Category Archives: Jason Alt

Cheating

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I spent a lot of time last week thinking about how we were going to build Superfriends decks in the future because our mana is going to be so crazy bonkers with the advent of a bunch of four-color decks that people will be able to be super greedy. While I think it’s true that Superfriends are about to get a bit of a bump, I think it’s also worth taking a lot at other ways players plan to play cards with their wacky new cards. I have a few different theses to cover so I’m going to launch right into it because I want to get all of my thoughts out before I hit my word cap. I mean, it’s a soft word cap. You’re not going to want to read a 4,000 word article, true, but I’m also going to hit like 2,300 words and think “I’m not getting paid any extra for this” and that’s going to sap my enthusiasm in a hurry. So, like I said, I’m not going to waste time – I am going to get right to it and cover what I want to cover. I think you readers are worth it.

Thesis Number the First – People Will Build New 4-color Decks

And why not? They’re going to get new cards that are 4 colors. I have to imagine there will be at least one good creature and one good spell per deck that are 4 colors and if it’s that hard to cast that spell, the effect is going to worth it. Just look at the spells we have now that cost 5 mana – Coalition Victory, Last Stand, Conflux, Maelstrom Nexus – these are good spells. They’re difficult to cast because they require a mana of every color and they’re even more difficult to cast in EDH because we have to have a general with all 5 colors in their identity.

4 color spells are obviously easier to cast than 5 color ones but not all that much easier and, again, you can only play them in a deck where the general has all of those colors in their color identity. How are people going to cast those spells?

They’ll fix their mana

This one seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. There are a few ways I think people will try this.

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These would have been better to buy at their historic lows, but now that they’re starting to rebound, it seems fairly obvious that it’s time to get these if you need them. You can fetch these with fetchlands and Farseek and you don’t need to shell out for a Savannah to get basically a Savannah. Sometimes people put ABU duals in EDH decks. Super, go ahead and do that. Or, you know, sell them and build a new deck for basically every dual you sell. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but I will tell you that shocks are going to go up more and people will need them. In a 4-color deck you can play a lot of them. You can play 1 in a 2-color deck, 3 in a 3-color deck, 10 in a 5-color deck and 6 in a 4-color deck. If every new deck that gets built means the builder needs 6 new fetches, they will be closer to $20 than $10 in a year or two if they’re not reprinted. Return to Return to Ravnica doesn’t seem all that close so I think we’re safe for a minute.

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Ditto here. These aren’t at a historical low or high, but I bet this plateau means they’re not going anywhere for a minute. Dealer interest is waning, so I’d wait for these to crater and recover, but EDH demand could give these some upside, although supply is super high right now with everyone having them in their decks and binders, still.

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Them putting these in every deck seems as unlikely to me as them putting them in only some decks. I think this doesn’t get reprinted and I think the price goes up. Conspiracy might be a good venue to print this but I bet they won’t. I bet this card gets ridiculous before it gets reasonable.

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This card has some real upside. It is a creature that is also mostly a Chromatic Lantern and people are starting to notice. With a new focus on mana fixing, this is going to be a player if people remember to use it. This even lets you use utility lands for mana if you have something like Tabernacle (you don’t have a Tabernacle) or Maze of Ith that doesn’t tap for mana.

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This probably won’t get bought more because it’s so expensive, but I bet it gets played more. EDH demand could start to make it disappear from Pucatrade which could signal other markets.

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This are like $2 in other printings. That has to change the farther we get from the last time it was printed.

How else will people play stuff in 4-color decks?

They’ll Cheat

Not at Magic, necessarily, I mean they’ll cheat stuff into play. There are a lot, lot, lot of ways to do this and they all have upside.

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A guy with this in his Legacy deck isn’t going to trade it to an EDH player. He won’t want any of the cards the EDH player has. But some rando busting this in a pack in the LGS might be inclined. The new supply might hurt the price for a while, but if it gets low enough, EDH demand could buoy the price based on people who wrote the card of as unobtainable before now using it. This is a fine way to cheat.

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This has been printed a ton but the price doesn’t seem to want to dip below around $7. This has a decent reprint risk but it also has demonstrated an ability to mostly shrug off reprints. I like this as a pickup.

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Meanwhile I bet this never gets reprinted. This is starting to move up and I bet if more people play it because the new creatures are savage and hard to cast, this could see movement. This is just a solid gainer in my view and it looks like markets and dealers are finally on board with that assessment.

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It would take a lot to drag this above bulk but it is worth remembering this card exists. It’s too good.

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Bet you thought this was still bulk, didn’t you? Well, it’s not. The price has basically doubled in the last year and that’s good for business. This is on its way up and I bet this could hit $5 if it’s not reprinted. And why would it be reprinted?

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I’ve made money off of this card twice and it would please me to do so a third time. With copies concentrated in the hands of dealers, how easy would that be? Very easy, that’s how. Very easy.

