Category Archives: ProTrader

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Silver and Cold

Today’s topic is Coldsnap, a set that has a very unique place in my heart. I’ve been playing Magic for a while now, and Coldsnap was one of the few sets I missed the release of. That’s because, in July of 2006, I was living on a bus traveling the US as a Drum Corps International competitor1. It was the longest streak of not playing Magic in my life, but I still thought about it all the time.

In fact, at some point in the summer, my mom forwarded to me a Magic magazine that had come in the mail, and it was all about the upcoming (or perhaps, by then, released) set. I devoured it, reading it cover-to-cover almost nightly, and dreaming about getting home and drafting. Of course, I barely had enough time to catch my breath before college started when I got home, and if I drafted the set once, I can’t recall it. The good news, for me at least, is that even if I missed Coldsnap, I more than made up for it when Time Spiral premiered later that year.

We are going to go through the set alphabetically, hitting every rare and any commons or uncommons of note. This was a set that was designed largely with draft in mind, so there is a reason why a lot of the Cs and Us are going to feel underpowered when projected against the Modern format as a whole.

The Cards

adarkarvalyrie

Adarkar Valkyrie: This card was actually one of the bigger hits in the set, until reprints in Modern Masters (the original) and Commander 2014 cratered its value. The price on these is about a buck, with foils from Coldsnap being roughly $15 (MM ones are around $8). This is a Casual/Commander/Cube card, and no deck that I’ve seen in the last nine years wants more than one copy. Low potential here.

Adarkar Windform: Is the reason why we are skipping a lot of the commons and uncommons. Boom, roasted.

Allosaurus Rider: This card was the prerelease foil and also appeared in Duel Decks: Elves vs Goblins (and therefore, in the Anthology also). It’s the kind of card that would be interesting in Modern, but the “free” cost is way too expensive. Putting yourself down two cards in green is just not doable most of the time. I don’t expect to ever see it in a deck unless WOTC puts it there.

Arctic Flats (and friends): Let’s knock this whole cycle out right here. This uncommon cycle is probably some of the better pulls in the set. All of the non-foils are worth between fifty cents and a dollar, and all of the foils are between three and five bucks. I’m not sure how much potential upside is left, but these are always worth looking out for in foil bulk boxes.

Arcum Dagsson: If you want to play with the seventh-best mono-blue general in EDH, it’s going to cost you about $5 (or $20 foil!). The card is technically some sort of tutor or combo enabler, since you can search your own library, and he is also kind of an answer to Blightsteel Colossus. I’ve been playing this game for a long time, and I am having serious trouble figuring out off the cuff how to make this guy good. Maybe Genesis Chamber, and then like, getting the Fifth Dawn Stations out? Summoning Station doesn’t seem to make artifact creatures (who knew?), so I don’t even think you can start with that one. Long story short, this guy is competing with very strong roster of playable Commanders, and he is very likely not going to make the cut. Limited upside, if any.

Balduvian Fallen: I just wanted to say that I had a Balduvian theme deck when I was in middle school. I even learned their tavern song! I was a pretty awesome kid.

meddlingkids

Balduvian Warlord: I had to read this about three or four times to figure out what it does. It was not worth it.

Blizzard Specter: I didn’t really remember this card, but I checked it out, and the foils are about $5. This card seems pretty sweet for cube, is evocative of a popular older card, has a restriction that limits reprintability (Snow), and has positive flexibility. This is the kind of thing that I love to look for. I’m not sure that I want to buy them all out, because I don’t think there is demand for it, but it’s another bulk box hero, and maybe something you target to bridge a “close, but not quite there” trade.

Boreal Druid: I only looked this up because I played the card in Standard, but the foils are apparently $2! If Skred Red ever comes roaring back to popularity, expect these to have sneaky upside. Also, this does produce snow mana, which isn’t totally clear if you weren’t playing at the time.

Braid of Fire: This card was worthless up until the M10 rules changes and the removal of mana burn from the game. Now, the card is a solid ten bucks, with foils at fifteen. That kind of spread tells me that either the foils are undervalued, or (more likely) the non-foils are overvalued. This card doesn’t start to give you serious amounts of mana until three turns after you’ve cast it, and that’s assuming you have a reliable mana sink, they don’t have an Abrupt Decay, and neither player has put an aggressive enough clock on the other so as to divert attention elsewhere. I think this card is still priced so high because people don’t want to be caught off guard if it does break out, not because it already has.

Brooding Saurian: This card wasn’t worth very much, and then it got reprinted. Foils are still around $3 because the reprint was a Commander deck, and so it only got a non-foil printing. I guess if that Donate Goat guy is in your Commander environment, then you can play this? It’s a foil rare that does something weird and will likely never be reprinted again (at least, not in foil), so feel free to pick some up, but only below their current retail, and expect to own them for a very long time.

Chill to the Bone: This card was much more impressive before Murder, Go For The Throat, and Hero’s Downfall. This was on my foil snipe list for a long time, though, so just as it is important to know what foils are worth snagging, it’s equally important to know which ones are dead ends.

Coldsteel Heart: Did you realize that this card is two bucks? Did you know that the foils are over twenty? Two-mana artifacts that can produce colored mana are actually very rare, so this card gets the benefit of slotting in somewhere that WOTC doesn’t go anymore (colored mana producing artifacts start at three, but you can get one colorless for two). This is a great Cube card, and it helps ramp non-green Commander decks, so those are two major boxes to be able to check off. We may see a reprint, but it won’t likely be in foil.

