Category Archives: Jason Alt

Unlocked Pro Trader: The Macro View

Readers!

I was planning on going deeper on more of the Innistrad commanders and, honestly, this just seems like a bad set for it. The commanders are either Slogurk – just another Simic goodstuff pile that has the same lands-matter cards as the last 10 Simic commanders, or it’s incredibly narrow – curses or Werewolves or something. I fully intended to dive into Lynde, and I just didn’t see anything to care about.

A bunch of cards that are basically never going to go up, and one that did. The worst one. I don’t get it.

I’m sure this went up for non-EDH reasons or something. I don’t know – the point is, Lynde isn’t really making anyone any money. The more specialized commanders get, the more obvious the picks get to people, but since they don’t have any idea of the scale we’re talking about, they’re guessing at the demand. Will every Lynde deck run Curse of Vengeance? Maybe, but how many decks is that? Right now there are 73 in the database and they’re all basically identical. Will people still want to build Lynde in 2 months when there is a new set out? Looking at just the data from the set, it’s clear Lynde is popularish, but what does that mean?

Sure, there are more people playing EDH than there were in 2018, but there are twice as many Legendary creatures every set as there were then, too. Most commanders won’t get built. Obviously bad ones won’t get built very much at all, but even decent ones won’t, and one reason is that they’ll be made obsolete soon. I gave up on a Lands-matter commander in Simic because every few months a new version came out. Is Slogurk the best one?

OK, this is going to turn into a lecture, so here’s something to tide you over – this card hasn’t been printed all that recently, it is in both Stickfingers and Slogurk, it isn’t likely to get printed soon and it shouldn’t be under $20

Back to my rant – I’m picking on Lynde a bit, but I could easily pick on Tovolar. Tovolar is running away with the number one spot in this set, but how about for the week?

How about for the month, then?

There is a LOT going on here. What gets missed when we move from set to set so quickly is that how good something is over a longer term matters a lot, too. Sure, if you had Immerwolves you could be selling them for $3 apiece on TCG Player direct right now if that’s your model, but if you like to buy retail and flip to buylists, the easiest way to make money, you’ll need some sustained demand for the buylist price to go up. The number one deck built from a set MIGHT do that the way Prosper has, but it’s pretty clear it needs to be more than just the best deck from that set. Looking at Weekly and Monthly trends is one way to identify longer-term demand and find better buys.

Here’s something interesting I found.

Prosper is number one, blah blah blah, but look at the rest of the top 5. Galea was the second most built commander in the set, with nearly as many decks as Sefris. Let’s look at the top decks of the last 30 days again.

Sefris is there, but where is Galea? Even though Galea was more popular overall and more popular in the set, in the last 30 days, people have continued to build Sefris decks and not Galea. Of the 871 decks in the database for Sefris, we can deduce that 586, or 67% of the total, were built in the last 30 days. Only 551 Galea decks were built over the same period. It’s not nothing, but it means Sefris is creeping up. How many Top 5 decks in a set don’t even chart a month later? 540 Volo decks, 325 Tiamat decks, 236 for Xanathar… feels like we’re already losing steam. Of everything we discussed today, only one deck, Prosper, makes the Top 100 in the last 2 years. Seeing more Galea decks than Sefris decks were being built 3 weeks ago tells us some stuff but not noticing that Sefris closes the gap by about 20 decks a week tells us a lot, too, and it’s information I’m largely not accounting for like I should be. Look how many of the set-specific EDH precon commanders are on this list – Lathril AND Anowon? We looked at Lathril picks the week the deck was spoiled and that’s it, but more people are building Lathril than Kenrith during a week that Golos got banned and that’s significant.

What does this all mean, in practical terms? To me, it means that while speculating on cards that are going to be good in Slogurk is probably smart since a non-zero number of Slogurk decks are going to be built, we need to focus more on the Prospers of the world. A Prosper spec seems like it’s twice as likely to go up and stay up compared to a Sefris spec, but we haven’t revisited either, really. All of that ignores the fact that we never even gave Sefris a serious look the first time. Should we have?

No, probably not. Still, though.

Since I have basically made the case that Slogurk specs are only worth it if they’re in more decks than just Slogurk since the growth potential is limited, let’s look at cards that are in Slogurk, Stickfingers AND Tovolar, shall we?

Behold! Your specs! Good night!

OK, so we’re clearly going to have to deign to look at cards in a mere 2 decks rather than all 3, which still gives us opportunities to find some hits.

