Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: Backed By Data, Like Always

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Readers,

There’s a place in Northern Michigan called Bronner’s Christmas World. As you can imagine, the store is Christmas-themed. Very much so. All of the decor is Christmasy, the cafeteria serves Christmas dinner type fare year-round and there’s tinsel as far as the eye can see. Fake snow, glitter, the works. You want to buy a Christmas tree ornament with the University of Michigan logo on it? You’ve come to the right place. Stocking with your name (Bort) stitched onto it with the delicacy and care only one of Santa’s elves could manage? Bronner’s baby. It’s… frankly a little dystopian. It’s a wonderland at first, obviously, but after you’re there about 45 minutes and the initial charm has worn off and you start looking around for the employees, they won’t meet your gaze. They trudge around like the walking dead, and how could they not? It’s all Christmas, all the time. The store is open 364 days a year. Can you guess which day the staff is given respite from the unending onslaught of the holly-jolliest of occasions? Good guess, it is Christmas Day. The one break they get from the Twilight Zone-esque horror of perpetual Yule is the day they have to go home and spend Christmas with their own families. Understandably, the employees don’t often make eye contact. I am starting to understand how they feel.

There’s a new set out so I’m going to write a series of articles about the cards that people are going to play because that’s a thing we’re going to do every 3 weeks until the heat death of the universe. When people would complain about wallet fatigue and criticize WotC for releasing too many products in a year, I’d say “not everything is for everyone, they’re just compartmentalizing their bases a little more and catering to them individually” and that’s great for buyers but not great for people who pay attention to EDH because EVERYTHING AFFECTS EDH. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t sing a jaunty little Christmas tune and hotshoe into the back of the store to see if we have any more of the nativity set where the Three Wise Men are in Star Trek Starfleet uniforms and the baby is Spock. I’m just going to slap a price tag on the floor model and call it a day because, and I hope you’ll come to see the wisdom in this approach, the floor model is just as good.

You know what helps pick me up out of my doldrums? Surprises. And this set is full of them. Can you guess what the most popular commander is? Just guess. Don’t try to go on EDHREC and look, I’m literally going to show you in a second. You scrolled down, didn’t you? You’re 0 fun. Fine, here it is.

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If you’d asked me to guess, I would have put Anje and K’rrik near the top, so it’s good I didn’t have to guess. Eggygirl is our number one commander for the week and we don’t have to like or understand that, we just have to adapt to a reality where that’s the case. Is this a bad Mayael or a better Mayael? Who cares? It’s the new hotness and there are relevant cards. Maybe you have some of them in your bulk.

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Nesting Dragon makes eggs and that’s a good thing. It’s also one of the only cards worth anything in the Lord Windgrace deck from last year and that’s good. However, if you can snag those decks for $35 or even better, less, you can get cards totaling closer to $80 if you can get close to a dollar for dollar cards reliably. Realistically, you’ll be able to buylist everything for more than you paid and that’s worth doing, especially if Nesty here jumps to $10. I don’t know how long Atla hype is going to last, but this belongs in 100% of Atla decks. Buy these today.

If Congregation ever gets under a buck again, consider going deep. Something always seems to pop up to make it do something and even though it comes back down, you want to have copies when it goes nuts next time. I don’t think it will ever truly be bulk-tier again but I also don’t think they’re in a hurry to reprint it. Consider the $7 foils on Card Kingdom while you’re at it – they’re closer to $8 on TCG Player.

Foils of this have mostly dried up under $10 and I think that’s goofy but with multiple tribal decks wanting Changeling effects and this card making all of your creatures eggs and therefore a real beating when they Wrath, try and score cheap foils and try to get the non-foil copies you can out of bulk. They should move a bit – really bad cards did in Feather decks after all and Lorwyn bulk is harder to find.

This is never getting reprinted and we would do well to remember that. We would also do well to remember that with the exception of Mayael herself and a bunch of decks that don’t have access to Green mana, there has never been a better deck to Stampede with than Atla. You’re concerned with the top of your deck and running cards like Worldy Tutor, Congregation at Dawn and Scroll Rack to make those egg triggers count. This card was made for this deck.