Commandeer: Another popular Cube and Commander card that is sometimes compared to Force of Will. It is not Force of Will, but it is pretty good in the formats that don’t really want or need Force of Will. It takes over the kind of big, splashy spells that are more common in those wider formats, and the two costs (pitching two blue cards or paying seven mana) are much more tolerable in EDH than Modern or Legacy. I could see non-foils getting reprinted in a Commander box or some other off-shoot product, but I’m not sure if it will be in a product that has a foil printing (which would really only be Modern Masters X). Foils are probably a safe bet, since most people are only going to need one. A similar card that I really like? Spelljack. It’s a foil rare from an older small set that has a unique, Commander-friendly ability.

Counterbalance: So when I did my Future Sight piece, I only talked about cards below about five bucks. This time, I’m doing the full set, so I get to talk about a couple known entities, this being one of them. Counterbalance is a $16 uncommon, a nearly $100 foil, and the namesake of a very infuriating popular Legacy deck. I can buy a box of Coldsnap over in Tampa for $325 right now (ignoring tax), which puts the packs at just over $10. This card is one of only two non-foils in the set that has a retail price of more than a booster pack. With 55 uncommons in the set, you are really only guaranteed to open 1.74 Counterbalances per box. I say all this to make the point that Counterbalance at its current price is probably a good deal, since there are not going to be many more Coldsnap packs opened, and the card is so rage-inducing powerful that it really can’t be reprinted in a meaningful way. This card is so good, it got Krosan Grip to see play.

Cover of Winter: This card is very bad and dumb.

Cryoclasm: This, along with Deathmark and the rest of the hosers, has been reprinted a varying amount of times, but I just wanted to say I personally like this card.

Darien, King of Kjeldor: There are a lot of legends in this set! This guy is a very flavorful commander option, and possibly some sort of terrible combo piece. I expect foils are safe for forever, and we will (maybe) see a non-foil reprint somewhere far down the road. His name restricts him from being reprinted in a lot of places, and the fact that he kinda stinks prevents him from going in most other sets.

Dark Depths: This is the best card in the set, and it is not close. Unfortunately, Dark Depths is currently banned in Modern, and even though I think it would be fine in the format, it’s not likely to come off the list anytime soon. This card has literally no ceiling. I’m not buying in at this price, and I’d probably sell mine off just to move them into more diversified holdings. This card has potential, but not momentum. I’d rather own Thespian’s Stages.

Deepfire Elemental: This is probably a foil sleeper. Very good card for the C3 crowd.

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Diamond Faerie: This gets better every time aggressive Snow creatures are printed, so never.

Field Marshal: Reprinted in M10, but still $5, and a $10 foil. This definitely goes in your Darien, King of Kjeldor theme deck, and I feel like this was in that white soldier Legacy (or was it Vintage?) deck that everyone2 fell in love with a little while back. SCG is entirely sold out of this card (both printings), and it’s a perfect fit with the C3 crowd. I like it, but there’s nothing that keeps it from being reprinted in any future standard set.

Frozen Solid: I liked the Scourge art better. This has the superior flavor text though.

Fury of the Horde: This is a combo piece in Modern! It was reprinted in the Speed vs Cunning Duel Deck, which is why the non-foils are only two bucks. Foils are safe, but this card really only goes in one deck, so that limits the upside.

Garza Gol, Plague Queen: This card does a lot of good things, but is in the same colors as Nicol Bolas, Thraximundar, and a couple other generals. She is not better than either of the two I listed, nor is she popular enough in Magic’s canon to swing people in her favor. Foils will always have a shred of appeal, but if she was a good Commander option, her non-foils wouldn’t be seventy-five cents.

Garza’s Assassin: Foils are five bucks. Art is pretty cool. Limited upside because his best ability will scare off a lot of players, and there are just better things to do in the formats where he is playable. Three black pips if you want to build a black devotion deck in Modern!

Greater Stone Spirit: Shout-out to Ocarina of Time.

Grim Harvest: This is a Pauper card, and sometimes it shows up in weirder cubes. I actually liked this card a lot, even though it uses up a LOT of mana. Worth looking out for.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge: This is my kind of card. More popular in Cube than anywhere else, he is also buoying the price of Nameless Inversion. He’s more of a parlor trick than a serious threat, but there are enough people like me willing to buy them that he’ll always have some upside. People know who he is.

Heidar, Rimewind Master: People don’t know who he is, and for good reason.

Herald of Leshrac: This card just feels so old school, it’s one of the few pieces in the set that really nails the resonance they were trying to go for. Foils are currently $6, but if you told me they were double that, I’d absolutely believe you. If Guy Fieri started playing Magic around Beta, he would call this a slam dunk flavor bomb.

Hibernation’s End: I know Birthing Pod is banned, but this is not the answer.

Into The North: Foils are worth noting because they can grab Scrying Sheets, Mouth of Ronom, or any of the snow duals we mentioned at the top of this article.

Jester’s Scepter: Sell these to that Juggalo that plays FNM at your store. He’ll love them.

Jokulmorder: It’s a leviathan, which means something to a very small amount of people. At a dollar, I guess I’m a buyer for a handful of foils, but I could also probably just flush that money down the toilet instead.

Jotun Grunt: Eli Manning’s Invitational card. Sees (or saw) Legacy Zoo play, but that was a long time ago. Foils are still $8 because of price memory and Cube.

Juniper Order Ranger: Foils are $5, but there is room to grow since the reprint was non-foil only (Duel Decks: Knights vs Dragons). This card is popular with a lot of different crowds, and works kind of like a Melira in some of the Pod-esque combo decks. Your Kitchen Finks or Murderous Redcap plus sac outlet pluf this guy is infy.

