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Graduating from the School of Mages

Believe it or not, there’s still a whole week until we can get the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards into our hands. It’s been up on Arena and MTGO for a week now, but still one more week for the paper versions! Granted, we’re not expecting this set to realign everything in Standard, and Modern Horizons 2 still has a lot of our financial attention.

Instead of trying to predict what will happen to Standard or the prices of AFR (hint, everything is going to fall) I want to look at the set that we’re leaving behind and evaluate what’s at its lowest point.

First of all, let’s take a quick peek at the current nonfoil prices, from top to $6:

Yes, there’s a couple of rares and an uncommon on that list. This set hasn’t exactly lit anything up, financially speaking, but that’s where some of the biggest value can lie, especially because paper events are going to take off again sometime soon. If these prices are where they are now, where might things go once an actual GP happens?

Let’s take a moment and look at the graph of Expressive Iteration: 

This uncommon is selling for more than 95% of the set’s rares and mythics. It’s not the first time something like that has happened in Magic’s history, but given the pandemic, and the small number of paper copies opened, and the prevalence of UR spells/tempo/blitz/whatever you want to call it, you’ve got a perfect storm for an expensive uncommon.

Expressive Iteration also has the FNM-type promo, and that’s one of the most expensive Promo Pack cards I’ve seen in a while. The presence of those versions might be what’s keeping the regulars and the pack foils under $10.

Here’s the question, though: What’s going to happen to these prices during the run-up to the first Modern GP? Iteration is a four-of in what looks to be a very popular deck, and a powerful one too, given the results on MTGO. We’re also getting Demilich in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and that might be the final piece of the puzzle, one more solid and cheap creature for the spells deck.

I think we’re about to be in a world where Expressive Iteration is the most-played card from Strixhaven. Once paper events fire up again, I don’t think any copies will be under $10. Keep in mind that Strixhaven won’t rotate out of Standard until October of 2022, giving it a lot of time to shine. A reprint seems quite possible, but for right now, I think you get your copies cheap. 

The other card that sticks out from this list is Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands. It’s only in 6600 EDHREC decks so far, but that’s a very high number for a card that only came out three months ago. It’s colorless, so can be put into any Commander deck, which means you have to have a reason to leave it out. It requires a tax, or an answer, things that I love doing to other people at the Commander table.

It’s already this popular after such a short period of time, and that bodes well for its future pricing. Archaic is at its lowest price so far, and I don’t think it’s done falling.

I would want to see the price start to trend back upward before I buy in on copies. There was a window to buy foil Extended Art copies around $20, and now those are up to $26. The nonfoil regulars being as low as $6 are a good sign, and looking at the most recent TCG sales, it’s got a lot of velocity. The 25 most recent sales for the regular nonfoils were all yesterday (It’s Thursday as I write this) and that bodes well. Lots of people are buying this, and that eats into the extensive amount of copies available. Give it another couple of weeks, I’d say, and you should be able to get some large quantities at $5 or perhaps even less.

Prismari Command is on here, at least the EA version, and that’s a card not seeing much Modern or Legacy play. It’s a very popular choice in Historic decks playing flavors of UR or Jeskai control. 

There’s a huge question about Historic vs. Pioneer that I don’t want to get into right now. Suffice it to say that Wizards has a strong interest in growing both formats and probably merging the two at some point. Standard will always be rotating and refreshing itself. Modern has a huge variety of decks and multiple sets that combine new cards and new reprints into the format. 

Historic and Pioneer represent a way to keep using your Standard cards even after rotation, which is a bigger deal online in Arena than it will be in paper. Remember at the end of 2019, when Pioneer combos and spikes were happening daily? Wizards would love to recapture that magic.

Prismari Command might be a key piece of such decks, and there’s a big gap between the FEA price ($11) and the pack nonfoil price ($4). Commander play isn’t a huge factor, at less than 4k decks, so you’re hoping for a lot of decks that want the mana and the draw two/discard two effect. The most basic version of Command was down to $3 about a month ago, so buying in now isn’t as attractive, but I think there’s a lot of room for growth, especially if lots of red-based decks switch to Dragon’s Rage Channeler over creatures with just plain Prowess.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

This Week In Theros

I’m really not a fan of the huge lag between the reveal of cards and the time when they can begin shipping. I also don’t enjoy that I can’t do paper drafts during prerelease weekend, or the time after prerelease. Making me wait a whole week for updates to my Commander decks, my Cube, and anything else I have going on is just plain cruel.

And now that I’m done yelling at clouds, let’s look at the things that jumped up in price this week!

Before we get too deep, there’s some caveats to make about these prices. Since it’s only allowed to ship these starting today, the TCG prices and the other vendors aren’t in alignment. Also, some prices have changed since I reviewed them Thursday evening. Please, be kind.

