Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Unlocked Pro Trader: Going Wide

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If I’d written this article yesterday, it would have been about the most popular commander of the week on EDHREC.

Alela is a far more interesting commander than Korvold and I’m going to ignore Korvold for now. Sure, Korvold may give some cards some upside, but I also think the upside is for cards that are already expensive or never going to be expensive. Think either Food Chain which is a million dollars or Smothering Abomination which has a million copies out there. Battle for Zendikar was one of the worst sets ever but it was also one of the best-selling sets ever, so figure it out. I think Korvold may be worth talking about at some point but not today. Today I want to focus on Alela because I think cards that don’t get a ton of play are in play now and that’s a thing worth knowing. No preamble today, let’s just get down to bidness.

It’s possible we’re too late here, but with these gettable some places around $6 and the trajectory shooting at $10 or above, I’d say getting these today would be smart. These went to nothing with the Modern Masters printing but if you were savvy, you scooped them cheap because it’s a Lord. I won’t pretend I was savvy or that I recommended to anyone to get these for cheap, but here we are faced with the prospect of a $10 non-mythic. It’s very good in that it doubles the power and toughness of the tokens Alela spits out. This isn’t an “I predict this” pick as much as a “Well, I missed the best time to get this but they’re still gettable at the old price if you hurry” pick which is the kind of pick Corbin Hosler made an entire MTG Finance career out of.

I’m kidding him.

A little.

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There was basically never a better or worse time to get this card. It used to be something like this would hover at a lower price while not seeing play in Standard then tank at rotation and we could scoop them up but so many people play EDH now that there is basically no good time like that. I remember Parallel Lives was like a buck or two and I could take my time getting them. We didn’t see that same concept for Anointed Procession, really. It caught on a bit in Standard and never became reasonable.

Divine Visitation has been the same price for half a year. Could it drop? Yeah, maybe. But it could also end up a lot more than it is, now, and with it being sort of awkward to reprint it in a Commander precon, I think we’re safe. If the price does drop significantly, get greedy and buy twice as many copies so your average price paid feels better to you. That said, I don’t see a drop. Visitation is trending down a bit but it’s not likely to tank and the relative stability tells me that it’s been adopted and the more decks that want it, the fewer copies to go around. Also worth noting, this is legal in Brawl and not in the precon. Are people going to build Brawl? If they do, Alela making big angels is big game.

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This is premium removal in Blue but I’m kind of puzzled with an Esper deck has so many instances of it given access to Black and White.

Stranding their commander in play given the changes to the tuck rule has become increasingly important and when those rules went through, I didn’t properly re-evaluate cards like this the way I did for cards that got worse. Lignify and Song of the Dryads are legit cards and this is a very permanent way for Blue to deal with commanders because bouncing and countering is not that effective. This isn’t specific to Alela, but I bet you didn’t know this was closing in on $3 already because I sure didn’t.

One of these prices is almost certainly wrong. My guess is that Card Kingdom is selling these at $20 for Near Mint and TCG Player will eventually get with the program. The cheapest NM on TCG Player is $14 and the thing about these getting bought out on that platform is that played copies that are only a buck or so cheaper than NM when the price starts to shift get stranded and go last, obscuring the signal that the price is shifting. The Market Price shifts slowly so if there is a run on these, it will take awhile to register. I don’t know if this is going to be $25 on TCG Player anytime soon, but look at that price disparity between the two platforms and tell me something isn’t going to change soon.

The floor is now.

I mean, the floor was mid 2018, apparently, but the post-rotation floor is now. At the very least, there will be one copy of this for every copy of Morophon, but it’s not like tribes that already have Lords won’t run this. This is tribal, EDH like tribal, casuals like tribal and Kaladesh boxes are about to be very expensive. This is a no-brainer.

That does it for me this week. As always, take a look at the page and try to find a pick or two on your own. If you aren’t sure, you can always leave me a comment below or tweet to me @jasonealt. Until next time!

MTGPrice helps keep you at the top of your game with our daily card price index, fast movers lists, weekly articles by the best MTGFinance minds in the business, the MTGFastFinance podcast co-hosted by James Chillcott & Travis Allen, as well as the Pro Trader Discord channels, where all the action goes down. Find out more.

