Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Mastering Modern: Making Money on Modern in 2017 (Pt 3)

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This is the third in my (now) four-part part series on making money on Modern cards in 2017. You can find the first part, covering the cards most likely to rebound from Modern Masters 2017, over here, and the second part here.

First off, let’s check in on the prices of the rares and mythics from Modern Masters 2017 to see how those potential specs are progressing.

As predicted, the shift in focus to Amonkhet and the continued availability of supply has lead to even the mythics that were rebounding demonstrating contractions since we last checked in. Tarmogoyf, LOTV, Cavern of Souls, Voice of Resurgence and Griselbrand have all fallen further and the mythics are, on the whole, down 15% since release. Even Snapcaster Mage is holding steady now in the low 40s. Same logic applies as before here: you can feel free to buy the highest demand cards at these levels, but there is no real rush on the rest and you can judge your entry point when you start to either a) see supply draining out or b) catch wind of additional supply entering the market.

MM17 rares have been following similar patterns, and they’re down an additional 2% in the last couple of weeks. Scalding Tarn, Arid Mesa, Phantasmal Image and Abrupt Decay are showing shallow gains with the rest of the rares either holding steady or falling off further. Most of the fetches, Blood Moon, Goblin Guide, Death’s Shadow (which is up despite my red coloring in the chat above) and Damnation all seem fine here if you need them, and otherwise you choose your entry point as with the mythics.

A (Further) Look at The Cards Not Printed

Last week we took a look at some of the format staples that were not reprinted in Modern Masters 2017 that are likely to show gains, or have already shown gains. Let’s polish off that list before we move on to newer cards that may yield further gains next week.

 

As per a recent video by Rogue Deckbuilder (found here), the above are some of the most expensive and/or most popular cards in Modern (and beyond, eg Doubling Season) that weren’t featured in Modern Masters 2017. Let’s explore some of our more interesting options here for the purposes of financial speculation:

Dark Confidant

Dark Confidant

Dark Confidant was nearly one of my picks on MTGFastFinance a couple of weeks ago, as a perennial staple that got printed twice in Modern Masters (2013) and again in Modern Masters 2015 but not in MM17. Since the release of the new set in mid-March, this Jund staple has moved up $10 from $38 to $48 or so, but there are still copies out there closer to $42 and those seem like a solid pickup. I would expect Dark Confidant will hit $60-$70 before it sees another reprint as NM inventory across the three printings is relatively low for a Top 40 creature in Modern. Not a huge home run, but a solid hold that you can play with while it gains value.

Ancient Stirrings

Ancient Stirrings

This card is one of the most efficient card selection spells in Modern, so long as you’re on the hunt for a specific colorless card. Between Bant Eldrazi and various Tron builds there is plenty of Tier 1 demand for full playsets, and Lantern Control also runs the card. I called this on MTGFastFinance to move from $5 to $10 this year when it wasn’t reprinted in MM17, and it briefly spiked, but as a common vendors managed to restock fairly easily, and we’re back to the previous $5-6 plateau for now with a 150+ copies in stock on TCG. That could take a while to drain, but if you felt like going deep because of the demand profile, you could make a dent. We’re unlikely to see a reprint until 2019 so the odds are solid we hit my target sooner or later.

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Mox Opal

Mox Opal

Mox Opal is a central card in Affinity decks in Modern and has been for years. It also sees lesser play in Lantern Control and Puresteel Paladin builds, and most recently as a four-of in the new Scrap Trawler/Krark-Clan Ironworks combo decks. Since January Opal has moved from $40 into the $55-$60 range and the printing of the Masterpiece version in Kaladesh means it’s pretty unlikely we see this again until 2019. There is also the outside chance of a potential banning in Modern as a card that enables unreasonable mana acceleration, but I suspect there are higher priority targets this year. All of that being the case, despite the odds that you could squeeze another $5-15 from this stone, I will be staying away from regular copies.  On the other hand Masterpiece copies are still available from some sources in the $90-100 range and I suspect that they will end up over $150 within the next 18 months so long as the card dodges the slight ban potential, as the inventory is already fairly low. I’ve picked up a few on that premise.

