good abilities and it slots into a ton of black decks. I wish I had noticed this was creeping up last summer but I’m making up for it now. It’s basically removed a lot of the speculation I would have done about whether the demand would be organic. With all doubt removed, get on board. You can’t realize a double up since it already did that, but there will be growth and in the mean time, you have great binder candy.

The foils are a little trickier, having basically grown at a rate that outpaced dealer confidence. I don’t think the price will come down a ton but dealers don’t like it at its current price, which is too bad. Still, with this being a bad set that wasn’t bought a ton, non-foils are probably pretty good given how few copies there seem to be out there. I’m a seller in foil and a buyer in not. If the foils go up some more, whoopie. You would have made more money buying Traverse.

That does it for me. As you can see, the implications of the unbanning of Jace and BBE reach far and wide, even being felt in an EDH deck where card prices are going up for an unrelated reason. As always, check out the page for Sidisi on your own and try and use my method to scope out cards on your own. Got a spec idea I didn’t mention? Run it by me in the comments. Thanks for being a reader. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Crossover 2: The Crossovering

Last week I wrote an article.

Nobody made a snide or condescending comment which means I wrote a perfect article. It’s good to know that what I wrote was perfect and helpful to people. That’s excellent. Accordingly, I decided to make it a two-parter by, you know, writing a second part. Unlike a lot of unplanned sequels, this is going to go great. It’s going to be a lot more Godfather 2 than Highlander 2, you dig? If you aren’t familiar with or don’t remember what I did last week, go read it now for free and then we’ll hit the ground running. Less talk, more rock – let’s do this.

 

Gush

Pauper deck – Delver, other Delver, Inside Out combo

2,425 is hardly the largest number of EDH decks a card has ever been in where we later referenced its “demand” but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Gush is played a non-zero amount in EDH and is bannably-good in Pauper.

It’s a stupid-good card in Pauper and if it’s banned, a lot of people are going to eat it. For now, though, with so few printings, the first one being so long ago and with it being banned all of these years meaning there was no real impetus to dig these out of nooks and crannies, Gush’s price, well, gushed.

If you have these, I think you ship them. I don’t think pauper-mania can sustain its current fever pitch and regardless of if it does, I think Gush is one the watchlist. Could this hit $20? It’s possible but I think you just out these.

Distant Melody

Pauper Deck – Elves

Sooner or later, someone else will break some other tribe. In the mean time, Elves is basically the one viable tribal deck and with the use of Birchlore Rangers it can cast Mob Justice or Distant Melody pretty reliably (not bad for a deck with only 9 lands).

If you’ll notice, the interest in this card came way back when Wizards announced that Commander 2017 would be tribal decks. Before anyone even knew what the tribes would be, everyone decided that they knew there would be a blue. They were kind of right. While I don’t think the EDH demand quite justifies this price increase, I don’t think it can maintain its current price either with the new interest from Pauper. If Pauper is for real, expect to see this head upward and if this card survived a reprinting in Commander 2017 (it did; I should have probably said “since” and not “if” but I was doing a literary thing where I mirrored the previous statement… you know what? I don’t owe you an explanation) I expect a reprinting isn’t on the horizon and we could see some real growth from this card. There’s enough supply out there for current demand but as it rises, remember, second spikes are hard because there aren’t cheap, loose copies out there to backfill demand. This hits $3 or maybe even $4 pretty easily.

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Having flirted with $15, the set foil is a mere $5 and that could have something to do with there being a competing foil. However, that foil is from a rare premium deck (the Slivers one) and the foiling is ugly. Anyone serious about foiling their pauper deck will get the good one and supply is pretty low.

Fog Frog

Pauper Deck – Abzan Control

Tortured Existence is the MVP of this deck and with its price already at $3 (not bad for a common from Stronghold) and its EDH inclusion being less-than-impressive, I opted to talk about Fog Frog, a card whose stock  can only rise. Rare in the traditional sense of the word because it’s from an old, bad set, Foggity Froggity is nuts in a deck with Tortured Existence.

Pauper fever is catching up. This could easily hit $3 or $4 with sustained demand and the non-zero amount of EDH play it gets will only drag on supply and bolster its growth potential. Lots of people don’t even know this is a pick so be sure to paw through Prophecy bulk if you hit up older shops that have more boxes than customers; there are a lot of them out there.

I wouldn’t worry about getting a foil copy under $40, though. If you do, SHIP.