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Mirri’s Guile, Sylvan Library and Sensei’s Divining Top are nice pairings with this spicy vintage. Cream of the Crop, too. All of those cards can go in a deck that can have green in it. Mayael, anyone?

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I bought all of the copies I have years ago for $2 each. That’s about as fair as putting something into play with this. Granted it’s not the best way to throw out an Eldrazi, but can you really complain about having a creature that big if you miss a few of its triggers? It That Betrays doesn’t mind getting tossed out EOT with this beauty. This card isn’t even close to being done growing.

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This may do it randomly, but don’t pretend it’s not cheating. This card is rare from an old set and it’s on the Reserved List. If this gets any notice at all it could hit $5 fairly easily and it would be pretty boss to chop into Pucapoints rather than buylist for $3.

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Everyone realized this would be nuts with Narset and the price went up accordingly. However, this is a great way to cheat creatures into play. If you have nothing but fatties and tokens, it’s even better. This is taking a break from climbing, but it will be back at it as soon as something else is printed that is saucy with it and there is only one deck from Commander 2016 that won’t have blue in it meaning you have 4 chances to find something saucy to go with this.

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Modern spiked this card, which sucks because that deck doesn’t play it anymore, the price is really high for an EDH card and the copies are concentrated in the hands of dealers meaning a second spike will be much harder and faster. The only bright spot is that this seems relatively easy to reprint. Just kidding, that’s terrible because everyone who paid $10 for these will eat it in that case. I don’t know when they’re going to reprint this, or even if they will, but this is destined to go beyond $10 just on EDH demand and it’s too much fun to play this card. Dealer confidence is creeping up which means they’re selling copies which means the price shift is organic and predicated on real demand. This bodes well. Graphs that look like this make me want to buy.

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This is on its way back up. The reprinting made the price very reasonable but Modern hasn’t gone as cuckoo for this as they did a few years ago and the new supply did wonders for controlling the price. This is a very easy way to cast a creature with a nutty effect and goofy casting cost and you can even tap tokens to do it. What could be better? This is a fine way to cheat at Magic.

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Legacy and EDH are keeping this card pretty expensive since it’s banned in Modern. Eternal Masters copies are going to make this dirt cheap and if this hits like $2 I recommend investing like $100. It could get reprinted again which will make it take a while before you can recoup your $100. More likely is that it recovers and lands around $5 because it’s so good in EDH. Less likely is that it’s unbanned in Modern and becomes like $15 overnight and then you look like Nostradamndamus. I’m not saying it will happen but I am saying that there are three basic scenarios and in the worst case you still break even eventually.

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This card is very expensive. This card is also tailing down a bit and since it’s demonstrated the ability to be $25, you might want to watch it crash then buy in because it will go back up because how could it not? It’s Tooth and Nail. This is in so many EDH “I win” combos it isn’t funny. No, seriously, have you lost to this card? It isn’t funny. It’s annoying. I cast this entwined to get Kiki-Jiki and Zealous Conscripts on turn 4 one time. It wasn’t funny. I mean, it was to me, but when 4 out of 5 people at a table think something isn’t funny, maybe you’re the one who’s wrong. That’s Comedy 101.

At this point, I’m going to audible and save my second thesis for next week. We still have plenty of time before we start getting any cards previewed so we can look more at how players are going to cheat using the new cards next week. I have plenty to say on the topic and I really don’t want to load this article with too much information. Let’s reconvene next week and look at a second way I expect people to cheat using older cards to help them cast newer cards. It should be a hoot. Until then!

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The Legion of Doom

Fade in

Ext. A swamp in an undisclosed location. A dragonfly lands on a leaf and a mutated lizard with two heads grabs it with its tongue and bites it in the midsection, licking one of its eyes with the other tongue.

Int. A dimly-lit lair, dominated by a long conference table with a podium in the center. At the podium stands Lex Luthor. I feel silly even having to have to describe Lex Luthor. He looks Lex Luthory. You know, one of the most famous comic book villains of all time because he’s the only one they put in Superman movies despite there being a ton of powerful Superman villains. General Zod was cool in Superman 2 but in 3, he fought… Richard Pryor? You’re going to tell me a man with heat vision struggled to take down a guy who once accidentally lit himself on fire? And don’t get me started on Superman fighting Duckie from Pretty in Pink plus that weird sun guy they cloned from Superman’s hair. Anyway, be quiet, he’s about to say something. 

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Lex Luthor – We need to formulate a plan for how to handle Commander 2016.

Sinestro- Our mana sucks right now. They need to reprint Chromatic Lantern! I should know, lanterns are kind of my thing.

Lex Luthor – In every deck? I don’t think so.

Black Manta – How else are we supposed to build a mana base that isn’t a million dollars?

Sinestro – I could make every color yellow so that every land adds yellow mana and you can cast all of your yellow spells!

Riddler – What has lame powers and won’t shut up about turning everything yellow?

Sinestro – WHO DARES?! Silence yourself, Nigma, or by Oa I will come over there and

Captain Cold – Turn him yellow?

