Category Archives: Jim Casale

Grinder Finance – Eldritch Moon Spoiler Pt 2


Are you not impressed?

Okay, so people are really down about the new Liliana.  I’m not so pessimistic about her chances of being good.  Let’s look at some hard data.

3 mana walkers

This is every three mana planeswalker ever printed in Magic.  For argument’s sake, I’ve included the 3-mana flip walkers from Magic Origins.  By my memory, the only two cards here that did not see significant play were Ajani,Caller of the Pride and Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh.  The other eight planeswalkers were pretty close to staples at some point during their lifetime.

So if we just go by the odds, 80% is a pretty high rate of success on 3-mana Planeswalkers.  The fact that three of the four most recent ones have also been successes leads me to believe there may be more than meets the eye on Liliana, the Last Hope.  My look on the card right now as a player –  I’d buy four copies instantly for $10 without giving much of a second thought.  I’d probably consider buying them at $15.  If I was sure I needed them day 1, I wouldn’t be opposed to spending $20 on my copies.  I don’t want to try to sell you on Liliana but I am pretty sure I’m happy paying 3 mana for a Gravedigger since that’s most of what Liliana, Defiant Necromancer did anyway.  And you have to jump through less hoops.


I think Oath of Liliana is a fine card but right now it will likely be relegated to bulk duty.  Similar to Oath of Gideon, Oath of Jace, and Oath of Chandra – this Oath costs a little too much mana to be a reliable card to play in Standard.  It will often nab a token, a 1 mana 2/1 human, or 3-drop that someone only paid two mana for because it was put into play with Collected Company.  I think casually these will be worth a nice bit because it finishes the cycle.  I’d expect them to be $2-3 in 2 years so it will be a great card to throw in a box and forget you own.


Well I never thought I’d see Liliana on art for a white card but here we are.  This card is going to either be busted or a casual all star.  As such, I wouldn’t recommend doing anything with copies you open for a year or so.  There’s almost no upside to move any of your copies before the PT.  That being said, I am not sure what they will pre-order for but I have a feeling the number will be a trap.  Due to how many mythics are typically in pre-constructed decks (like Commander, Duel decks, etc) I don’t see this card having a high chance of getting reprinted.  It’s going to be a blue chip stock for years due to being a small set mythic.  Think Akroma’s Memorial.


This isn’t Craterhoof Behemoth and you have to non-bo and sac a guy to get the 7/7.  There are worse things but It’s not terribly hard to fit this into a G/W Tokens sideboard or as a finisher in Cryptolith Rite deck.  I’m not bullish on his ability to emerge as a top tier standard card.  He will probably be a $5 EDH card for a few years.


This guy may or may not be the truth.  He has a lot going for him when you think of him as a Mistbind Clique.  You get to tap down their lands and then brick their attacks with a sizeable 5/6 body.  Flash and Emerge are a match made in heaven so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eldrazi Skyspawner or Matter Reshaper being turned into an Elder Deep-Fiend.  It does cost 8 so you probably can’t play a ton of them without it clogging up your hand but it does give you an exceptionally cheap way to trigger Kozilek’s Return and Sanctum of Ugin.  I’m probably going to try to order a set for $10.


I am less excited about this guy but he is awkwardly very good against collected company decks.  He can grab a Company and the cards that Company hits.  So he’s in this awkward spot where he’s best against an opponent that has a very good hand already.  Black isn’t a color I’m thrilled to play at the moment but this guy may find his time in the spotlight.  I wouldn’t be disappointed paying $1 for this.


Yeah whatever man more black cards.  Okay this is a really weird card because it’s extremely powerful but the casting cost restrictions are so ass-backwards with the last set.  The aggressive vampires deck theoretically wants to play early red mana because the red vampires are better at the lower points in the curve but the most powerful vampires out of this set have heavy black requirements.  Voldaren Pariah is certainly much better than Incorrigible Youths if you can figure out how to cast it.  Which then leads to the question – is this even a card that kind of deck wants to play?  I think it looks much better paying the full retail in a Cryptolith Rite deck and then binning some Eldrazi Scions to kill their army of 2/3s.  You’re left with a 6/5 flying creature which is rather large.  I’m not sure where we end up but I think there are some lines to make this card very good.  If its the kind of card you’d like to play $3 seems like a good pre-order price.