Seems like the best time to grab these is 2013 and the second best time to grab these is right now before they go up any more. I don’t know what else to say about this card other than that it continues to go up, seems unlikely to get another reprint anytime soon and has really good growth. I wish I had gone deeper when I was buying these for my own decks but I always end up cutting this late. Atla decks won’t cut this, though – it’s literally everything they want in a card, and being 1 mana means they can always keep it up.

There are plenty more picks on the page. You don’t have to make it a Dino deck but a lot of people are and that’s worth knowing about. For a deck that screams “CASUAL” I am surprised to see it polling so well and I’ll be interested to see if it’s still on top next week. Right now people are speculatively throwing lists together but not as much buying cards because they don’t have the decks yet, so don’t buy what speculators are buying unless you don’t want anyone to sell the stuff to. You can buy a lot of 8th Edition Foil Rukh Eggs for cheap but that doesn’t mean you’ll sell them later. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: In Defense of Just Buying the Things

Readers!

We’re in the thick of a 4 day “reveal all of the commander decks at once like animals” week and boy has it been a doozy. I’m writing this on Tuesday, when exactly half of the whole decklists have been revealed and people seem pretty upset. Gavin Verhey assured everyone they read everyone’s disappointed reddit posts about the lack of value despite the price of the decks going up $5 and came on Brainstorm Brewery and assured us they would make some changes with the decks going forward. At first blush, they appear to have done… not that.

This looks pretty bad at first. People were expecting a big, flashy reprint, sort of like Wurmcoil Engine, or an obviously busted Legacy crossover card like True-Name Nemesis or Containment Priest. This has neither. The most expensive reprint is Seedborn Muse which is coming off of another recent reprint and is about to get dinged a lot more, currently sitting at about $7.50 for Battlebond copies. Most of the rares and mythics are bulk rares and none of the new cards look like they can soak up all of the value. Worse still, obvious cards like Ixidor and Dream Chisel we omitted from the deck, forcing people to go out and spend even more to make the deck serviceable because of the glaring exclusions. People seem pretty upset online. Are they right?

Let’s look at the list that came out today.

This looks even worse. River Kelpie and Ghostly Prison are about $5 but there is no big, sexy card and cards like Past in Flames were left out.

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Is it really as bad as it looks? To answer that question, let’s go back and look at Commander 2018 and see how it looks a year later.

On paper, this looks like trash. Avenger of Zendikar was basically the only money reprint and the new commanders all looked like trash. Obvious reprints like Burgeoning, Exploration or Oracle of Mul Daya were excluded. Cards like Deathreap Ritual, Budoka Gardener, and Sakura-Tribe Elder that were showing signs of growth were going to tank and the new cards are pretty lackluster.

If you add up the current values of all of the cards in this deck, a year later, though, you might be surprised to find that the contents of the deck add up to roughly $80. There are plenty of completed listings on eBay for $60. Whiptongue Hydra, Nesting Dragon and Windgrace’s Judgment are $5 cards. Budoka Gardener climbed back to over $2 and EDH staples like Sakura-Tribe Elder, Sol Ring, Cultivate, and Explosive Vegetation basically shook the reprinting off. At the time, this seemed like the weakest deck but value-wise now, a year later, it’s the second-best (the worst is the Estrid deck, to the surprise of few and the chagrin of many).

How misleading is the “$80” figure? After all, there are 100 cards and if they’re all retailing for 80 cents, that means they’re worthless and won’t buylist for much. Wouldn’t a more fair way to look at it be based on buylist value? We’re not going to buy at retail and sell at buylist on the Commander 2019 products, but it’s still a good idea to look at those values.

