Category Archives: Jim Casale

Grinder Finance – Week One and Capitalizing on Hype

Last week in Chicago we got our first taste of Standard with Magic Origins, and there were 3 G/R Devotion decks in the top 8.  To be perfectly honest, 7 of the top 8 decks were just slight rehashes of existing decks.  In an extreme example of this, Logan Mize decided to cut a whole color from his deck and avoid playing any cards from the last two sets.  It’s unlikely any real metagame shifting changes will happen before the Pro Tour in a few weeks but that doesn’t stop people from going crazy.  What did I spend my weekend doing? Getting rid of cards!



My go-to for getting rid of cards I don’t need is Pucatrade.  It’s a bit of investment to get started but clearly shows it’s advantages upon new set releases.  A lot of the cards from this set are at the highest prices they will ever be and it’s a quick and easy way to earn some value for them.  For those that are uninitiated, Pucatrade is an online trading program that matches users want lists with other user’s have lists.  For the price of a few stamps, envelopes, and toploaders you can send off your unwanted or hard to trade cards for “Puca Points” which are essentially worth 1 penny.  Although they have no cash value, the value of a card is based on an aggregate fair trade price that is displayed in Puca Points that works out to about 100 Puca Points is $1.

That being said, how many of you thought you could get 65 cents in trade for an Outland Colossus?  While most of the cards listed might end up being bulked to a vendor, release week is a great chance to trade them away for non-bulk values.  But there are also some non-bulk cards that are worth selling into the hype.  I’m not a fan of holding onto Goblin Piledrivers right now.  There is too high of a chance that this price is based mostly on nostalgia and not enough on actual power.  The worst case scenario is that I have to pick up a playset in a month for about the same price.  Most standard legal rares have a very hard time staying above $10 even when they’re as ubiquitous as Siege Rhino.  Goblin Rabblemaster is one of the most recent exceptions to the rule because of how flexible it was in many different deck types.  Unfortunately for Piledriver, he requires a bunch of goblin buddies to be good.


What else should we do besides selling off cards we aren’t planning on using for the next two months? Digging out important commons from your pre-release pools is a big deal.  For every playset of impressively expensive Shaman of the Pack you find, you could also save yourself a few bucks by picking out Clash of Wills and Sphinx’s Tutelage too.  There’s a number of powerful uncommons that I would recommend just setting aside for later use.

In no particular order, these commons and uncommons strike me as useful:

  • Bounding Krasis
  • Blood-Cursed Knight
  • Shaman of the Pack
  • Foundry of the Consuls
  • Mage-Ring Network
  • Leaf Gilder
  • Gather the Pack
  • Elvish Visionary
  • Dwynen’s Elite
  • Aerial Volley
  • Sylvan Messenger
  • Nissa’s  Pilgrimage
  • Magmatic Insight
  • Goblin Glory Chaser
  • Fiery Impulse
  • Subterranean Scout
  • Smash to Smithereens
  • Dragon Fodder
  • Enlightened Ascetic
  • Consul’s Lieutenant
  • Celestial Flare
  • Swift Reckoning
  • Chief of the Foundry
  • Artificer’s Epiphany
  • Negate
  • Clash of Wills
  • Sphinx’s Tutelage
  • Eyeblight Massacre
  • Fleshbag Maurader
  • Gnarlroot Trapper
  • Nantuko Husk
  • Read the Bones
  • Thornbow Archer

While some of these you may have from older sets, it’s important to note you can glean $10-20 from picking through your “draft trash” that would otherwise have been spent at a vendor the day of a tournament.  It’s important to note it’s hard to keep a small collection and not lose money by having to rebuy cards you sold earlier.  Ideally we keep an equilibrium of selling cards when they’re high and buying when they’re low but if we can avoid buying cards all together then it’s just a win more.

Investment Hour:

There are a few cards I think that are pretty good to pick up now but you shouldn’t rush out to buy them right this second.  I would keep them on my radar for trades this weekend.



If we ever get to a point in standard where people ask the question “What is the most powerful planeswalker in Standard?” and the answer is not Ugin then we will have a problem.  This guy is at a low point in his life cycle and despite being only a single copy in most decks he still commands a price point over $25.  Fate Reforged is notably better than the last middle set (Born of the Gods) but still suffers from middle set syndrome that makes it scarcely opened product.  Ugin’s life cycle is further increased by his tag teaming with Karn in Tron in Modern.  When you top if off with the casual appeal, it’s hard to ever see him dropping below $20 without a Duel Deck printing.  I think now is a fine time to pick up this dragon Planeswalker in preparation for a new Standard rotation in the fall.