This is a rare.  Not a mythic.  Remember that when you go to pre-order a bunch of copies.  It won’t be this expensive in a few months, especially if it doesn’t pan out in Modern.   I think this will be a relatively shallow role player but it could see a big spike with Modern adoption.  If you’re a casual player and want one for EDH just wait until Kaladesh spoilers.  You’ll likely be able to find them for $5-8 unless they break out in Modern.

In Standard I don’t see this really making waves because it will likely just upgrade your guy that can get Reflector Mage’d into another guy that will probably get Reflector Mage’d.    I’m not expecting it to be as ubiquitous as Collected Company.  I’m not buying them for more than $5 and I’m selling during the Pro Tour.


Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is played as 4 copies in multiple different Standard decks.  I’m not sure Tamiyo can be support as more than 2 of in a few decks.  As such I think any of the pre-order price tags above $10 are pretty insane.  This card’s planeswalker tax is a little too high for me at the moment.  I think it’s likely she ends up in the $8-12 range as a support walker like Ob Nixilis, Reignited.  She will probably be a bit more than Ob because she’s in the summer set.


This guy will also probably be a bulk mythic near release but I think he’s got some possibility of being good in Standard.  He blocks Avacyn and Gisela reasonably.  His delerium trigger makes him less embarassing than Gitrog Monster against Reflector Mage.  And although his activate ability is pretty expensive, it’s not terribly unreasonable that you might activate a few times to finish a game.  Green and Black decks have typically enjoyed mana sinks no matter how “bad” they may seem.  This card might slot into the Sultai Midrange deck as a way to combat pesky humans with Gryff’s Boon.  I’m expecting foils to be expensive but I wouldn’t be surprised if he holds a $3-5 price tag in Standard while it’s dominated by Angels.


Here’s another way to not timewalk yourself while flipping your werewolves.  It’s kinda cute that you can Collected Company into him for a few months.  I’m not sure this is the missing link to push our lycanthrope friends over the top.  I imagine it will be a solid $1-2 casual card.  The rate for the creature isn’t terrible but it’s got much less utility than Bounding Krasis.


I guess this is another way to discard a Fiery Temper?  If we get some 0 mana madness cards that aren’t embarrassing then the stock of this spell goes up greatly.  It’s got some reasonable modes for 2 mana so I wouldn’t be surprised to see people discard lands to drain their opponent.  This seems like a solid role player.  I would pick up a set after release and try to stick around $1.

Final Thoughts

  • This set looks really good, much like Oath of the Gatewatch.  I’d keep a close eye on supply and buy the cheaper rares and mythics in a few months before Kaladesh spoilers start.
  • We’re only a month away from the release of Conspiracy 2.  I have to imagine money crunch is going to be worse than Magic Origins last year.

Grinder Finance – Eldritch Moon Spoilers

As I contemplate how many times on repeat I can play Flo Rida’s “My House” at my house warming party, I am investigating the Eldritch Moon spoilers.  Unfortunately, we will not find any cards with Investigate in this set.  Returning are double-faced cards, madness, and delerium.  New mechanics are meld, emerge, and escalate.  We haven’t seen any rare cards with emerge or escalate yet but we have some sweet meld cards.

brunathefadinglight giselathebrokenblade

Okay so now after you pick up your jaw off the floor, you can continue to ask what white did deserve to get all these great cards.  Gisela draws an obvious comparison to Baneslayer Angel.  And a lot of people know how good that card was.  Gisela is pre-ordering for $26 right now which may end up being close to her price in a month based on how Archangel Avacyn looks now.  Really at this point pre-ordering Gisela is just a gamble that it’s another Archangel Avacyn and is all over the pro tour or shows up just enough to keep her price tag.  I’m not a fan of buying in now.