Lex Luthor – Maybe he’s onto something.  Also, most of you are terrible villains. I wanted to invite just Captain Cold, Brainiac and Bizarro Superman and the rest of you just kind of showed up. Meeting adjourned.

Fade Out

Fade In

Int. Wrestling arena locker room

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First wrestler guy – Are you sure we’re legally distinct enough not to get sued by DC comics or Hanna Barbera or something? I’m nervous about calling ourselves the Legion of Doom

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Second wrestler guy – I’m just here because I think people should play Cream of the Crop in more decks.

First wrestler guy – Wait, that wasn’t even us. That was Macho Man Randy Savage

Second wrestler guy – Are you sure?

First wrestler guy – I’m positive. Besides, Cream of the Crop is only good in decks with huge creatures. Are there going to be any of those in a four-color deck?

Fade out

You know what’s really likely to happen when people have to build a four-color deck?

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This junk. It may be time to take a second look at anything that matters in those decks before everyone starts building them. Five new decks with wonky mana bases, new mana fixing cards, strategic reprints and new spells is bound to lead to an uptick in the number of people saying “Screw it, let’s make a goodstuff pile” and for my money, you don’t get many better goodstuff piles than you do when you throw a pile of superfriends into said pile.

What’s New?

Superfriends have gotten a new cycle of helpers and some of them actually matter to superfriends decks and are decent in EDH. Some of them suck.

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This is a pretty small effect for something that’s kind of tricky to trigger and dealing 3 to a creature is likely wasted a lot of the time (but very useful others) but I don’t know if this will get adopted enough to have upside. It’s at its bottom, though, so there’s nowhere to go but up. I see this getting jammed to complete the cycle more than anything.

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This has a very cool secondary ability and could be very solid for keeping your planeswalkers alive more often or sometimes triggering abilities sooner. If you have Doubling Season this is even better. This is also likely at its bottom, price-wise but the real play on this and Chandra’s Oath is to snag cheap foils in case EDH play increases the multiplier. There’s no time to buy foils that haven’t hit yet like when the non-foil is a bulk rare.

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This is a card that isn’t bulk because people can’t decide if they’re OK paying 2U to do a weird Brainstorm thingy. The scry ability on the secondary is going to be great if you have 3 or 4 ‘walkers out and I think this probably is going to dip and will have to get adopted a bit to even hit where it is, now. All of them will have to climb a bit to hit $1.

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This one doesn’t really have as much upside unless it tanks soon, which I doubt. This is a green cantrip. The reason I’m so excited about this in Superfriends is that it’s a second Chromatic Lantern that draws you a card instead of tapping for a mana. The fixes your mana in a very profound way and replaces itself when you play it making it one of the least obtrusive inclusions in a planeswalker deck, ever. Are they going to waste a removal spell on this when you have Doubling Season and The Chain Veil in play? This is so much better than the other ones in a planeswalker deck that the only reason you’d play the others is to have the cycle going.  I say that with a healthy amount of respect for Oath of Jace. This is a card to watch – this could dip, maybe at rotation, but this is going to be a real card in Superfriends decks and doesn’t seem that likely to get reprinted.

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The plateau says everyone has forgotten about Dre. The price was only $1 initially because it was not going to have any impact on Standard and the players who wanted them got the 1 copy they needed, leaving a lot of unclaimed copies. The thing is, this card is going to go up over time. The farther we get from this card’s printing, the more cards are going to end up getting forgotten in boxers and binders. If this card spiked hard those copies would come out of the woodwork. We don’t want that. We want as many copies in the woodwork as possible because it makes it easier for our copies to go up in value. This tutors for a Planeswalker provided you’re playing white in your deck. Best of all, the foils are only $2.50. The foils are the play, I think. Still, both of these prices will go up over time and it’s never too early to pick these up in trade and throw them in a box. I feel like this is similar in obviousness to Dictate of Erebos, a card that was a bulk rare when it was in Standard.

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My hundreds of copies are making me very happy and I sold enough at $3 to pay off what I bought so the rest are pure profit. I feel like we’ll see a similar graph for Call the Gatewatch, albeit with a much more gradual slope, I think. Still, Dictate has a lot of other cards like Grave Pact (more expensive) and Butcher of Malakir (much less expensive) that do the exact same thing and Call the Gatewatch really doesn’t. I’m not in for cash on Call, yet, but I’m trading for them aggressively. Seems obvious.

What’s Not New

I think it’s worth checking in to see how my call of “The Chain Veil” is going.

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Hmm. The price hasn’t gone up much and online stock hasn’t gone down a ton. That’s not to say it won’t – I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial by saying EDH and casual both like effects like this. The farther we get from this set’s Standard legality, the more we’ll see this climb. It’s a mythic which means there aren’t as many copies of it as a card like, say, Sliver Hive. Sliver Hive is more likely to get bought as a playset, but I’m confident that The Chain Veil is going up. Are you also confident? Well, you have time to trade into these before anyone signals TCG Player by buying enough copies to trip anyone’s algorithms, so just target these as a throw-in when a trade is off by $1. Also, learn to make it your business to make trades off by $1.

