Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Commander 2018 First Impressions



I wrote… too much, frankly, last week. I’m going to take it easy on you this week, which probably means I’ll do 2,000 words instead of 4,000. I’m not going to go too in-depth on any cards yet but I do have some impressions based on preliminary EDHREC data. Let’s rank every commander by popularity based on the first little bits of data that are trickling in and then see if there’s anything in the most popular deck that everyone else missed, although people have been pretty thorough (they spiked Enchanted Evening to $35 today, for example, and who knows where it ends up? Could stabilize north of $30 – that’s what happens when things don’t get reprinted.) and the decks are sort of obvious, at least some of them. Estrid is probably a bit more obvious than Tawnos, for example.

Let’s see how many of each deck has been registered on EDHREC and see if that tells us anything.

Lord Windgrace – 64 decks (4 as part of 99) JUND
Aminatou, the Fateshifter – 63 decks (16 as part of 99) ESPER
Estrid, the Masked – 60 decks (16 as part of 99) BANT
Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow – 49 decks (27 as part of 99) ESPER
Saheeli, the Gifted – 35 decks (25 as part of 99) IZZET
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer – 33 decks (28 as part of 99) IZZET
Tuvasa, the Sunlit – 29 decks (50 as part of 99)* BANT
Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle – 16 decks (31 as part of 99)* BANT
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent – 16 decks (22 as part of 99)* JUND
Varina, the Lich Queen – 16 decks (10 as part of 99) ESPER
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign – 13 decks (33 as part of 99)* ESPER
Kestia, the Cultivator – 10 decks (36 as part of 99)* BANT
Thantis, The Warweaver – 8 decks (15 as part of 99)* JUND
Gyrus, Walker of Corpses – 5 decks (10 as part of 99)* JUND
Tawnos, Urza’s Assistant – 3 decks (21 as part of 99)* IZZET
Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor – 1 deck (23 as part of 99)* IZZET

This tells us quite a few things, I think. I am going to do a little bit of analysis and there will be supposition involved, but if you all didn’t trust my expertise in the field of EDH finance using this data, I’m not sure why you’re reading a whole article about it so I’m just going to state my opinion as fact and if I’m wrong, that’s because I’m bound to be some of the time.


The “Precon Effect” Is Alive And Well

A while back in an article on EDHREC, Sam Alpert talked about what he called “Precon Syndrome” and we later changed to “The Precon Effect” because it was pithier. What he was describing was a tendency for deckbuilders who start with the precon to include stuff that shouldn’t be in the deck. WotC put it in there for beginners and when you start with 100 cards, you cut everything obviously bad and keep the rest and replace the bad cards you cut. That means stuff that is just good enough to include stays in even though they are cards you would never consider jamming if you started from scratch. I would never think to put Ninja of Deep Hours in an Aminatou deck in a million years if you locked me in a room and made me generate list after list and wouldn’t let me out until I included it. 22% of the people who registered an Aminatou list on EDHREC included Ninja, though, because it’s in the precon. Early on people over-include bad precon cards which reduces the number of good cards they run, and they’ll add more good cards later as they jam games.

I put an asterisk by the cards that were in more decks as inclusions than they were as commanders and the list is nearly divided in half. With the exception of Varina toward the bottom of the list, every deck that’s popular out of the gate is in more command zones than 99s and the reverse is true for unpopular commanders. I would venture a guess that a lot of Tawnos’ current play is people thinking he’s too good to take out of their Saheeli deck. Also, the fact that the bottom 2 decks are Izzet but both have much higher inclusion ranks than build ranks, I think there is more synergy in the Izzet deck. Loose copies of Tawnos and Varchild will be hard to come by because people are inclined to leave them in rather than sell them when they build Saheeli and Brudiclad whereas no one is keeping their copies of Lord Windgrace if they build Thantis.

Lord Windgrace Is Most Popular?

I was pretty surprised. I thought it would go Estrid, Aminatou, Saheeli, Windgrace. In fact, Saheeli was below Yuriko, a ninja commander with 9 ninjas to build with. OK? Saheeli has competition from other artifact builds whereas Windgrace (likely with 99 new cards) is the first “lands matter” Jund Commanderand will unite The Gitrog Monster and Angry Omnath, both obvious possible inclusions that spiked hard after they weren’t in the deck.

Also, if you look at the total number between the precons, the numbers may tell us more.

Jund – 93 decks

Esper – 141 decks

Bant – 115 decks

Izzet – 72 decks

Jund was the 2nd least popular deck and Windgrace represents 69% of all Jund decks registered whereas Saheeli is 49%, Estrid is 52% and Aminatou is 45%. Windgrace seems like the most popular but he just has the lion’s (or… panther’s? I’m not Vorthos, someone tell me what he is) share of the second least popular deck whereas the other Planeswalkers had to compete more with interesting commanders in the decks that Jund forgot to include.

Varina Is An Outlier

I suspect that Varina is not included in the rest of the decks because she has 0 synergy with them and seems like a very glaring inclusion whereas the Precon Effect kept stuff like Xantcha and Tawnos in the decks. A 0 synergy inclusion is useful to look at because they tend to spawn disparate archetypes because they need 99 cards that aren’t in the precon. I think Varina is a lot like UW Taigam from last year – practically no synergy with the deck it’s in and basically included because it was a cool design and they needed somewhere to throw it.

Given Varina’s outlier status, I will select Varina to discuss this week because it’s likely the cards for this deck won’t have spiked yet because, like Tawnos, it’s not obvious how to build the deck to people who don’t play EDH the way Serra’s Sanctum was so obvious my 2 year old bought a copy of it on the iPad half by mistake when I mentioned in a conversation to someone else that Enchantress was the new archetype.


Varina The Queena’ Mean…a

I think Varina is secretly very good and could create some really unbeatable card advantage once left unchecked for a minute. The problem is, attacking with creatures is for casual EDH players and drawing cards and knowing that discarding isn’t a disadvantage is for more competitive players. Varina may be a card that exists in a very small Venn diagram overlap area. The mere 16 decks generated so far (though that’s more than 6 other commanders) make me think people just haven’t figured her out yet. The problem is, a lot of people will be turned on by seeing Varina demonstrated and if the card is taken out of every Aminatou deck due to lack of synergy and discarded, how will that happen?

