Category Archives: Jason Alt

Rock, Paper, Stapler

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It’s a new year and there are new cards and everything old is new again, but that doesn’t mean some new things aren’t just old things. The good thing about old things is that they behave predictably. Predictability is moneymakeability sometimes.

New cards are like rocks for the purpose of this upcoming metaphor and the sense that new cards and rocks are both “things,” I guess. People who spend a lot of time thinking about “traditional” MTG finance are very good at scrutinizing rocks. They take measurements, write articles about how many uses the rock has and whether people are going to take other rocks out of their… 60-rock collections (this metaphor is breaking down much faster than I thought it was going to) to make room for the new rocks and generally focus too much on the rock. The rock doesn’t matter, probably. I mean, it matters, but not in the way you might think.

Why the Rock Itself Doesn’t Matter

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You may recognize this picture from our Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler coverage, and I am going to keep posting it because I think it’s very important. This is a list of all of the cards in Battle for Zendikar that are worth more than $2 retail. This is it. Fifteen cards. Coming in a hair over $2 is Omnath, Locus of Rage. How can that be? This card is EDH gold. Have you seen this card?

Omnath, Locus of Rage

Look at this card.

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Look at it.

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Look at it.

This is a card that is going to cause people to run right out and build a deck around him. He’s a pretty good-looking rock. So why shouldn’t we spend too much time thinking about him?

It’s pretty simple, really.

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Buying this for at its reasonable-seeming $6 preorder price turned out to be an excellent way to nutpunch yourself to the tune of $4 a copy plus shipping and handling. It turns out sometimes it doesn’t matter how good a card looks and how obvious it is that the card is going to launch an archetype.

What Are Rocks Good For?

I’m glad I pretended you asked that. While everyone else is studying the rocks and pontificating about how reasonable a $6 presale price is in the short term, I’m throwing rocks into ponds and checking out the ripples they make. The money’s all in ripples.

Reality Ripple

Sometimes, a big enough rock can raise the water level in the pond a little bit, which I am going to assume translates to a lot of cards going up in price. Like Nekusar made a ton of related cards go up while doing nothing financially himself, Omnath has a chance to impact lots of other cards that go in a deck with him at the helm or in the 99 somewhere. Landfall is a cool mechanic, and landfall enablers could see a bump in those colors. Elemental cards like Elemental Mastery have upside now. Every ripple in the pond is an opportunity for a much older card to go up in price, even as the rock sinks to the bottom of the pond and ends up only worth a buck or two.

So why am I bringing this up?

The Next Big Rock

This card is probably the most important card in Oath of the Gatewatch in terms of EDH, and this card is going to be a bulk rare for a while. This is a concept that took me a while to adjust to. I was used to Standard and Modern and Legacy finance, where a good card was a good card and then people gave monies for it at the cards store and then everyone high-fived.  It’s taken some getting used to, but I am learning that even though cards like this sometimes don’t really make a financial impact, they can make stuff happen with other cards. What makes me so sure that Eldrazi Displacer won’t be worth money if it’s as good as I say it is? Let’s look at a different kind of card.

What is a Staple?

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A good commander like Omnath can be the centerpiece of an EDH deck that causes the cards that go in that deck to go up in price, and that’s cool. It’s also a little bit narrow. While a good card with a solid foundation that you can build upon (brought that rock metaphor right back around. You thought I couldn’t do it and I showed you. I showed both of us.) is certainly good for the cards that can go in that deck, what do we do in a block where we don’t get a bunch of juicy legendary creatures with sicko abilities and relevant tribal affiliations? Do we wait for the annual Commander sealed decks for innovation to happen, or do we look at some other cards that can do things financially? I vote we look a little harder and identify a different kind of card that can also matter.

My series has focused mostly on “rocks” since I started writing it, and that’s cool because we have identified a lot of really saucy cards and made a lot of money on cards that seem like obvious targets. Still, while we were focusing on new, splashy, obvious stuff, cards we didn’t really focus on because we took them for granted just kept going nuts.

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A staple is a card that’s considered an auto-include in a wide array of decks. Sol Ring is a staple. Command Tower is a staple. Yes, Chromatic Lantern is a staple, also. Staples work a little differently, price-wise. Since they are used in a wider array of decks, their price is a little less capricious and tied to the whims of individual cards. The health of the format as a whole is the metric that puts pressure on prices, not individual commanders being printed (or banned, I guess).

Which is Eldrazi Displacer and what makes us think we can predict its price?

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I think Eldrazi Displacer may be a bit of both and a bit of neither.

Not All Staples Are Created Equal

Staples are an odd thing. Sometimes prices don’t make much sense given how overwhelmingly good one card can seem versus another card with more supply and a much higher price. It’s pretty clear that not all staples are created equal, and while some cards may have more power narrowly, broad utility seems to carry the day. We have nothing but examples of this, and we have a chance to play with EDHREC a little more to see if we can figure out some patterns.

