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The Watchtower 6/18/18 for ProTraders – Plan Your Specs

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By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy.


If you weren’t at a computer last night an hour before Midnight EST, you missed a moment in Magic history. Watching eight players crack a bunch of unsearched Beta boosters was pretty dang cool, and aside from GenCon in a month or two, is unlikely to ever be repeated again. Wizards slept on the 20th anniversary, but they produced something quite cool for the 25th at least.

Of course what’s amusing about all of this is how excited the Wizards employees were, chief among them Aaron Forsythe. When they flipped Time Vault onto the table — a card that I’m assuming is unplayable in draft, or probably close to it — everyone cheered, and it was repeatedly referred to as “a big pull,” or something to that effect. Essentially that it’s one of the best cards they opened. But if it’s terrible in draft, why be excited to open it? Obviously you and I know the answer — it’s valuable. The director of R&D essentially admitting as much on camera, without using those words exactly, was probably just as fun as seeing it opened.

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PROTRADER: The Watchtower

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Magic, just like the weather in upstate New York, is heating up a little. It’s not going to be hot, mind you, but rather than being a frozen tundrascape littered with the hardened flesh shells of arrogant middle schoolers that thought they could still walk to school in these temperatures, driven here by their own hubris, it will be a cold yet mostly tolerable, slushy, grey-skied SAD-addled city.

In a few weeks we’ll get the first Modern Pro Tour in years, which is coincidentally the first one I’ll care about since the last Pro Tour I gambled on. I’m not sure the return of these is good for the format in the long term, as was discussed at length by various individuals when the decision was made initially, but at least it will be fun for now, and Modern is robust enough that we don’t need to worry yet.

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You’ve also got whispers of a banning of Energy as a deck in Standard, driven by a portentous DailyMTG article comparing it to Affinity, back when that was legal in type two. Maybe they’ll ban Aether Hub and replace it with Tree of Tales? In any case, if we do see some energy cards exit the format, Standard will certainly get more exciting, even if only for a week or two.

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: Losing and Finding

A lot of times, MTG Finance focuses on the nitty-gritty of single cards to get or watch or sell, and that’s a very useful set of topics. You’re reading this because that’s what I usually do.

However, there’s other aspects to this game and the finances. Here on MTGPrice, we’ve written about assorted formats, research tools, insurance, accessories, and other ancillary topics. Today, I want to talk about what to do when your unique collection vanishes.

Six years ago, I was at my LGS for the usual FNM experience. During that, I heard about one of the regulars whose five-color Sliver deck had been stolen. It had judge foil fetchlands, the full set of duals, loads of expensive foils, even by prices back then.

I happened to be in the store again the following Sunday, when someone came into the store and tried to sell a hundred cards that included chase foils, lots of Slivers, and a full set of duals. This person wanted something like $100 for the stack of cards, I want to say they wanted a few board games.

The buyer that day was also a judge who knew that this set of cards had been stolen and got the police to come to the store and confront this seller, as well as the player whose deck was stolen. Reports were made, stories were told, the police had this person there and justice was ready to be served, as a group of angry players watched eagerly for the comeuppance to happen.

The alleged thief walked away with the cards that day.

I cannot put into words how formative this experience was for me. Imagine seeing someone with your stolen deck, something you’ve put countless hours into, with your personal modifications, maybe even some alters, and all the emotion tied up in this deck.

Someone else has it, and you can’t prove it’s yours.

I can’t claim that every police officer will handle stuff the same way as these two (then four at the end) did. Maybe they are the exception, but they showed me the necessity of good information and some level of unique interaction. We don’t have barcodes or serial numbers on our cards. The whole point of the game is that all the backs are the same, and cards are interchangeable.

The police that day said that there was no way to prove that this stack of a hundred unsleeved cards belonged to the regular customer. I don’t know how many alters would be needed to prove ownership, and is it enough to have a couple of things drawn on three cards? Does your name need to be on these alters?

Depending on who you follow on Twitter, you may or may not be aware of other stories in this vein. Collections lost and stolen. Beloved and elaborate deck boxes, custom decks, all sorts of things have been lost and only some have been found.