Varina is currently like $3-$4 which isn’t bulk and is a bit more than a lot of the other new commanders, even ones in decks that aren’t worth as much. The Esper deck is easily the most expensive and it’s the most-built currently. It’s the “good” deck this year and while the “bad” deck is almost always the one to buy for finance reasons in two years, it’s still interesting that a deck with $4 Magus, $17 Yuriko, $3 Golemn, $8 Aminatou, $4 Entreat the Dead and $3 Entreat the Angels can maintain $4ish for Varina, which isn’t getting built that much compared to the other cards. UW Taigam started at $4, too and quickly plummeted to $2 and belowish and it’s currently doing nothing.


Taigam currently helms 227 decks compared to 896 Ur-Dragon decks, so it’s in a third as many decks as the precon-suggested commander (and 297 of the 755 decks it’s in as a card are Ur-Dragon, which seems weird given its lack of synergy – Precon Effect indeed). Meanwhile, Varina is in 16 compared to the 63 for Aminatou. If that proportion holds, I don’t like Varina as a pickup but I think it will spawn 1/4 as many decks as Aminatou but with all new cards which means older cards that didn’t get reprinted have a chance to go up. Anecdotally, Varina is performing better for people than Taigam did and I think enough casuals will get onboard with having access to White Zombies (the cards, not that godawful band) and cards like Swords to Plowshares and Teferi’s Protection. One thing Varina has going for it that Taigam didn’t – there are decks ready to upgrade to it.

Varina is a better Scarab God than The Scarab God (I think) and you can jam The Scarab God in the 99 of Varina, which is cool. You’re going to draw a ton more cards and have access to white cards which makes Varina a great choice. I think people who don’t port over The Scarab God decks will make Varina decks from scratch. All of these factors make me think that things are going to go up because all of this info isn’t that trivial or obvious – you saw we had to dig to find it. Leave Replenish for the kitty cat collectors, let’s delve into what makes Varina tick.

This card is showing up in 1/3 of the Varina decks and I think that number may increase the more it’s built. I don’t know if this is a spec, but I think you can pull these out of bulk, people don’t know this is $0.50 and people REALLY don’t know foils are over $10. This does so much work but has a decent reprint risk. It’s easier to reprint out of core set than into it. If you see these in draft chaff, $0.10 card boxes at the LGS or in bulk, stash these. I think this is a $2 card in a year with no reprint and everyone is going to act surprised.

Unfortunately, I think this card has hit its floor or is just about to. Market Price is like $3.50 on these, and as briskly as Card Kingdom is outing them at $6, I think TCG Player is the ripe for a correction. Death Baron is a zombie staple and it’s demonstrated an ability to hit $20 if left unchecked. I don’t think it hits $20 again but I don’t think it goes below $3.50 ever. You can’t lose here. Would they jam this right back in M20? I doubt it.

I don’t get this card’s deal but it’s got to go up sometime. It’s a mythic in a set with a bunch of stupid dragons and no one is opening the boxes. Sure, there is no pressure on this card to take up more of the box price but as the box price goes up, why doesn’t this? Its reprint risk is low given how amenable WotC seems to be to printing new Zombie lord and while the glut of Zombie lords means some don’t make the cut, this should.

Then again, it’s in fewer decks than a worthless card like Zombie Master, so who knows?

With moderate reprint risk, I don’t advise paying cash, here. However, with rotation approaching, I would advise taking everything that is propped up by Standard play and won’t see play outside of it and trying to trade for cards like this. Even with reprint risk, this stands a better chance of holding value than something like Glorybringer.  This is an absolute shoo-in for the deck and it’s one of the reasons you switch to a version that can run white, honestly.

I think if you check out the page for Varina,  you can find other cards that maybe aren’t as sexy but which will for sure get jammed. Zombie decks never got to run Necromancer’s Covenant, Anointed Procession, Wayward Servant or Tidehollow Sculler in the past. Is this an improvement? I hope so! If not, at least we know the reasons for looking at Varina in the first place was sound.

As an aside, anecdotally, people are more excited about Varina than they were about Taigam. I think that Yuriko is going to tank soon and when it does, something needs to step up and take some value. Could it be Varina? The parallels to Taigam right now prevent me from saying yes, but if the cards begin to diverge, I think we could have a good buy under $4. We’ll talk more next week. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The Value Has To Go Somewhere Part 2

Last week I wrote an article. If you’re guessing it was called “The Value Has To Go Somewhere Part 1” that’s a good guess. If you remember from reading it last week, good, thanks for doing that. If you didn’t read it, I cleverly linked it and you should do it now. I’m serious, last week was like a 2,200 word preamble to this one and I’m going to drop HARD into data analysis. Like, real hard. Like, I won’t even fini


Last week we talked about the factors that influence the price of a card in a deck. I’m going to look at the decks from Commander 2018 and tell you what I think the cards are going to do. I won’t spend too much time on justification because I feel like I set out my thought process last week. Maybe pull that up in another tab because you might need to refer to it more than once. Let’s not screw around this week and just do picks, these cards are out Friday.


Goldfish was kind enough to look up a bunch of prices and display them on here. Thanks! It’s higher than Market Price a lot of the time but it does tell us what’s under a buck, which we need so we can ignore those cards.

Right now, Saheeli is like $8.50 Market Price and I think that’s probably OK.  For reference;


Teferi’s usage is probably under-reported because try-hards build that deck with The Chain Veil and they don’t register their lists somewhere EDHREC scrapes. Also, his deck was pretty bad and he was the best card in it (although it also had a Cyc Rift). If Saheeli is played roughly most or second-most, which I predict, her price is probably fine with a buck or two of $10 for a while, maybe forever.

Sculptor, Chief, Eye, Engineer, Whirler, Juggurnaut, Thopterist, Crawler, Doom Engine, Sphinx, Soul, Hellkite, Assembly, Igniter, Battlesphere, Bosh and Inky are all probably cooked. I don’t think any of them will be above $1 in a year and this is not the first reprinting for a lot of them.