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Some cards shrug off a reprinting and continue to climb seemingly no matter what happens. These are cards that are needed in most decks that can run them, nearly irrespective of the specific commander. These cards are going to be safe-ish but unsexy ways to ensure incremental growth until a second reprint sneaks into your house, drenches your life savings in kerosense, and flicks a lit cigarette at the pile while it walks away in slow motion without even turning around to look at the fire.  Cyclonic Rift is very good in EDH in a lot of decks, and is sure to get you punched in your throat if you Overload it two games in a row.

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Cards like this aren’t always super sexy, but they’re worth knowing about, and they’re worth stocking. If you buy some of these at buylist and jam them in a binder, they will be good trade bait and there is no reason to hurry to get rid of them since they’ll grow at a steady rate. There’s some reprint risk, but if there were no risk in MTG finance, no one wouldn’t do it.

There are cards that seem like they’re staples because of how well they interact with a lot of decks but which don’t necessarily span the format like a card like Temple of the False God does. Food Chain makes mana way more efficiently than Temple and it enablers some explosive strategies, but it’s also narrow compared to Temple. It’s important to know how wide a card appeals when we start throwing around the word “staple.”

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Gilder Bairn is worth a surprising (to some) amount of money and it’s a great enabler in a lot of different strategies. Solid cards like this are worth knowing about, worth stocking, worth playing, and worth watching, but they don’t quite have the reach. This can still be called a “staple,” I guess, and I’m not sure we want to say there is a cutoff point where a card this good becomes too narrow to be considered one, especially since we lack a metric other than price to compare the two. Or do we?

Apples to Oranges

Playing around on EDHREC, I realized there is a way to judge a card and develop a mathematical (or at least numerical) basis for comparing the degree to which a card is considered a staple in EDH. EDHREC does something very useful when you search for individual cards.

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Do you see it?

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Numbers! We can look at numbers to see how often a card is played and use that to judge how broadly it appeals. The more broadly a card appeals, the more likely its price is to rise, because more decks push it up and the overall health of the format (growing in popularity daily) can expose the card to upside. A narrower card has less upside even if it’s more powerful. Sol Ring is in 25,839 of the 37,091 decks that can play it, a percentage of 69.66. That seems a little lower than I had expected, but what can you do? A percentage this high shows its appeal is broad, but is also a decent harbinger of reprint risk. With annual Commander decks on the horizon, reprint risk is worth knowing about.

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A percentage of 51.23 for this card.

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And 46.60 percent for Cyclonic Rift. Almost half of the decks running blue on EDH Rec run a utility card. It’s no wonder the card is trending up in price. Reprints slowed its growth down for a time, but this is really impacting the format. I think a percentage around 40 to 50 is very good and indicates the card is a staple for the format, not just for particular decks. Did I expect the number that I wanted to see to be a bit higher than 50 percent? Yes, but Command Tower isn’t much higher than that and there isn’t much point in not playing Command Tower in decks that are more than one color. They’re $1. Get you some. If Command Tower is played in 51 percent of eligible decks, than Cyclonic Rift’s 46.6 percent is pretty phenomenal.

I think checking the percentage is a good metric and I am going to use it in my analytical toolbox from now on.

Is There a Card to Compare Eldrazi Displacer To?

Yep. And you all know what it is already.

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Deadeye Navigator is a lot like Eldrazi Displacer, and it’s $1. While we have no idea to what extent Eldrazi Displacer is going to get adopted when it’s printed, if we find a corollary like Deadeye Navigator, we can analyze the card by proxy a little bit. What can our new metric tell us about what percentage of decks we can expect to jam Eldrazi Displacer?

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We’re coming in at about 15-percent adoption for the Navigator.

Power level is important. It’s very important. It tells us whether a card is worth bothering with. It tells us the likelihood that the card is worth removing a card in the deck already to make room. It tells us whether it can launch an archetype or support one well enough to make that archetype more worth playing. But Cyclonic Rift is five times as expensive as Deadeye Navigator because it’s in three times as many blue decks. Some other factors matter, also, such as the butt-puckering fear that Deadeye will be banned basically every ban cycle, but for the most part, the extent to which a card is played across the format seems to be what matters most.

I feel like we can expect to see Eldrazi Displacer in about 15 percent (plus or minus five percent) or so of EDH decks. It’s likely to be redundant to Deadeye Navigator and in a lot of the same decks. It’s also going to give decks that run white but not blue access to these shenanigans, but since decks that are blue but not white can run Deadeye already, and since blue is played more in EDH than white, I imagine that’s a wash. If Eldrazi Displacer doesn’t get some help from other formats, it’s likely going to end up a $1 card just like Deadeye Navigator. There is a bit of good news, though.

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Foils of Deadeye are almost $9. I expect the foil multiplier on Eldrazi Displacer to be much lower for about a year, so you have a while to snag as many foil copies as you can before they jump.

I have a lot more I want to say on this topic, but I’ve exceeded my word count. Why not turn this into a two-parter? Next week, we can look at how a card like Eldraiz Displacer being destined to be in roughly 15 percent of the decks in the format can be a little deceiving. When can a staple act like a rock? Find out next week. Until then!

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What EDH Can and Can’t Do to Prices

What up, nerds?