Aether Vial

Æther Vial

Aether Vial is consistently a four-of in Merfolk decks in Modern and Merfolk has been putting up reasonable numbers for a couple of years now despite many players looking down their nose at the deck. The card also shows up in Eldrazi Death & Taxes (my current deck) and GW Hate Bears, and it’s a four-of in those modestly played decks as well. Despite that, it’s barely a Top 100 card in the format, though it does boast some additional demand from Legacy Death & Taxes. This card is up a couple of bucks since the MM17 list was revealed, but inventory is not under much pressure, so it may be that Aether Vial needs another prominent home to drive the price towards $60 before a likely reprint in 2019. I’m not in a rush to get in on this action, but the Masterpiece versions around $90 are a bit more tempting, since they are likely to drain in fours (as opposed to something like Sol Ring) and should end up over $130 down the road.

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Crucible of Worlds

Crucible of Worlds

Crucible of Worlds has been experiencing an upswing in play in Modern lately with many decks looking to generate value engines using Ghost Quarter to keep Tron lands and creature lands in check. Eldrazi Tron sometimes runs it main, or has a single copy in the sideboard. GW Value with Renegard Rallier, U/W Control and Lantern Control also make use of it, but not in much greater quantity. As such, most of the $60 price tag is being propped up by the fact that we haven’t seen a regular printing yet of this card in any of the Modern Masters sets. It was a Fifth Dawn rare, reprinted in 10th edition, and the Masterpiece in Kaladesh was the first new printing in years. The regular copies could edge up higher between now and Modern Masters 2019, where it is a likely inclusion, but it could also show up randomly in some other supplemental product in advance and the demand profile is too shallow to get me excited. The Masterpieces in the $90-$100 range are a good bet to beat $130 at some point, which is a solid return, and inventory is already low so if you like this, maybe you’d be better off looking at that version.

Master of Waves

Master of Waves

If you’re looking for a low value target with solid upside, you could do worse than this automatic four-of mythic rare that has earned a permanent slot in the Merfolk decks. Supply is still pretty deep because this was a fall set mythic, so there isn’t any rush here, but we’re not likely to see this again for a while. No deck but Merfolk wants it, but you only really need 50-100 new Merfolk players over the next year or two and some speculator activity to push this into the $6-10 range.  There’s also the fact that the fall set this year, Azatlan, seems to carry a strong merfolk theme, which one would imagine might give this deck a boost.

Mishra’s Bauble

Mishra's Bauble

This is a $50 uncommon featured in a deck that many see as too powerful to be allowed to be left unscathed by the ban hammer. Either a reprint kills this, or a banning does, because I can’t see this card surviving as a spec long enough to show worthwhile gains from this point on. If you had these sitting around and sold already, they likely paid for your Coldsnap boxes back in the day but I don’t want to be holding or acquiring a card this dangerous right now. Move along.

Ancestral Vision

Ancestral Vision

This is an odd card to be at $50 given that it doesn’t even crack the Top 100 most played cards in Modern. When it is played it’s usually in Grixis or U/W Control shells, but those decks haven’t been at the top of the metagame for years, and blue decks in general feel like they need a bit of help to break through. Sentiment seems to be warming to reintroducing Jace, the Mind Sculptor to the format, but that could easily fail to materialize. Then of course, As Foretold was revealed this week and brewers start wondering if casting this immediately off that slow (yet powerful) enchantment might be enough to kick of a dazzling display of control. All that aside, this is another price tag that is mostly propped up by limited supply, and only the suspend mechanic really holds it back from popping up randomly in a product release. That being said, supply is shallow enough that there is a chance the card could hit $70-80 on increased play, so your decision to move in is really a bet on success before a reprint.

Join me next week when we look at some of the up and comers in Modern that might make us some money if they can break through to the top ranks.

CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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MTG Fast Finance Podcast: Episode 61 (April 1/17)

MTG Fast Finance is our weekly podcast covering the flurry of weekly financial activity in the world of Magic: The Gathering. MFF provides a fast, fun and useful sixty minute format. Follow along with our seasoned hosts as they walk you through this week’s big price movements, their picks of the week, metagame analysis and a rotating weekly topic.