The EA copies of Yavimaya are pretty hot, and since the lowest they ever were on CK is about what they are on TCG Player now, we can pretend we didn’t miss out on 2 weeks of solid growth by not doing this sooner.

Everyone loves a good sac outlet. Well, not Tovolar, but these other decks do, so that’s cool. There will liekly be another chance to make a lot of money on this as it dips to $2, which should have been a cue to leap on the copies with alacrity, but this isn’t done going up.

When I expanded the cards I included to all of the cards from the page and not just the 99 cards in the average deck (something I did for comedic effect to show you the average decks had few cards in common), Utopia Sprawl showed up for all 3 decks. I don’t know if this is the fixing everyone acts like it is, but this is a very good card and it has a ton of utility. Anything in the future that untaps lands, any future enchantress card, any deck that needs fixing – this has 100 chances to hit $12 barring another reprint.

Of the 3 decks, Tovolar, Stickfingers and Slogurk, the one deck that didn’t include this was Tovolar, the Wolf deck. This card is busted with a big graveyard, which Slogurk and Stickyboi both give you. Feast your eyeholes on this graph.

The foil has hit $5 before, expect a second spike to be closer to $10 than $5. This is a sneaky good card, but it’s tough to reprint the foil and with no Werewolf precon forthcoming, where would they print the non-foil? I mean, this isn’t a Wolf card, but people get hung up on the tokens it makes, so maybe WotC does, too.

Is Tovolar the next Prosper? Well, no. I don’t know if we’ll get another Prosper this year, but if you want to mess around with the list comparator tool for literally 10 minutes, I bet you’ll find some hits. Here are some lists I would cross-reference.

I would check Chatterfang against Stickfingers and Lathril.

I would check Sefris against Anowon.

I would check Veyran against Vadrik.

Being the best deck in a bad set isn’t half as good as being the second best preconstructed deck in a worse set sometimes, so make sure you check the macro view and don’t miss out on the Yavimayas for the trees. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Can’t You Hear Me Knocking

Last week, we did a bit of a quick hits article since there wasn’t much data but since there is a lot more, now, we can go a bit deeper into the data. In general, I think this set should get more decks built than the D&D set even though there were more precons for AFR than for Innistrad: Breaking Dawn because, and I don’t think this is controversial, Dungeons and Dragon’s Maze was a bad set and Innistrad: Team Jacob edition seems better. The commanders are better, the in-set Legendary creatures are better and the full-frame editions aren’t those awful yellow PHB designs. With more decks about to get built, cards are about to pop, so let’s take a look, shall we?

And this isn’t even all of them. Yikes.

Luckily, we don’t have to go through the ones with 2 decks and we can focus on the heavy hitters. Stickfingers is the most important one this week – We have already determined Toblerone or whatever just has Wolf tribal cards and that’s about it and that hasn’t changed since last week, so the second-most-built and most novel-looking one is where I want to start.

It seems like a pretty standard reanimator deck, but the enchantments are interesting. Likely nothing doing here, unfortunately, although this makes me wish I had snagged as many Praetor’s Grasps as I thought maybe I should when they were cheap. Oh well, there are no missed specs, only money invested elsewhere (sobs openly).

So you’re building a Golgari deck…

PAY DIRT! Old Stickyfingys is a combo deck! You don’t care about his power and toughness, you care about how much he can dredge you. The Necrotic Ooze/Phyrexian Devourer combo is in play, and historically, those cards can get there just on the basis of it doing well in one Legacy tournament. I never sold my Devourers and they keep going up, which is nice.

If you can get Ooze under $10, I suggest you go for it. This is a $10 card waiting to happen and it wasn’t just Stickyboi that did it. It went to $7 in 2019 which means this second spike will be harder since there won’t be cheap copies in dollar boxes or people’s trade binders. This is a dealer-owned card due to the first spike and we’re in for a real price push. There is money to be made here that there isn’t on Devourer, imo.

At the beginning of the year this started to climb just on the basis of it being on the Reserved List, but I think this stays above $20 basically forever and the Stickfingers combo won’t hurt it at all.

I am a little more cautious here. This is too good for a lot of eternal formats and very niche in EDH. There are a lot of printings and therefore a lot of copies. It looks like a nice buy-in with a historical precendent of a $15 cap, but I don’t love this given the printings. That said, this might go up with a combination of this set and the next set since Green has to do SOMETHING with the Vampire stuff happening.