Bruna is another beast entirely.  She could be an easy $5-10 card based on play in a few decks much like Westvale Abbey,  While she won’t be as ubiquitous as a colorless spell land, she does a nice job of forming voltron with a Gisela that hasn’t been turned into stone.  There might be a reanimator deck that stars Bruna if we get some good ways to self mill or reanimate in white. If you want to order her now, I wouldn’t fault you but I want to see more spoilers before I make a decision.


Thalia is the legendary human that just keeps on giving.  If there was a power level list of legends that got more than one card, Thalia might be the top of it.  Thalia pre-orders have already sold out several times on most websites making her price rise astronomically.  I don’t think I’d buy her now because she is the buy-a-box promo and she is legendary.  If you got in early you probably made out well.  Thalia looks to be an 3 mana creature that will easily slide into existing collected company and human decks to add some more power (because we needed it, right?).

hanweirbattlements hanweirgarrison

I think the Hanweir meld card might be the best and most likely meld card to see standard play.  It all depends on how or if Wizards decides to make Red good again.  A lot of the problem it faces right now is the red removal spells just don’t match up as well as white and black removal.  They’re not cost effective versus werewolves and don’t have the tempo boosting power that Declaration in Stone does.  That being said, Hanweir Garrison seems like an insane amount of value for a red 3 drop.  It reminds me a lot of a more forgiving Goblin Rabblemaster.  It will end the game quickly if it is allowed to attack a few times and leaves some bodies behind if you eventually find a removal spell.  The land is an easy inclusion in a red aggressive deck and it combos well with the Garrison (haste allows it to make value the first turn).  I would be surprised if we don’t see some Hanweir, the Writhing Township at the Pro Tour.

niblisoffrost thaliaslancers

These are long shots, maybe….  Niblis of Frost is an intro pack rare which are generally not very powerful.  Every once in a while we get a Pia and Kiran Nalaar which are better than expected.  Niblis has the potential to be pretty busted with it’s instant speed ability to “frost” creatures.  It isn’t embarrassing at attacking and can clear the way of any Archangel Avacyn shenanigans.  The fact that we don’t have a common place 3 damage red spell really makes it shine.

Thalia’s Lancers is far more appealing.  It’s fairly aggressively costed.  A 5 mana 4/4 first strike that draws a card is a pretty reasonable card.  The fact that this lets you tutor for a card instead of just drawing a land is big game.  It also doesn’t do the obnoxious thing that some cards do and put it on top of your library.  I would not be surprised to see Thalia’s Lancers go find an Archangel Avacyn or Bruna to keep the value train running.  Kind of amusingly, you can reanimate Thalia’s Lancers with Bruna to go find another legend (like another Bruna for when they die).  This card could be very good if the format breaks the right way.   That being said, because white is so good it might have a hard time finding a home.

Final Thoughts

  • We haven’t seen any planeswalkers yet, which is odd for the first few days of spoiler season
  • We have seen a lot of double-faced cards.  We might only have a few more rares and maybe 1 more mythic before we’re done with those.
  • Cards will get better or worse depending on what is spoiled so always keep an eye on new cards as they get spoiled.
  • We haven’t seen any rare emerge or escalate cards yet.  I expect some of them to be standard staples.

Grinder Finance – Building on a Budget & Eldritch Moon

*Ding ding ding* It’s all over folks.  I bring to you, the back to back Open series champion, Boros Humans!  While this deck has been piloted both times by the Boss of aggro himself, Tom Ross, it is clear it’s a contender to win any large tournament.  I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that Tom Ross doesn’t build decks with a shoestring budget and his card choices are just because they are the best.

Boros Humans is the best competitive deck to play on a budget

The entire main deck of Boros humans costs approximately the same amount as a playset of Archangel Avacyn.  When was the last time you could spend $100 on a main deck that has won two SCG Opens?  In fact if you wanted to skimp early on Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Secure the Wastes you can build the whole sideboard for less than $13.  This deck is an insane amount of power for how cheap the cards are.