Show Notes: Apr 1, 2017

Segment 1: Top Card Spikes of the Week

Fluctuator

Fluctuator (Urza’s Saga, Rare)
Start: $2.50
Finish: $15.00
Gain: +$12.50 (+500%)

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Swans of Bryn Argoll (MM13, Rare)
Start: $1.00
Finish: $4.50
Gain: +$3.50 (+350%)

Preacher (The Dark, Rare)
Start: $7.50
Finish: $20.00
Gain: +12.50 (+167%)

Seismic Assault (7th, Foil Rare)
Start: $25.00
Finish: $90.00
Gain: +$65.00 (+260%)

Through the Breach (CHK, Foil Rare)
Start: $90.00
Finish: $250.00
Gain: +$160.00 (+178%)

Eldrazi Temple (ROE)
Start: $10.00
Finish: $17.00
Gain: +$7.00 (+70%)

James’ Picks:

Walking Ballista

  1. Walking Ballista (AER, MTGO Rare*)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $7.00 to $12.00 (+5.00/71%) 0-12+ months)

2. Death’s Shadow (MM17, Foil Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $15.00 to $25.00 (+10.00/+67%, 12+ months)

3. Expropriate (CSP2, Foil Mythic)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 7: $40.00 to $70.00 (+30.00/+75%, 6-12+ months)

Travis’ Picks:

Fulminator Mage

  1. Bear Umbra (AER, Rare)
  • The Call: Confidence Level 7: $5.00 to $12.00 (+7.00/+140%, 6-12+ months)

2. Fulminator Mage (MM15, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $30.00 to $55.00 (+25.00/+167%, 0-12+ months)

3. Ad Nauseum (Shards of Alara, Rare)

  • The Call: Confidence Level 8: $7.50 to $20.00 (+12.50/+167%, 0-12+ months)

Disclosure: Travis and James may own speculative copies of the above cards.

Segment 3: Topic of the Week

The guys got nasty over the recently revealed Amonkhet Masterpiece card frames.

CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.

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Could This Spike BE Any Better?

As many of you know, I’m the content manager at EDHREC.com. I am in charge of hiring writers, making sure they meet their deadlines, assigning articles topics, managing social media, etc. It’s a good thing, too because if I hadn’t been reviewing article drafts there this week, I might have missed the latest trend.

If you’ve never used EDHREC, I rec it to everyone as a resource not only for EDH deck building but also for mtg finance. It is a huge database full of decks submitted to sites like Tapped Out that keeps track of cards being played in any given deck and reports how those decks are composed. The most popular decks are tracked and categorized by popularity and that’s important because the most popular decks tend to have profound effects on prices. Atraxa was instrumental in moving the price of Doubling Season, a card that was already pretty expensive. Breya has moved the price on cards ranging from Nim Deathmantle to Krak Clan Ironworks to every card with “Darksteel” in its name. Normally we try to talk about cards that are affected by new printings or price spikes because I don’t like buying cards after they go up. With that in mind, I want to discuss a trend I noticed this week.

EDHREC tracks commanders by popularity and graphs them based on how many times people looked them up. For commanders that have been popular forever, the graph is always very high. Here’s the graph for Atraxa.

As you can see, Atraxa is #1 or close to it almost every day since it was printed. Less popular commanders don’t have as good a day as Atraxa does every day. Here’s a mid-tier commander like Jolrael.

As you can see, how much Jolrael is looked up varies widely by day and it could be a dozens of views that make up the dramatic swings between being ranked in the 600s and 400s. There are a lot of eyeballs on a lot of decks. So what do we do when we notice a card getting popular very quickly? I noticed a card trend very sharply upward this week.

This is the graph of a card that has rocketed in popularity over the last few weeks. It’s so popular, in fact that it knocked Atraxa out of the #1 spot, which was no easy feat. The card, of course (You saw the picture I used for the article after all, there’s no point in pretending we don’t both know the card this is) is Chandler. Some of you might have to look it up, so I’ll save you the trouble.

I had heard some rumblings about this card in EDH forums online but didn’t expect this kind of a spike in popularity. A friend brought a copy of his Chandler deck to the shop for EDH night and I got to see the deck work first-hand and I finally get the hype. Built in response to decks like Breya and Arcum Daggson, Chandler decks control the board with cards like Liquimetal Coating to keep their regular creatures in line and Umbral Mantle to get multiple Chandler activations in a turn cycle. The deck was too slow and inconsistent, though, until very recently. The printing of one card we’re all very familiar with was the last piece the deck needed. You know the card I’m talking about.

Paradox Engine turned a relatively inconsistent deck into a murder machine, untapping Chandler for multiple activations a turn and keeping the board clear of troublesome artifact creatures. Over the course of a few hours, my friend’s Chandler deck demolished Arcum, Daretti, Zedruu and even my Maelstrom Wanderer deck as well as a turned Karador deck. Eventually we asked him to play a different deck so someone else had a chance of winning.

As with all cards we write about in this series, I don’t see much of a point in trying to buy copies of Chandler. While we were drafting Modern Masters and Aether Revolt and talking about the best time to buy Scalding Tarn, Chandler has quietly disappeared from the internet.