Karplusan Minotaur: Cumulative Upkeep: Flip a coin. NEXT!

Krovikan Mist: Also a pauper card, and actually a pretty strong little beater.

Krovikan Rot: The next victim of Tiny Leaders speculation?

Lightning Serpent: Splashy rare with some EDH (Horde of Notions) appeal.

Lightning Storm: This is actually a kill condition in some decks, which is why the foils are around $12. There’s a very limited market, as the people who can kill you with this could have very likely Inkmoth plus Kessig Wolf Runned you, like, twenty turns ago.

Lovisa Coldeyes: If she pumped herself or cost a little less, she could be a powerhouse, but she doesn’t so she isn’t. Maybe a commander, but I’d rather play Kamahl.

Martyr of Sands: The only one in her family to really make something of herself. Too bad it’s that stupid Martyr deck. I hate this card, but I’m also genuinely surprised foils aren’t twenty.

Mishra’s Bauble: Thanks to Pat Chapin and that Tasigur deck, this card is pushing ten bucks. This could be in Modern Masters 2015 for all we know, at which point it will plummet back to earth. Is this really any better than Gitaxian Probe?

Mouth of Ronom: It’s a land that kills stuff, and that’s pretty good. Higher upside if it didn’t require a critical mass of snow lands.

Ohran Viper: No longer a Constructed powerhouse, this did make its living as a cool Cube foil. Limited upside since its reprint in DD: Jace vs Vraska has put way too many non-foils on the market.

Panglacial Wurm: This card is worth money and that is very strange to me. I guess in Commander you can be searching your library and still have seven mana open.

Perilous Research: Cube foil sometimes.

Phyrexian Etchings: Anyone who thinks this is a worthy spiritual successor to Necropotence has not played with Necropotence enough.

Phyrexian Ironfoot: This card was Standard playable, if you ever want to know how miserable life was then.

Phyrexian Soulgorger: Three mana to attack for eight once (without trample!) and sacrifice three creatures? Neat.

Rimefeather Owl: An automatic inclusion in any RUSH theme deck.

Rimescale Dragon: It’s a dragon from a relatively unpopular set that you can get a foil of. That is why the foils are $8.

Rite of Flame: Storm staple in the formats they let you play it. Honestly can’t say if we will ever see another printing of this card. If not, the $10 foil price tag will look like a steal in the future.

Rune Snag: Technically better than Mana Leak. Foils are probably underpriced.

Scrying Sheets: If you are going to play with snow lands, then this is really your major payoff. Not sure we will ever see it again, just because it requires so many other pieces to even be worth looking at. Also, it’s not legendary, even though most decks that have this are Cube, Commander, or Tiny Leaders (if a Tiny Leaders deck even exists).

Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper: Another multicolor general who is not competing for starting reps. See Garza Gol.

Shape of the Wiitigo: I really regret committing to talking about every rare.

Sheltering Ancient: Foils are worth about four bucks, even though this card is probably not worth it. Good versus creatureless control decks.

Skred: YEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! This is my favorite card in the set, and probably one of my favorite cards ever. Foils should be six-hundred dollars and everyone should play snow lands in Modern.

Snow-Covered Basics: Expect these to follow Skred’s meteoric rise.

Soul Spike: People were going nuts for this card a year or so ago, and I am still not sure why. Still, foils are ten, so… just know that.

Stromgald Crusader: Somehow worth more than several rares in the set. This card would have been a Pro Tour champion if it was printed ten years earlier. Foils are about $5. Also, there is a white version of this card that is worth way less than this one.

Sunscour: A bad Wrath of God that can sometimes be cast for free, although, again, you really don’t want to. Foils are worth something just because they are foils of a Wrath of God variant.

Tamanoa: A card in the best creature colors that only works with non-creature sources of damage. Pass.

Thrumming Stone: Relentless Rats.

Vanish Into Memory: We designed this card! This card is our fault.

Vexing Sphinx: This is a rare. That is all.

Void Maw: See also: Vexing Sphinx.

White Shield Crusader: This is that white dude I was talking about.

Woolly Razorback: There are some really bad cards in this set.

Zombie Musher: I think it’s pretty cool that they used what appears to be an Iron Maiden album cover for card art.

Zur the Enchanter: Well, at least we are going out with a bang. This is a very Spiky EDH General, and one of the few degenerately poweful cards in the set. This card is probably too good to reprint, except for maybe in a future Commander box. Foils are safe, but have a narrow audience.

Thanks for sticking around to the end! That was a long one. If you see anything in this set that you like, I have to think that the restrictive price of sealed product (versus the overall lack of quantity of good cards) will buoy prices. Any foil that falls under the $10 booster pack price tag that you like is probably worth looking into. Thanks for reading, and if you have any suggestions for my next set to review (not next week, but sometime in the future), let me know!

Best,

Ross

1 Ironically, my organization was also named “Magic.” Between the game, the drum corps, and my NBA allegiance, I get impressive mileage out of five letters.

2 “Everyone” = Me and Nick Packard.

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Elements of an Undervalued Mythic

By Guo Heng

Mark Rosewater did an AMA on Reddit a few years back, and the following was part of his response to a question by Hall of Famer Brian ‘Dragonmaster’ Kibler regarding the “lack of truly awesome dragons in a long time”:

“…I am happy to tell you that there is a dragon that I’ve been told is very tournament worthy in the pipeline. I can’t tell you for what set but suffice to say it’s been made and you all will have a chance to play it soon enough.”