Gemhide Sliver

Pauper Deck – SLIVERS!

OK, so somehow Muscle Sliver, Sinew Sliver and Predatory Sliver are all common on Magic Online. That means you have a deck with all common creatures that has 12 lords in it. That seems good.

Lucky for us, Gemhide Sliver is going to be in all of the EDH Sliver decks because of course it is. That means if Meathooks gets popular (it’s a cheap deck if you already own Ash Barrens) the demand from the two formats puts a lot of pressure on a card with two printings, one of which was a terribly-foiled premium deck. Oh, and Fog Frog goes in the sideboard of this deck, usually, because despite every creature being a Sliver most of the time, people just call it “GW” because of stuff like Standard Bearer in the board. Maybe if more people knew there was a Slivers deck, they might give Pauper a chance. I mean, I doubt it, but a man can dream. I don’t think you understand how important to me it is that there are Slivers.

I think this should be enough to whet your appetite. It’s a good idea to just look at Pauper decklists to see what is getting played. Anything with cross-format applicability obviously has some upside to it and EDHREC has all of the info you need about how many and which decks jam these paper pauper picks. That does it for me, nerds. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Crossover

Nerds,

This week I have decided I can’t ignore the stupid Pauper craze. Will it stick around? I mean, let’s not compare Pauper to something like Tiny Leaders which was a dumb idea or Frontier which was a pretty good idea about 7 years too early. Pauper was already a thing, people played it online for years and the poors even played it once at my LGS a few years ago. How the poors are going to afford $8 Gush and $10 Chainer’s Edict in a few months, I’ll never figure out.

In order for me to care about a pauper card, I’m going to have to see a good chance of it getting some play and therefore being worth buying and in order for me to want to write about it in my EDH column, I’m going to have to see some EDH appeal. I decided that cards which cross over into both formats are perfect since both formats will push up prices, help soak up supply and probably a third thing, which is so psychologically-satisfying for people reading lists. (I had a third thing but my kid came downstairs, shrieking like a little demon and I picked her up and shrieked back at her and she gave me like one of those “respect” nods like she was testing me and I passed and then she ran back upstairs and left me alone but I forgot the third thing I was going to say that crossover cards do so you’re just going to have to trust me that I put thought into this).

I think we can find some cards that cross over between formats and are therefore about to experience a steeper incline than either format alone is capable of producing, which is great for us.

Temur Battle Rage

Pauper Deck – Izzet Blitz

2,483 decks is not too shabby on EDHREC for a card like this and it gets the nod over the cheaper (mana-wise) Assault Strobe due to the Ferocious ability. Giving a creature Double-Strike in Pauper means you only need to buff it up to 10 power which is pretty easy with Kiln Fiends and Mutagenic Growths. The trample is usually enough to seal the deal.

The EDH applications similarly won’t shock you.

Apparently it’s also in 81 Lord Tresserhorn decks, also known as “every Lord Tresserhorn deck.” Zada is a particularly great place to play this card since it’s basically an Overrun for 2 mana in Mono-Red which is saucy.

The foils are on their way up and I don’t think $10 is 100% unreasonable for them. I don’t know if 2,400 EDHREC decks is enough to couple with pauper demand to move a non-foil on a card this recent, but the foils probably have some upside. If I were going to play a poor format like Pauper I would for sure foil the deck, which would make it awkward since foil Gush is like a million dollars. I think if you find Battle Rage in bulk, it will probably buylist for 25 cents or more in a year, so avoid buying the non-foils at retail but avoid shipping them out in bulk, too. You can make a lot of money in MTG finance just knowing which nickels to sit on until they’re quarters.

Relic of Progenitus

Pauper Deck – Several Sideboards

In twice as many EDHREC decks (though the rationale for some of them doesn’t make a ton of sense to me) Relic is popping up in some sideboards.

Not at all what I expected. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.

In general, anything that’s powerful enough to be at uncommon but is pauper legal because of which set it’s in online (and Vintage Masters was great for making a card like Battle Screech look like a common next to cards like Mox Pearl) is worth a look. Relic has some obsolescence issues in EDH but there’s no card better in that slot for Pauper and that’s likely to drive prices.