Paying $20 to get a copy of this from TCG Player seems ridiculous at this point. You missed the boat and that’s OK. However, there are a few key cards in the deck that  I have to imagine are going to go up based on people wanting to brew Chandler.

Joven

Doesn’t this guy just look like he smells like he owns a lot of ferrets? Despite dressing like he’s at a leather party after an Alice Cooper concert, Joven is a key component in the Chandler deck, keeping them off of non-creature artifacts as well. There are plenty of targets for Joven and he benefits from the same Paradox Engine and Umbral Mantle er… engine. The deck is built to take advantage of a very similar card in Chandler and Joven does serious work in the deck. The price hasn’t really budged on Joven, yet so there’s real buying opportunity here. With people buying Homelands boxes trying to avoid having to shell out $20 for Chandler, the supply of loose copies of Joven is drying up. This is also very unlikely to get reprinted because even if they do a judge foil for Chandler to bring the price down, it’s unlikely they’d do the same for Joven. The sky is basically the limit on this.

Speaking of Homelands boxes, I think we missed the boat on those, too.

The recent price spike of Merchant Scroll combined with relative scarcity of old, sealed product and the recent increase in interest in Chandler has basically dried up a lot of the affordable Homelands boxes. If your LGS has a few loose packs, go ahead and try your luck, but stay away from boxes. It’s too late to get these affordably.

Braid of Fire

This is the mana engine that really powers the deck. Giving you a ton of red mana to power the activations as well as use Umbral Mantle and Staff of Domination getting counters on Braid of Fire is your #1 goal. Use Gamble and other tutors to dig for this as quickly as possible because the sooner it’s online, the sooner you can start going off.

Rustmouth Ogre

This is already spiking a bit but I think there’s a lot more money to be made on this. Despite being uncommon, I think this has a pretty high ceiling given the price we’ve seen on other highly-played uncommons from Mirrodin. Think Isochron Scepter, for example. Unlike Scepter, I think this is not very likely to get reprinted, making it a safer place to park some money. Use Whispersilk Cloak and Rogue’s Passage to make sure you connect with Ogre. I run Fireshrieker and Grappling Hook so I get multiple triggers per hit. There’s no wrong way to hit them with Rustmouth Ogre, just do it early and often.

Toymaker

Everyone knows to use Liquimetal Coating to turn your non-artifact creatures into artifact creatures so that Chandler can obliterate them, but not many people knew about this hidden gem. Toymaker turns their non-creature artifacts into real boys, Pinnochio-style. I guess Gepetto-style, really. Unless Pinnochio was making dolls come to life, too, in some sort of marionette-based Skynet self-awareness scenario. There has to be a way to make a Portmanteau of “Skynet” and “Marionette” that’s funny but I can’t figure it out. What I can figure out is that Toymaker is not likely to be reprinted soon, foils are a very healthy 3x multiplier (which could grow) and this is a key component of the most popular deck on EDHREC. You do the math.

Ashnod’s Transmogrifant

I think this may be a bad spec since it’s been printed three times (Antiquities, Chronicles, 5th) but if this does start to take off, Antiquities is where you want your money parked. You can use it in a pinch to make your own creatures bigger to screw with their combat math or just make theirs eligible for being murdered by Chandler. Could this card BE any more flexible?

I think there are quite a few possible targets that I didn’t get to in this piece. Feel free to peruse the Chandler commander page for more ideas.

That does it for me this week. If there’s any possible spec target you think I missed, leave it for me in the comments section and we’ll discuss it there. Until next week!

 

 

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UNLOCKED PROTRADER: The Aftermath

Holy.

Crap.

Bannings are tricky things. A ban in Standard is different than one in Modern or Legacy, both in terms of tone and player response. “Older” formats inherently carry the risk of bannings as a check against unforeseen interactions between new and old cards (this is the essential crux of the Golgari Grave-Troll re-banning, new cards like Cathartic Reunion just made Dredge “too good”). It’s possible that this is because formats like Modern are created with some bans already in place, so some of the bloom is off the rose from the get go. Standard, however, is a much more volatile situation. Standard is sold in part as a balanced environment, and bannings, even intended to preserve the greater good, are considered in part a failure.

BRIEF COMPARATIVE ASIDE: The immediate aftermath of a Standard ban kinda feels like when an interim head coach takes over a football team. Yes things are different with Umezawa’s Jitte gone, but nobody thinks that Dan Campbell is really going to stick around. Then again, the Jags hired Doug Marrone, so who knows?