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Everything people said about this card a year ago is still true today, except when they said this would be printed in Commander 2015 to facilitate Experience counters. That didn’t happen and the card has climbed even more since. At a certain point, this is going to be worth reprinting, but until then, pair this with Superfriends and don’t look back. This does everything you want a card to do. The price of this as it rises and the price of the $13 (down from $20+) foil are beginning to converge. This means there is still organic demand for the non-foil and that if the foil comes down, it will sail past the equilibration point. As the non-foil climbs, the higher it gets, the higher the foil multiplier will be, which means the foil price falling will hit a brief window where it’s lower than it should be and is good to be picked up. I don’t know mathematically what that number is but I know what I think those concepts should look like vaguely and shape-wise. I’ll sketch what the hell I’m talking about on a graph.

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The red line is the vague slope of a non-foil that is climbing from organic demand. The blue line is the slope of a foil price that spiked too fast due to hype and is overcorrecting due to falling demand. The green line is vaguely what the foil multiplier should make the price based on organic demand for the non-foil. The better the card, the greater the demand for foil copies so the price should diverge. I think there is money to be made if the foil comes down too much more since the non-foil is still climbing. It’s still a good card. Wotc is still going to print creature tokens and hydras and planeswalkers. What isn’t clear is whether they’re going to reprint Contagion Engine. Commander 2015 was a very good time to do it. Will Commander 2016 be as good a time? We could see a reprinted planeswalker in every deck. We could see Dune-Brood Nephilim in the deck with no white in it. Then again, we could just see them not reprint it and then we’re another year from its standard legality and there will be more cards it interacts with. Hype made this card grow a lot, but that’s not to say merit wasn’t going to do so anyway. We even wrote about Contagion Engine in this series before we knew anything about Commander 2015 so everything we said then should still apply now, only now a lot of copies have been pulled out of the woodwork and are concentrated in the hands of dealers, which means one effect that would dampen the ascension of the card’s price a second time is already taken care of. 3

I think we can take a look at other ways to make our mana better in both Superfriends and also just generic 4-color decks (and 5 color, really – you could combine some of the C16 decks in a Progenitus shell or something) next week, so stay tuned. In the mean time, check out the Eternal Masters spoiler coverage and our discussion forums here on MTG Price. Hit me up in the comments. Until next time!

 

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Prescience – Discussing Commander 2016

I make  a lot of predictions in my articles as a matter of course and sometimes I really nail it. I don’t like to toot my own horn because I feel like that’s a sign of insecurity. When you point out all the calls you got right, you’re hoping you can distract everyone from the calls you got wrong. I’m not like that, you guys – you all read this column and you notice all the times I nail it.

Still, sometimes it’s worth reminding everyone of the really good calls you make so that they understand why you’re someone they should listen to. If you can demonstrate your usefulness and almost uncanny ability to predict the future, you can build an audience. It is in that spirit that I write this piece today.

In which I demonstrate my predictive powers

Until this week, there wasn’t much known about Commander 2016. We knew what had been in previous sets so we could pretty safely rule out them repeating color combinations before they had exhausted all of the existing combinations. The only two left were four-color decks and the remaining five, two-color (allied) decks. Monday came and buried in an avalanche of announcements was a blurb about Commander 2016.

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Did you miss it? Apparently WotC decided that using their website that people check regularly to make announcements at a steady pace is for losers so they are going to make their announcements quarterly to throw the finance markets into turmoil and have us get all of our excitement out of the way 4 times a year so we can spend the next three months noticing some random twelve-year-old kid opening Hearthstone packs on Twitch is getting 10 times as many viewers as the Magic Pro Tour.

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Apparently we get things we long clamor for. Commander 2016 is going to feature four-color decks. Do you know what this means?

I totally nailed Commander 2017. While everyone was trying to figure out what was going to be in Commander 2016, I already got started with a series of articles delving into the implications of the allied, two-color decks in Commander 2017. I realize it was incredibly prescient of me to start talking about something that’s 15 months in the future, but how are we supposed to make any money if we don’t look ahead? When you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and I am planning years into the future and sharing those insights with my readers. You heard it here first – Commander 2017 will be allied-color deck combinations. You can even read about what is likely to be in the Azorius deck right here on MTG Price. I’ll try to avoid re-posting those same articles in a year.

My brilliant deductions aside, let’s speculate a bit. I’ll open the floor to pretend questions.

“You biffed it pretty hard on predicting what would be in Commander 2016.”

That’s not a question. Next question.

“You biffed it pretty hard on predicting what would be in Commander 2016, didn’t you?”