I wrote a lot this past year about what EDH can do to prices. With 2015 winding down, I’m looking back at what I’ve written so far and thinking about the series as a whole. We’ve talked a lot about the effect new printings can have on prices, but there are a few nuances I want to really solidify so we can head into 2016 swinging.

What I am going to do for a bit is revisit the basic thesis of this series, and that is:

“Cards that are coming out in new sets can serve as an event that can shift the prices of older cards. “

Unifying Theory

Is This Effect Real?

It’s a pretty simple thesis, and I think I’ve made a pretty good case for it. Not even that—it makes a good case for itself. It doesn’t take a ton of detective work to look at Teferi’s Puzzle Box, Winds of Change, Forced Fruition, Wheel and Deal, and Wheel of Fortune all spiking the same week, just after the Mind Seize deck with Nekusar, the Mindrazer came out, to figure out those things were related.

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Nekusar came along and the card launched an entire deck archetype. It’s a very annoying one, but it’s a very good one. It’s easy and obvious to build, and it’s effective, popular, and everyone who had access to the precon had access to it. With financiers buying up every copy of Mind Seize they could get their mitts on to flip the copies of True-Name Nemesis, some people had an opportunity to get the rest of the cards for fairly cheap after the financiers culled the copies of Nemesis and Baleful Strix. These cards saw their prices affected to a huge extent and the spikes all occuring at the same time, a few weeks after the set was released and people began building with Nekusar and figuring out wheel effects were the gas that made the deck work, prices spiked accordingly.

What Can’t It Do?

That’s something I feel like I haven’t covered as well. It’s important to understand the limitations of this effect. EDH has a broad appeal, and that appeal is growing, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t limited in the effect new cards can have on prices of other cards. The more copies of a card there are, the more the deck will need to be played to affect the price at all. While Nekusar was able to move older cards like Puzzle Box and even a recent-ish card like Forced Fruition, cards that everyone has lying around, let’s re-examine some of these graphs and talk a bit about what happened with the cards’ prices.

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This is the price of Forced Fruition over the last 3 years.

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The arrow points to the point where people started to realize this card was nuts in Nekusar decks. This was a $2ish card—not selling briskly on TCGplayer or eBay or Cardshark, but not shipped in bulk, either. A $2 card isn’t worth putting in a store display case. It’s not worth having in a binder, because it’s too old for anyone to care and not valuable enough for anyone to be after. This card was total trash to all but the casualiest of casuals until it was suddenly the perfect card for a deck that just popped into existence.

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What happens when something like that occurs is a weird process. First, the internet gets bought out very quickly, causing a very sharp price increase as the cheap copies are bought out and the people hoping to cash in post their copies for as much as they think they can get.

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Then, people start to dig the cards out of boxes and the supply begins to catch up as copies come out of the woodwork.

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Organic demand takes over and people start to realize they don’t mind paying more than they used to be able to for the card because it’s quite good in the deck, but slowly, increased supply catches up and satisfies the demand. Finally, the race to the bottom begins and the copies sell at a slower rate and prices plateau.

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The price ends up higher than it was before, lower than its peak, and at a place where people are comfortable both buying and selling. The price has a tendency to equilibrate here. But this is pretty unique to cards that are spread out and not concentrated in the hands of dealers.

What would happen if Wizards printed another card like Nekusar, and people who had Nekusar decks built already decided they wanted a second copy of Forced Fruition? Well, we’d see the price basically track to its new equilibrium point. It would fluctuate a bit, overcorrecting at first, but not as drastically. The copies are concentrated in the hands of dealers who paid a fair price for Forced Fruition and overpaid a bit when the price was beginning to equilibrate as supply caught up to demand. Those dealers who overpaid aren’t in a hurry to sell at a small gain, so they are hanging onto their copies and selling one at a rate of one per new Nekusar deck.

That’s a slow rate. That rate would increase if there were a new Nekusar, possibly in different colors and people built the new deck as an addition instead of taking the old one apart. When there are a lot of copies out there in the hands of dealers, the prices don’t go quite as nuts. We are seeing a high percentage of copies of Forced Fruition out of collections, shoe boxes, rubber bands, and dollar boxes, because when the card initially spiked, everyone and their cousin hit their LGS and their closets and binders looking for copies of the card to ship into the frenzy.

This effect is going to be attenuated greatly for a newer card. How do I know? Let’s look at a card that’s played in a much greater percentage of Nekusar decks. This is a card that, according to EDHREC, 61 percent of Nekusar decks play compared to the 49 percent (can that be right?) that play Forced Fruition.

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There was some initial hype surrounding Whispering Madness when people tried to couple it with unblockable creatures in an attempt to mill opponents to death. Casuals are always going to try to play Dimir mill; they just are. When this card proved that it couldn’t carry a whole archetype on its back and the supply began to overwhelm the dwindling demand, the price suffered. Want to see something really interesting? Let’s look at what the graph did when Mind Seize was released.

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That little dip may or may not have been caused by the Nekusar frenzy. There’s not much of a mechanism for new demand to cause the price to go down, but if you ignore the dip and just look at the average price since the deck was being built, you’ll see it’s on a decline, on average—pretty similar to the slope of the buylist price.