If you look at the cards in the morph deck, there is some value there. Some of the cards will obviously tank, but a lot of the good ones will recover in a year and currently the buylist numbers aren’t too bad. If you put the 83 non-new cards into TCG Player and tried to buy them all, it would cost you $100, first of all. That’s not that telling, but it’s worth noting. The number of cards that in the Morph deck that currently buylist for a dollar or more is a staggering (Hooded Hydra, Ixidron, Grim Haruspex, Den Protector, Seedborn Muse, Thelonite Hermit, Great Oak Guardian, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Overwhelming Stampede, Tempt With Discovery, Strionic Resonator, Sol Ring, Thran Dyanmo, Darkwater Catacombs, Exotic Orchard, Llanowar Wastes, Sunken Hollow, Thespian’s Stage, Yavimaya Coast, Ash Barrens, Bojuka Bog, Command Tower, Reliquary Tower). That’s $32 of your $35 right ther, buylist value, excluding the 17 new cards whose values are unknown. Do we expect any of them to be worth anything? Well, historically, the decks will have at least 2 new cards worth $5 (Arixmethes and Estrid’s Invocation, Treasure Nabber and Endless Atlas, Lord Windgrace and Windgrace’s Judgment and Nesting Dragon and Whiptongue Hydra , Aminatou and Yuriko). If you tack on at least another $10, you’re reasonably safe buying at $35, especially if you want any of the cards. If there is a Yuriko this year, which has settled around $15, you’re in even better shape.

Are these a great investment? I don’t know how you feel about buying at $35 to sit on them for a year and sell for $58 BIN on eBay but in the short term, there will be money to be made busting for singles, selling the new, hot cards before they equilibrate down and holding the reprints while they equilibrate up. If you’re a player, absolutely preorder one of each deck at $35 each (you should be able to do better and get a set around $120) and build to your heart’s content.

We haven’t seen the other 2 decks but I’m not sure we need to – I am confident these are a better buy than people think, the value looks a little better than last year with a lot of money in pricey lands like Sunken Hollow and creatures like Seedborn Muse and there are bound to be some sexy, $5-and-up new cards. Here are a few I like.

Old Docksides, as he likes to be called, is pretty punishing in multiplayer. I have heard people talk about using him in Vintage, which probably can’t happen since the decks that let you cash in with him probably have lethal on board or a Mycosynth Lattice and Karn lock. This is nuts, however, in a format where everyone has Sol Rings and Signets. Bring him back over and over with Grenzo, tutor for him with Goblin Recruiter or Matron, blink him with Deadeye Navigator or Conjurer’s Closet or just play him, get a pile of treasure and win with Revel in Riches. This isn’t Smothering Tithe but it sure is close.


This card is stupid. I love it.

Historically, I have said that I tend to ignore supposition about the cost of Legendary creatures and prefer to focus on the decks that they’ll enable, but since we have data from last year, we can look at it. The Legendary creatures and planeswalkers from Commander 2018 worth more than $5 are Aminatou ($5), Yuriko ($15), Arixmethes ($7) and Lord Windgrace ($5). Nothing from the Saheeli deck mattered, as much as everyone raved last year about how you should buy Varchild’s War Riders. Pramikon has meme value and could end up being this year’s Arixmethes, which is a bad card but a huge casual hit. You know how many people are swinging with tribal sea monsters? More than are playing the Tuvasa Voltron deck everyone on reddit said couldn’t be beat.

This isn’t as bad as everyone says it is and I bet the deck it’s in is the worst one, helping its value even more.

If I had to guess, I think this will surprise people and get built a lot more than the marquee cards in the decks. This is what EDH players want.

That does it for me this week. Buy the decks, I think. I’ll be back next week with some data and some supposition about which specs to buy. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: I Almost Made A Pun About A Spec