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Mono-red decks have always been popular with casual players because of their low price point.  Recently with the emergence of Atarka Red as a truly powerful force, aggressive red decks have been able to sustain some weird prices.  Goblin Rabblemaster and Stoke the Flames are poster children for aggressive red cards that are worth a ton more than they probably should be.  I believe Exquisite Firecraft is an easy Five Dollar bill for the next year and a half.  Abbot of Keral Keep and Scab-Clan Berserker can tag team some control heavy metagames while also being very reasonably priced aggressive threats.  I’m especially bullish on the fact that Scab-Clan Berserker can often get in 4 damage before paying the Ultimate Price which is significantly better than the very popular Eidolon of the Great Revel.  If red aggressive decks are not your thing then you may want to pass on these but I would get well acquainted with their power level.



Grinder Finance – Sealed Product and Post Modern Masters

I’m going to start this article on a bit of a somber note.  News has come to my attention at the time of writing this article that leaves me in a reflective mood.  Satoru Iwata, only the 4th president of Nintendo, died at 55 years young.  It is truly a terrible day in the life of any gamer to see such a revolutionary and dedicated figure in the gaming community pass away.  Mr. Iwata was a gamer first and foremost just like the rest of us.  He was a role model for gamers and business men alike. While you may not play Nintendo’s games, his work is a part of our culture and we will need many more Iwatas to continue to push ahead the future of gaming.

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer” – Satoru Iwata

EN_ORI_ClshPK_SeekeroftheWay EN_ORI_ClshPK_ValorousStance

On a lighter note, we have some great news!  The recent release of the deck list for the Magic Origins clash packs is fantastic! The deck list can be viewed here. The number of valuable tournament staples included in these clash packs is a great opportunity to buy in at a suppressed price.  The reality of clash packs is they are not infinite in number and these are unlike the last few.  They included much better tournament cards for the alternate art foils.  They also included many cards that will be included in decks as 4 copies.  What does this mean for us?  A lot and we’ll discuss it all.

EN_ORI_ClshPK_DromokatheEternal EN_ORI_ClshPK_HonoredHierarch

The last few clash packs (which alternate with event decks every other set now) include two 60 card decks that are meant to be like duel decks.  They are made up of entirely standard legal cards and include 6 alternate art foil cards.  Clash Pack’s retail price is $30 similar to Event Decks but they can be found on Amazon and other similar sites for approximately $20-25.  That means the contents of the deck must be collectively be worth less than $30 in order for this to not be a “good” buy.  Coincidentally, as of this writing, two cards in the package combined have a MTGPrice fair trade value of $32.33.  This means there could be literal basic lands in the other 118 cards in the deck and it would be worth buying.  This is a huge step up from previous event decks that included very little of value outside of one card.

EN_ORI_ClshPK_SandsteppeCitadel EN_ORI_ClshPK_SiegeRhino

Another important thing to note is that the cards that are seeing tournament play from this deck are part of decks that play four copies of them.  This strongly incentivizes people to buy four decks and keep most of the higher value cards.  I think this is a great buy for anyone who doesn’t have four of the tournament staples because you can’t really beat the price. The fact that the deck has such high value cards that are likely to be kept by the player opening the deck means the price drop of these cards won’t be very steep.  Courser of Kruphix was in the last clash pack and saw an initial dip before rebounding back to close to its original price.

Collected Company by Franz Vohwinkel.
Collected Company by Franz Vohwinkel.

What does this mean for us?  Well if you follow me on Twitter you likely could have bought in early.  I pre-ordered four copies of this deck because it’s just a no-brainer.  There is tons of value and the pieces you don’t need can be easily traded out.  It is important to be on top of supplementary sealed product releases just like these decks as they can also be great opportunities to purchase expensive cards for much less.

Windswept Heath by Yeong-Hao Han
Windswept Heath by Yeong-Hao Han

Well, what if I don’t play standard?  This is great value even for m=Modern players!  Each deck includes 1 Windswept Heath and 1 Collected Company, which are major players in Modern right now. However, I would not suggest Modern players to invest their money in this above other things.  Cards from Modern Masters 2015 are finally out of their rut and all beginning to rise again.  Tournament staples like Spellskite and Fulminator Mage continue to get more popular and supply is very quickly outstripping demand, though this could change very soon.


