Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Decoding MaRo

Readers!

Mark Rosewater loves to do a cryptic teaser blog post every time a new set comes out, which is often. Usually it’s all inconsequential but speculation is the art of using the past to delve clues about the future for information. Yes, I said art. You can be scientific about it if you want, and I think my typical series using lots of numbers from EDHREC does a good job of that and I’ve been very successful with my insights the past few years. Are you going to argue? You’re reading my writing, clearly something made you care about my opinions.

I like to post his entire post and see if we can ferret out any nuggets. Remember, we don’t have to nail it, we just have to think about what other people are thinking about. It’s a few days removed from the post but I bet there is still plenty of meat on the bone. Here’s the list, you lucky so and so’s. That apostrophe can’t be right, it looks like a grocer’s apostrophe but EB White insists. Shoulda said “lucky sumbitches.”

• over ten legendary Human Artificers

• another card with “end the turn”

• a command with X in its mana cost

• a spell that mimics an element of the effect of a creature that was originally printed with the picture of a World Champion on it

• a Teferi with a new way to gain loyalty counters

• equipment with “Equip Soldier”

• a new Onulet

• protection from everything returns

• a white creature that taps to let you and an opponent draw a card

• one colored artifact

Next, here are some rules text that will be showing up on cards:

• “create a tapped Powerstone token for each other creature you control.”

• “Put a +1/+1 counter on target Assembly-Worker you control.”

• “Whenever one or more creatures with mana value 3 or less enter the battlefield under your control,”

• “Permanents you control have ‘Ward – Sacrifice a permanent.’”

• “Whenever you cast an artifact spell with mana value 6 or greater,”

• “For each card type among noncreature spells you’ve cast this turn,”

• “Create a tapped 3/3 colorless Zombie artifact creature token.”

• “Look at the cards in each pile, then turn a pile of your choice face up.”

• “gains your choice of flying, vigilance, deathtouch, or haste.”

• “Whenever you cast a Beast or Bird creature spell,”

Finally, here are some creature type lines in the set:

• Artifact Creature – Ape

• Creature – Mole Horror

• Artifact Creature – Phyrexian Wurm

• Creature – Phyrexian Human Assassin

• Creature – Minotaur Barbarian

• Creature – Elf Druid Soldier

• Creature – Human Artificer Scout

• Legendary Creature – Human Wizard Advisor

• Legendary Creature – Elf Druid Scout

• Legendary Creature – Human Artificer Advisor

So this is a lot of stuff, and we can immediately ignore some of it. In fact, I’m only going to respond to the stuff I think is actionable.

• another card with “end the turn”

This feels like an Obkea-esque card, and it’s distinctly possible we could see an Obeka-style commander soon. If it’s another Time Stop, that could be OK, too, but those cards are considerably worse in EDH than in 2 player Magic where it’s a combination Counterspell and Time Walk. Just in case, the price of cards like Final Fortune (though Blue-adjacent cards are better than Red ones) or Sundial of the Infinite (which goes in Blue decks).

This is safe as milk imo. The spike in late 2020 is from Obeka and while it went down a bit, it didn’t stay down. One printing, flirted with $8 recent, I’m super duper OK paying $5 or $6 for this future 10 spot. It will go up bit by bit if this new “End the turn” card doesn’t enable new shenanigans and it will increase precipitously if it does. I like a win-win more.

Both cards got a second wind in 2022 that they’re in the midst of shrugging off so the copies won’t be in the hands of dealers. A run of any size on a rare card like this will be amplified 100 fold, but there might be safer places to park your money.

• equipment with “Equip Soldier”

Some people’s brains shut off when they saw this. I really think there is not much here, but anything could happen when people think there is going to be some sick tribal soldier. Still, “equip soldier” likely means there will be quite a few soldiers in this set, and with 50 or so Legendary creatures likely, there’s bound to be a new soldier deck.

Rather than try and figure out what is going on here, I thought about why they might say “equip soldier” and it occurred to me that it was likely due to there being 2 equip costs – 1 for soldiers and 1 for non-soldiers. Rather than focusing on which Soldiers I want to equip, I thought about trying to find easy ways to equip equipment in a non-Soldier deck.