Tawnos is currently like $4.50 and he reminds me a lot of Taigam from last year’s decks. He’s sort of exciting and could get his own deck but he seems mostly sort of out of place in the deck he’s in which could hurt him. He’s also a bit like Inalla and Mairsil who are both $1.50 and really, there is a pretty big gap between “Really good general” and “bulk, basically.” Since I don’t expect Tawnos to be as good as Mirri, I think he’s a sell at $4.50.

I don’t hate Treasure Nabber at $10 as I keep saying, but $5 would have been better. This deck is really relying on new cards to take up most of the value and I think Geode Golem will go down.

Varchild likely ends up about as popular as Wasitora.

I realize I am mixing TCG Player and Card Kingdom prices, but consider how much extra CK charges which means $1.99 there is like $1.50 on TCG Player and you might want to pass on Varchild, even around $2.

I think Vedalken Humiliator ends up bulk, probably.

Where does the value go? I think Brudiclad could end up being in between $1.50 and $9 because while it ‘s not quite as splashy as Mirri, I think it ends up built more than Saheeli. I also think with Geode Golem tanking in price and Nabber going up a bit, there is room for Ancient Stone Idol to approach $5. Now just because some creatures go up others don’t have to necessarily go down – there are more cards to look at in the deck.

Saheeli’s Directive can go up and I bet Blasphemous Act recovers a bit. Echo Storm seems bad to me and I bet it ends up closer to $1 in a year. Chaos Warp can recover, probably.

Things look dire now, but remember, 25,983 is a big number and ubiquity is a hell of a drug. Chaos Warp is the 16th-most-played Instant. Not RED instant. Instant. It’s between Mystical Tutor and Return to Dust. I think if you get these for under a buck, they recover, even though it’s looking like they’ll be reprinted next year and that’s a hard “sell by” date and may make you think twice.

I was accused of (in a nice way) undervaluing Atlas in my set review. That’s a card that has some use for Red and White decks that can’t really draw cards very well. It would need to be pretty ubiquitous to be $5 so I am still shying away for now but watch this card. Thought Vessel is $6 after all and this is only in one deck.

Vat has created some demand for itself and I think if this hits $0.50, you will get these in bulk and set them aside and suddenly one day they’ll be on a buylist for $3.50 and you’ll cash in.

Clock is expected to soak up a lot of value but a bit of its price was predicated on sudden scarcity and people assuming they’d use it more than they ended up using it. I think this will recover less than Vat, all things being equal and I didn’t expect to think that. It could be that EDHREC has a bit of a competitive blind spot but both cards have the same number of printings and are from the same block but one gets played 50% more.

Is Breya to blame here? Breya players not registering their decks? All I know is that Clock is expected to soak a lot of value and I’m not sure if it can.

I don’t know what to say about Coveted Jewel. I think it’s a terrible card and can only guess about its future price. We have  weeks and weeks to watch what it does but it was initially listed at $4 on a few sites and never sold out. Here’s what reddit is saying.  This is a gamble and I don’t have the data to back any conjecture so, enjoy, it’s a chance to try and leverage your card analysis skills. I could be wrong.

Enchanter’s Bane is really brutal but also seems so narrow. If EDH had sideboards, this would be better. I also think people are underrating it for two reasons. 1 is the precon effect we talk about on EDHREC and EDHRECast which is that a card that’s good enough to not take out when you build from a precon can get left in and not replaced even though it wouldn’t get added if you started from 0 cards. Building from a precon means this gets played in more decks than it should, meaning fewer copies hit the market and the effect of the actual demand is increased. I think $2 is a low-risk bet but there are quite a few bulk rares from Commander 2017. I think Bane is better than $2 Kindred Boon from last year so I think this is a potential grower.

The real question mark is Forge of Heroes. Lands that are in every deck can still go for $5+ but is this good enough? I’m not sure it is since it doesn’t really fix mana in formats outside of Commander. Past Commander deck lands that hit $5 were also playable in 60 card casual and pauper etc. I think Forge is too narrow.  I could be wrong, so keep an eye out.

That was a lot of writing. I hope by now I can streamline the process a bit and not have to repeat some of the things I already said.


Aminatou is currently $11 on TCG Player and the only scenario where I think you’ll be glad you paid $11 is if it goes to $20 like Teferi did. Is the cute copycat combo with Felidar Guardian enough to make this the try-hard combo deck of choice or is copycat a kittycat, obvious but bad? Hard to say. I don’t think you make money buying at $11, but I don’t think you lose a ton, either. If you’re buying to play with and don’t want the whole deck, $11 seems reasonable but I bet you can get this for $7 later.

I think Boreas Charger can go up. It’s in a lot of ways much better than Knight of the White Orchid and that card sees considerable play.

I would not be at all surprised to see Boreas Charger eat some of the value inevitably shed by Yuriko, an $18 card that will be the Commander of a deck that needs ninjas. There are 10 ninjas unless you count Unstable. Yuriko can’t stay this high.

Varina, Lich Queen, Magic, Commander 2018

Varina has already cut in half since this price list updated. At $3 I am still not a buyer. This seems like Wasitora to me and likely ends up around the same price, but I could be wrong. If this does get considerable play or gets play in Legacy (it could happen) like Kess did (I doubt that, just giving you a best case) then this could hit $7 or $8. You think this is worse than Kess? Then you can’t make much buying at $3.

Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign, Magic, Commander 2018

The race to the bottom caught Yennett going from like $12 to $3.50. I think Yannett is this set’s Mirri. I think that’s a $10 card waiting to happen. It’s a dirty, ruthless, grindy card and try-hards will latch on. I think Yannett is a card to watch. It’s at least Kess-tier which makes it a future $7 card so at least double up on these.

Sower of Discord, Magic, Commander 2018

I like Sower more than most people. I think it’s ultimately very tough for a card to get above $1.50 and I don’t this this has the ubiquity juice to get there. I’m not a buyer at $1.50.