Stickybuns is a pretty standard reanimator deck, but any combos that work from the graveyard are in play here, so it’s worth looking into cards that work here better than they did before. Here is a card that is also important in another deck.

Slogurk, the Overslime

Solgurk and Stickfingers both have a card in common and I bet you can guess what it is. Did you guess? Oh, right. You have no way of telling me if you got it. I’ll wait. OK, ready? Here it is.

If you can get Loams under $20, I would. It’s great in both of these decks and with Innistrad being a graveyard-based block, the next set could give us another reason to Loam it up. Loam has demonstrated the ability to approach $35 after multiple printings, buying it for half that seems prudent, secret lair or no.

Wilhelt, the Rotcleaver

Wilhelt seems kind of boring, but people are pairing it with one card that is old as hell, on the RL and you may have a few in your collection like I do.

I noticed talk about this in MtG Fianance Discord groups and didn’t really love it as a spec, so this is a nice reminder to sell into the hype since $50 for a really niche and not that playable in anything else, really, but if you want to hang on, that’s fine. What I would NOT advise is buying in at $50.

Image

Joey Schultz tweeted something pretty funny but it made me think about whether there wasn’t actually a deck here.

As soon as you play March of the Machines, you make a loop that makes infinite clues that die as soon as they come into existence, triggering another investigation into the mysterious death of a 0/0, sentient clue token. There are lots of ways to kill someone when this happens.

The buy-in is very low on this given how many printings it has, but it is possible either people notice this stupid combo or other cards that do the same thing later also make March go up? I don’t know, let’s look at foils.

$6 doesn’t seem too bad. Mebbe. Mebbe mebbe. I mean, mebbe not. Probably not. But mebbe. Especially if I build this deck and try to do this on stream, which I absolutely will. The problem is, if they deal with your Blood Artist, the game ends in a draw unless you can break the loop another way- I recommend Phrerxian Altar or something like that. The deck will already run it anyway.

That does it for me this week. Lier is very popular, but it doesn’t do anything new and I don’t see any opportunity there. Do you? Argue with me in the comments section. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Prima Facie

Readers!
Let’s do a quick and dirty one this week, just blow through the new commanders and their high synergy cards. We need to be more nimble than we used to have to be, especially with Werewolf cards starting to dry up weeks ago. If there are any Stolen Strategies in this set (the card, not the metaphysical concept of stealing someone’s strategy, something I encourage you to do to me) we should find them before the masses. This won’t be as accurate as my picks usually are, but I think risk and certainty are inversely proportional and it’s fun to write for both extremes. 

When applicable, I’ll try to give some of my input as an EDH player rather than financier regarding whether I think something is real or not. Also, we have very few decks in the database as some of these cards were spoiled today or yesterday. Still, incomplete data is better than no data, so let’s dive in.

These are very new and we’re trying to work out some bugs so the number of decks isn’t displaying, but if you click on each commander, it’s listed under the cards.

Welllllp. Looks like we have data on 3 decks. That’s not shocking – these cards are hot off the presses. 3 commanders is enough to do some snooping around to see if we can figure anything out and next week we will have even more data. Remember, this week was quick and dirty and next week we’ll drill down a bit. Let’s get into it.

It’s all Werewolves, which isn’t a surprise. What WAS a surprise is that they reworked the Werewolf flip mechanic so old cards like Moonmist don’t flip the new Werewolves, making the decks irreconcilable with the old decks to any but the most stalwart of Werewolves fans. Fans of the deck are used to getting the shaft, though, considering they were playing an Ulrich deck before which didn’t really synergize with Werewolf cards at all and before that they were playing with commanders like Ruric Thar because they didn’t even have a bad commander like Ulrich. Gross. And yet it’s the most popular deck so far on sites like Archidekt. You could have guessed all of this before we got this data – it’s all cards from Ulrich, which was a deck that didn’t make any money before. I’m glad I don’t want to build Werewolves because WotC does NOT care about those people. And yet… here they are trying. So let’s try – digging below high synergy cards, is there anything play elsewhere on the page?

It would take considerable effort to make this ascend to more than a buck, but it’s not a bad card, at least. I don’t know, Werewolves are bad and they didn’t make anyone any money and I’m mad about it.

You needed to get in way quicker to get anything this obvious for cheap enough to make any money on it, imo.

I look at this and I think about how exactly nowhere the price of all of the obvious foil cards from Lonis went. I bet more people built Lonis than will build… I literally already forgot the name of the stupid werewolf and I have to scroll up. Tovolar. I bet Tovolar gets built less than Lonis, and look at this.