Could you imagine? Locking this article for Pro Traders only for 48 hours but I put the name of a card to spec on right in the title? Total disaster. I blame the lack of sleep I’ve gotten lately at the hands of two children who, working as a cohesive unit, are keeping me deprived of sleep more efficiently that any two professional interrogators. Despite the psychological war being waged against me, I’m possessed of enough of my mental faculties to remember that we should be looking into the future to buy stuff before it spikes. Did you buy any copies of Painter’s Servant in 2018? Then it was probably an accident but I hope you bought a lot. Did you try to buy them the day of the unbanning announcement? Sorry about your cancelled order due to “selling out on multiple platforms” or whatever nonsense they fed you. Since we have to buy far ahead, let’s do it. We’ll do it by looking at a card that people already forgot was spoiled, it’s that far ahead of the set it’s in. Like, we haven’t seen a single card from Commander 2019, so having an Eldraine card is pretty nuts. Let’s take advantage of that and use it to our… yep, no way out of this sentence without using the word “advantage” again so I’m just going to bail out and try to smoothly transition to the next paragraph without arousing any

Eldraine is set in a Fairytale setting and while that doesn’t mean Bitterblossom is a good buy (I had a good laugh at all of the people buying faeries cards because of a spoiled booster pack wrapper) it DOES mean Legendary creatures. Also, funnily enough, MaRo said some of the cards that seem like they’d be Legendary won’t. It’s tough to build decks where every creature in the set is Legendary. Remember how Civilized Scholar//Homocidal Brute was supposed to represent Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Same deal with Eldraine. Anyway, there will be Legendary creatures. We’ve already seen one that’s going to be in a Throne of Eldraine Brawl precon and it’s pretty spicy. I think the deck will get played in EDH even if this fails to make Brawl palatable which is fine since all of the cards that are good with it won’t be legal in Brawl. Let’s take a look at said creature.

A character from Irish folklore, CĂș Chulainn was the incarnation of the god Lugh who joined the 27 club after being tricked into an unfair fight. Irish people are pretty stoked to see a character from their lore represented, and rightly so. I’m pretty stoked to see a value engine like Chulane is and people are already thinking of ways to abuse him. There are several and if he catches on in EDH and cEDH like I think he might, some expensive stuff could get expensiver. We have 1 deck on EDHREC so I had to do some digging online, but I’d have to do that to find cEDH stuff anyway, so here goes.

I’ll say before I actually launch into the picks (I’m a tease, I know) that this is a bit preliminary and I usually wait for EDHREC data but I think we can make a few reasonable assumptions about what people will try to pair with this when it’s closer to being released in a few months and we need to get ahead of them if we want to grab the obvious stuff. The non-obvious stuff will still be there later but this is a part of the process we don’t often engage in but I think he’s been overlooked and with Commander 2019 spoilers next week poised to bury this card, we should be thinking ahead.

This climbed a lot faster than I had thought it would. It’s good in basically every Green EDH deck but it’s especially good here. I wish I had called this at $1, but if you buy them now, you’re going to be saying “I’m glad I bought these under $5” rather than “I wish I had bought these under $2.” Missing stuff happens when it climbs smoothly and other cards in the set overshadow it, but people are done opening RNA and with the mythics mostly all crashing, the value has to go somewhere and, here’s it goes. Guardian Project has a vague name and a powerful effect so it has high to very high reprint risk but it’s also a dumb card that goes in a lot of decks. How many decks?

Second to only Smothering Tithe. That’s how many decks. It’s in the best color in EDH, it draws cards for what Green does best and it’s under $5. It will only get better paired with Chulane and if it’s not in the Brawl precon, which it might be, it’s going to be a $10 card someday. If it is in there, it will be a $5 card someday.

Remember me? I keep popping up year after year, enabling dumb commanders like Prossh, Tazri and Niv-Mizzet. This is mostly a cEDH card given how expensive it is, but it’s also very good in Chulane and I could see people playing it anyway. Even though it just missed the cut-off for the Reserved List, I don’t know how likely a reprint of this is given its high price tag and this may be a “get your copy if you need it for Chulane” sort of a situation. If you wanted to invest, maybe look at a card that’s on the Reserved List and has a lower buy-in. Maybe look at

Aluren. Gettable under $20, ridiculous with Chulane, demonstrates the ability to crest the $40 mark on a repeated basis and on the Reserved List. If there was one pick for this week that I would push hard for, it’s this one. It’s not just good with Chulane, it’s insane. Whitemane Lion, Shrieking Drake and a host of other gating creatures are good with Chulane and INSANE IN THE CHULANE MEMBRANE with Aluren. Draw your deck and dump every land. Win that turn. Aluren is a card that keeps coming up and if you have copies, you may have been holding them for a while but Chulane, if it takes off, has to play this card.