Why would we see such a profound effect for one card and such a different one for another card? The answer seems pretty simple to me: recency.

Whispering Madness is in every bulk bin, every binder, every shoe box. It was less than a year old when the Commander 2013 decks came out, and copies were everywhere. Anyone who wanted a copy of Whispering Madness to jam in their Nekusar deck probably had one already, or had a friend who would give them one for free. It was a bulk rare, and therefore, it was everywhere. The card wasn’t concentrated in the hands of dealers, but dealers still had more copies of Whispering Madness than they likely had of Forced Fruition, despite having a smaller percentage of the total number of the available copies.

A new event can clearly move the needle on older cards with relatively fewer copies printed. Magic has gotten continually more popular, so the further back you go, the fewer copies of a card there are. With fewer copies of old cards in the hands of dealers and more scattered to the four winds, cards have time to spike in price as people slowly unearth their buried copies and gradually feed them into the machine. Are there ways we can mitigate this and make some smart buys in more recent cards?

Can Recent Cards Move?

They can, and there are a few things we can do if we correctly predict a new card is going to make a new archetype that people will want to play.

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Sage of Hours is pretty busted with the new Ezuri. Once you get him up to five experience counters, he can dump five +1/+1 counters on your Sage of Hours, allowing you to remove said counters and take an extra turn. If your opponent(s) can’t interrupt this with an instant, you take every turn and kill them with your creatures and win the game.

Despite it being a mythic, there are quite a few copies of Sage of Hours out there because it’s recent and not in high demand from Standard players. Most of the copies of this card are just sitting in store inventories, and the new Ezuri deck hasn’t been built enough to move the needle. The threat of a reprint is always present, also, and no one seems super willing to gamble on this card. Store inventories haven’t moved much, either. There wasn’t really money to be made predicting this would pair well with Ezuri as soon as he was spoiled. Or was there?

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This went from a Vorel of the Hull Clade spec to a bit of a bust to an Ezuri staple, in foil. Foil copies are less prone to a reprint, especially in a Commander-series deck which doesn’t have any regular-sized foils. Foil copies have higher upside, since there is usually a multiplier that will drive the two prices apart as the non-foil increases. There are fewer copies of the foil, and for cards that are printed in event decks and such, the set foil is even scarcer compared to the non-foil. The relatively few numbers of copies make it easier for buying behavior on a small scale to signal the market that the price is moving, and when the card is merely twice as expensive as the non-foil like we saw here during Sage’s lull, you can still buy effectively, getting half as many copies but experiencing four times the upside.  Currently sitting pretty around $13, this card could go back down, but with Ezuri’s current popularity (it was the second most-built deck last week according to EDHREC), that may take a while.

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Moving very nicely up in price for years, Contagion Engine seemed like a good way to proliferate experience counters with the new commanders in Commander 2015. It’s colorless, allowing it to go in any of the five decks, and it serves as removal, something that is important in decks like Simic that lack a ton of ways to kill things without bouncing them or turning them into tokens. Still, the slope of the graph doesn’t really increase with the printing of Commander 2015. It seemed almost a shoo-in in one or more of the decks, and while it’s getting up there, it’s nowhere near the popularity of a card like Darksteel Plate, a card from the same block whose price is higher than you might think. Was there any money to be made on Engine?

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Apparently there was money to be made on the card in foil, where the price tripled overnight, and while it’s returning to equilibrium, it’s equilibrating much higher than the price was before experience counters made us pay attention.

The Future of This Series

I plan to continue identifying upcoming archetypes made possible by new printings as well as identifying staples that don’t necessarily need events to drive the price up. There was no real event other than EDH being a fun format that caused Chromatic Lantern to climb like it has, but every once in a while, the price corrects higher due to adjustments in dealer buying behavior and player buying behavior.

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This was a card everyone knew was good basically just in EDH, but which no one really talked about. This went up calmly, behind the scenes, and keeps surprising everyone with how high it continues to go. I plan to spend a lot of time talking about event-driven upcoming price increases next year, but I also want to spend some time identifying staples that are going to march solidly up in price and which will be great cards to stock a binder with.

Remember, EDH players are who we want to trade with. They want a much larger range of cards from us, and they’re more likely to undervalue (maybe not money-wise, but to just generally care less about) Standard staples and other cards we can instantly sell on TCGplayer, much faster than we can sell EDH cards. I hope you’ll join me next year, where we’ll keep looking at the fascinating world of EDH finance and chart some uncharted territory while we do. See you in 2016.

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Generic Finance Article

[Greeting]

  • [Acknowledgement of reader base]
  • [Reference to last week’s article]

[Paragraph detailing plans for this article]

[Body]

  • 1-10 paragraphs
  • [Images]

[Closing Paragraph]

I want to talk about generic mana versus colorless mana now that the two terms can’t be used interchangeably, and I wanted to do it by making the article itself generic, but while that seemed meta and funny to me, it wouldn’t have come across and would have served to amuse only me, like an Easter egg hidden a little too well. I didn’t manage to make it happen, but I’m sure you won’t mind moving on, because there is a point I wanted to make this week: the differentiation between generic and colorless mana, a brand new concept, is going to matter. It’s going to matter a lot. So while the article itself won’t be generic, the subject matter is going to be. If you want a generic article I have a few sources I can point you to.