Via WoodBornWorks on Etsy

My old pal had a bad ending to their story, but maybe you know someone with a better outcome.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned from stories like this:

First of all, insurance. We had a writer cover insurance in 2014, I did a few months later, and I know it’s come up a couple of times in MTG Fast Finance’s archives. I strongly urge you to look into renter’s insurance to cover your assets. A modest policy won’t cost much, and requires some organization and documentation. Your results will depend on your local laws and agencies.

Second, documentation. Have a list of the cards in your EDH deck, in your Cube, in your long-term spec binder. Take a day and snap some photos. It’s really easy for your Commander deck to break a few hundred bucks, and some of you might need to have toploaders on every damn card in the deck because of the value. If something happens, you need to be able to say what was lost/stolen, and say so exactly.

Third, spread the word. Both my experience and that of others hinged on Magic players telling each other, and telling the local stores, that a specific collection has been stolen and someone might try to unload it all at once. Twitter, Reddit, Discord, whatever it is, tell as many people as you can and have them tell other people.

Fourth, be vigilant. Go read some stories of people having lots of valuable cards stolen. Here’s a whole other list of links via Reddit. Now that you’ve got a healthy fear, think about what you bring when you go to a GP, when you go to an LGS. Be aware of the risk you’re taking. Your Cube might be the down payment on a house! Even if you didn’t buy it for that much (foil Grim Monolith, for example) you’re taking on a level of risk when other people see what you have. A snatched backpack can set a thief up for a long time, and you can’t count on them being silly. Just a few minutes online will tell these criminals to break up their sales. A GP is a great place to steal a deck, wait two hours, and then circle the vendors, sell a few cards to each, and get away clean.

I want to scare you. I want you to think about what you’d do if you lost part or all of your collection. Most Magic players have a theft or loss story. I’ve had decks stolen, I’ve left decks on tables and never seen them again. I don’t want to relive those experiences, and I definitely don’t want you to go through it, but it requires consideration. Building value also means keeping that value secure.

Cliff has been playing Magic since late 1994, and is currently in the midst of a Cube obsession. Check out his Busted Uncommons cube if you want a great time, or let him know on Twitter (@WordOfCommander) what a chucklehead he is.

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UNLOCKED: The Watchtower 7/10/17

By: Travis Allen
@wizardbumpin


Don’t miss this week’s installment of the MTG Fast Finance podcast, an on-topic, no-nonsense tour through the week’s most important changes in the Magic economy. And if you enjoy playing Magic, make sure to visit https://scry.land to find PPTQs, SCG Opens, and more events on an interactive map with worldwide coverage. Find Magic near you today.


Hour of Devastation’s prerelease was this weekend, with casuals and spikes alike swarming local stores to get their hands on new EDH fodder in the form of The Locus God, and competitive staples like…hmm…check back with me on that. In fact, HOU has an abysmal expected value at the moment; perhaps one of the lowest of the last five years or more. That’s pretty dang low. Two other spring sets come to mind that looked this way: Dragons of Tarkir, which came out of the gate looking like a heaping pile of garbage for Standard, and Dragon’s Maze, which, well, same.

There’s a remarkable divergence in behavior after prerelease weekend though. DTK ended up taking off — Dragonlord Ojutai was a major Standard staple, and the other dragonlords were reasonably popular. All of the Command cycle was respected, and there were some other hits in there too. However, over on the DGM side of things, it got worse and worse. Voice of Resurgence ended up at an absurd $40+, Blood Baron of Vizkopa hung around $10 or $15, and that was it. That. Was. It. Voice was so expensive because every other card in the set save for Baron was so miserable.

What’s going to happen with HOU? Will the god cycle pull up as it turns out they’re playable in Standard? Will several rares turn into sleepers, in the same way Atarka’s Command and Kolaghan’s Command did? Or will it be another Dragon’s Maze, with Nicol Bolas hitting $35 and the rest of the set a scene of devastation?