I don’t know how controversial it is to say to buy a card that’s in the midst of going up because of other decks, but Curio is a likely inclusion in Chulane and since it’s climbing, you won’t be able to get them for cheap later. I think with two potential reasons to spike, we may have seen the last of this card under $20.

Even if the incoming second spike on this card isn’t higher and harder, it should maintain its ceiling for longer.

However, in lieu of more picks, I want to discuss the shape of this graph. Today I’m talking about “obvious” stuff that cEDH people are going to put in their cEDH decks rather than the cards that EDH players are going to use with Chulane. A lot of the cards are likely the same, but do you remember why Intruder Alarm spiked in the first place? It was in the last year so you probably do. It was Vannifar. Alarm was “ZOMG OBVS” in the deck, it and cards like Thornbite Staff all disappeared. Some quick people made money but I think people were a little upset with me that I seemed to be staying out of it. After all, Vannifar was the cEDH hotness. What’s the case for not being all over it?

For one, a few months later, Vannifar is the 4th best commander in a set that doesn’t even have 5 good commanders. Vannifar was obvious but Teysa Karlov is hotter. I made a lot of money on Teysa cards and I had a much longer time to pick them up, and my selling window was longer, too. Let’s look at cards that spiked as a result of Teysa and compare the shape of their graphs to this last section of the Intruder Alarm graph.

It didn’t crash. People are still racing to the bottom a bit on TCG Player but stores like Card Kingdom aren’t lowering their prices and they’re still moving copies to players. Card Kingdom isn’t competing with anyone like TCG Player is on Intruder Alarm, either, and they keep lowering their price on that. It seems to me that as much as I get some FOMO static from some of my readers who feel like I’m losing them money by not being super proactive like I was this week and getting those “obvious” cards, the stuff we select with my method maintains its price better because it’s based on what people are demonstrably playing, backed by data and not what is obvious to people who didn’t build a Vannifar deck. Hallowed Spiritkeeper peaked at $8 and is now around $6.50. Massacre Wurm peaked at $30 and settled at $25. Intruder Alarm lost half of its value and it’s a much more powerful and less niche card than something like Vindictive Lich. The demand for cards that are selected by my method is like a $7 Avocado – organic.

Aluren has had a lot of peaks and valleys in its graph. Cloudstone Curio is getting help from another card. Food Chain is always going to be above $40. The rest of every cEDH deck is always the same – Force of Will, Enlightened Tutor, Brainstorm, Sylvan Library, Mox Diamond, etc. Intruder Alarm has some upside with Chulane comboing with it but you need a lot of mana dorks. I think we likely haven’t seen the Vindictive Liches and Hallowed Spiritkeepers Chulane will bring us yet. I think we have time and with the number of Chulane decks going from 1 to 30 in the lat 24 hours, I think we’ll have time to make our purchases ahead of what people are really going to play. Chulane is powerful, he’s being hyped by WotC to get people to build Brawl and I also think there are cards I can safely predict that are going to look a lot more like Massacre Wurm than Intruder Alarm.

If these weren’t obvious to you, they also won’t be obvious to speculators who don’t pay attention to EDH and that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

That does it for me. Let’s all be on the lookout for the next Massacre Wurm. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The Available Information

Readers!

If I let my personal taste as a deckbuilder completely influence what I bought, I wouldn’t be very good at my job. The longer this crazy children’s card game of ours keeps going, the more technology steps in to make our lives easier, and the more data we have to look at, the less we have to guess. Not having to guess is good, because if you had to guess the Top 5 commanders of the week, how many would you get right? If you didn’t get at least 2, including the number 1 and number 2, that’s OK but it means you should make sure to read my article every week and read the other free one I write on Coolstuffinc. If you can get all 5, I actually don’t believe you. If you get 2-4, that’s something to be proud of, but to nail all 5, you’d have to have pegged a real curveball.