It’s future proof

The main deck only contains 11 rares that will rotate in the fall.  Kytheon, Knight of the White Orchid, and Battlefield Forge are the only causalities and it’s unlikely to really cause that big of a drop off in the deck.  We’ve already seen strong green and blue human strategies that can pick up some of the slack of the rotating cards when Kaladesh comes out.  It’s important when you have a small budget to spend on Magic to pick a deck that the majority isn’t rotating soon.  That makes it a lot harder to keep up with the game when you need to buy a new deck every 6 months.

Starting Small

Don’t have $200 to drop on a new deck right now?  No problem.  You can buy the bulk of the commons and uncommons for a few bucks and focus on the chase rares as you can.  I’d strong recommend getting the Shadows over Innistrad rares first because those are the best investments long term.  When building decks that are not “quite” to spec it’s always best to get the newest cards as they will last you the longest.  Thalia’s Lieutenant, Always Watching, and Declaration in Stone are all your army of 2/1’s really need to rattle off a few big wins.  Getting them earlier will greatly increase your win percentage at local tournaments.

Eldritch Moon

We got some spoilers yesterday, let’s talk about them.


13 mana 13/13 on the plane known for it’s love/hate relationship with 13? Triskaidekaphobia indeed.  Ok let’s break down this card to see it’s financial relevance.  Currently in Standard there are 7 card types (Enchantment, Planeswalker, Creature, Artifact, Land, Instant, and Sorcery) so best case scenario this will cost 6.  The power and toughness alone makes it a bargain at 6 mana but more likely it will cost 8 to 10 mana.  Still not bad for a 13/13 creature with Flying and Trample.

The next important thing to realize is protection from Instants is especially good at keeping it alive for your opponent’s Mind Slavered turn.  Many people have pointed out that Stasis Snare gets a lot better because it is an answer that you can play at instant speed that is not actually an instant.  At three card types in your graveyard, Emrakul becomes a lot like Ulamog in terms of stabilizing and winning the game.  She’s larger and flies and has the potential to cost less mana but has more trouble killing permanents that can’t kill themselves or aren’t creatures.  She kills similarly fast (two attacks) to Ulamog and has some build in protection (Protection from instants).  I’m not honestly sure which is better.

If you’re trying to kill someone with damage (say with a Nahiri) then the 13/13 flying trample is obviously much better than a 10/10 indestructible.  All I can say at this point is it’s not clear cut which is better.


So this is the new Spawnsire of Ulamog?  It’s rather lackluster and will likely end up a bulk rare.  The only thing I will mention is that this wish is not templated like the other wishes from Judgement or Future Sight.  The older Wishes were originally able to pull cards from exile because it was called the “removed from the game” pile at the time.  This card functions the same way as those cards used to.  It will allow you to coax Emrakul out from a Stasis Snare or bring an Ulamog back that had been exiled by Nahiri.

ulrichofthekrallenhorde ulrichuncontestedalpha

Ulrich is a really interesting card.  It’s the new Huntmaster of the Fells in a way.  It rewards deck building that can flip the card back and forth.  Ulrich naturally synergizes with instant speed cards (like Collected Company and Moonlight Hunt) as well as cards that can find a use for your mana that isn’t casting spells (like Duskwatch Recruiter and Eldrazi Displacer).  This sounds like he could be a good fit for a more aggressive Collected Company style deck but it’s hard to top Reflector Mage’s power level.  We need to see more cards from Eldritch Moon but there is definitely potential for him to be a Standard power house.  I’m also cautiously optimistic in his ability to combo with Commune with Lava.  It allows you to pass the turn to flip him and then cast 2 or more spells on your next turn to flip him back.  But again, it’s really hard to make any real predictions until we’ve seen more than 3 cards.

Grinder Finance – Looking into the Expedition effect

So how many of you realized how cheap Standard is right now?  Did you know every single one of the best decks can be built from scratch for less than $500?  What’s causing all this?