This had an ugly graph before this reprinting. I’m not sure it can stay afloat with new copies en route.

Half of Oni’s current demand is from just 2 decks and they’re both unlikely to be built soon. With no real ninja deck, not much demand appearing and a bunch of copies inbound, I think the Planechase effect is about to be watered down significantly and Oni is doomed.

Entreat the Angels likely has a downward trajectory due to modest demand being satiated and competition with a bunch of other cards that do the same thing in EDH. Entreat the Dead seems like the opposite – we could see it gain ground and it’s already caused cards like Insidious Dreams to go up. We’ll see.

Nothing else seems to matter here much. Skull Storm is pretty bad in the Aminatou deck and I don’t know which deck wants it. For 9 mana, just cast Rise of the Dark Realms and win the game.

Aminatou’s Augury is the only real card with surprise potential. I don’t like it personally but you could hit up to 8 cards off of it and people are playing spells this expensive already. Ultimately, I think it loses value which begs the question – does Yuriko maintain the value or will it go somewhere else? Where? If not Yannett and even if not Yannett, if not ONLY Yannett, where?

None of this matters. Primordial Mist seems like trash to me.

I actually kind of like Isolated Watchtower

Isolated Watchtower, Magic, Commander 2018

It’s like $2.50 on TCG Player and if it’s at all good (it’s a bad Scrying Sheets sometimes) then I think it can go up. Ultimately, forcing you to tap 3 lands, have fewer lands than them and need a basic and need it in the top 2 makes this clunky and hard to use it to get ahead.  I’m not willing to be money this goes up, but watch it.

Lord Windgrace

Most weeks I would cut it off here but I am giving you a double article because the stuff comes out Friday.

Lord Windgrace is like $10 and I think that’s OK. I don’t know who will want to build around him but he’s also the best commander in the whole precon so either this doesn’t sell AT ALL or something happens.

Gross. This is all trash. Avenger of Zendikar could recover some value and probably will because it always does.

Gyrus, Waker of Corpses, Magic, Commander 2018

I think Gyrus is pretty unexciting, personally and I don’t know if it will get built around but even if it does, that likely makes it like $1.50 if Inalla and Mairsil are any indication.

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent, Magic, Commander 2018

Xantcha is still hanging on in there at almost $8 and while she should give some of that value up because she’s not that good, she probably won’t because, what’s this article called again?

Thantis, the Warweaver, Magic, Commander 2018

Thantis is pretty good but I don’t know if this is enough of a deterrent to them attacking you and it may just accelerate your demise. Can you see this hitting $7? Then don’t pay $4.

Whiptongue Hydra, Magic, Commander 2018

At like $1.50, I am kind of OK with Whippyboi. 6 mana is a lot but getting a 6/6 or 7/7 after taking care of a few problems creatures without targeting them in a color you can tutor easily for silver bullet creatures, I think this could be a $5 card pretty easily. Stonehoof Chieftain didn’t look like much at first, either.

Crash of Rhino Beetles, Magic, Commander 2018

Speaking of Stonehoof Chieftain, this sort of reminds me of it, too. Timmies will love this card and Timmies can play EDH cards in 60 card casual which means there is even more demand as they can play multiple copies. I think big, splashy stuff has a tendency to be sneered at by “serious” players and that means stores undervalue cards like this at first. The value has to go somewhere and I bet in a few months, its price may triple just like its power.

This is a lot of hot gahbage but there is a bright spot – Windgrace’s Judgment.

Windgrace's Judgment, Magic, Commander 2018

It’s currently $5 and I think it actually has upside given how radioactive the rest of the deck is. This is very much this year’s Kalemne deck only it doesn’t have multiple cards I think are worth $10.  This could honestly end up a $20 card and everyone will be surprised that this was ever worth less. Paying 5 mana to get this much value seems fantastic and while it looks like a bad Putrefy, this may be a better Decimate. I think this is a card everyone will want to play in these colors to slow the rest of the table down by blowing up their mana rocks and problem enchantments and this stays in every precon deck built plus goes in a ton of existing decks. If this isn’t the set’s Teferi’s Protection, I’m not sure what is.

Not much to say here. I don’t think any of this can recover, which is too bad for Deathreap Ritual, which was sort of a mix of Fecundity and Phyrexian Arena without the downside of either but with limited upside.

The lands aren’t even worth discussing. This is an atrocious manabase and they should be embarrassed that they raised the MSRP on this. If Forge does nothing, this is a $5 manabase in the “lands matter” deck.

The deck’s one bright spot beyond Windgrace’s Judgment is this guy.

Nesting Dragon, Magic, Commander 2018

I think this has the potential to go up quite a bit. It’s not quite as splashy as Avenger of Zendikar but it shrugs off wrath effects better and this can also go in existing dragon decks. I think it’s currently too cheap.


Here’s your money shot. They actually put decent reprints in here and good new cards. I am glad I saved this for last, though even this one could have been much better.

Estrid herself is currently $8 and I expect her to be the most built. In fact, I think Estrid will be the 3rd-most-played Planeswalker commander of all, coming in behind only Teferi and Daretti. Estrid does it all and the fact that she is currently less expensive then Aminatou says more about the cards in that bad Esper deck than it does Estrid. Or I could be tired and biased and talking complete nonsense at this point. I don’t think I am, though. I think Estrid is just good and could be a $12 card.

Being in 2 decks doesn’t hurt Loyal Drake, I don’t think, considering Thought Vessel was in more than that. I think Drake is a card I initially undervalued and I think blue tends to be able to keep its commander around and therefore trigger Drake. I don’t mind a flying Phyrexian Arena per se and at under a buck, this seems like a card you will get in bulk for a while.

Ravenous Slime, Magic, Commander 2018

Slime is at $2.50 and I think it could go up. Just the graveyard hate alone on this card make it very appealing. It almost assuredly gets yanked right out of the Estrid deck and is only in here because you suit it up since it’s hard to block but people aren’t likely primarily building Voltron. Tuvasa could be popular, though but I still don’t think this goes in that. This is good in a lot of decks but not also being good in the deck it came in could hurt its upside. This has no pressure on it to take value and it might now, but it’s a good card so don’t sleep on it.