I mean, I guess. Was it a 50/50 call that I got wrong? Yep. Did anyone lose money? No. Did I say anything that we can’t act on next year? Probably not. Is it still super early? Yes. What I wanted to do was help us think about how to get ready for Commander 2016 and while I didn’t get confirmation that the assumptions I’ve been operating under were correct, I came to a conclusion based on logic, and no one made a compelling case that I missed something major or was thinking illogically. No one challenged my assumption because it was both logical and kind of unimportant. Now we know more information and we can operate under a new assumption. Every time we get more information, we can get more specific in our actions. While I called the coin flip the most wrong you can call it, I’m just too excited to be getting four-colored decks to even give a crap about that.

“You CLEARLY did not have insider information. Did anyone?”

don’t think so, but there is some evidence that would suggest otherwise.  Travis Allen expressed his opinion as succinctly as is possible.

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I am not so sure people knew, or at least that they knew we were getting four-color decks. It’s always possible that the people who bought hard into the Nephilim were simply speculating. However the price rises are all pretty significant and we need to ask ourselves what they knew and what could happen, here. There are a few scenarios.

  • The Nephilim are in the decks
  • The Nephilim aren’t in the decks
  • The Nephilim are in the decks and whoever is buying knew that
  • The Nephilim are in the decks and whoever is buying didn’t know
  • The Nephilim aren’t in the decks and whoever is buying knew
  • The Nephilim aren’t in the decks and whoever is buying didn’t know

We can discount a few. If you know the Nephilim are in the decks, you’re not going to buy knowing they’re getting a reprint. Is this a case of insider info or just a spec that looks prescient in hindsight? Whoever they are, they’re going to be hard-pressed to find buyers right now. No one is going to buy these copies before they know for sure they’re not in the decks if they’re an EDH player, so they’re hoping to find a greater fool to dump the copies to. This looks like a really bad spec under those circumstances. Do other speculators even have any money left after they spent all of their capital making Steamflogger Boss spike to $15?

What I will say is that we can figure out how high the Nephilim can possibly go if they’re not reprinted.

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This is every card in Guildpact that is worth more than $4. There are still a lot of the lesser Nephilim available but Yore-Tiller, arguably the best one (arguably) is sold out under $3. How high do we see these going? Are you going to be happy you bought in around $3 if they don’t exceed Ghostway, Ghostway being a card that spiked because of Modern and not EDH like everyone thinks. I’d say $8 is a safe ceiling if they’re not reprinted.

If they are reprinted, the money is going to be in the foil copies, but EDH players don’t really foil stuff out like the myths about EDH players would like everyone to believe. Your Commander still won’t be foil, and the rest of a four-color deck is going to be ridiculous to foil out. Sure, you snapped up that sweet $4 Witch Maw Nephilim with your inside info/ballsy gamble. Good luck on the foil Chromatic Lantern and Coalition Relic. I think the odds of getting blown out on a reprint are much greater than your odds of doubling up. If you can’t get in at a low-risk buy like $1 (and you’re not doing that online, but locally is still an option) stay away. Original printings aren’t coveted over new printings in EDH the way they are in Legacy or Cube; the cheapest version is.

“What are we going to do for mana?”

The question on everyone’s mind is about Chromatic Lantern. It is ridiculous at turning mana issues into “I’m just going to tap the number of lands this spell requires” and that’s a great feeling. Lantern is a big unknown right now.

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This spiked to $10 when they announced you could pay mana of a color not in your deck in the corner cases where you’re playing your opponents’ spells. It was already a card that would have been $10 eventually and a small amount of people saying “We should look at this” gave it the nudge it needed. People are buying these at the new price even if vendors haven’t caught up in raising their buylist price quite as quickly. If they do, this could be potentially very bad for the price. A second spike would be higher and harder because there aren’t loose copies in binders to soak up the demand like there are during an initial spike and dealers holding most of the copies means there is less of a race to the bottom. If Lantern is confirmed not in any of the decks, we could see it flirt with $20, which seems absurd for a recent non-mythic, but, have you read Chromatic Lantern? It’s so good.

The bad news is that if Lantern is in one deck, it probably won’t be enough to do much to the price.

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This is after 6 printings, 5 of which were in supplemental product.  I see three scenarios for Lantern.

  • It’s not in a deck and it hits $20
  • It’s in one deck only or maybe two and stays around $10
  • It’s in all 5 decks and comes down a bit

Before we conclude that there is a 66% chance you make money or break even buying in at $10, we should weigh the probabilities. I don’t think it will be in only one deck, personally. The other decks will have identical mana issues. Does one deck get lantern, one get Coalition Relic and the rest get something like Commander’s Sphere? I feel like Lantern is going to be in most of the decks or none of them. There is always the possibility that they print a new card that’s even better than Lantern and is specific to Commander, but even that wouldn’t make Lantern obsolete. I see a lot of scenarios where you lose money waiting and not too many where you lose much buying now. I hate to say it, but my analysis is maybe don’t wait on Lantern. That said, know that if you don’t buy now, you’re going to get something to help out with your mana issues. It may be a new card, it may be lantern or relic, there will likely be a land to help, too. Help is coming.