-Mark Rosewater

Sure enough, in Mark Rosewater’s preview piece for Magic 2013, we got this:

Thundermaw Hellkite Large

Thundermaw Hellkite was the dragon that redefined the competitive dragon. The ambition behind the design of Thundermaw Hellkite was to create “a Dragon that set the standard for a badass Dragon as Doug Beyer laid it out in Mark’s preview article. And Thundermaw Hellkite achieved exactly that. Prior to Thundermaw Hellkite’s existence, the dragons that saw high-level competitive play were either too expensive to cast or contain a prohibitive mana requirement that restricted their playability to few archetypes.

Thundermaw Hellkite broke the mold. She is a five casting cost 5/5 flier with haste and an enter the battlefield ability that ensures she and potentially your army could go in for the alpha strike. She was obviously pushed and was designed for the tournament tables.

Yet her price trajectory during her first few months of being unleashed into the meta was nothing but dismal.

Thundermaw Hellkite Price

After the hype surrounding Magic 2013 died down, Thundermaw Hellkite’s price tanked all the way to $10. How could the price of such a playable mythic stoop so low? We all know the answer to that: Thundermaw Hellkite was a mythic with no home in Standard. Indeed the reason Thundermaw maintained a price tag of $10 was the fact that she is a dragon and is from a core set.

In October 2012, a couple of months after Thundermaw Hellkite’s release, and right after Return to Ravnica rotated in, Takeda Harunobu won a high profile Standard tournament in Japan with a Standard brew we now know as Jeskai Tempo (or UWR Tempo back then). Takeda’s deck featured two Thundermaw Hellkites alongside Geist of Saint Traft and Restoration Angel.

In the middle of November 2012, Jon Bolding took down Grand Prix Charleston with a Black-Red ‘Big’ Zombies deck that featured three Hellkites in the mainboard. Tyler Lytle took down Grand Prix San Antonio the week after with the same deck.

By December 2012, Thundermaw Hellkite was a $40 card and remained so until February 2013. Throughout her Standard shelf life, Thundermaw Hellkite saw play in a multitude of archetypes and was a quintessential staple of InnistradReturn to Ravnica Standard. She even saw Modern play when the UWR Tempo archetype made its debut in Modern.

Thundermaw Hellkite’s trend was not unique to herself of course. A handful of expensive mythics had at some point during their Standard life been sorely undervalued due to a multitude of reasons. Some stayed low for a brief period of time. Dragonlord Ojutai is a recent example. He was preordering for $6, began his first week in Standard under $10 and is $38 as of writing. Some remained low much longer. Remember the summer when Jace, Architect of Thought was under $10?

On the other hand, a lot of mythics stayed in the under $10 region all the way until they rotated out of Standard and into the bulk bin. I was bullish on Duskmantle Seer after a BUG Aggro shell running four Duskmantle Seers briefly surfaced in the meta. Even Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had good things to say about the Seer, arguing that his symmetrical ability is asymmetrical in the right deck. When Duskmantle Seer hit $3, I thought he was too cheap. I bought two playsets for speculation and one foil playset for myself. As of today, they are collecting metaphorical dust in my bulk specs box.

When we speculate on undervalued playable mythics, we are betting that those mythics would have their day in the sun before their time in Standard comes to a dawn. The following are three questions I use to evaluate the chances that an under $10 mythic would spike before its time in Standard comes to an end.

1. A Mythic in a Hostile Meta?

Thundermaw Hellkite struggled to find a home during her first few months in Standard as it was the era of Blue-White Delver. If you were lucky enough to be able to resolve a five casting cost dragon amid Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage, Vapor Snag would wreck your tempo. Once Mana Leak and Vapor Snag rotated out, the meta was Thundermaw Hellkite friendly and as a result she was able to spread her wings and soar to $40.

Thundermaw Hellkite’s dominance (in tandem with that of Falkenrath Aristocrat) kept Jace, Architect of Thought out of the metagame.

Jace, Architect of Thought Price

Once the hasty fliers rotated out of Standard in October 2013, Jace proliferated throughout the metagame in Blue-based control decks and Mono Blue Devotion. His price spiked to the $30s briefly and hovered around the $20s until the release of Jace vs. Vraska.

Xenagos, the Reveler and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver both spent time as $7 mythics. Both spiked above $15 when a new Standard was ushered in last fall.

Are there any inherently good mythics that are currently undervalued because they do not have a home in the metagame? Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is just $7.55 at the moment. Sarkhan is competitively costed, defends himself and is a game finisher but he is not the card you want to cast in a metagame where Hero’s Downfall is prevalent. Could Sarkhan soar to $20 once Hero’s Downfall falls out of Standard?

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker smells like a good summer pick-up.

2. Does the Mythic Carry the Game by Itself?

A card that requires synergy to tap into its full potential is unlikely to  be played in multiple archetypes. Build-around-me mythics have a significantly lower chance of spiking due to the reduced probability of them finding a home. Duskmantle Seer was a good example. He requires you to maintain a low curve in your deck to optimally exploit his Dark Confidant ability.

The reliance on synergy was the reason I did not buy in on the Master of Waves spike when Shorecrasher Elemental was spoiled.

Master of Waves Spike

It was tempting to buy into cheap Master of Waves in case Blue Devotion becomes a thing again, but too much hinged on the success of a single deck for that bet to be worth making.

Every card listed on point one above are good cards even by themselves. Dragonlord Ojutai is a card advantage machine all by himself, allowing him to be one of the most ubiquitous mythic in the current Standard metagame. Of course we get a card that occasionally bucks the trend. Falkenrath Aristocrat’s spike hinged solely on the popularity of The Aristocrats archetype but she was an exception rather than the norm.