Anger of the Gods (Foil)

Price Today: $15
Possible Price: $40

Not quite the same gods, but still on theme to be fair. Anger of the Gods has been a mainstay in Modern basically since it was printed, and while supply was deep initially, given that it’s from Theros, it has slowly sapped over the years, and is finally turning the corner into a semi-valuable card. The non-foil well is still fairly deep at over 100 copies on TCGPlayer, but stock on the foils is perilously low.

Dredge is an obvious reason to play Anger, especially since they’ve moved hard towards using a fleet of small-ish recurring creatures. An Anger after one of their big turns could easily take out five or six bodies and leave them reeling. Similarly, it will frustrate Abzan Company players, exiling their Kitchen Finks and Redcaps while also clearing away all the clutter of their mana dorks and combo enablers. Valakut decks stalking the MODO queues lean on it, Boros Nahiri decks use it, even Living End and Scapeshift stash some copies in the board.

You can score copies for $15, but not many. I wouldn’t expect a run on these any time soon, but copies will slowly get eaten, and without a reprint, it’s not unreasonable to see a Modern staple foil hit $40. Look at Collective Brutality and Kolaghan’s Command for reference, which Anger is played less than and more than, respectively.


Astral Cornucopia (Foil)

Price Today: $4
Possible Price: $12

I feel like I’ve talked about this card before, but if I can’t remember when then it’s been long enough that I don’t feel bad bringing it up again, and it’s still a good choice. Do you know what the most-built EDH deck on EDHREC was this past week? Locus God? Scarab God? Scorpion God? Well it was none of them. It was Atraxa. Again. Nearly twice as many as Scarab God, in fact.

Atraxa is going to be the most popular commander for quite some time. I doubt any of these upcoming tribal commanders are going to surpass her, in fact, for the simple reason that Atraxa is so flexible. Want to make Planeswalkers? Atraxa. Infect? Atraxa. -1/-1 counters? Atraxa. +1/+1 counters? Atraxa. Filibuster counters? Atraxa. Her sheer versatility is hard to understate.

If you’re playing Atraxa, Cornucopia is one of the best mana rocks you can play, if not the best. Sol Ring is the only artifact mana played more than Cornucopia, and that’s probably incorrect. Sol Ring is better for like two turns tops. With Atraxa in play and a single additional proliferate trigger, Cornucopia gives you your mana back on the same turn you play it, and a few turns later could conceivably tap for more than your opponent’s entire mana base.

There are still foils at $4, and as the most popular commander in the format, these are going to keep getting bought, and without additional foil supply, these will end up over $10 soon enough.


Supreme Verdict (BaB)

Price Today: $10
Possible Price: $25

A player has at their fingertips an expansive array of sweepers these days. Most cost over four mana though, what with Wizard’s push towards bigger costs and bigger effects. Four mana sweepers have been deemed too efficient and oppressive to creature strategies in Standard. This all means we’re unlikely to see more four mana wraths anytime soon, and what we’ve got is what’s available for awhile. Of the ones legal in Modern, Supreme Verdict is right at the top of the pile.

Realistically, there are three top unconditional wraths in Modern. Wrath of God, Damnation, and Supreme Verdict. Damnation obviously occupies a different space than Verdict, which mostly leaves Wrath. Wrath has the benefit of being easier on the mana and wiping out regenerating creatures, but that last clause is irrelevant in 98% of matches. Not requiring a second color is nice, but really, the number of mono-white decks casting wraths is miniscule. The average deck in Modern that wants to cast Wrath would prefer Verdict, since getting through Remand and Stubborn Denial and whatever else is mandatory for when you absolutely have to resolve a wrath.

All that said, Supreme Verdict is also in over 12,000 EDH decks. That’s a lot of decks!

Admittedly both the Buy-A-Box and the pack foil have good art, though I’ve always been partial to the BaB copy. The colors are great, and more importantly for us, supply appears to be lower than the pack foils these days. With the spell as popular as it is in EDH and the go-to wrath in Standard, these BaB promos have nowhere else to go.


Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2012. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance.


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