Wizards has demonstrated a willingness to print Relic in sets like Modern Masters where they have foils, so the foil copies aren’t as safe as they are for other cards. I think we can wait for this to get reprinted again, pick these out of bulk or buy them for a buck or so and wait for the inevitable ascent back to $2 or $3. These were common in Shards of Alara which means they were common in Shards block foil packs which means foils aren’t that rare, anyway (not that that stopped them from flirting with $20).

Rancor

Pauper Decks – Stompy, Bogles

Every green Voltron deck likes this for the trample and the fact that it’s not a 2-for-1 if they kill the creature. You won’t be surprised to see that the decks running it in EDH are Voltron builds.

The first four are, anyway. Rancor is spicy in Shattergang brothers, though – letting you destroy any enchantment on the field for 2GG.

Rancor is another one of those “good enough to be uncommon but still legal in Pauper” cards that are such good value for us. The fact that they’re mostly uncommon in the wild means there aren’t as many copies floating around as there would be for “true” commons and that helps the prices quite a bit.

Foils are pretty stable, at least for Urza’s Legacy.

M13 suffered from not being as cool as Modern Masters.

It’s way down but with a demonstrated ability to flirt with $8, the foils from older sets could see a resurgence. I don’t like buying into M13 at $2 as much as I like buying into that Legacy one on eBay from $14, but I think a rising tide will raise all boats and you could see $6 or $7 foil Rancors again. The prices would inevitably recovered after Modern Masters anyway and increase Pauper demand will be reflected in the prices.

Artifact Lands

Pauper decks – Affinity

Joining Gush in our “Banned in other formats but somehow still legal here” file, we have the artifact lands, which have various degrees of EDH adoption and various numbers of reprintings, hence the price swings. What’s clear is that they are pretty good in Pauper and people will continue to explore the flexibility given to them by these cards.

Breya wants all of these, Daretti wants the red one, Arcum wants the blue one – it’s complicated. What is clear is that I sometimes get these in bulk, they’re worth picking out and since their current price is predicated on EDH demand alone, Pauper demand could drive the prices of the ones used in Pauper up.

We’re seeing a trend where a Modern Masters printing will tank the price of the M set foil but mostly leave the original set foil intact. That’s worth noting because it could mean original set foils are insulated from reprinting in future sets while the Modern Masters and M set foils are not. That makes original set foils even more attractive, and it makes them more equal in growth potential since the number of reprints can vary between the different colors but shouldn’t affect the original set foils all growing together. Darksteel Citadel has the most utility since it’s indestructible. If Ensoul Artifact ever gets printed in an online set at common, watch out.

That does it for me this week. I am sure there are a few more cards I missed just because they didn’t do well in tournament decks recently but as the Pauper field continues to evolve, I’m sure we will find some Pauper gems with hidden growth potential. Identifying which cards might grow twice as fast as cards that are used by either format but not both can help us make better buying decisions. That does it for me this week; leave me something in the comments section. Until next time!

 

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Getting Intellectually Lazy

I think it can be pretty tough to predict which cards are going to go up on merit. I’ve shifted my articles to being about that solely for the past few years and it’s gone pretty well for me. I have had to work hard to get good at this but I feel like it was worth it. The problem is, my focus is on sustainability and that’s not really doing me any favors. I’ve discussed in the past how it’s intellectually lazy to target foils of cards that could get reprinted in future Commander products because you want to save yourself the extra mental steps of analyzing reprint risk. I’ve talked about how it’s lazy to target Reserved List cards for the same reason. That said, I found a pretty juicy target this week and if I’m going to be lazy and write about a Reserved List card, I might as well write about any Reserved List card I think is a good target. I’ll get it out of my system in one article.

What is the Reserved List?

You know what the Reserved List is. Everyone does. That said, I’ve found the more loud and vocal someone is in opposition to the Reserved List, the less they actually know in general, but I am done arguing about it. Buncha Sea Lions on Twitter anyhow. The only thing you really need to know is that there are some cards that are never, ever getting reprinted and that’s never going to change. It’s not. Don’t @ me. The Reserved List is never going away and I promise you don’t have a better argument than I’ve already heard. Deal with it. Instead of whining that you’ve been playing Magic for 6 months and you think Vintage looks kinda cool but you can’t play it, which is total BS, let’s focus on how we can use the Reserved List to our advantage.