3. Does the Mythic have a Snowball Effect?

The card advantage you get from each activation of Jace, Architect of Thought or each time Dragonlord Ojutai connects makes it more likely for you to activate or connect the second time around. And the third. Eventually the card advantage from those effects propel you sufficiently far ahead in the game that your opponent has practically lost even though his or her life point is still above zero.

An undervalued mythic with a snowball effect is more likely to find a home and experience a price spike compared with a mythic that offers you a splashy, one-off effect.  Incremental card advantage and board position win games. Sometimes the advantage those cards generate are not immediately obvious until you play with them.

I am going to cheat and use a couple of Standard rares to illustrate this point. In my defense, the following are rares that started out their Standard lives being in the low single digit price range and eventually maintained a price above $15 for the majority of their Standard-legal life. Without playtesting with Goblin Rabblemaster, it was easy to overlook the fact that every turn Goblin Rabblemaster stayed on board puts you further and further ahead in board position. Every turn Courser of Kruphix remained unanswered could potentially lead to an extra card drawn and an extra life point gained.

This question generally applies to permanents rather than spells. We do occasionally get a spell that allows us to chain card advantage. The first Sphinx’s Revelation you resolve increases your odds of hitting your second.

In this vein, I like Sorin, Solemn Visitor as a pick right now and during this summer. Sorin is currently paying a visit to the valley of sub-$10 playable mythics. $9.40 seems too cheap for a versatile planeswalker that generates incremental card advantage and could be found in both Abzan Aggro and Abzan Control. Perhaps the latest iteration of Mardu Superfriends could be the next tier one contender in the format. Or we could even see Sorin and Narset side-by-side in Esper Control in the new Standard meta this October (I personally prefer Dragonlords). Sorin also has the additional upside of a relatively low spread of 36% as of writing.

Conclusion

Those three questions cover only the main points in evaluating if a sub-$10 mythic has a good chance of spiking before it rotates. Other factors like Duel Deck reprint risk and set supply should be taken into consideration as well. I chose those three elements because they constitute a useful rule of thumb to help you decide if a cheap mythic is worth picking up. Those points were derived from the lessons I’ve learned from getting burned by Duskmantle Seer and the countless other mythics I spec’d on with hopes of an early retirement but are now destined to remain in my bulk spec box forever. Those points were distilled from the what little success I’ve had with Thundermaw Hellkite and a few other mythics which in retrospect seemed exceedingly obvious they were too cheap. Those were the points I used to evaluate Dragonlord Ojutai before coming to a conclusion that I should probably preorder him.

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter at @theguoheng.


 

 

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Casual Hits of 2015

By: Corbin Hosler

Hello, everyone! I appreciated the response to my article last week, which I think exemplified one of my core tenets when it comes to MTG finance: playing it safe.

There is plenty of money to be made in this game with proper planning and timing. What isn’t needed is speculation-fueled buyouts, huge positions in Standard cards that may take off tomorrow, or supply-side buyouts.

Why go through all the trouble of that when there’s so much easy money waiting to be made, assuming that you have a little patience?

As I explained last week, that’s why I love casual cards, and it’s why I focus most of my speculation decisions around that. I’m not the guy glued to Pro Tour coverage to see what gets mentioned early Friday morning and buying out whatever that is. I’m the guy playing Commander at the LGS and finding out what cards are going to still have demand for them in two years.

Of course, with such a long time frame on these cards, it can be easy to forget about some of the good targets in this category and lose yourself in the Standard or Modern happenings. That’s why one of the things I like to do every so often is centralize all of these will-be targets in once place.

Almost six months into 2015, now seems like as good a time as any. I’m sure I’ll revisit this at the end of the year with an update, but now represents basically the optimal buying opportunity on some soon-to-rotate cards, so this should be helpful in the short-term as well.

Last week, I added a list of some cards that fill this category that were already seeing movement. I’ll repeat the list here for convenience.

  • Akroma’s Memorial. The Magic 2013 version is at an all-time high of $12, and this was a $20 card before the reprint. It’s going to get there again.
  • Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is on a tear, and is almost $9. Again, we have what was a $20 card before a reprint. This has seen a lot of growth already this year, so it’s not quite as attractive, but this is going to continue to climb.
  • Door of Destinies is at an all-time low of $3.50, and this will continue to climb back toward the $8 it was before the reprint.
  • Rise of the Dark Realms sits at $4.50 after some momentum, and as a mythic, this one should rise at a faster clip than the others.
  • Gilded Lotus is also at an all-time high of $6.50 (noticing a theme of “casual reprints in Core Sets?” and will be $10 within in a year.
  • Looking further ahead, Darksteel Forge has three printings and hasn’t shown much momentum this year, but it fits the exact same mold as Gilded Lotus, and Darksteel versions of this used to be $12.
  • Dragon Tempest and Dragonlord’s Servant are both on their way to bottoming out, and once they hit near-bulk status they become very good long-term players.
  • Adaptive Automaton is showing some steady progress over the past three months, and is likely due for a correction upward within the next year.

What do all these have in common? Besides being sweet casual cards, they also have all already seen at least a little movement, and in some cases more. While this is a great sign of things to come and represents a reason to get in, it also necessarily means less upside. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and all those are picks I like moving forward, but we’re not exactly getting in at the very bottom, either.

Today, I hope to shed some light on those cards that are actually near the bottom. Getting in at the valley may mean a longer timeframe to cash out, but it also means maximizing profit.

So let’s dig in.

foodchain

2014

I know I said I was going to focus on 2015 today, but I can’t help but look back to last year as well. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.