Zendikar Expeditions

Have you looked at the expected value from a box of Battle for Zendikar if you don’t include expeditions?  It’s miserable compared to Shadows over Innistrad and Dragons of Tarkir.  Is it a surprise that Battle for Zendikar boasts the most expensive expeditions by a long shot?  I don’t think so.  We saw a similar effect on the Khans of Tarkir booster box expected value.   5 rare lands (the fetch lands) were often 5 of the 6 most expensive cards in the set for much of it’s lifetime in Standard.  Now the Zendikar Expeditions are playing a similar role taking almost the entire expected value of a box of Battle for Zendikar and shooting it into the floor.  The only difference this time is the most expensive cards are not Standard legal or necessary to play Standard.  What this leads us to is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (the most played card in Standard) being a mere $22 despite being played as a 4 of in about 55% of decks.  You know what happened the last time we had a card this dominant in Standard?  His name was Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.  Maybe you remember him.



Emphasis on lower rarities

These are the top 10 most popular cards in Standard:


Sorted by rarity we have 2 Mythics, 6 rares, and 2 common or uncommon cards.  As far as rarity break down is concerned, that’s pretty awesome for the players.  Rares appear approximately twice as often as mythics on print sheets so there is approximately twice as many of them available for players to use.  Just off this list are some of the most powerful creatures in Standard, Reflector Mage and Duskwatch Recruiter at uncommon.  This level of power in the lower rarity cards hasn’t been seen in a long time.  It almost reminds me of the days of U/G Madness where a top tier deck was dirt cheap to build.   You can build the white humans deck (which won the last SCG Open) for under $200.  In October of last year I wrote this article about the insane price of Standard.  Only two sets have rotated since then and we’re looking at some of the lowest card prices in years.

No Eternal Playability

Compared to the Khans of Tarkir Standard, there are almost no cards now that you can play reasonably in Modern and Standard.  The Atarka Red deck from last year was a few Goblin Guides and Lightning Bolts from a servicable Burn deck.  Although some people have tried to play G/W tokens in Modern, it hasn’t caught on with the same fervor that would insulate the cards against price drops.


Nahiri was arguably the best card to come into Standard since Dragons of Tarkir or Magic Origins and it still can’t hold it’s price.  Some of it was being high demand for a few weeks and some of it was just under performing.   The other part of this problem is Nahiri really isn’t performing at the numbers necessary to carry the price tag.

None of the top 10 most played cards in Standard are seeing any kind of widespread play in Modern.  They’re not as ubiquitous as the fetch lands and as such don’t issues maintaining a reasonable price.

You could make an argument for Collected Company but that card doesn’t see enough play in Modern to warrant a large price tag.  It’s currently not the best strategy in Standard so it has a reasonable price point.

Faster Rotation means faster sell off

People are getting rid of Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins cards quicker than I could have ever imagined.  We have one more Pro Tour where they will be legal but some cards are falling off a cliff far before their time.  Dromoka’s Command and Collected Company would extremely expensive if they were not printed in a Clash pack and also going to rotate in the fall of this year.  Faster rotation means there is slightly less time to play with some cards but it means more overall time where they’re at a lower price. In years past, the “older block” cards became more valuable up to a point (approximately 6 months before rotation) where they would start to drop off.  Since every rotation now is 6 months before the next rotation, people are selling off quicker and making it cheaper for people to buy in for a few months.

Final Thoughts

  • Pay attention to SCG Orlando (and no, not because I’m going to win it – obviously) because this is one of the last big Standard events before Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.  There are 2 Standard Grands Prix (Pittsburgh and Taipei) on the same weekend and two SCG Opens (Columbus and Baltimore) before the Pro Tour.  Both of the opens are after the release of Eldritch Moon but before the Pro Tour so they will be valuable for seeing what is “good”
  • Modern PPTQ season starts with the release of Eldritch Moon.  I know I’ve been harping on it but don’t keep waiting to finish your Modern deck.
  • Eternal Masters supply is too low.  We likely already saw the prices bottom out as people are buying into singles.  Don’t wait if you need any.  It’s unlikely they get cheaper.