600-03697886 © Jean-Christophe Riou Model Release: No Property Release: No Generic Canned Food

The Distinction

This is what it looks like when I dive right into the topic at hand without a lot of foreplay. Try and keep up, I guess. It’s foreign to me, too, but we’ll manage.

Why is there a distinction between colorless and generic mana now? It didn’t matter before. As I’m sure 100 percent of you know, we have had to make the distinction because of a new mana symbol that has appeared on some spoiled cards.

endbringer

Look at Endbringer’s mana cost. Its converted mana cost is easy to suss out: it’s six. Endbringer costs six mana, five of which can be generic mana and one of which must be colorless mana; that is to say mana that originated from a colorless source. Generic refers to mana of any color used to pay non-specific mana costs like the little (5) in the circle we’re all used to. Like an Island putting a mana in your mana pool gives you a mana that can be used for blue or generic but not green, Island also gives you a mana that cannot be used for true colorless (non-generic) mana, which is denoted by the diamond mana symbol on this card in both the casting cost and two of the activated abilities. It’s not quite a sixth color, but it’s going to give you a little more trouble than you might imagine.  Planning for it is going to be important.

The Impetus

Why do we care about this distinction? Well, for starters, Endbringer is stupid. I love this card. I want it inside my decks. I want it inside me. I am not sure if I will be able to find room in all of my decks for this card, so I’m really trying to manage my expectations, but the more I think about how much I want to play this card and maybe some others like it, the more I realize it may be a little trickier than I thought. Colorless mana may not be as simple to come by as generic mana, and when the distinction matters, you need to really re-evaluate everything.

mirrorpool

Mirrorpool is a sexy, splashy EDH card that does everything I want a land to do. This plus a Crucible of Worlds is going to change the world. I was so doe-eyed over this card when it was first spoiled that I didn’t stop to consider how tricky this could be to activate. Five mana to make a clone is a bargain when it’s an ability on a land, but if we don’t have enough ways to make true colorless mana in our entire deck, we can’t play Mirrorpool at all. And I want to play Mirrorpool.

The Issue

Manabases in EDH are currently designed with accessing colored mana being pretty important. This may be a “basic land format,” where basics are just fine and cards like Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Kodama’s Reach, and Myriad Landscape reward you for playing basic lands, and cards like Boundless Realms really reward you for playing basic lands, but we like access to the mana we need reliably. Players are so eager to make sure they get their colored mana that they don’t see a big issue with “risky” lands like Sejiri Refuge, Golgari Guildgate, and Gruul Turf. You notice players will play that last one, Gruul Turf, but aren’t super likely to play a card like Karoo which does the same thing but gives you a spare colorless rather than two colored mana, even in a mono-white deck? Players aren’t as in love with the Karoo effect as they are with having a land that taps for two colored mana every time they use it. This shows how important colored mana is to players. Whenever we need generic mana, Gruul Turf is good for two of them, helping us power out big spells like Genesis Wave or Primal Surge.

It’s trivial to generate generic mana, so we don’t think about how many sources we have, do we?

PopQuizHotShot

How many sources of true, non-generic, colorless mana do you have in your favorite EDH deck? Four? Five? Do you even know? Well, you probably have a Sol Ring, and maybe a Temple of the False God. Probably a few more. I’m going to estimate seven sources in a two-color deck, six for a three-color one, and maybe four for five-color lists. How close is this estimate?

The answer is a bit surprising. I started poking around online to find lists, mostly at random to try and get a decent sampling of what players are currently building. I found a Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck with one source (Maze’s End) right off the bat.  Some Oloro decks ran six or seven with sources like Pristine Talismanand some ran only three. I even found a few two-color decks that had zero ways to produce true colorless mana. Those decks were rare, but they exist.

Granted, the more likely a player was to be a tryhard with only one deck and load it up with fetches and shocks, the less likely they were to have sources of true colorless. Anyone can easily build with generating colorless in mind, but I think the point isn’t how easy it might be to fit more colorless sources in, but how hard it will be to take good, useful lands out to make room. Sure, we can upend our current mana bases and build them differently so we can jam one new card, but we probably don’t want to. Are there unobtrusive ways to still get the mana we need, not disrupt our lives too much, and have access to the true colorless mana we need? I have a few solutions—and there is money to be made.

Solution – Run Some Wastes

In a three-color deck, we already have cards like Burnished Hart, Solemn Simulacrum, Evolving Wilds, Myriad Landscape, etc. Jamming a few Wastes in there to tutor for means we can keep the same number of basics but have access to true colorless in the deck. We basically remove a few color-generating basics for a few Wastes.