My guess is that bannings in Standard ultimately take some of the romanticism away- players (bad ones) assume that THEY will find the missing piece of the puzzle and vanquish the scourge of whatever deck they keep losing to at FNM and then some how win a Pro Tour. I want to get to the meat of these particular bans (the Standard ones, mostly), but I will say that the addition of a second B&R announcement is an early check against Saheeli Combo disguised as a good idea. I don’t know how the Magic population writ large will respond to the idea of a more policed format philosophy, but I do think it will help prevent player bleeding in the event of a broken format.

Emrakul, the Promised End: This is quite possibly my favorite ban- Emrakul was the de facto top of the format in terms of size and effect, and it warped card choices and game plans towards it. Killing Emrakul (or rather, imprisoning her on the moon) opens up endgame opportunities for cards like Ulamog, Kozilek, or new cards like Herald of Anguish. More importantly, decks that were homogonized in certain forms can now branch out and specialize- Green Black doesn’t NEED to be Delirium anymore, if they find a finisher better than Traverse for the next best thing to Emrakul, although that’s still an option. That trickles down to mean that early game plans don’t have to be the “self-mill while trying to stay alive” tactics that they were before. I don’t know if there is a clear best winner in this situation, but there are several smaller ones.

My personal favorite finisher.

Smuggler’s Copter: Actually, this might be my favorite ban. Copter had the same deck-building effect as Emrakul, but on the exact opposite archetypes. There will continue to be decks that want to include a mix of Vehicles and creatures, but I don’t expect there to be a 1-for-1 replacement (not even the impressive-looking Heart of Kiran).

Golgari Grave-Troll: Dredge is tough to balance, and GGT is just way too good to exist in Modern. Early impact has been a spike on Golgari Thug, although that card doesn’t have the potential to close out games like Troll does. The only Dredge cards that should be allowed in Modern are Life From the Loam and Moldervine Cloak, as they are the ones I like best.

There’s now way this card is coming back. Plan accordingly.

Reflector Mage: The UW decks have a lot of congestion, and so losing Reflector Mage makes the construction of those decks more streamlined. That’s to a degree the opposite effect that the other bans are expected to have, but it also eliminates some of the weird issues that Reflector Mage had on the formats it was in (namely, Eldrazi Displacer). I think UW is still a deck after losing Mage and Copter, but I don’t think it’s a major player.

Gitaxian Probe: I can’t pretend to know everything about how this impacts Modern, but I definitely get that it’s a big deal. I’m going to pass on this as there’s way too much contextual determination on what replaces it where, and I’m not sure that there is much financial upside given that most of the replacements are things like Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand. Combo decks get some degree worse, although mostly because they can’t have a Peek before attempting to go off.

To close, here are my favorite cards ahead of this weekend’s prerelease!

Yahenni’s Expertise: I think there is a real possibility that the next few months are dominated in part by Liliana, the Last Hope. That’s not to say that there won’t be other decks (we know Saheeli Combo will be a possibility for at least the first eight weeks), but I do think that Lili could stand to serve as a pillar of the format. In that situation, Yahenni’s Expertise seems INSAAAAAANE. Planeswalkers are graded in part on how well they can defend themselves, and having the opportunity to package a Languish in for [1] seems incredible. At $6 I still really like these, but I would rather trade for them than buy them outright.

I really love this card. “Free” is the most dangerous word in Magic.

Sram, Senior Edificer: Big IF here, but if Puresteel Paladin Combo is a deck, then this feels like a critical 4x. Definitely a high-risk situation, but Modern has been shaken up considerably. I don’t think THIS is the card that sees a tremendous price spike, but I think this is the card that makes the deck work. Key pieces that COULD see an increase include Mox Opal, Monastery Mentor, and Puresteel Paladin itself.

Greenwheel Liberator: I read this a few times to make sure that it counted my Windswept Heaths. It does! Definitely going to try this in Modern with Experiment One and Burning-Tree Emissary. Hidden Herbalists and Narnam Renegade are interesting options also- although these are all pretty narrow.

Lifecrafter’s Bestiary (foil): These feel like a sneaky-good pickup, but definitely for the long term. Most of the decks that want this have access to green already, so color identity isn’t an issue. Long term hold.

I love this long-term.

That’s all for today, good luck at your prerelease!

Best,

Ross

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