These charts show that despite being a rare these cards are still in very high demand to combat popular archtypes.  Spellskite is even above its presale price now at just a touch under $20.  Without any real reason for Wizards of the Coast another printing of the card lined up, it’s poised to continue climbing.  The only Modern Masters 2015 cards that may continue to fall are more casual cards that require less copies.  I think the time to buy your Modern Masters 2015 staples is very quickly passing.

If you’re thinking about finishing off cards outside of those sets, it’s still time to keep waiting.  If history repeats itself we should get major spoilers for Battle for Zendikar during Pax Prime (August 28th – 31st).  Wizards of the Coast hosts a party that included the spoilers for allied fetch lands last year.  That date is going to be important to note because if they don’t spoil Zendikar fetch lands during that party, I think it is highly unlikely they will be reprinted at all.  Fortunately, a panic shouldn’t trigger unless they are confirmed not in the set so you will have some time to pick up the remainder of your Scalding Tarns or Verdant Catacombs to finish your deck.  After that you can pretty much wait until December for the best prices.


As you can see from this graph, before the reprinting of Cryptic Command in Modern Masters 2015 it had it’s most significant dip in late December into early January.  The best line to look at here is the best buylist price.  If stores are not willing to pay a lot on the card it can be inferred that supply is high and demand is low.  The buylist line is slowly creeping up now after crashing during GP Vegas.  Take a look at the price graphs of cards you’re interested in owning and consider the buylist line as an indicator of future growth.

Thanks for reading and hopefully next week we will have some interesting results after a weekend with Magic Origins to talk about!

Grinder Finance: The True Price of a Deck

Editor’s Note: Jim Casale is a talented writer who has a lot of insights into how to get the most of your money when it comes to actually playing Magic, and we’re excited to welcome him to the MTGPrice team! I’m looking forward to seeing his content here every Tuesday.

– Corbin


By Jim Casale


I’m sure many of the readers of this article consider themselves players of Magic: the Gathering, a collectable card game unlike many others in its longevity and the size of its player base. The biggest barrier to entry for many players, like myself is the cost of buying the cards needed to play. I’m here to explain how to best avoid paying too much for the cards you need to play the game. Unlike many columns on this website, mine is not focused for the people that want to speculate on cards. My goal is to find the best time for players to buy the cards they need to play with. These cards may go up in price or may not but the value that you’re gaining here is by playing with the cards.

Many people have noticed the recent soaring price of modern cards. Snapcaster Mage, Blood Moon, Olivia Voldaren, Raging Ravine, Oblivion Stone, and Heritage Druid are just a few of the cards that seem to become unreasonably expensive. But what is the reason for all of this? Is it some black market underground dojo keyboard cagefighter speculators or real demand? Well it’s complicated but it’s most likely artificial demand not caused by buyouts but by players who are worried if they don’t buy now it will only go up. Panic is the real problem here. We need to be confident in our purchases and be able to build towards the deck we want to play in the future.


Which brings us to my point, what is the true cost of a deck? How does someone decide to “buy in” to a deck?

I have a theory to answer all of that. For many Magic players, cards they already own are a sunk cost. When debating what deck to play they do not associate the cards they already own as “costing” anything to them. Which makes a lot of sense, since you don’t have to go out and buy or trade for those cards. This artificially lowers the cost of a deck. If you already own Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, Snapcaster Mage, and Cryptic Command then it’s a lot cheaper to play the Splinter Twin deck, even if you don’t own any Splinter Twins.   The bottleneck is the card that is stopping people from making a deck and it is generally the most costly card in said deck.

Did you notice what cards got reprinted in Modern Masters 2015? Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Bitterblossom, Vendilion Clique, and friends are all expensive staples that are the bottle neck to building their respective decks.



How does someone who wants to build Jund look at the deck? Have you ever heard anyone complain about the price of Terminate as being the reason they are reluctant to build the deck? Absolutely not. They can’t afford the Tarmogoyfs, Liliana of the Veil and Dark Confidants that make up the most expensive parts of the deck. The true cost of the deck is not realized when the barriers are set so high. If a player opens a few of the expensive cards he or she needs to build the deck then true cost of a deck gets lower.