Gods

Basically, I’d be remiss to talk about casual cards and not mention gods (holy crap, these are actually from 2013, huh? Getting old, here). Either way, these are basically mini-Eldrazi that will see growth over time, even if it’s not the momentous growth that Emrakul and friends saw.

Of these, the mono-colored five are certainly good, but I feel like the upside may be more in the Born of the Gods and Journey Into Nyx copies that were opened much, much less. You already know the score on these, so I won’t dawdle.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

This bottomed out back in February (when it was my Pick of the Week on Brainstorm Brewery), but since then it’s climbed back to $6. I expect this will have to wait until rotation to go lower, but it’s well worth picking up then.

Prophet of Kruphix

It’s hard to know what the right call here is, but I imagine it’s the alternate-art printing, though neither is expensive and regular foils are trending toward $5. This thing is straight bonkers in Commander, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.

Dictates

Specifically, Dictate of Erebos (especially the foil) and Dictate of Kruphix (Game Day promo). These are solid Commander playables, and while they’re certainly going to take some time to move up, move up they will. Grave Pact is $8 after six printings. Dictate of Erebos has huge long-term upside.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Again, a card that’s not cheap enough yet. It’s $9 but was $20 before the reprint. Standard play likely props this up a little, so if this settles down by rotation it will be a great pickup.

The biggest reason? How nicely it plays with Cabal Coffers, forming the most dangerous combo of any black deck in Commander.

Sliver Hivelord

I’ve talked about this several times, but for good reason. Every other five-color Sliver bomb is at least $15. This will be too.

Crucible of Fire

Again, a long-term gainer here. But Dragons, yo. People like them. This was $5 card before the reprint.

Clever Impersonator

Phyrexian Metamorph is $5 with one printing and a promo. Impersonator isn’t exactly that, but in practice it comes pretty close. On top of all that, it’s a mythic. As we’ve seen with sets like Zendikar and Innistrad, coming from “the most-opened set of all-time” isn’t the drawback you might expect. At $2 there’s a lot of upside on the Impersonator.

Temporal Trespass

This isn’t one I’m as hugely excited about, but it will certainly make its way into plenty of Commander decks over the next few years, and importantly, it is a mythic. It’s essentially a “dollar rare” these days, and it’s hard to lose at that price.

Soulflayer

Again, not one I completely love, but it’s worth noting that Cairn Wanderer is $2 so this could end up there one day, too, especially since it’s ostensibly better.

Dragons

Of course, this encompasses a lot. Looking at Dragons of Tarkir, I see a lot of cards that need to drop quite a ways before I get particularly excited about picking them up.

That said, some are head and wings above the others when it comes to the long-term. The Dragonlords, especially Silumgar, Atarka, and Dromoka, are good casually. Ojutai is just plain good, but I can’t foresee this hitting a price that makes it worth picking up until at least rotation. Thunderbreak Regent is actually the clear winner, though again, it’s too expensive right now to want in on. But it has so many things going for it, not least of which is just being red and therefore more flexible, that it’s hard to not see this as the best long-term pick.

I’m interested to see what happens with the Game Day promo of this card, because that’s definitely the most attractive version, as Guo Heng Chin touched on earlier this week.

Haven of the Spirit Dragon

This definitely competes with Nykthos for the title of “best casual land currently being supported financially by Standard,” and it may actually surpass Nykthos in that regard. I hope every day that this gets cheap soon, because it’s just such an appealing target if it hits $1 to $2, even if we have to wait for rotation to get there.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier

As sweet as the other cards in this set are, this may actually be the best in Commander. It’s finally starting to fall, and I can’t wait for this thing to bottom out.

Risen Executioner

Rounding out our list today is a pretty solid zombie, which has both the benefit of being cheap and being mythic. Lord of the Undead is $8 after several printings, and while Executioner may not be that good, it’s still an extremely-solid zombie lord. Lots to like here.

mysticspeculation

And that’s my list of casual targets for the past 18 months. There are a few lesser ones that are interesting, but this represents the best of the best. Until next week (when we have a full Modern Masters 2 spoiler), keep it casual!

 

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

UNLOCKED PROTRADER: A First Look at Modern Masters 2015

By: Travis Allen

Clack-Clack-Clack-Cla

This article will have been the most fun I’ve had writing in months, possibly ever. I say this without any consideration for the content within. What am I talking about? I recently purchased a mechanical keyboard, and ho boy, let me tell you. This thing is amazing. Every key press is simultaneously a musical note and a distinct tactile sensation. Typing is akin to receiving a massage, and each muscle plays it’s own sound when relaxed. You see, most keyboards, such as those on your laptop or the one many of you are using on your desktop, use a series of rubber membranes underneath the keys. You push a key, some rubber moves, an electrical circuit is formed, and the computer registers a key press. On the surface of the board the keys are independent, but the inner workings beneath the keys are all connected.

Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, hearken back to a time before advanced manufacturing techniques had turned its eye toward computers, before capitalism drove down both the cost and quality of everyday keyboards. Each key on the board is completely independent of the others, and they use a fully self-contained mechanical process to register key presses. (This website does a good job of illustrating the function, as well as educating you on which type you may want to invest in. I chose Cherry MX Brown switches, and I’m quite happy with them, though they don’t have the same distinct tactile bump mid-stroke that the Blues have. I’d be happy with either.) The end result is a wildly satisfying typing experience that I can’t recommend strongly enough if you spend any appreciable time at your computer. Be forewarned, though. If there are any light sleepers in your home they will be immediately aware of your new purchase.