Effectiveness as a Solution

This makes it harder for us to get colored mana. We could take every mana-producing land out and run 40 Wastes. Is that going to help us cast most of our spells? I hate the idea of weakening a deck’s ability to get colored mana. Otherwise, we’d run Rath’s Edge and Dust Bowl and Wasteland and Strip Mine and all the other utility lands in every deck. Unless your commander is an Eldrazi or a silver golem, you’re not going to want to take out colored basics for Wastes.

Is There Money to be Made? 

Yes, actually. I feel like Wastes will be everywhere and under-valued initially, but looking at snow-covered lands and foil snow-covered lands, I feel like foil Wastes could be as much as $10 in a year if they become popular in EDH. They’re almost certain to be undervalued at peak supply and rotation, and those are the two times I’d start to look at them. I’ve harped on this in other articles, so I won’t belabor the point, but Wastes are a card for some situations, just not solving our Endbringer problem.

Solution – Colorless Ramp

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We have a few lands and spells we could run that are such efficient ways to generate mana that we forgive the fact that the mana they give us is colorless.

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Effectiveness as a Solution

These do the trick, however a lot of these have restrictions. Whether you can only spend the mana on spells like with Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, have to sacrifice the land like with Crystal Vein, or having to wait like with Temple of the False God, these lands come with strings attached. However, we play with a lot of these cards already, because the restrictions aren’t so great as to keep us from playing them in decks that don’t require the colorless mana to be non-generic. If we want to jam a Kozilek or Endbringer (and I do want to jam Endbringer), that just makes these lands even better.

Is There Money to be Made?

Eh. The problem is the cards that are good enough to be played already are already expensive. Repeated reprintings has crushed the price of Temple of the False God to around $0.50, but the foil is $25 and seems safe but not poised to go anywhere but glacially upward. The cards that are the least obtrusive new inclusions have the fewest financial opportunities. The cards with the most room to grow are not played much now for a reason, and we’d need a huge increase in adoption to move the needle. My desire to play with a Staff of Nin that’s also a 5/5 isn’t enough, I fear. These cards do the trick, but they’re kind of doing the trick already. Sol Ring isn’t going to spike because it helps us draw a card with a bulk rare Eldrazi, it’s going to go in decks because it’s Sol Ring.

Solution – Lands That Do It All

Do you want to summon and activate Endbringer with the same lands that can help you play the Prophet of Kruphix that makes him even stupider? It’s pretty simple, really.

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Sexy, right?

Effectiveness as a Solution

Perfection. These give us two colors of mana and can also tap for true colorless, and don’t give us damage to boot. These can’t be tutored up with Burnished Hart like a Forest, fetched with a Misty Rainforest, or divined for with Cultivate, but these solve our problem and solve it good. If you have a Simic Guildgate, Thornwood Falls, or some other land that’s not super exciting but is in the deck because it’s cheap, taps for mana of two of your colors, and doesn’t deal you damage, you have a card to take out. Pain lands deal damage to you, but that rarely matters. The number of times I’ve lost games of EDH to my life total being reduced to zero pale in comparison to the number of times I’ve been milled, killed by commander damage when I had over 100 life, been hit with a quadrillion copies of Zealous Conscripts, or lost to Laboratory Maniac.  A pain land is “calibrated” for a 20-life format, so when you think about it, Yavimaya Coast deals about half a damage in EDH terms. I’ll pay half a life to get an entire mana any day.

Is There Money to be Made?

Yup. These were already a pretty good buy and these are a cheap solution for EDH decks. For a while I thought “check lands” were my go-to non-basic, two-colored land. The problem there is that there is a wild price divergence going on.

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It’s a little difficult to tout this cycle as the “answer” when there is such a price divergence going on. One has been reprinted much, much more often than the other, but you see my point. Jam a Sunpetal Grove all you want; I used to buy these for a buck cash from players before they stopped selling at all on TCGplayer for me. Enough players are fine playing guildgates and gain lands that come into play tapped that the fact that these sometimes don’t come into play tapped seems trivial.

Guildgates are durdly. Karoos don’t tap for colorless (except for actual Karoo). Shocks are expensive, and if you have them you’re playing them already and know they’re worth it. Too many utility lands like Alchemist’s Refuge dilute your ability to produce colored mana reliably, and even gold-star lands like ABU duals can’t get you the true colorless you need. Pain lands are perfect here. If only you could run more than one in a Vorel deck.

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This is the graph for an Origins foil. It’s under $3 with a lot of potential. There is the risk of even more reprints, true, but with core sets being a thing of the past, it’s less likely that we will see another printing. Most likely, the mana needs of each individual set will be covered by something new. For now, these cards are the cheapest they’re ever going to be and there are a lot of them in binders. If you can get these for buylist (cash is king no matter where you go), it’s pretty tough to lose. There is very little downside to adopting these in EDH and the number of lands each deck wants goes up precipitously depending on the number of colors it is. A two-color deck can only run one pain land, but a three-color deck can run three, and a five-color deck can run ten. Will it want to? I guess that all depends on how badly it wants to activate Mirrorpool and not Maze’s End.

It remains to be seen whether the few “true colorless” cards are going to be a significant price  driver in EDH. What is known is that with the pain lands being historically affordable and historically available and less likely than ever to be reprinted soon, these are a great target. Pain lands are generic. But that’s what we want.