This is what is causing the spikes in cards that used to be “cheap.” Snapcaster Mage is the prime example of a card that is bottlenecking anyone from playing a blue deck in Modern. Previous bottlenecks to blue decks have been printed a ton recently and help build more interest in completing decks. The previous bottlenecks to build these style of decks were lands, Vendilion Clique, and Cryptic Command. I would venture to guess that with the abundance of shocklands from RTR block and the flood of fetchlands from KTK block that lands are no longer the biggest barrier to entry to building these decks. Vendilion Clique and Cryptic Command are on their third printing as of MM2015 and you don’t need 4 copies of either card to play the deck.

Where does that leave us? Well, at the point we are now. The demand for Snapcaster Mage rises because the true cost of building their deck is lower. If you need 4 Snapcaster Mages to finish your deck completely and they cost $25 then it’s pretty reasonable to spend the $100 and finish it off. If enough people do that then that causes the price of a card to rise. Snapcaster Mage can retail for almost $100 now despite being $30-40 throughout most of last year. Consumer confidence in its statistically-low chance of being reprinted coupled with the lowered true price of the decks, makes this card’s price sky-rocket.

What can we do about it now? Not really a whole lot. Maybe Snapcaster Mage will be next year’s GP promo. Maybe we have to wait until MM2016 or MM2017 for a reprint. Either way it looks like in the near future we won’t see a decline. The only reason eternally playable cards decrease in price is because of lowered consumer confidence because of a reprint, the actual reprint, and the card falling out of favor. The key to playing Magic affordably is to plan longer term.

Because four Lightning Bolts were not enough.

The true price of a deck can be very low if you want it to be. Patience and smart purchases can lead to large savings down the road. I play Splinter Twin in Modern and have spent maybe $200 on cards for it in the last year. That’s a far cry from the $400 it would take just to buy a set of Snapcaster Mage. The key to this is finding the next bottleneck and purchasing those cards ahead of time.

Even right now, I can see a few cards that could bottleneck players in the future. For instance, if you don’t already own your shocklands I can’t recommend buying them any later. The market has been slow to mature due to their low played count in Modern but if we get more juicy land reprints in Battle For Zendikar (like many people suppose we will) then the hardest lands to get will be shocklands. Due to how flooded the market is, I doubt we will see them reprinted again in the near future (next 3-5 years). I would also recommend picking up a set of Khans of Tarkir fetch lands. They’ve bottomed out and started to rise and it really doesn’t get cheaper than now. If we don’t get Zendikar fetchlands in Battle For Zendikar then it is likely they fetches rise even faster. The key to finding out when to buy in is important. For Modern this season, the best time to buy cards not in MM2015 was once the spoiler was finished. The time to buy cards in MM2015 was the week before Vegas or on site if you were able to attend.

The next thing to consider is the reprintability and reprint schedule for cards. This doesn’t apply to Standard usually, but Modern-legal cards are frequently printed in a cycle. It seems Wizards of the Coast is intent on Modern Masters every two years and it will introduce new copies of existing cards too strong for Standard. When Modern Masters 2015 was announced it was also announced cards from that set would be no newer than New Phyrexia, meaning Innistrad and Return to Ravnica block cards were safe from reprint. That should have been your cue to buy the cards you need from those sets. You can wait as long as possible to see if a reprint is coming, but the backlash for an anticipated reprint not being in the set is fierce. Right now Scalding Tarn and Misty Rainforest’s price is inhibited by the anticipation of a reprint. If there is none, don’t be surprised to see them jump.

For Standard players, there is a cycle that ensures you always get your cards for the lowest price. Right now Dragons of Tarkir cards are insanely cheap. Planeswalkers that pre-ordered for $40 or more are now $8-10. With a lot of Standard’s heavily played walkers rotating out soon, it’s never been a better time to get into Tarkir Block cards. If you named the most played planeswalkers in standard you’d probably end up with Elspeth, Ashiok, Xenagos, and Nissa, right? Those all rotate in a few months. The Tarkir block walkers (Sarkhan, Sorin, Ugin, Sarkhan Unbroken, and Narset) are poised to take over. While it’s true some of those cards may not go up in price, it’s pretty likely they will also not go down. Bulk planeswalkers can usually hold a $5-6 value and heavily played ones can skyrocket past $30. I personally did myself a favor and bought a playset of all of the DTK mythics except the Dragonlords and Deathmist Raptor. It’s hard to go wrong there and it will definitely help the true cost of your deck in the future.

In the future I hope this column will help you buy into cards at the best possible time and take some of the surprise out of price jumps. As we are quickly approaching the release of Magic Origins, I will be addressing cards that I think you should preorder next week!

– Jim Casale