“Are the commanders going to be 4 color or mono-color with off-color activations?”

That’s half of what I think is the eternal question. The other half is “are we really getting 15 brand new four-color legendary creatures?” In the past we have gotten two new commanders and one reprint of a legendary creature in those colors who could sub in for the other two to take the lead. Are we getting three commanders per deck? 2 commanders and a reprinted Nephilim that can’t be the commander unless you play with a cool playgroup? Will they errata the Nephilim? Because they said they never would.

Fifteen new Legendary creatures would be just so many. 10 is a lot, but 15 is 50% more and that’s a lot of work for them. The good thing is that if we just have 5 more mediocre ones that usual, the people who want to build that deck can and it won’t affect much. Build your Arjun the Shifting Flame deck, kiddo. But if there are more good commanders than normal, that could have implications if more decks are built than normal. I honestly think that won’t be too much of an issue – the market can withstand a little pressure from more decks being built, otherwise The Gitrog Monster (which seems like it could have been designed for Commander 2015 but not fit in) would have spiked the price of Sol Ring or something equally silly.  So when people ask if we’re getting a 4-color creature or a mono-colored creature with off-color activations making it four-color via the Thelon of Havenwood rule, I say I think we’re getting both. One of each, and I think maybe a second of one of the two or maybe only two new commanders. It’s hard to know, but we’re looking at broad strokes right now.

“What else are we going to do for mana?”

Really quickly, pop on EDHREC.com and look at what goes in the mana base for a 5-color Commander because I bet people use something similar to solve their mana issues for 4-color decks.

Check out Reaper King, for example.

I see Vivids, which makes sense since they’re free. I see tri-lands, which have their own challenges vis-a-vis a three color deck. If you’re 5 colors, you can run every tri-land. If your deck is every color but red, you run every tri-land that doesn’t have red in it. Well, only 3 don’t have red and the same obviously goes for every other color. You’re limited to three tri-lands but this should still put some pressure on those prices. If you’re a three color deck, you can only run one tri-land, so in a way, a four-color deck is three times as effective at pulling tri-lands off of store shelves. Reflecting Pool, City of Brass, Mana Confluence all have upside, but they all also have reprint risk, especially as cheap as cards like Exotic Orchard are. Shocks and fetches have some upside, but other formats need those and the blip from EDH demand shouldn’t move the needle on those.

  • Stay away from Nephilim
  • Maybe get your Chromatic Lanterns, and maybe your Coalition Relics, too. If you can’t live without them, that is, and if you’re ruling out the possibility we’ll get something better.
  • Mana bases need help. They’ll get help, but a lot of the lands we already have could help out.

I think I am going to look more in-depth at what I expect to see in the decks and now that they’ve revealed this much, I expect to see a bit more revealed in the weeks to come. They need to hurry if they’re going to be at all gradual in how they give us information. Still, I’m happy we’re getting four-color decks, if only because it allows me to show off how good I am at predicting the (distant) future. Until next week!

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What’s in a Deck?

Time is a luxury we can rarely afford. When we do have such a luxury, doesn’t it make sense to make the most of it? The current undertaking for this column is to go through the five projected Commander 2016 decks and predict exactly what we expect to be printed in them so we can be ahead of those reprintings and also maybe pick out some cards we don’t expect to be printed that pair well with those cards that could have some upside. If we expect a lot of tokens in a deck, for example, we can reasonably expect Parallel Lives to be in the deck and maybe that will affect our buying behavior and depending on the degree of confidence in that reprinting we’ll think about selling. But in the same breath, we look at a card like Eldrazi Monument which was just reprinted and is very unlikely to be reprinted again but which will have some upside with tokens. We might want to sell Awakening Zone and buy From Beyond.

However, while it’s easy to guess the big rares that could get reprinted, it might be healthy to look at everything that goes into a deck to see what all we have to be ready for. Being able to predict a staple uncommon reprint or new art on a common may be just as instructive. For example, do you know how many rares and uncommons are in a Commander 2016 deck? Because I don’t! I’m serious – I am 250 words into the article where I’m going to discuss it and my plan is to look it up as I’m writing about it. You’re going to read the article once it’s finished and edited so you won’t know how foolhardily it was written and I’ll probably look by the end but I had a plan, but I want to let you all peek under the curtain and tell you, NOPE, I have no idea what’s actually in these decks. You probably don’t know, either, do you? Who cares? Value is in them. Staples. New goodies. You tear the deck open, you take out the chase rares and stuff you want to play with and put all the other chaff in a pile. The worse the deck is, the bigger the chaff pile is. I have busted open the Prossh deck a bunch and I have a pile of Hua Tuo, Honored Physician big enough to choke a baby to death. I mean, three copies could probably do that, though, so that’s pretty lame hyperbole. And my baby is at the stage where she tries to put everything in her mouth so if she comes across my stack of them, she’s probably going to do her level best to choke on them. Do you understand how dangerous precon deck chaff is? It’s a baby choking hazard and that’s about it.  In order to properly guage how dangerous one of these decks is to a new father like me, I’m going to have to actually look at what goes into one of these decks.