Sigarda’s Aid doesn’t need any help from a new weird equipment that’s hard to equip, it’s doing fine on its own. However, it’s down from a historical high of $14 and basically just waiting for paper Modern. Hammertime is a relatively cheap deck to build and it can lucksack you to some really easy wins, making it perfect in the hands of a complete lunatic. You know the wild card you invite because it’s cheaper to split gas and hotel 4 ways and they have an unhinged Day 1 at a GP and then 0-5 day 2? Soon we’ll have tournaments for that guy to go nuts at again. Sigarda’s Aid seems safe but reprints can always dash our hopes if we’re not careful.

• “create a tapped Powerstone token for each other creature you control.”

This card is both the reason we know what a Powerstone token does and the card most likely to benefit from that being a real thing in Brother’s War. This is a $4 mythic Karn Planeswalker that could get real relevant, or even medium relevant. Did I mention it’s a $4 mythic Planeswalker? Now, that’s not unique – there are a depressing number of Mythic Planesalkers under $5. But the point is, that if you buy in at $5 and nothing happens, you’ll lose out on some opportunities with the money tied up, but if you’re inclined to gamble, this is like buying a $4 lottery ticket that will sell for $5 in 2 years. Sign me up for risks like that. Yes, there is a cost to having money tied up, but it’s a lower cost than lighting a Benjamin on fire because you specced on something way riskier.

• “Permanents you control have ‘Ward – Sacrifice a permanent.’”

Privileged Position this ain’t, but historically, cards that make it hard to target your permanents sleep for a bit until they’re discovered by Commander. Will that lull happen this time? Doubtful with Commander being the most popular format, but you never know.

This little bulk rare that could exceeded $20 both before an after a reprinting in a guild deck (remember those?) and I think while them having to pay dearly to kill something isn’t the same as stopping them entirely, it’s likely that this new spell is a great deal cheaper and therefore comes down before they can deal with it and when they do have some expendable perms later, your Greater Auramancy or Privileged Position can shield the new card that gives everything Ward. Is that boring? Eh, maybe, but not as boring as playing Farewell in your deck.

• “Whenever you cast an artifact spell with mana value 6 or greater,”

I won’t go down the entire hit parade for you, but I did the favor of linking my scryfall search so you don’t have to. I also have a favorite.

Foil Thopter Assembly fits the bill for me. It’s unlikely to be reprinted in foil ever again, the promo is ugly, it bounces itself letting you replay it for a ton of value and whatever happens with that trigger when you play it or replay it and it’s about a buck below its historic high, which will get higher if this new card breaks it. Pairing this with Time Sieve may be 2012 tech but people will remember if you do it to their faces and are left with a cloud of Thopters to vex them to boot.

I don’t know if any of this will pan out, but it’s fun to speculate and I think I did a better job of backing up my assertions than most people who try to do this. Next week we’ll be looking at more numbers, so let’s just enjoy this week and I’ll see you in Vegas, unless you’re at the event in which case you won’t see me because I’m going to be at a taping of Battlebots and multiple casinos. Check my twitter for me to live-tweet my location even though it’s a really bad idea. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Tier Two Space Marines

Readers!

Warhammer continues to give and give and today it’s giving us enough data to drill down into the 5-10 spots. Our top 5 is pretty much covered, but the extent to which those decks overlap could be very significant. I’m going to do that thing again where I use the list comparison tool to see which Black cards, if any, can be used in all three decks and therefore have a significant impact despite their being in separate decks. I feel like I understand what I’m talking about but I don’t know if I’m explaining myself enough so I’ll Illustrate. 

Here we have the top 5 Commanders in the set. A card that’s a staple in Ghryson Starn is in more decks than a card in an Imotekh deck. However, a card that’s in Imotekh, Trazyn and Szarek will be in 564 decks, more than Abbadon, Be’lakor, Marneus Calgar and Magus Lucea Kane. A “black commanders” staple represents as many decks as any other commander except for the insanely popular space cowboy that turns every Tim into a Kahaml, Pit Fighter. Sound exciting? I think Grey Popupon looks like a cool commander and I’ll likely build the deck.

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So a Black staple likely encompasses a lot of deck, and maybe more than just these three commanders condidering we have a Grixis deck and an Esper deck. Black cards are super hot and the necrons, I’m told, bring themselves and others back to life? I think? If they’re doing something that uses a card that most decks don’t use and they’re all using it, it’s worth a look.