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse (up to $17 from about $11)

I liked Elspeth last week at $7 but I should have seen Ashiok as the finisher in UB control or some Esper build. I’ve had the privilege of losing to this card in Limited, and I love any planeswalker who gets a card from the plus or the minus ability. It’s not difficult to get them into the ultimate range, and while I don’t think it’ll hold at $17, this is a nice bump and a sign that the format isn’t too aggro yet.

Dream Trawler (Up to $4 from about $1)

Speaking of finishers, can I interest you in a Time Wipe or bust? I’ve won Limited games with this, and I won’t be shocked if it’s the finisher du jour in formats besides Standard. You’re gaining five on the attack, plus the extra card. It’s very difficult to beat in combat, it’s extremely difficult to race, and that mana requirement is the only thing stopping this from being $10. Decks aren’t playing a full playset of this (yet) and that’s to be expected on a six-drop. I think this price is going to recede to $3 or so, but more likely is that everyone starts playing the heck out of this card and it pops to $7 this first weekend. It’s very difficult to make money on a short term jump like that, I don’t recommend you try.

Thassa’s Oracle (Up to $4 from about $2)

Look, you can name your own combo with this card. It’s not difficult to figure out the game state that ends up with you victorious after a certain amount of silliness. Commander players eat this up, and let’s not overlook that we’ve not got this bad boy and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries in the same Standard. I’m exceedingly leery of trying to make that work when Murderous Rider and Mystical Dispute are everywhere, but I appreciate the optimism that people are showing.

I do not think the Oracle can hold $4 long-term, but what I’m going to be watching is the price of the EA foils. Right now those are in the $80 range on TCG, and supply is appropriately tiny. “I win the game” cards always have a certain cache to them, it’s a challenge that a large number of people can’t ignore.

Setessan Champion (up to $3 from $1)

There’s a Bogles deck in Standard! Thankfully, there’s only one real hexproof creature in the deck, not two, but this deck will wreck your face if you’re not prepared. Season of Growth plus this card is a card advantage nightmare if you don’t have the right tools, not to mention the Alseid making everyone hate the little 1/1 for 1. All that Glitters is a superstar here, you’ve got a Rancor replacement in Setessan Training, and really, be thankful that there’s nothing else in this environment with Hexproof under five mana. Be very aware of this card, because if there’s anything with hexproof in the next four sets, this is an automatic four-of and will jump in price accordingly. I’m not buying now, but when it settles back down, I’ll be considering buying a brick of them for later buylisting.

Underworld Breach (Up to $5 from $3.50)

It seems inevitable that someone will break this card. Yes, it’s infinite milling with Brain Freeze and Lion’s Eye Diamond as long as you mill yourself a little. You’ll buzzsaw their deck first. There’s three Extended Art foils under $60 on TCG and I think that’s good value, especially with the ramp up to the $80 range. I also think this is easier to abuse than Thassa’s Oracle, so we will see where the relative values land.

Going up to $5 is no big deal at the moment, but when word breaks of someone who crushed a PTQ using this in some weird combo, it’ll jump again, hard. Happily, as a key combo piece, it’ll always be a four-of and you’ll be selling these by the playset instead of just the singles.

I also like the flipside of the card’s potential: If it does nothing for the next three months, then it’ll be dirt cheap when Ikoria comes out and I can vacuum up lots and lots of copies.

Nightmare Shepherd (Up to $4 from $1.50)

Finally, the mayor of valuetown. I don’t know if I have the courage to play this in a Commander deck, but I would certainly love the feeling of knowing I’m going to get all my triggers all over again. Your combo choices are many and plentiful, in Standard and elsewhere. The favored thing to do will be to curve Ayara into this and then Gary the Grey Merchant, which should end the game relatively easily. Don’t forget that it’s a 4/4 flier for four, with no drawbacks at all. No random discards, no “you can’t win the game,” or other such problems. Just a steady and delicious stream of unending recycled creatures for maximum value. Korvold’s new best friend.

One more thing about Theros: I’m not picking up the foil lands yet, because I want to see what the supply will be like. Right now, they are going for $6-7 on eBay in foil, and that’s kind of absurd. The early box openings are showing that there’s just one or two foil lands per box, and if enough people dump copies down into the $3 range, I’ll be listening. It doesn’t matter if you like the art personally, don’t let that get in the way of the profits to be made.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

Collecting Today

Magic’s structure was the very first collectible card game, commonly called a CCG or now a Trading Card Game, the TCG in TCGPlayer.

A whole lot of Magic’s value is tied up in the collectibility of these cards, in how we can get some unique or special or exotic versions of a regular card. 