Wade Into Battle (The Boros One) 

Creature (30)
1 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
1 Taurean Mauler
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Magus of the Wheel
1 Desolation Giant
1 Fumiko the Lowblood
1 Hunted Dragon
1 Stoneshock Giant
1 Thundercloud Shaman
1 Warchief Giant
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Herald of the Host
1 Kalemne’s Captain
1 Anya, Merciless Angel
1 Sunrise Sovereign
1 Hammerfist Giant
1 Inferno Titan
1 Dawnbreak Reclaimer
1 Sun Titan
1 Hostility
1 Jareth, Leonine Titan
1 Victory’s Herald
1 Sandstone Oracle
1 Hamletback Goliath
1 Arbiter of Knollridge
1 Borderland Behemoth
1 Dream Pillager
1 Magma Giant
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Sorcery (5)
1 Breath of Darigaaz
1 Fiery Confluence
1 Disaster Radius
1 Earthquake
1 Meteor Blast
Instant (2)
1 Fall of the Hammer
1 Orim’s Thunder
Artifact (17)
1 Sol Ring
1 Blade of Selves
1 Boros Signet
1 Coldsteel Heart
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mind Stone
1 Thought Vessel
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Boros Cluestone
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Urza’s Incubator
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Seer’s Sundial
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Staff of Nin
Enchantment (5)
1 Curse of the Nightly Hunt
1 Banishing Light
1 Faith’s Fetters
1 Rite of the Raging Storm
1 Warstorm Surge
Land (39)
1 Ancient Amphitheater
1 Blasted Landscape
1 Boros Garrison
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Command Tower
1 Drifting Meadow
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Smoldering Crater
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
14 Mountain
11 Plains
Tribal instant (1)
1 Crib Swap

That looks pretty intimidating, so let’s look at just the rares first.

Taurean Mauler
Magus of the Wheel
Desolation Giant
Fumiko the Lowblood
Hunted Dragon
Kalemne’s Captain
Anya, Merciless Angel (Mythic)
Sunrise Sovereign
Hammerfist Giant
Inferno Titan (Mythic)
Dawnbreak Reclaimer
Sun Titan (Mythic)
Hostility
Jareth, Leonin Titan
Victory’s Herald
Hamletback Goliath
Arbiter of Knollridge
Borderland Behemoth
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Dream Pillager
Magma Giant
Angel of Serenity (Mythic)
Fiery Confluence
Disaster Radius
Earthquake
Blade of Selves
Loxodon Warhammer
Urza’s Incubator
Seer’s Sundial
Staff of Nin
Warstorm Surge
Ancient Amphitheater

The whole deck is $60 if you add up the values of the cards, and it’s largely carried by the $9 Blade of Selves which basically wasn’t a consideration when they built the decklist to be around $40 in cards adjusted for how they expected the reprintings to shrink values. They were guessing, but they didn’t do too badly. Incubator shrunk to $5, Gisela to $4.50 and Inferno Titan and Sun Titan were crushed, hitting $1 and $2 respectively.  Here’s another surprise –

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This card is poised for a price jump and I think we have Nekusar to blame. See that buylist price? That’s about to mess stuff up in a big way. Looking forward to it.

OK, so we have 100 cards and of those 100, 28 are rare and 5 are mythic. That’s a lot of rares to try and get to add up to a reasonable number. Even though they expect prices to fall, they don’t want the cards in the deck to be like $100 or there will be a run on that particular deck. They have to try and balance things so they get a price aroundish MSRP for the deck, although Commander 2015 decks are all between $50 and $60 total, owing to some solid $10ish new cards like Command Beacon and Blade of Selves. I’d say Commander 2015 did exactly what they wanted, and since they did it 5/5 times, I’d predict they can expect the same level of success for Commander 2016.

That means if we look at a hypothetical UW fliers deck and assume they print a $10ish new card like Blade of Selves and a $5ish one like Magus of the Wheel (And not Fiery Confluence like a lot of people expected) we’re looking at about $30ish +/- $5ish (I feel like I’m one ish away from looking like I have no idea what I’m talking about) in value, predicated on cards losing some value from the reprinting. While we’re looking at prices, what did the reprintings do to the values of some key cards in this deck?

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a $14 card became a $6 card

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Twice.

Other interesting things happened

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Cards whose prices were stable after multiple reprintings mostly shrugged off the effect of the Commander 2015 printing. Sun Titan only fell off about $1 and some places haven’t even bothered to update their inventory to reflect the lower price on older versions because they’ll eventually sell. We saw this with multiple cards with multiple printings.

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Cards that have been printed a lot, and not always in Commander sealed product, shrug off reprints a little better and their prices are a little easier to predict.