If you didn’t catch it the last few times I did it, I use a list comparison tool and copy and paste the EDHREC “average deck” into the tool to see if any cards are in all 3 lists and if any are in two but are played quite a bit. It’s quick and dirty but so much of MTG Finance is just bothering to do tedious stuff or paying me to do it for you.

A whopping 26 shared cards! I’m sure there are a lot of lands on the list and maybe some mana rocks, but with a full quarter of the deck shared between the three, there are bound to be one or two overlaps, and that’s all we need to feel good about a card.

1 Arcane Signet
1 Biotransference
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Caged Sun
1 Chronomancer
1 Cryptothrall
1 Darkness
1 Defile
1 Endless Atlas
1 Foundry Inspector
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Go for the Throat
1 Illuminor Szeras
1 Mind Stone
1 Mutilate
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Mystic Forge
1 Out of the Tombs
1 Reanimate
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Sceptre of Eternal Glory
1 Sol Ring
1 Their Name Is Death
1 Thought Vessel
1 Tomb Fortress
1 Vault of Whispers

Getting rid of format staples, mana rocks and common removal, we have a pretty nice list, honestly.


1 Biotransference
1 Chronomancer
1 Cryptothrall
1 Darkness
1 Defile
1 Endless Atlas
1 Foundry Inspector
1 Illuminor Szeras
1 Mystic Forge
1 Out of the Tombs
1 Reanimate
1 Sceptre of Eternal Glory
1 Their Name Is Death
1 Tomb Fortress

There are a few cards that are interesting in the 2 deck list, especially the 35 shared cards between Izzle and Sizzle (I gave up on these dumb names), which would seem to select out Black format staples since those cards would also be in Tizzle but aren’t. Trazyn only shares 3 non-staples (Bolas’ Citadel, Feed the Swarm and KCI) with Izzle and 1 card (Convergence of Dominion) with Sizzle.

We can safely ignore those 4 cards, I think, because these decks won’t make a big enough splash to move the needle on something like Bolas Citadel that’s in 100k decks and Convergence is a bulk rare. I’m also kind of suspicious of anything that comes in the precon – it likely get used alongside any of these three decks but also, I think people tend to over-represent cards in precons when they first register their decks to Archidekt or Moxfield (anyone but TappedOut, really). I think there are some cards on this list worth a look, though.

This is cool in this deck specifically but I can’t recommend a $7 buy-in on a precon card that isn’t already identified as totally bonkers. If this keeps plummeting, give it another look, maybe, but I’m out at $7, especially as the buylist value tanks. I mean, if I’m interpreting a trend from 2 data points and calling myself a scientist, that is, and I’m not.

I looked at all of the rest of the precon cards and I don’t like any of them. Anyone who builds the deck will need the commander and a lot of the singles and it’s easier to just shell out $90 or whatever they want to charge for one of these at their LGS. I don’t think the Biotransference Demand will outstrip the supply is what I’m saying.

This barely went 18 months before it got a reprint and tanked to a buck but it’s pretty precipitously climbing back to its early $5 before this new reprinting, and if it’s left alone, this hits $10 and keeps going up. It’s a shoo-in for future mono-color EDH precons, so maybe out these to a buylist if they announce something like that, but I think if these are $1 on TCG Player and the ceiling is $8, I’m still good with it. I’d love to see this card hit $10, and I think it has the juice.

This is limited by only really going in mono-color decks, but there are a lot of those and people like them. This is a good card and I like it even more at the $1 we already watched it quintuple from.

There has never been a period of time where I observed the price graph of this card and said it was a bad time to buy, and I’m not going to start now that the ugly, ugly reprint in this precon is going to make the value super cheap. this is an $8 card, I’m OK paying like $2 right now.

If the TCG Player price graph is to be believed, we have hit the floor already. The precon art is ugly, but that just makes older copies more desirable. This will bounce, scoop some free money.

Finally, I wonder if the list of cards shared between Imotekh and S-dog are interesting – there are 35 of them after all.