Interestingly, though, not all collectibles are created equal, and definitely show unequal levels of growth. Let’s dive in, shall we?

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expensive cards ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

One Way or another

There was a time that I used to take bets on cards getting banned. 

And then Hogaak happened, where Wizards first decided to ban an auxiliary card in a format’s new and overwhelming deck, and I lost money because I didn’t think that they would just let it go.

After that, they DID ban Hogaak, causing me to lose money again because I figured they’d made it clear that the old cards were the problem, not the new one that could still be opened.

Now I’m wiser. I don’t have any idea at all what’s going to happen on Monday. Will Oko, Thief of Crowns be dethroned? Will there be collateral damage?

What I do know is, there’s plans to be made in either scenario. 

First, let’s take a moment and appreciate something truly special about Oko’s price: the heavy weight of an expected banning.

Yes, dear reader, CoolStuff was selling Oko for a month at $90, while it was being opened. Then the oppressive nature of the card, and its compatriots in Standard, started dragging the price downwards. 

There’s some hay to be made about how the value of any set goes down over time, and I’m planning on exploring the effect that Collector Boosters are having on the finance of the game, but really, Oko ought to be much more expensive than it is. 

The saturation is quite real:

  • 69% of the Day 1 metagame at the Mythic Championship was some form of Oko deck. There’s a lot of variations, and I appreciate snappy deck names such as Cat Food, but the dominance of the deck in Standard got more profound in Day 2, where the percentage went up, despite the pros knowing it would be popular. Noxious Grasp and Aether Gust were in maindecks all over the place and it didn’t matter much.
  • Oko is showing up in a lot of Modern decks. Whirza likes a copy. Amulet Titan has a couple to play with. There’s some artifact-based decks that are trying to go off with Oko. 
  • Legacy has copies in winning Temur Delver lists.
  • Vintage is rocking Oath of Druids with Oko, powering down their artifacts and giving them creatures to let your Oath resolve. Nasty and powerful.

It’s Oko’s world, until Monday. Oko’s price has been dropping since the dominance started, in defiance of all expectations. When Wizards banned Field of the Dead on October 21, you’d think that Oko (and Oko-related cards) would spike as that deck took over, but it seems people bought in quite reluctantly.

So, we have two scenarios coming next week:

If Oko gets banned

I won’t be shocked if some other green cards get the hammer too, for the record. The only thing that will shock me is if Wizards just unbans Field of the Dead and tells the pros “You figure it out!”

Oko’s price will fall some. Not by much, due to demand in the other formats, and that includes Cube and Commander. Oko’s flexibility and power cannot be denied. I doubt the price will go much below $25, frankly. A lot of Oko’s current price point is tied up in the expectation of getting banned. 

Long-term, however, I think Oko has a lot of potential. Foils of Oko are very low price compared to the original. On TCGPlayer, you can get NM foils for $40, which seems like a very good price even if it’ll never get the heights that the borderless foil has gotten to. Oko is too good in too many formats to stay cheap. Around the time that we start opening Theros: Beyond Death boosters, I want to be picking up Oko for the long term.

What gets unlocked if Oko and some accomplices get banned? Aggro decks get a lot better, and the card I love most in those lists is Embercleave. 

Yes, it’s no longer $5 but it’s gettable at $7.50 and a total face-wrecker. Aggro decks are generally playing three, and if the format swivels to being super fast, this is going to hit $20 again.

I’m also a big big fan of picking up Murderous Rider at about the same price. We’ve seen what powerful, flexible removal spells do over time, and the trajectories of Vraska’s Contempt and Hero’s Downfall tell me to buy while it’s cheap: 

If Oko isn’t banned

It seems super implausible that Wizards would try something like banning Once Upon a Time, Gilded Goose, and Nissa, Who Shakes the World but not banning Oko directly…but it could happen. 

My impulse would be to snap-buy all the Oko copies currently languishing on eBay in the $25 range, hoping to resell at $45 or $50 to the people playing Standard or realizing how good the card is in other formats. 

Given that everyone already expects a banning, this might not work, though. Maybe the price doesn’t change because everyone will expect the next banning to finally take down the menace. Maybe people will expect that the card sucks, without all the good accessories to play with.

To those folks, I’d point to Hogaak. The meta immediately settled on a Bridge from Below build that self-milled wonderfully and then really kicked into gear. Banning the Bridge merely made the deck change to a more Vengevine-focused one. Trying to ban around Oko is going to make some currently cheap cards into very expensive ones, and my best advice there is to make sure you’re primed and ready on our Discord channel.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Oko was going to be $100 and going to be banned. Eventually, Wizards will see the light and ban the card, and from the ashes, a new Standard will rise.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.