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On Clerics: The Article I Said in the Spoiler Coverage I Was Going to Write

I’m helping with the Spoiler Coverage for Oath of the Gatewatch. Well, I mean, am I helping, or am I just doing it and DJ is helping me? I’ll let you be the judge. Unless you think I’m helping him and not the other way around. Then I’m never letting you be the judge again. Usually you have to go to law school first, and you suck at it.

I said in said coverage that DJ is helping me with that I was going to write about one of the cards at length, because while I expect it’s probably going to be a bulk rare, I also expect it’s going to make an entire deck playable that people have wanted to play and have not been able to. I’m talking, of course, about Mono-Black Splash White Kor Tribal™.

The Coming Tide

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Real talk, though, having a black-white legendary cleric is something that people have wanted since EDH was a thing. We want four-color commanders, we want an Izzet-colored Commander that deals with artifacts, and we want a cockadoodie black and white cockadoodie cleric so we can build a COCK-A-DOODIE CLERIC DECK.

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We’ve waited for long enough. Ayli and Daxos have made me seriously consider converting to Orzhov, and this is after Simic basically gave me everything I ever wanted in the form of the new Ezuri. Infinite turns with Sage of Hours? That’s cool. What have you done for me lately? Lumping myself in with Orzhov people who have waited patiently for this momentous occasion aside, what would the deck play and what can we even make money off of?

The deck would play a lot of back and white clerics cards, and those cards are old enough to be scarce, yet new enough to be available in foil. This pleases me. There’s gold in them thar’ hills, and we can mine it ahead of the coming gold rush if we’re canny enough to know where to start prospectin’. So let’s prospect.

EDHREC is a great resource for us, but without a commander to plug in, it’s hard to know where to start. It’s time to strap on our gumshoes and do some old-fashioned detective work. I googled “BW Clerics EDH” and looked at a few decks to see if they had anything in common. This gave me my first lead.

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This card will go in 100 percent of Ayli decks. It’s a way to gain life to make sure you switch on her last ability. It’s a way to kill people. Can you imagine having a ton of clerics and just one-shotting an opponent by saccing Doubtless One to this land?

Foils are under $2, and that seems insane but also easy to fix. There just aren’t a ton of copies of this land out there, and EDH players aren’t really socking these away into collections and decks because there really wasn’t a way to build this deck unless you did what some people did and built around Teysa or an Esper-colored creature that served to occupy your command zone while you played the clerics you wanted to play. With an actual commander, this land will be the first card to go, and with as cheap and rare as it is, I see real upside. Not only was identifying this card a leg up, it also gave me something to search EDHREC for.

How many decks that weren’t running a ton of clerics were going to run this land? Very, very few. This gave me a list of cards that were frequently paired in decks with Starlit Sanctum. So which cards are likely to go up based on the abundance of new clerics decks built around Ayli?

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Now here’s a real card. This can go in other decks, probably, but if we’re going to be sacrificing a ton of clerics, this gives us a way to replace them with bodies, and it has crossover appeal with zombie decks. Kinda. The point is that this has been pretty steady, had a recent brush with arbitrage, and is generally in low enough supply that it could easily jump over $5 and beyond if people give it any attention. How do I know a ton of people aren’t paying attention? Easy.

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The foil is has a multiplier of only two. Casual players are making Rotlung Reanimator a $2.50 card with a $5 foil, and Ayli can really drive both prices up and make the foil multiplier diverge. A foil cleric deck is doable right now with only a few cards like Auriok Champion being prohibitively expensive to foil out. I feel like the foils cost now what the non-foils could cost very soon if people start to build around Ayli.

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How about that Tiny Leaders format? I am not going to sit here and say, “I told you so,” but I did refuse to write about Tiny Leaders as a format before it really established itself as something other than a flash in the pan, and every subsequent “next hotness” that comes along like 1994 and Canadian Highlander I vow to stay out of for a year to give myself time to learn about them and for the formats to fizzle out. Now that the price of this cleric is returning to earth, be cautioned. The copies of this card are concentrated in the hands of speculators who couldn’t sell them, dealers foolish enough to jack up their buy price, and store display cases. When a card spikes after not really being a real card, copies come out of the woodwork. Speculators hit every LGS in the area to scour bulk bins and binders. People buylist them because they were junk and now they are worth something. Loose copies all get concentrated. If this card spikes again, even a little, the market will get flooded with copies. This is still too expensive for what it is, and I don’t see financial opportunity in trying to bank on this card going up based on clerics being popular. It’s a good card and good in the deck. It goes in the deck. But you’re not going to make money on this, I fear. There are too many people looking to undersell you to dump their hella copies and a much bigger shock will be needed to move the needle.

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Tapping five clerics may look a little steep, but gaining 10 life is a reusable way to keep your Ayli switched on and keep yourself from dying to regular damage. This is also a very old foil that’s under $2 and will go in every Ayli deck that’s built with victory in mind. This card’s fate, like so many cards in this article, is directly tied to Ayli, but with Commander players clamoring for a black-white cleric and finally getting their prayers answered, there is real upside. This card fuels several clericy win conditions, as well as making sure you can keep nuking non-land permanents with Ayli. This is a must-include.