1 Anrakyr the Traveller
1 Barren Moor
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Buried Ruin
1 Canoptek Scarab Swarm
1 Canoptek Spyder
1 Canoptek Tomb Sentinel
1 Canoptek Wraith
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Cranial Plating
1 Cryptek
1 Desert of the Glorified
1 Dread Return
1 Flayed One
1 Ghost Ark
1 Hedron Archive
1 Living Death
1 Lokhust Heavy Destroyer
1 Lychguard
1 Mask of Memory
1 Necron Deathmark
1 Necron Overlord
1 Psychomancer
1 Resurrection Orb
1 Royal Warden
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Shard of the Void Dragon
1 Skorpekh Lord
1 Technomancer
1 The War in Heaven
1 Their Number Is Legion
1 Trazyn the Infinite
1 Triarch Praetorian
1 Triarch Stalker
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

I’m not going to do that Searching for Bobby Fischer thing where I smack all of the pieces off of the chess board to make you see what I want, I’ll literally just go through and pick them out myself, it’s cool.

There are very few non-precon cards here. I feel like increasingly people are just leaving the decks together, but we’re seeing some high synergy cards in all of these decks that aren’t format staples or in the precon, so while there is a lot of noise caused by the homogenization from the precons, there is still a signal, we just have to find it. Of the reprints here, I’m very interested in Living Death and Beacon of Unrest.

If this card is impacted by the reprint, it will be the first time since late 2017 that it happened and that was a period over which the price tripled. I think this still has the juice to get back up to $10, but I wouldn’t buy the precon version of any of these cards, personally.

Whereas Beacon has never shrugged off a reprint in its life.

This is too cheap by half.

This card is too cheap, specifically on TCG Player.

That’s all for today. I think there are some cards that overlap between the decks, but even if you do this and don’t find anything, it’s less than 60 seconds worth of cutting and pasting to do it. I encourage you all to let tools do the sorting for you and you’ll discover some budding demand you would have missed otherwise. Thanks for reading. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Out With The New

Readers! A lot can change in 7 days. From last week’s article, here is a graphic of the 5 most recent sets in the EDHREC dropdown menu.

And here is, and I’m definitely padding the word count to create somewhat of a buffer between the two images in case you’re on, like, mobile, I guess? And you have big old Kind Charles fingers and can’t select one without the other? I feel like I did it, and not a second too soon because you have to get a lot of this BS. This is that same menu 7 days later.

Superlative. No notes. Is there a reason for this glut of products apart from 40k being delayed?

Super duper. OK, then. Since we’re all whales, now and Ol’ Cap’n Ahabsbro seems to want to see us all dead. If Magic goes away, I need to get a real big boy job and I have 0 skills. I’m like an indoor cat who ended up outside with a dog whose internal monologue is voiced by… I want to say Scoot McNairy. Actually that sounds pretty chill. I’m like a 38 year old with no relevant experience in the last decade who can’t pass a drug test. That’s what I’m like. And I’m scared.

The cure for the “I wasted my life on a children’s card game that doesn’t love me back” blues is more hot specs. With new sets every week comes new specs every week. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Looks like the community is spoiling to build around this creature all the Vorthos people recognize from the Ice Age comic book that came with a free pack of Fallen Empires but I’ve never heard of. The only way to get a deck built is to build it before the set’s out because by the time you have the physical cardboard, they’ve spoiled 2 more sets and 8 more secret lairs. Let’s look at these specs, shall we?

No real shock here. Kayla likely gets built as a mean, stax style deck that you can sac your own pieces to get them back. Everything that makes her better at doing what she does is 2 or 3 mana and an Artifact or Creature. This is basically a Tiny Leaders deck, but like a mean, antisocial one. If people figure out how to build this deck like not a complete sociopath, I’ll report on those specs, too, I guess, but for now, feast your eyes upon my pics.

This card is under $10 and should not be. Every time it goes under $10, it goes back over $10. Is this going to get reprinted again? Perhaps. But what you should really be asking yourself is how many times does it need to get reprinted not to trend towards $15? At least one more, so make this one count.

I could type more because of that thing I said earlier about a buffer between images, but this graph is 1,000 words and I don’t want this piece to turn into a snooze to read if we’re at 1,500 words already.

This is $1 above its recent floor an $20 below its historical high. I don’t know where it will equilibrate, but it’s not going to be $8.

There are basically very few wrong answers here, honestly. Half of these are cards I liked a long time ago. Some of them are way underpriced. WAY underpriced.

I thought this was a $5 last year and nothing has happened since then to make me feel otherwise. Unfortunately, nothing has happened since then.

I don’t know, this just doesn’t seem like a bulk rare to me. It’s in a lot of decks, it’s about to be in more, and it’s good. Illusionists’ Bracers were cheap forever, I stand by this pick and I’ll either be vindicated or out of a job because the game collapsed under the weight of the products they release because no one wants to buy Monopoly or Nerf guns right before a recession.