I get that Werewolf foils were in play before and Toblerone is people’s third try to get the deck going, but I also think Lonis is good (I love the deck), it was just as obvious and these also bad cards don’t sell as well.

They went up more between 2019 and 2020 than they did after Lonis was printed. I think if you can get foil Howlpack Resurgence for a good price and try to flip to a buylist this month, do it, but good luck doing that considering we already had that Ulrich false alarm to scare up all of the cheap copies you’d have to find at the LGS to make money this time around. Tove Lo here is a bust imo.

Humans kind of suck in EDH, but they’re good in other formats which means the good ones are already either expensive or they’re reprinted into powder. I like old Sigarda at its current price, but the cheap copies are already drying up. CK is sold out of foils, a card it was asking a mere $3.50 for when it disappeared from stock. They had to prerelease foil for $7.50 which makes me think it sold out much later, maybe today. Non-foils are probably a great buy.

ABU still has some, but the foils are gone everywhere by now. I think the demand for foil cards for casual decks is overstated, but I’m sure someone made money buying at $4 when they were $7.50 on CK.

Most of the deck is under a quarter, but this bad boy is in the mix. Rather than look at the foil price for every $0.15 human with 3 printings, I opted to look for an actual good card that has demand outside this deck and is underpriced. This is underpriced since it still hasn’t gotten over its all-time high and it keeps being relevant. This card is good, play it.

TSR versions of this are under $10 and that’s a great buy. It will go up because it got reprinted and is useful, something that happens with all reprint sets. If it wasn’t Sigarda, and it might not be, it will have been something else that did it, so buy with confidence.

This is a $10 card and a Jumpstart printing which no one could access won’t slow it down much. This is on a rocketship back to… you know, its historic high, but probably beyond that, barring another printing. I like it.

Any one of these enchantments costs more than the entire creature base, and I’m barely exagerrating. I don’t have any advice for this section, just recreating it so we can laugh. Maybe Ulvenwald Mysteries, which didn’t spike after Lonis, will have some success here.

Draugr Necromancer for the command zone? Don’t mind if I do! This card rules, but with 4 decks, will we see anything we can use?

Wow, this is some uninspired deckbuilding. It looks like Gisa is a goodstuff deck, which bodes poorly for us financially since goodstuff decks use cards everyone already knows about.

One person is using Cold Storage, which is hilarious. It’s not on the Reserved List, only 16 cards from Tempest are, but it’s old enough to rent a car and it’s under $5. I don’t think this will be a Gisa staple, but it’s a funny way to remind me this card exists and it’s above bulk.

Really, the only surprise for me was this –

This is a $10 foil, easy. Like, if Wolf of the Howlpack foils are sold out at $7, how long do you think this stays under $7? This is a $10 foil and any product that reprints it doesn’t give us a foil of the same art. Maybe it’s new, better art, but then purists prefer the original.

We didn’t find much today, but we found less than nothing. It’s possible this set gives us nothing real for EDH, which is fine, but we also have more decks to get through next week.

That does it for me, nerds. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Checking My Fuzzy Math

Readers!
Last week I invented a new thing that was… well it was barely an invention, I literally just decided to compute some ratios, but since I haven’t seen anyone else doing it, I’m going to call it an innovation.  Reaction to it has been generally positive but there was perhaps a flaw in my implementation if not the methodology. Applying this metric to prices that were still settling can introduce a lot of noise and it’s hard to determine whether any unexpected results are because the model is bad or because the price is in flux. I think taking the model for a spin with the data we looked at last week has some merit, but now that I have no immediately ruled out using the model again, why don’t we go back and look at some picks we made using our gut and check them out versus the numerical model? 

Earlier, I looked at Theros Beyond Death as a set and made some selections. Can we find flaws with my picks, discover cards we might have missed or, potentially, discard the model in favor of continuning to use my gut? It doesn’t hurt and, besides, a reader suggested that set specifically, so who am I to argue? Let’s review my picks, shall we?

Thassa’s Oracle – Extended Art

Nyxbloom Ancient – Extended Art and Regular printing

Shadowspear – Extended Art and Regular printing

Underworld Breach – Extended Art and Regular Printing

Heliod’s Intervention – Regular Printing

Woe Strider – Extended Art

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling – Extended Art and Regular Printing

First up, let’s check these and see if any of them look really putrid on the basis of our new metric. To refresh our memories, we’re dividing the price on CK by the number of (thousand) inclusions on EDHREC to estimate the price per number of inclusions. The smaller the number, the better. Let’s check our work.