Tuvasa the Sunlit, Magic, Commander 2018

At $7, I think this goes down a bit but I also think everything being said about her as a negative is wrong. Only one draw trigger per turn is fine, not having Merfolk synergy is a bizarre criticism and hardly merits mentioning and its synergy with non-card enchantment cards like the clerics made by Heliod make this a potential KO commander. I still like Bruna and Sigarda but this marries those two color combos and gives you the advantages of each. I think this gets built but $7 is a lot.

Kestia, the Cultivator, Magic, Commander 2018

I don’t know how to feel at $4. I think this benefits from the precon effect which means loose copies will be hard to come by the way loose copies of Slime will be easy to come by, but I think this ends up around $1.50 like so many new Legendary creatures from Commander 2017 did.

Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle, Magic, Commander 2018

I think this comes down from $7 also, but only because every Legendary creature in the deck can’t be $7 (or can it?) and this seems clunky to build around as much as people like it. Buy Thespian’s Stages to instantly turn this on, I guess. I think this ends up above $3 but I am not paying $7 personally.

Heavenly Blademaster, Magic, Commander 2018

It’s annoying that so many of the new cards in the Enchantment deck are creatures.  I think this has some odd potential and in decks like Sram, this could turn a pile of small creatures into KO machines. I think this could go up from $3 given how many Voltron decks are white that this could go in.

Nylea's Colossus, Magic, Commander 2018

This is a bulk rare currently but I don’t know if that’s correct. I didn’t like this at first but then I remembered that Replenish is a card and you could make a creature like a 512/512 pretty easily. This is a real low-risk spec at bulk.

Marital Coup could regain a bit of value but this isn’t its first or last reprint and that makes it pretty risky and I’m not interested.

Genesis Storm is an odd card. In general, I sort of hate the Commanderstorm mechanic and I think if you are getting that number up at all, what are you doing that you need to cast your commander so much? I think all of this is likely where value goes to die.

Enchantress’ Presence may go back up in price slower than we’d like given its limited utility in Legacy and its current EDH ubiquity,

This isn’t a great rating but I expect it to change given the new demand from Estrid and its ilk. I think the price could be depressed quite a bit below $8 for a long time, however, and I think the value may have to come from elsewhere. This was a scarcity price, not a demand price.

Estrid's Invocation, Magic, Commander 2018

I think this could go to $8-$10 under the right circumstances. This may be the best card in the deck and it’s going to get played a lot but it’s hard to see how much of that play will be outside Estrid decks. There isn’t a ton of pressure for this to go up but all we really have to base things on now is a card with way lower supply.

This hasn’t gone much above $10 on TCG Player (though Card Kingdom is sold out at that $9.50) despite the renewed interest in enchantments so it’s hard to imagine this not hitting $30 before Estrid’s Invocation hits $10. This is a Ravnica rare which means supply is pretty low. I think this staying at $10 strands Invocation at $5 and if Invocation hits $10, this has to correct up. Watch both cards, I guess.

Myth Unbound, Magic, Commander 2018

I don’t like this card much but I have misevaluated cards in the past just because I wouldn’t likely play them myself. I think this could catch on and if it does, $10 isn’t out of the question which is a nice double-up if you buy now. This could also end up $2. I don’t think this ever goes to $0 so it’s really like you can make as much as $5.50 per copy or lose $3 per copy. That’s more upside than downside if you accept my high and low points. What do you want me to say about this card? I think it’s a win-more in Food Chain decks and I think if you’re not playing Food Chain and you draw cards with this, you’re losing. I don’t like it.

Octopus Umbra, Magic, Commander 2018

This will likely end life as it began – a bulk rare.

Speaking of Umbras, I think Bear Umbra can tank one reprint and recover.

We don’t have a numerical cut-off where the number of decks above said number can survive a reprint but if we did, 4,000 for a card this new seems reasonable. I think this goes down to like $2 or $3 and can be $5-$7 again, especially with discovered demand from people who are seeing it for the first time in Estrid.

The lands are worthless and we only have Forge of Heroes as a potential mitigating factor. All in all, this is the best deck but probably won’t be worth the most or even second most in two years.

This was too long. If you have any specific questions before the set goes on sale on Friday, tweet me @jasonealt. I’m going to bed now. This was two articles so thanks for reading all of it. Feel free to argue with me in the comments section – everyone benefits from more viewpoints. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The Value Has To Go Somewhere Part 1


I use this phrase a lot when I talk about new sets and it’s half me doing some hand-waving to explain how some cards go up unpredictably and it’s half a reminder to myself that not every presale price is too high. Sure, stuff goes down, a lot of it, but there are always cards that go up. Sometimes I am on top of it and order a ton of Blade of Selves or Deepglow Skate. Sometimes I am NOT on top of it and order 0 copies of Teferi’s Protection and Herald’s Horn. You know, when I put it like that, it looks like I’m slowly unlearning how to do mtg finance. To prove I have learned some stuff and some things from the past few years of doing this, let’s look at all of the factors that influence a card’s price and affect where it ends up and let’s look and see if there is anything that likely goes up.

Since the factors are all concepts you should be familiar with, I’ll just give them whatever names I want and we can discuss each factor before we look at Commander 2018 presale prices. The factors as I see it are mystery, corollary, ubiquity, proximity and trajectory. I didn’t have to name these like an actual anthropomorphic ascot with a monocle but I did it for my own amusement. Mystery was a bit of a reach so let’s start with that because it’s the first one in line, anyway.


A lot of presale prices are guesses. 23 of the cards in Commander 2018 are between $4 and $5 and there is a reason for that. There are 307 cards in the set but there are only 52 new rares. If they set the price of every unknown rare to about $4 (with the exception of Planeswalkers which they set at $10) and put the reprint rares at roughly half their pre-reprint value, they don’t lose money if they buy a bunch of sets for singles and someone buys one of every card x times. If they charged $0.50 for every rare, they’d lose money and they wouldn’t sell every rare if they charged $10 for each one. This is all… barely scientific. There’s a lot of “Well, let’s see what happens” and sometimes what happens is you presell Blade of Selves for like a buck and it keeps selling out when you relist it higher and you sell like 100 Blade of Selves which ends up a $10 card for 10% of its value before you even get the product in your hands and if you’re SCG, that feels bad. TCG Player does a better job of establishing prices because it’s multiple vendors with like 4-8 copies they’re committing to and if there is a run on multiple vendors for a card, the others adjust pretty quickly.