Golos always looked kind of clunky even though he cheats spells into play and he went a little overlooked t first, but in terms of sheer power, Golos is hard to beat. Ramp a ton, play spells that are unreasonably expensive and cast your deck. If you “whiff” and hit a ramp spell, you’re just increasing the odds you can activate twice next turn or three times after that, so you actually can’t even really whiff. The deck was a bit under the radar but I think there’s an excellent chance a lot of the infrastructure of the deck will overlap with some other decks which means there is a lot of opportunity for staple to spike harder than normal. Let’s look at the deck in depth a bit.

I get asked a lot about commanders and I don’t generally care about their prices. They’re hard to predict and I worry more about the cards in the decks. With Yarok showing up in the 99 a lot of the time, it may be pretty easy to maintain above $10 as a mythic in a core set that people won’t open any longer than they have to. I won’t buy Yarok, but if you have other Core set 2020 or other cards less than a year old, trade aggressively because those cards are even less likely to maintain value and you’re gaining money by hemorrhaging less later. That’s my theory, anyway. Yarok and Omnath as expensive right now and Kykar is like $3 despite being in way more EDH decks than Omnath. It’s other formats that do it for Omnath and it’s other decks that do it for Yarok.

Also in the new cards is Soultender, which is basically a Conjurer’s Closet. Not every deck can run it but that’s OK because it’s in the best colors for these shenanigans. Is there any pressure on this $6 foil to go anywhere but up? ABU, for the record, is sold out at $8.

People are playing Golos as a Gates deck and while Maze’s End will never go above like $1, the prerelease foil is like $3 and the set foil is a baffling $15 on Card Kingdom. Better grab those, though, because here is all that’s left on TCG Player –

The only Near Mint is twice that. Scour your obscure sites for set foils of Maze’s End which, I can’t stress this enough, exists in the same universe as a $3 prerelease promo foil.

ABU still has these foils at $3, everyone else is selling out and TCG Player is about to sell out at $4. I think you buy a card that has basically replaced Explosive Vegetation because it’s just as good but better in Gates decks for that. I don’t know much about foils but I do understand low stock.

There really aren’t many Green decks these days that don’t want the full complement of Worldshaper, Azusa, Lotus Cobra, Wayward Swordtooth, Tireless Tracker and Oracle of Mul Daya. I don’t see any of those cards going down anytime soon, especially since Oracle of Mul Daya is probably never going to get the reprint it desperately needs. The reprint risk is so high that I won’t even buy that card as part of a collection. Everything is on its way up, could Elvish Reclaimer be next? I’m not convinced, and the deck has access to Knight of the Reliquary already, but I think you jam it at least here if not in other decks. Omnath can’t play Knight of the Reliquary.

Try to buy at peak supply. Because I told you so, that’s why. I don’t get paid enough to lie, so try to buy at peak supply. Peak supply is coming soon – the Commander 2019 preview cards were distributed today and the set promises to be bonkers. People are just about ready to forget about Core Set and stop drafting it the second they don’t have to.

This says “land” card. Not basic land, land. That matters a lot and this isn’t really a ramp spell or a removal spell, it’s a both spell. Show some respect and respect how Battlebond stuff continues to climb. It’s been a year, it’s time for this to take off, but it will take more than the EDHRECast talking about it.

The foil looks a little unhealthy to me, so I’m not sure what to think.

For reference, here is the card page. I think a lot of good stuff is pretty high already. Do you need me to tell you Scroll Rack is good in this deck? Brainstorm? Sensei’s Top? Nah, you got this. Golos continues to surprise me and if it gets picked up more, expect prices to surprise both of us. I’m already a little surprised at how high Wayward Swordtooth got in such a short period of time. EDH is making me re-assess how I handle rotation, but that topic is its own article and I’ll write that later. Until next time!

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