However, the reprintings may have been too much for cards under $2 that may have seen this mass printing as the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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Relative adoption is obviously a factor – way more people play Lightning Greaves in EDH than play Seer’s Sundial, but that discrepency contributes as much to the higher place in the first place as it does the increased supply being too much for the demand to soak up. I think figuring out “tiers” of cards is fine since these factors seem to account for each other.

There aren’t too many EDH cards with multiple reprintings that are over $10, so we can expect a few things provided they don’t decide to print one of those cards. If they do, we should be able to predict that based on seeing a few cards from the decks or even doing our “What does the wiki say these colors do?” analysis like we did with Azorius last week. For now, I’m going to talk about a few general things to expect.

  • $15ish cards with a single printing that aren’t mythic are getting cut in half. This didn’t happen with Wurmcoil in Commander 2014 but we saw it across the board in Commander 2015.  There are a ton of examples – Black Market, Gisela, Eldrazi Monument – the only deck without a good example is the Izzet one and that has practically only one valuable card anyway and it’s new.
  • $5ish – $10ish cards with multiple printings are that price for a reason. The new supply didn’t pants the price completely because people just used the copies in decks right away rather than flooding the market. There are a lot of examples of this, as well. Lightning Graves, Phyrexian Arena, Solemn Simulacrum, Eternal Witness. If an uncommon is worth more than most of the rares in the deck, don’t expect the reprinting to pull the price down much.
  • Anything that starts under $3 or so is most likely going to end up around $1. A few exceptions to this were the Titans but those, despite their many printings, were printed at mythic and are very popular cards. Most cards in the lower tier, even at the top end, took hits, even really solid cards like Prime Speaker Zegana. Expect most of the rares and even mythics to end up here even if they don’t start out there.
  • New printings of popular commanders can hold a lot more value than people thought. $4.50 for Karlov and $7.50 for Meren probably surprises a lot of people. Maybe it shouldn’t. While a good commander printed in a set like Shadows over Innistrad isn’t expected to do much in non-foil, the only way to get Meren is to buy the precon for $40 or deal with someone who did. Also, not being available in foil at all means the precon version is the “best” version unless a judge foil comes later.

Wizards seems to have dialed in how to make cards for these decks that end up between $7.50 and $10. They don’t make a ton of bulk rares out of the brand new cards they print and every deck seems to have at least one new card that is in this range. There are 2 in the Golgari deck, but that is not that big a deal. They aren’t making True-Name Nemesis anymore and that’s a very good thing for players. The decks are very balanced price-wise this time around and that’s going to be good for players because they can buy the deck that fits their play style without worrying about speculators buying every copy of the deck like we did with Mind Seize. Everyone is a speculator when the value is that obvious. Barring that this next time around, if we do get some sort of fliers deck, can we try and guess specific cards based on three tiers of prices rather than just the one tier like we tried to do a year ago (trying to find that set’s “Wurmcoil Engine”)?

The amount of times they’ve reprinted cards like Solemn Simulacrum makes me think that cards we considered unreprintable before may not be the sacred cows we once thought. If we do get a fliers theme and a flicker subtheme like I’m not even super convinced we will (although birds sounds a bit boring) I think we  can take a whack at some of the cards.

Mythics

New $10 mythic commander
New $1 mythic commander
Reprint $1 mythic commander (Brago? Lavinia? Some bird guy?)
Frost Titan ($1 -> bulk)
Sphinx’s Revelation at mythic? ($7 -> $4ish)

Rares or Expensive Uncommons

Aven Mimeomancer (bulk)
Emeria Angel ($2 ->$1)
Aven Mindcenser ($12-> $8ish, hopefully)
OR, probably not AND
Restoration Angel ($15 ->$8-$10ish, hopefully)
Duplicant ($9 -> $6ish)
Knight-Captain of Eos (bulk)
Gravitational Shift (bulk)
Glarecaster (bulk)
Windreader Sphinx (at rare, not mythic)
Adaptive Automaton ($5 -> $2)
Cyclonic Rift ($7 -> $4)
Stormtide Leviathan (bulk)
Archon of the Triumvirate (bulk)
Reveillark ($7 ->$4ish)
Azor’s Elocutors (bulk)
Peregrine Drake ($4 -> $2, up to $3.50 in a year)

You get the idea. Most of those cards mesh well with whatever strategy ends up being employed and they won’t upset too many things in terms of prices. It’s interesting to try and pick out how you would construct an entire deck worth of rares and saucy uncommons (I gave up and didn’t do all 28 rares, but I put the important ones) rather than just try and guess one big mythic or rare. This way we can look at cards less likely to get reprinted and evaluate their upside. Eldrazi Displacer is pretty new to be in a flicker deck and Great Whale is on the Reserved List but those could both have some upside, for example. Predicting they might put Deadeye Navigator (I don’t think they would because people complain about it too much) is cool, but predicting Eldrazi Displacer has upside if they do is cooler. Next week I’ll take everything we came up with today into account when I look at the next color combination on the wiki. Until then!

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