Coolstuff sold out of their presale allotment of Treasure Nabber at $5 a few times before they gave up and declared it out of stock but TCG Player and its multiple vendors peg it around $9 right now. Remember, Pain Seer wasn’t a $12 preorder card because Star City is run by idiots and they pegged it at $12, it was a $12 preorder card because the community is populated by idiots and SCG sold out at $1, $2, $4, $8 and finally $12 because no one bothered to read the card or they thought it would be way easier to tap a 2/2 without killing it. Deepglow Skate was like $2 preorder for a minute because no one knew and we voted on its price by how many times we bought out all of the stock at a given price. When we stopped buying it out, they stopped raising the price and we crowdsourced the answer for them.


Why DID the community get so excited about Pain Seer, by the way? When Dark Confidant was first spoiled, people had visions of getting domed for 6 from an Ink-Eyes and were kind of hesistant. It took time and testing and results for people to realize that card advantage trumps everything and even if your Ghost Dad dings you for 4, it will make it up by being an extra card, and one that does stuff to boot. The establishment of Dark Confidant as a ridiculous, format-warping advantage machine made people look at Pain Seer and made the really dumb ones say “I’m selling all of my Bobs, this is just Bob with an extra toughness” and made the people who read the card say “I bet I can make this work with a little effort” and even a few weeks after the card was printing, people were so hyperbolically in support of the card that I bet the /r/mtgfinance subreddit that if Pain Seer was above a certain dollar amount (I feel like it was something insanely generous like $4) in a month, I would eat a foil playset.

I’m not sure any human ego could survive the drop from $8 to a tenth of that









We would prefer not to have to make any blind guesses more than we have to so we look to corollaries when we can. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s very difficult and sometimes we pick the exact wrong card to compare it to. Is Whiptongue Hydra the new World Breaker? Arashi, the Sky Asunder? Apocalypse Hydra? Bane of Progress? We search for cards to compare cards to and usually come up kind of short. It’s hard. But it’s not as hard as taking a blind stab at it and thinking Teferi’s Protection seemed overpriced at $12.


We come to the part we can measure first, and sometimes there’s time to look at this measure and see if there is time to buy accordingly.

(A brief aside)

I used to say “this card is in X decks on EDHREC” and while that’s useful information if you already have a general sense of which kinds of cards are in how many decks, that’s great. Having a numerical value assigned to a card’s ubiquity is super useful. However, I think for illustrative purposes I’m also going to start saying “And 4,100 decks is more than X,Y,Z card you might have a better sense of.” I’ll show you what I mean

(End aside)

When I bring up Teferi’s Protection, it’s easy to see why it’s expensive when you understand all of the factors that go into determining the price and not the least of those is in how many decks on EDHREC it is relative to other cards whose prices are firmly established, provided they close corollaries. There are more copies of Teferi’s Protection than there are Alpha Air Elemental despite one being rare and one being uncommon and even though Air Elemental is in way fewer decks, it costs more.That’s an absurd comparison because we ignore myriad factors there like number of printings, set size, number of copies, playability – the list goes on. But if you compare it to something close, the roughly 4,100 decks Teferi’s Protection has some more context – it’s in more decks than decks than Dispatch and fewer than Secure the Wastes; far from a White staple but it is the 3rd-most-played White Instant in the whole database. The 100th-most-played overall White card, Citadel Siege, is in 4438 decks. Why is Teferi’s Protection worth so much more than Citadel Siege? Well, because Ubiquity isn’t everything, but it sure matters. This brings us to…


This is the term I’m using to describe what else is in the deck it’s in. This is an important factor and while it’s not unique to things like Commander precons, it’s most obvious in them and we’re going to rely on it pretty heavily.

All of these factors help us determine the last one – the trajectory. Right now the prices are what they are and the next few weeks will determine if they move or stay the same. So what do I mean by proximity? Well, first of all, the set is divided into 4 decks and you always get the same cards in a given deck so there is no randomness. The cards you want are in the deck you need to buy and if that sells a lot and your LGS cranks the price on it, you pay more. If enough outlets crank the price, the singles go up to compensate. That’s how you get a $25 Atraxa in a deck that was $35 MSRP. There’s no question where the value is going in this deck – it’s everywhere and that’s why a copy of Breed Lethality isn’t $35 anymore.

This dude wants $160 AFTER Breed Lethality was reprinted in Commander Anthology.

For the most part, though, the decks are a little more calm.

That’s $42 bucks for, admittedly a Japanese copy, of a Commander 2016 deck, arguably the second-best one.

Here’s all of last year’s for an average of $22 each. Japanese EDH cards are less desirable but still, English is closer to MSRP a year on, which means MSRP still basically constrains the cost of singles.

So what does a reprinting do to a card?

It really depends on whether it’s a first, second, third, etc. Since the decks are sold with both kinds of cards (new and reprinted) together, they will affect each other. Currently, the cost to buy the Saheeli deck individually on TCG Player is $90, Aminatou is $126, Lord Windgrace is $81 and Estrid is $85. It makes sense – the most popular commanders are in the Aminatou deck – Yennet and Yuriko taken together are close to $35 value. Aminatou could become this year’s Atraxa, but given how grindy and tough to play Yennet is likely to be and how short on ninjas Yuriko is, I don’t know if the hype will hold up.

Looking at reprints, we see the data we really want to see. In Saheeli, there are 16 reprints worth more than $1, in Aminatou it’s 17,  Lord Windgrace has 9 and Estrid has 6, but also has the best reprint and the ones most likely to regain lost value, Enchantress’ Presence and Bear Umbra.