Modern Reforged

What does this have to do with our topic for the week? Nothing, really. I just wanted a chance to type more words on this thing and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you all this nifty new device I’m enjoying. As far as content goes, I had planned on starting this week off by continuing from last week’s topic—that is, what cards to trade for heavily over the summer as Khans of Tarkir block prices fall.

After pulling up Fate Reforged, though, I find really only a single card that looks to be immediately underpriced: Tasigur, the Golden Fang. He’s making waves in Standard, Modern, and Legacy right now, quickly cementing his place as a stalwart eternal staple. With FRF feeling under-opened, I see non-foils cresting $10 to $15 this fall, and foils are an absolute slam dunk in the $25 to $30 range. Realize that foil Abrupt Decay, another recent eternal staple, is nearly $70.

Beyond Tasigur, there isn’t much in Fate Reforged I’m too excited about right now. I do believe that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon will ultimately rise, though I’m not entirely sure of exactly how his price curve will play out over the next several months. I believe that it’s highly likely we see him above $50 before the end of 2016, though that doesn’t mean that this August is necessarily the best time to buy in. And if we’re looking for places to stock up on cards that will be rising this fall in order to cash out, Ugin may not be the best choice with both a high barrier to entry and uncertainty about when exactly he’ll reach his full price potential. There’s also the looming specter of the spring’s Duel Deck, for which Ugin is a serious candidate. Should that come to pass, it will add another year at least to his growth cycle.

I’m a big fan of Monastery Mentor, as well, especially foils, though again, with such a high price tag already, it’s going to be hard to build up too much of a portfolio this summer. I would recommend trading for all three of these FRF cards as much as possible over the coming months, and for any other cards you want to park value in, refer to what I wrote last week.

Just the Thing

While staring at the Fate Reforged price list and wondering what the heck I was going to write about this week, I noticed that Modern Masters 2015 official spoilers began today. Well, hey, that’s something people care about, right? Perfect. We’ll look at what’s official up through Tuesday, May 5.

It won’t be too surprising to learn that most cards in MM2015 are going to drop in price, at least initially. Our goal isn’t to just guess at which direction everything is going to go, but rather, to understand how far it will drop and consider the point at which we want to buy. Having said that, there is one culprit that may once again escape the pitfalls of reprint.

I had two reactions to the official reveal of MM2015. First, that Tarmogoyf was going to be in, and second, that its price would finally fall. Finally, I reasoned, supply would begin to outstrip demand.

In the intervening months, however, my opinion has wavered. I am no longer so sure that the amount of Goyfs introduced to the market will be enough to satiate public demand. My fellow writer, James Chillcott (@mtgcritic), has been trying to hone in on the number of copies that will be introduced relative to the existing population of Goyfs, and I’ve got to say, it’s less than I would have initially expected. When you consider just how few people out there actually own sets, it’s easy to see how this could once again fail to slay the green monster. Next time you’re at Modern or Draft or FNM, ask around and see how many players actually own playsets. Almost everyone that isn’t a die-hard Spike won’t own any, and even among the competitive players, I’m guessing you’ll find perhaps a 25 percent ownership rate. If the printing of MM2015 creates more players that are seeking playsets of Tarmogoyf than playsets themselves, demand rises, and so too will the price. My estimated price on Goyf right now for the initial months following the release of MM2015 is somewhere between $160 and $190. Time will tell, I suppose.

tarmogoyf

Mythics

How about the rest of the spoiled cards? Let’s start with some big ones. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn was spoiled very early, and as a result, he’s dropped from $60 all the way to…$50. There will be further loss here, though don’t expect prices south of $30. He’s still the preeminent reanimation and cheat-into-play target in every format where he’s legal, and is a casual all-star to boot. Our best course of action here is to wait for Emrakul to hit his floor, and as soon as he begins to rise again (likely sometime this fall), begin scooping up copies like mad. We won’t see him again for quite some time after this, and I’ve no doubt he’ll return to $50 within a year or so of his appearance here in MM2015. The only way he doesn’t climb back up to that price is if he’s somehow trumped in Battle for Zendikar, which I consider highly unlikely. Right now, Emrakul is a prime target to trade all of your Siege Rhinos and Rattleclaw Mystics into this October.

Kozilek returns, the last of the three to receive a second printing, and boy did he need it. He’s been more expensive than Ulamog for quite some time, despite the fact that Ulamog is fringe-playable in any big mana deck and Kozilek is resigned to casual-oriented formats. That his price stayed that high without a modicum of tournament success tells us just how much casual demand there is for this guy. The only reason I see his price suffering much at all this year is because of just how packed with value the mythic slot is this time around. Kozilek will be another excellent trade target as MM2015 prices bottom out in several months.

Karn should follow a similar path as Emrakul as a giant, colorless, awesome card. In fact, Karn seems even more resilient here than Emrakul is. He was just about $50 before he was officially revealed in early March, and he’s still about $50 today. He won’t be able to sustain that price, as the market always seems to react rather slowly to reprint news like this, but like Emrakul, I’d be surprised if he made it under $25 or $30. I’m less bullish on scooping up copies of Karn this fall, though. While very cool, he’s not actually played in nearly as many places as Emrakul is. There’s clearly appeal from casual players, EDH tables, and cubes, but he isn’t a mainstay of combo decks in both eternal formats in the same way as Emrakul. You could do worse than picking up Karn this fall, but he won’t be my first choice.

While we’re talking about colorless cards, Mox Opal is yet another high-profile colorless mythic, though unlike the Lovecraftian horrors detailed above, is vulnerable to corrosion and violent storms. Another $50 to $60 mythic before its announcement, Opal too hasn’t budged much yet. The path for this will be similar to Emrakul. It will drop into the $30 to $40 range, then given its utility in various formats and status of being a Mox, will only stand to gain once we get past the initial supply glut.