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So many foil staples under $2. This is making me really want to just build this deck. A recent arbitrage opportunity and dealer behavior showing they are willing to come very close to the retail price, repeatedly, shows that dealers have a tough time keeping the relatively small number of copies in stock, but are willing to get these in and sell them for a small margin. This card is biggity-bonkers in a clerics deck and can make you friends at the table and keep your life total high enough to keep Ayli switched on. This is dumb. Under $2 is dumb.

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If this card were older, it might be closer to $2 in foil instead of the $1 in foil it is now. Protecting your life total is important, and this card can keep you from dying to a token swarm or cards like Goblin Bombardment, which happens more often than you might think. Expensive mana-wise, this is worth it. And it’s cheap money-wise, so I’m even more inclined to just build a foil clerics deck. The foil Debtors’ Knell will suck, but the rest of the cards are like a damn dollar. For now, that is.

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Conversely, casuals are already very aware of this tough-to-destroy creature who can get very large and very formidable very quickly. With foils at $13, there is room for divergence. It looks like this card will go up over time anyway, so it’s hard to lose here.

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I don’t know if you jam this in the deck, and if you do, how many, but just remember these were sitting on draft chaff piles for free and they’re approaching $2 and $5 in foil. Just thought this card was worth revisiting.

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This only tacks on $3 to our foil cleric deck price and it does WORK. A recent brush with arbitrage shows at least one dealer has confidence this will get somewhere some day. Personally, I just think it goes in the deck and probably just the one deck, but there is real upside. This is good in the deck.

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“Hey guys, remember me? Well, I make clerics. You need to sacrifice a cleric? Use one of mine. Can I make the game get out of control? Yep, sure can.”

Heliod seems to have bottomed out and is starting to creep back up. He’s a much more useful card in EDH than he was in Standard, and I expect to see him pass a few lesser gods on his way up. He makes enchantments and clerics at the same time. So many decks want that. Foils are only $8 for now, which seems super reasonable.

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I am seeing a lot of recent arbitrage opportunities on these $2 foils, and all around the same point in history. I wonder what happened that crazy month. Probably an article like this one. Am I creating false hysteria? I don’t think so—we’re getting a CLERIC COMMANDER.

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There are a few other creatures that are probably shoo-ins, like Eight-and-a-Half-Tails and Auriok Champion, a card that costs as much as the rest of the deck at $50 in foil. Those are fairly obvious. Put basically every cleric creature in the deck. Heliod, though, is less obvious, and I think you read my column because I come up with some things you might not have thought of on your own. How does this pile of clerics become a deck?

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This should take some of the sting out of sacrificing your clerics all day long. Getting them back for value all the time and being able to use Ayli a lot will feel good, and this card goes in lots of other decks. It’s not going to go down in price much, if at all, and any bump in demand should send the price up a bit. This is a solid place to park some money. I may even spring for the foil at $21. This foil clerics deck will be fun.

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This $6 card is available for $9 in foil. A 1.5x multiplier tells me that casual players love this card, and foil nuts like I’m gradually becoming aren’t as keen yet. But as cheap as it is, I’m springing for the foil, as there are so few copies that people paying attention to this card should see that multiplier grow even if the non-foil price grows more slowly. This card says “win the game” on it and rewards you for gaining life like you already planned to. Deal.

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The reprint at non-mythic rare threw this card off a cliff. You can pretend this is a $4 card all you want, but Battle for Zendikar copies are bulk. BFZ foils are $2. Will this card recover? Yes. Just not this year.

This used to be a $30 foil. I almost bought one, and I’m glad I didn’t, but even if I had shelled out like $25 for this, I would have been able to use it for a year before its price took a dump, and winning games with this would have made it worth it. BFZ foils at $2 seems interesting, but remember, it’s not mythic anymore, and that sucks. Now I know how Yu-Gi-Oh! financiers feel.

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Do people just not know about this card? How is this not more expensive? In any case, this does work in a deck where you are sacrificing your guys and want them back to sacrifice them again. This card is from Urza’s Saga, meaning it’s old enough to vote, and we’re not getting more of these printed because it’s so busted that Wizards saw fit to include it on the Reserved List. With the cards in Battle for Zendikar that reward sacrifice, this seems like it has upside to me.

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This could get reprinted, but until it does, why not Grave Pact them and make them not want to cast removal spells on your stuff? This card is growing very steadily because it’s busted, and clerics decks where your commander is a sacrifice outlet won’t shy away from this card by any means.

I went way over my word count and didn’t  even jam in my usual space-wasting rhetoric this week. This is a topic that could have easily yielded another full article full of picks. What I suggest is looking at how the deck would be built and getting ahead of the people who will likely want to build around Ayli when the set is released. Forewarned is forearmed, so be armed with the info from this article or I will forearm you in the throat. You know, with my forearm. That word means two things.

Did I make a clerical error and forget to include an obvious cleric card? Leave it in the comments below. Until next week, nerds. Smell ya later!

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