Do cards that are around $1 ever recover? This data would suggest no. Daxos is $85 because of $6 Bastion Protector, $9 Phyrexian Arena, and $9 Grasp of Fate, mostly. How does Grasp of Fate hit $9? Well, it’s in 6,457 EDH decks, more than Anointed Procession, Academy Rector and almost as many as Iona and Stonehewer Giant. Grasp started out at $3 and when it was $3, the deck was closer to MSRP. Black Market, Phyrexian Arena and Sol Ring rebounded, Thought Vessel realized it was $6 despite being in every deck and cards like Underworld Coinsmith stayed $0.22

Cards over $5, especially EDH staples or close-to-staples will rebound but the really cheap stuff doesn’t have much of a prayer.

Next week I will be going into each of the 4 decks and categorizing the stuff that won’t rebound, the stuff that could, the new stuff that could go up and the new stuff that could go down. The release date is a week from Friday so next week won’t be too late to take advantage of most of the presale prices but as a brief cap to this article, I will mention 5 cards I like that I might not wait on. Next week they may be more than they are now and I want you to get as much value as you can, especially since this article was all about methodology and not much application of it.

What I Like

Directive is trending down from its initial $4 price tag as sellers race to the bottom in an increasingly-crowded TCG Marketplace but I think we can wait this card out a bit but ultimately it could rebound. This is a red Genesis Wave that makes up for the fact that we don’t have as much access to easy mana as Green does by having Improvise. In an artifact-heavy deck, you’re not going to whiff on this and this goes in new decks and old alike ranging from Saheeli to Daretti to Jhoira to Feldon. You even put the stuff that isn’t an artifact into the yard where Feldon can have a crack at it. This card is good and I expect it to go back up, but it’s probably not done going down so there’s no real hurry here.

I think there is some urgency here. This sold out at $5 a few places and while people are looking at this like an $8 card, I keep thinking of $30 as the ceiling for a card in a bad-ish deck. Teferi’s Protection is in a deck with 2 other cards over $3 a year on. If we’re wrong about Saheeli’s Directive, we can predict Unwinding Clock will go to about $8, Mimic Vat may go to $5 and Sol Ring may go to $3 leaving us with a ton of bulk. Chaos Warp, Aether Gale, Blasphemous Act et al could hit $5 each and that would still allow for Treasure Nabber to be $15. I think this could hit $20 and if you can get these for around $8, do it, I think. I think this is the Deepglow Skate of the set.

This could be the set’s Bastion Protector at least. I think a double up on this is possible. If the unthinkable should happen and you buy in heavy at $2.50 and it falls to $1 or so, just buy twice as many. Then your average cost is a little over a buck and that will feel good when these very likely hit $5. This is in the deck no one cares about but the deck no one cares about always surprises people. Remember the terrible Kalemne deck? Well that deck has Blade of Selves, Fiery Confluence and Urza’s Incubator and a ton of other value and it’s now the best value deck, even after the Commander Anthology. Sower is versatile and even if Windgrace doesn’t end up the “lands matter” deck people wanted, The Gitrog Monster, Angry Omnath, Tatyova, Thrasios and a few others are still very popular and this has future homes possible as well. I think you can probably wait and see what this does, but I don’t hate it at its current price which is why I’m mentioning it today. If it’s cheaper when I look at it again next week, I’ll probably buy.

I think this goes down more but I think it’s secretly the best of the cycle and in decks where you have a cheap commander and it dies, this could end up being better than Wild Ricochet, which is in about 7,500 decks which is more than Daretti and almost as many as Insurrection. Richochet doesn’t matter financially and didn’t manage to shrug of 4 printings, but being in the disappointing Windgrace deck means that there is a lot of pressure on $2 cards to pull more than their weight.

Slimeyboi is a bit of a pet card of mine and I bet that the price goes down a bit before it goes up but I think it’s going to be one of the cards that goes up. I’m notoriously bad at predicting which Green cards people will latch onto (most of us are. Quick, without looking it up, how much is Stonehoof Chieftain. Now look. Surprised?) but this has a lot of room to grow and there will be pressure on it as a card in the “bad” deck. People are racing to the bottom on this, but this feels like a $7 card to me, especially since I feel like Xantcha is going to give up some of the ground it’s currently holding.


Wow, I went way long on my word count. You’re welcome! Next week we’ll tear into the decks with the method we developed here. Should be a hoot. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: We’re All Keynesians, Now

The economist Milton Friedman once said “We’re all Keynesians, now.” He was throwing a fit because Richard Nixon opposed grinding up the poor for fertilizer or something equally leftist. He also died in 2006 so at least he never lived to see the Obama Administration. Whether you agree with a guy like Friedman who once said “A minimum-wage law is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills,” he was right about one thing – we are all Keynesians, now. I don’t mean we as in the people who are arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as we wait to see which country we’re going to fight in a nuclear war, I mean in the sense that we, as people who are watching Commander 2018 spoilers come out and trying to make money are trapped in a scenario popularized by the economist John Maynard Keynes. I’m referring, of course, to the Keynesian Beauty Contest.

“I’m Not Clicking That Link”

Well, you should. It’s sort of boring and it’s also not super obvious how that wiki article (for real? You won’t read a wiki stub written by, probably an economist but you’ll listen to me wax philosophical for 2,000 words because I use a lot of graphs?) how that applies to Magic finance.

I got your back. Here’s another link you probably won’t click, but it’s an article I wrote a while back about this same topic and how it applies to MTG Finance and you should read it before we move on.

Seriously, you’re not going to read that, either? But I wrote it, presumably you value my opinion if you’re reading my arti… no, nope. I’m not letting you do this to me today. I’m not going to get upset at some random person on the internet not taking 5 seconds to… RRRRRR. FINE. Look, I’ll summarize the concept for you, and you won’t have to click any links and unlike the piece I wrote years ago, I’ll use pictures this time. You like pictures, don’t you? Yeah, you do.

The Keynesian Beauty Contest

Keynes proposed the problem of a contest that was similar to one routinely held in newspapers at the time where they would show pictures of women and readers would vote on who they thought was the prettiest. Seems easy, right? Well the winner was the entrant who correctly guessed the 6 pictures that got the most votes. Suddenly how you vote has less to do with what you think and more to do with what you think others think.