I’m a bit surprised to see Iona here, as she was widely expected to show up in the upcoming From the Vault: Angels. Given that she’s so casual-oriented, she makes sense in an FTV product, while Linvala was expected here in the competitive product. With Iona in MM2015, did Wizards switch things up on us and put Linvala in the FTV? It would seem that way for now.

As for Iona, the hits at the mythic slot just keep on coming. There will be an interesting tension between this many high-demand mythics and $10 pack prices. Looking at Swords of Fire and Ice and Light and Shadow from the first time around, I see the Darksteel copies losing about 15 percent  after the reprint. Given that Iona is similarly a casual-oriented card with a very minor competitive play profile, I’d expect something similar here. She’ll probably dip below $25, but don’t expect anything south of $20 unless the whole set drops more than people expect.

If we divide the mythics into “better than average” and “worse than average” piles, I’m putting Bitterblossom in the worse half. The current price tag of $40 is based entirely on scarcity. While a mythic run in MM2015 isn’t going to add “one in every box of Cheerios” quantity to the market, it’s going to add quite a few copies of a card that is relatively unpopular right now. Add to that the same artwork, and there’s no reason to believe this will fare well. With the uncontested popularity of so many other mythics, Bitterblossom’s outlook is not great here. Could we see prices south of $20?

Vendilion Clique is probably the worst positioned mythic at the moment. The trio is competing against a slew of useful rares that plenty of players have been waiting ages to pick up, as well as several high-profile, heavily-played mythics, all while losing competitive ground in both Modern and Legacy. I picked up a small stack of these about a year ago at around $50 because I anticipated they would reach $90 to $100, as Dark Confidant had done, but they just never saw enough play to get that high. It seems they’re not used any more today than they were then, and if anything, it seems like I see them less often, particularly in Legacy. With another printing increasing both availability and competition among expensive cards, Clique could end up being one of the mythics with the furthest to fall.

Primeval Titan was shown off on Monday by perennial green mage Brian Kibler, and while the price hasn’t dropped much yet, expect it to in the near future. This will mark the titan’s fourth printing, and even with Amulet Bloom running rampant in Modern right now, it still hasn’t been enough to push its price much past $15. With so many other, more desirable cards in the set, things don’t look good for Primeval Titan in the near future. Given how long it took this to rise in price the last time, unless we see PrimeTime in the sub-$4 range, I’ll be inclined to stay away. This goes doubly so for the rest of the cycle, which all have far fewer competitive applications than Mana-Hulk.

Rares

On the rare side of things, the reprint everyone saw coming before MM2015 was even announced, Noble Hierarch, is going to present a lucrative opportunity. Its price will crash hard, with Jason (@JasonEAlt) and James looking for prices in the $10 to $15 range. I’m right there with them, and I’m also in total agreement that this is an excellent long-term gainer. Hierarch is all over the place in basically every format, including the kitchen table. They even printed Llanowar Elves in the most recent Commander product, which means that mana dorks can find a home just about anywhere. I’ll be looking for as many copies of Hierarch as possible this fall when she’s at her lowest, and hopefully she’ll climb all the way back to $40 given a year or so to grow. It took less than a year for Cryptic Command to go from under $20 to $55, and I expect the same here.

Fulminator Mage is likely to end up in the top five or ten most useful rares in the set, but that won’t save its value. I expect the price to take a nasty hit, just as Hierarch will, though the rebound should happen slower and softer. Hierarch is on the whole much more popular across a wide spectrum of players, while Fulminator Mage does exactly two things: fills out Modern sideboards and annoys people at kitchen tables. Mostly the former, I’d guess. In any case, I’ll be glad to finally have a set back.

Spellskite should fare as well or better than those two, given its ubiquity in Modern. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being one of the top ten or even top five best rares in the set. Still, we’re going to see more of a drop from the current price tag of about $25. I’d anticipate prices in the low teens,  perhaps even below $10 depending on how great supply actually is, and what the rest of the rares look like. I certainly like Spellskite at its floor in a few months. It isn’t seeing any less play in Modern than it was, and will be good for at least 50 percent profits a year from its lowest point.spellskite

Splinter Twin is going to eat it hard. There’s exactly one deck that wants copies anywhere in the world, and even then, it doesn’t even necessarily run four. I don’t like it as a gainer, either. Once the boost in supply drives the price low, there won’t be sustained illiquid demand to drive it back up.

Daybreak Coronet was spoiled with a worse border and less interesting art, and like Adarkar Valkyrie and other casual cards, should suffer greatly. Boggles is hardly a major component of the competitive Modern scene, and beyond that, demand for Coronet exists only in casual circles. It will join the ranks of the slaughtered rares with nearly no hope of recovering. It won’t be the only white rare down there either, as Mirran Crusader will be joining it.

Another casual all-star, All is Dust, maintains a $20 price tag despite being GP promo’d. A rare printing is going to hurt like hell, though. Adarkar Valkyrie dropped dramatically when it was reprinted, from double digits to under $2, and I don’t expect other expensive casual rares will fare much better this time around. I can see Dust dropping well south of $10.

Next week should bring us quite a bit more to discuss, although there’s no way the density of absurd mythics can continue at this rate. There’s been a sort of semi-unofficial spoiling of Dark Confidant and Tezzeret via an MTGO announcement, so I’m assuming we’ll see those, as well as the rest of the Titan cycle. Probably a great deal more rares, as well, which I’m quite curious about. Once we have the full spoiler list in, we can begin turning our attention to all those left behind. Until then!