Thassa's Oracle (Extended Art)

This card’s score is 0.54, which is pretty high based on other cards we’ve seen. Now, granted, those were cards whose prices haven’t fully developed yet, but isn’t that what we want? Cards whose prices haven’t matured can be wrong and we can buy them at an oppurtune time to make some money. I think 0.54 is high based on the standard set by cards like Harmonic Prodigy, but last week we like quite a few cards over 1.0. I’m going to call this a confirmation of our model since we liked this card and the model came along and gave it a score under 1.0. So far, so good.

Nyxbloom Ancient (Extended Art)

We got a 1.68 for the extended art Nyxbloom (albeit a mythic, with a higher ceiling than a rare) and a 0.58 for the regular art, which I like a lot more. I think a 1.68 isn’t actually that bad for a mythic, and I love the very low value for the regular art. This is a mythic that’s played a ton (albeit not quite as much as Thassa’s Oracle which overcame being non-mythic no problem by being a cEDH staple). I still like Nyxbloom, and since it’s mythic, I like the non-extended art, too.

Shadowspear (Extended Art)

Our number for Shadowboi are 1.46 for the (holy crap $38) extended art version and 0.96 for the regualr art. These are not great numbers but they’re not terrible. The ship has mostly sailed – Shadowspear was gettable at $15 last July which sucks, but I think there’s still meat on the bone here. Besides, if you reread that article, I basically said as much then – it’s late to get spear but I wanted to use its price as a graphical endpoint.

Underworld Breach (Extended Art)

We got 0.43 for the extended art and 0.32 for the regular. That tracks – the extent that Breach is played in EDH coupled with how explosive it is in other formats makes its low price puzzling. I think this is underpriced in all versions, and our data bears that out. It’s nice to have my suspicious confirmed by math, even if the math is still a little dubious because I made it up.

Theros Beyond Death: Heliod's Intervention

Intervention is a little different. I didn’t love the $8 price tag on the extended art but that is still a DPI of 0.5 for the extended art, which makes the $3 regular copies downright enticing at a DPI of 0.19. I don’t know why this card is lagging behind everything else in price when it’s in 16,000 decks on EDHREC but I’m not here to argue with data, I’m here to do mental and mathematical gymnastics until my numbers look like I’m smarter than I am.

Woe Strider (Extended Art)

0.48 DPi for the $5 extended art and a DPi of 0.14 for the regular art makes me think I am on to something. Remember, we’re not able to just target cards that are cheap because a $1 card that’s in 500 decks gives us a DPI of 2.0 which we’ve decided is too high – we need a card that’s in lots of decks, like the 10.4 thousand that Woe Strider is in. I love paying a buck for a card in over 10k decks and this is that card. Or, you know, one of them.

Theros Beyond Death Variants: Thassa, Deep-Dwelling (Showcase)

The crazy constelllation promo has a DPI of 1.3, which is lower than I expected at a buy-in of nearly $20, but it’s played in almost 15,000 decks so I could see it. The non-promo version is on a buck cheaper on Card Kingdom which makes it DPI a slightly better 1.23 which is still over 1.0, which I… guess is a good place to call it a threshold? For a mythic, maybe a DPI of 1.5 below is attractive and we set it at 1.0 for a non-mythic? I’m still working the kinks out, but so far we have identified pretty solid numberical support for cards we picked out on the basis of “I like these as specs” in a pre-DPI world. Just picking out some cards I didn’t like on the basis of my “gut test” from that set, we have cards like Klothys at 2.77. That said, we overlooked Setessan Champion with a DPI of 0.21 so who knows? Was I wrong to discount Setessan Champion? Perhaps – it’s a $2 card in almost 10,000 decks, and isn’t that the kind of thing we want?

I’m not sure if this DPI calculation is going to yield good results or not, still, but on the basis of using it to verify card I picked using other methods, it seems like we identified a lot of good candidates and none of our numbers were surprising, really. That makes sense – I wouldn’t have said a $40 card in 11 decks was a good spec nor would I have failed to pick out a $1.50 card in 20,000 decks. If nothing else, we’re going to be able to assign a value to every card that gives us another way for cards we may have overlooked to jump out at us, and even if the numbers are wrong, a rough first pass to catch anything that sticks out is just that and not the be-all end-all of spec identification.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where we’ll really be getting deep into some numbers because we don’t have any Team Jacob spoilers yet. Until next time!