Image result for keynesian beauty contest
How do I pick just 6?

Suddenly, you can’t think about your own personal tastes and you have to instead focus on guessing not only what will be popular but whether others will vote the same way thinking next level like you are or whether they’ll vote what they think. You could get into what Mathematician John Nash said about this problem, but that dude lost a game of Go to a figment of his imagination, so who cares what he thinks? Actually if you do, I wrote about Nash Equilibrium a bit and found this graphic that talks about the problem where you try to guess 2/3 of the average answer that I mentioned in the Keynesian Beauty Contest article I wrote… jesus, 5 years ago.

Image result for keynesian beauty contest

Miss Commander 2018

The beauty contest we’re all stuck in right now is this weird period of trying to guess what four, 100-card decks are going to look like based on a very small number of previews. We’re trying to guess which cards interact with those cards and will go up in value but really, we’re locked in a Keynesian Beauty Contest where sometimes the cards need the picks to be obvious to someone who’s thinking first-level and only picking what they like. You could also think of it that we need to make picks that appeal broadly because we’re trying to guess what everyone will say they like, not what we like. We’ve been on a kick lately where we’ve said things need to be obvious, especially to people who know way less about EDH than they think they do (and maybe less about mtg finance than they think they do, but the world needs greater fools – they put our kids through college). How obvious does a card need to be? Let’s look at my pick for hottest girl and let’s look at who got the crowd vote.

Oh man, this is so good in Titania! I bet this goes to $5!

Oh man, this is so good in Angry Omnath! I bet this goes to $5!


Jund Land Matters?

Do you want to do one more comic zoom in?

There were a lot of chances for this to go up, but I feel like Ghost Town is the equivalent of a Keynesian Beauty Contest contestant whose picture was accidentally omitted from the picture. People have to know a thing is a thing before they can do a thing with the thing. I think it was Nobel Prize-winning Economist Oliver Hart who said that.

Meanwhile, a card that’s probably fine but in fewer decks and less cheesy than Ghost Town is in Tatyova had a different 2017.

“Hey, I hear one of the decks for Commander 2017 is going to be Vam-

-pires. Wow, didn’t even finish getting the word out of my mouth. OK, then.”

Where This Leaves Us

Clearly we need to be thinking next level. Not only do we think about what we would buy for our own decks (Instead of buying 1 Chain Veil I bought 25 back in 2014 and I’m super glad I did) because what we would build is usually a good indication of what others will build, provided it’s sufficiently obvious (the way Wall of Kelp is in Arcades and Ghost Town in… name it, isn’t) that others will go along for the ride with you. Having enough co-buyers isn’t about having a large enough shadowy cabal to manipulate the market but it’s about having more people than just you on a card. Can you make Seance happen through sheer tyrrany of will? Literally multiple people have tried on multiple occasions and to this day, Seance is the example I use as a counterargument to the notion that cards I call on Brainstorm Brewery are going to go up because I said the name of the card on a podcast.

You need other people to go along with your spec and if you don’t have a platform to trick them into it, you better try and think like them. We’re picking winners, but we have to pick the winners others pick. You may not feel like a genius picking a bunch of walls up when they spoil a card like Arcades, but you can rest assured if you vote for walls to be the prettiest girl at the dance that week, you’ll be in good company and being in good company is the name of the game. You want to show how smart you are? Pick the card everyone else picks and do it two weeks before they pick it so they buy their copies from you at the new price. If you can’t ever manage to do that, maybe you’re not THAT much smarter than every other rube out there. I mean, you probably are. But ARE you? I mean, yeah, I just said you were. You read my column which means you care about finance and you’re still reading it after that boring crap about Nash and Keynes, so you’re probably smarter than the average bear-buyer. But ARE you?

You All Hate It

when I teach you to fish but don’t end the article with a bunch of fish on a platter for you. Based on the Izzet and Jund stuff we’ve seen, I have a few ideas. But first….

Kittycat of the Week

$20 per for a fringe albeit RL rare from Alliances? Godspeed, team Kittycats. To be fair, people have been talking about this card for a few weeks since we saw art that looked like Varchild so it was reasonable that Varchild might get printed and might synergize but that wasn’t guaranteed and people quadrupled the price on mere suspicion. I think it might end up settling around $8-$10 and it might go in a deck built around Varchild (which will suck) but that’s about it. Their logic was unimpeachable, I guess, but just because nothing they assumed was wrong doesn’t mean anything they assumed was right or matters. I think this is pretty silly.

Estrid goes infinite with a masked copy of The Chain Veil and masked mana rocks but it’s way easier to go off with enchanted lands. My Enbantress deck was already running Utopia Sprawl, Overgrowth, Wild Growth and Fertile Ground.

Masters 25 is basically done doing what it’s going to do in a downward direction and everything is going to head back up. Sprawl got down to like $2.75 and Modern and Pauper give us some help here. This isn’t sexy, but considering I find these in bulk, it doesn’t need to be. Free money like this is my everything.

When you heard one of the new Planeswalker commanders went infinite with Felidar Guardian, be honest, you thought it was going to be Saheeli. Well, it wasn’t.

Keep an eye on Miracle cards because any that aren’t in the deck will want to be in the deck, but it’s a decent bet that Scoll Rack won’t get a printing here and neither will Personal Tutor.

Everything old is new again. Remember when Miracles was first announced and everyone bought deep on these cards to enable Time Walk in Legacy? Well, it didn’t happen because that’s clunky and stupid but you know what isn’t clunky and stupid? Making money off of Personal Tutor a second time. The top card will matter in this new Esper deck and having this tutor already on the upswing will only help its popularity and therefore its price. It’s already going, it’s going to go more. The underlying metrics of Scroll Rack are pretty good, also.

NOW will you buy Ghost Town? Good grief.

That does it for me this week. Thanks to everyone for reading. We’ll have some EDHREC data next week, I hope, and that means we can play a game where we can see the board and that will help immensely. Until next time!


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