 

What I’m NOT Advocating

I’m not advocating a targeted buyout. You won’t get that advice from an article – you’ll need to hit up YouTube if you want advice on that. Picking a card with low supply and getting a ton of money or a ton of people together to try and corner the market on something that can’t be reprinted is not something I advocate. I realize you and I are greedy speculators out here manipulating the market or whatever but I think there’s money to be made sustainably. I make 90% of the money I make in MTG Finance from flipping collections anyway, so there’s no need to sell my soul to make that 10% of my business a little better. If you advocate or participate in a targeted buyout, I hope you develop tinnitus that’s so bad you need to sleep with a fan on to drown out the noise from your tinnitus and then you’re cold all night from the fan and it makes you have bad dreams.

What I AM Advocating

Don’t wait on stuff you want, and if you notice something start to get a little bit better, buy now. Don’t panic, but take that pile of crap on your desk you’ll never use, send it to Card Kingdom, get that trade-in bonus and get copies of these Reserved List cards if you think you’ll need them. Buy extra so you have copies to play with and look like a genius when you can trade them back out after they go up. Do I think anything is getting more play now than it used to? I doooo.

How I Stumbled Upon This Card

I was at a loss for what to write about and almost settled on writing about Etali. Now, I think Etali is amazing. I think it’s stupid good and should go in every EDH deck that can reasonably ramp to it or cheat it out, no questions asked. However, I’m not super psyched to run it as my Commander. That puts you in Mono-Red and it’s difficult to ramp in Mono-Red. You have stuff like Braid of Fire but beyond that, you’re using one-shot spells like Seething Song to ramp. I wasn’t convinced, but then I remembered artifacts were a thing. THEN I remembered EDHREC had updated for the new cards and someone has probably already solved this problem. They have. All ingenious-like.

Do you see it?

Do you see it?

Do you see it?

METALWORKER.

There’s no reason not to run mostly artifacts in your Etali deck because Mono-Red sis both sort of trash in EDH but also sort of great as a support color for Artifact decks. If you’re mostly brown with a splash of red like the well-done steaks with ketchup the worst person on the planet eats, Metalworker is WORKWORKER doing all kinds of work in your deck and ramping you to Etali on like turn 3. Get some.

Down from a historic high predicated on it being unbanned in everything, there is no better time to get this card. It’s doing work in EDH, where it’s legal somehow, and it’s good in Vintage and it’s unplayed in Legacy, where it’s legal somehow.

If you think you’ll want Metalworker anytime soon, it’s demonstrated an ability to hit $50 on hype, and hype did us all a favor. It cleaned all of the sub-$30 copies out from all of the easy-to-reach places. If movement starts in again, the second spike will be harder because there will be no cheap copies to backfill demand. I think this makes a case for itself. What else do I like? I’m so glad you asked.

Lake of the Dead

Apart from a few cheap eBay copies, this is basically $30 everywhere or it’s sold out. The Gitrog Monster made this go up but it’s never going back down. This taps for a ton of mana in EDH and if your deck either doesn’t care about your dead swamps or it thrives off of them, you’re going to get a ton of use from this. I made a convincing case for this like 8 months ago or whenever the Gitrog Monster came out and since then it’s gone from $10 most places to $30 most places. I hope you bought in at the time. If not, I think the $20 copies on eBay are pretty tempting and apart from that, you’re stuck paying $30. This seems obvious, even though it just tripled.

Retribution of the Meek

A lot of stuff went up on principle a while back and while this is cooling off a bit, second spikes happen fast and supply of this card id drying up again. With EDH so often being such a dumb, durdly format and everyone building dinosaur decks, Retribution is a great choice for wide strategies than have a lot of lower-powered creatures and want to clear a bunch of big blockers out of the way or just be the only one with creatures. This is on my radar right now with all of the Dinosaur decks I see being built.

Mana Web

Either I’m running out of steam or these cards just really speak for themselves. This is a good card, it’s going to get more expensive. Buy it now if you need to.

Deranged Hermit 

The amount of overlap with EDH and casual is kind of small, but this bears mentioning because we just got new squirrel tokens with Unstable and with the foil tokens going for $7 online, SOMEONE is playing with Squirrels. This is an OG Squirrel master and it’s never getting reprinted. Take a look at Judge foils while you’re at it. They’re half the price of the $100 set foil and supply is dwindling as well.

That does it for me this week. If you have some Reserved List picks you think I should have discussed, hit me in the comments.* See you next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Try to imagine what I wrote in the half a paragraph I just deleted. It involves opinions about the Reserved List and what readers can do with those opinions.

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