Speaking of bracers,

This is in a lot of decks. This should be $10 everywhere, maybe more, so sniping cheap copies seems like a good play. They somehow have never reprinted this, which makes me a bit nervous considering they have a chance to reprint it every set, now.

I think this commander actually has a ton of potential. I really like the idea of a Boros type of Birthing Pod, and with it as your commander, you’ll get a ton of value. For reference, here is the rest of Kayla’s page. Thanks for reading, nerds. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: How to Make 40k Decks

Readers!
It’s that time again, the time where we have Warhammer 40K data but it doesn’t matter because they have announced Unfinity, Brother’s War, 5 new secret lairs and a $250 booster pack that very much violates the spirit of the Reserved List. We’d better look at 40k stuff now – it’s about to be pushed off of the “recent sets list” on EDHREC and it hasn’t even come out yet. 

Last week we didn’t have enough data but we seem to be all set this week, so let’s do that thing I always do but also always feel the need to introduce like you don’t already know what it is from me always doing it. That thing. Let’s do that.

Abbadon is still in the lead by quite a bit, still, which was to be expected. He’s been spoiled the longest and he was the only one we had data on for a while. Nothing has really changed with Abbadon, but let’s take a quick look at High Synergy cards.

Still suspend stuff and pingers. Pingers are also going to be useful for the next commander, too.

I talked about Abbadon and Starnzy 2 weeks ago, and if you didn’t read that article, I go into a bit more depth about why I like older foils. Ophidian Eye, for example, has 0 reprints and a $10 foil that’s pretty scarce. I think someone knew about these 40K cards a long time ago based on how all of the ping foils disappeared like 2 years after they printed Torbran. I like a lot of stuff that deals exactly 1 damage but at the rate they release new commanders, no one can really agree on a deck because by the time you get cards, they have announced 3 new sets. I prefer more stable stonks since Magic seems determined to jump the shark and I don’t know if I’ll have a job in a year.

Exhibit A

Every Demon is like $4 right now, similar to Dragons. If a good Demon tribal commander is printed, they all go up, even the OK ones and with 70 new Legendary creatures in every set, they’re going to have to resort to demon tribal sooner or later.

I have long been bullish on both versions of this, and it seems the markets are finally in accord. The fact that I said to buy it before it went up would suggest I sometimes know what the market will do, or every card goes up eventually. Either way, I urged people to pay $2 for the showcase version in the past and now Card Kingdom is asking $5. This card is profoundly good and people are finally noticing, though it may have taken a Demon that cares about Demons to get there.

That pic looks weird, it’s because it’s an NFC and I’m kind of in the zone typing right now so I’m not going to fix it, you’re just going to have to be OK with my miscut pic.

Too late to get these for $8 but you can get them before they’re $20. It’s on “The List” so that has helped, but not enough. I’m serious about paying $12-$15 for these if you’re quick.

This held fairly steady at $15 before it was reprinted. I’m perfectly OK snatching some $4 copies of this and watching the reverse J turn into a U like we like.

CK is just straight up getting $40 for this card and TCG is like $6 more than I paid. I am hodling on for dear life on these and I’d rather they see more play than not if I want to recoup on these. I bought at basically buylist at the time but that doesn’t help me much. I really expected these to go lower, but The List doesn’t add as many copies as you think it will.

This is kind of a boring deck if I’m being honest – it’s being built as Esper goodstuff control for the most part which means another Thoracle deck. Fun.

Kind of a steep drop with the number of decks, but the Stormlord is built 3 times as much as the Swarmlord, which no one saw coming. Not that anyone has touched this product yet.

Another problem with the product being obsolete is that people don’t have physical cards in their hands, so they don’t construct the decks with the physical cards they have, they construct using the precon list as a guide. This almost always results in them adding way more cards from the precon to their decklists than they’ll actually add when they build the deck for real, but by then no one is going to look at the EDHREC page for 20 sets ago. Stuff comes out too fast to go back for anything.

This could go up even more with people building Zur as a Saga deck, but honestly, if someone hasn’t built Zur yet, they’re not going to. Dominaria United feels forgotten already. This pace of products is entirely unsustainable and I think it will make or break Magic as a game and Magic as a career, but maybe I’m an old man yelling at clouds. We’ll find out sooner or later. Until next time.