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The Legacy of Brawl

Readers,

These Brawl decks might not do much to get people playing what is at its core a flawed format given its reliance on new manabase support every time Standard rotates and decks having a short shelf life, something EDH players traditionally hate, but they are impacting EDH quite a bit. How much, you ask?

Well, Throne of Eldraine gave us Emry, Lurker of the Loch, an artifact combo creature and it was kept out of the top 21 decks of the week by all 4 Brawl commanders. What is your LGS going to charge for this product with no MSRP, creatures that Standard control players will want multiple copies of like Shimmer Dragon and Alela, Artful Provacateur and a $20 mana rock? More than the Commander precons, I bet, and that’s a problem.

It’s not my problem to solve, my problem to solve is to come to grips with the fact that the #1 commander for the week Throne of Eldraine releases is a boring, linear tribal commander.

Boring and linear is something I’ll gripe about when I’m wearing my “EDH Deckbuilder Thursdays on CoolstuffInc.com” hat but today I’m wearing the visor I got in Vegas that says “La$ Vega$” on it and has the visor part tinted green so I can count money for hours without eye strain from fluorescent bulbs and I can tell you that linear and boring is good because the easier a deck is to build, the more there is a consensus on how to do it. That’s a good thing because it makes key cards go up in price and makes people have to buy them from us. Let’s look at Ser Gwyn and the future of Knights.

The ship has sailed on a few of the kittycats and that’s fine. Puresteel Paladin was a card we all saw coming a mile away but if no one played the deck, I figured the copies would be difficult to offload. Kittycats like this feel bad if you miss them, but if you were going to play the deck, you would have bought the card already and if you’re looking to make money, misses aren’t a big deal since there are plenty of other cards you can hit on. We have more turnaround time on other cards than we would have on Paladin and that’s what we should focus on. When people were looking at Ser Gwyn and saying “KNIGHTS” with no data from people building the deck, what did they miss when they were buying Puresteel Paladin at $10?

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Anyone who doesn’t play EDH can see Knight Exemplar coming, but for whatever reason, it seems like people who don’t play EDH didn’t go that deep on Sram, a slam-dunk in the deck. The foil is currently less than twice as much as the non-foil, which is also underpriced. Sram is a card that’s kind of tough to reprint, works as a commander and as part of the 99 and draws a ton of cards. Kaladesh block was also really nutty so the price of boxes is going to grow by a lot so the odds of being able to get these for a reasonable price are pretty remote after the current supply is gone. Sram foils under $3 seems like a really obvious play to me.

One advantage of the kittycat deck being approximately a million dollars on eBay sealed is that it’s not attractive to snag these in bulk and bust them for singles, so while the reprinting did some damage to the price, it basically shook it off and recovered.

It looks like the price on this foil hasn’t changed a ton lately (the down trends are the card going out of stock, not plummeting in price) and it looks like some sites had it for $6 basically since it was printed and it’s still gettable under $10 a few places. Go get. Conspiracy cards are hot despite boxes being sold on eBay for basically dealer cost a while back and now that that feeding frenzy is over and there prices are still pretty high for a set like this, it’s safe to say the supply is what it is and this is a $10 card if Gwyn maintains. I normally don’t care for foils but this is a rare case with a dwindling supply that hasn’t triggered a price change.

Speaking of Kittycats, we’re seeing the fallout from a deck that never really was. Nazhan and Balan decks seemed like a good fit for Darksteel Plate and the shape of the graph bears that timeline of events out but it also reveals that demand was perhaps overstated. Be wary and nimble and if you want to capitalize on a potential second spike here, get in and out. I don’t know I like the inclusions page for Plate just yet.

Still, second spikes are harder and Plate IS a casual favorite and a pretty absurd card to boot. Equipping for 0 at Instant speed means you could save anything at any time, so maybe buy it AND Shikari.

This is gettable at $5 and the keyword “infect” makes this really difficult to reprint. Gwyn lets you load up 1 creature with all of your equipment if you want to and this is an excellent target. It has protection already, swords could give it more and you could KO someone, untap and have another combat phase in these colors. That’s spicy.

Ultimately, you should check the page out yourself, and we’ll delve into the less obvious decks like Alela and Korvold next week because there is a bit more time on that stuff because of the lack of kittycats in the decks. That does it for me but if you wouldn’t mind, leave me a comment to let me know what you would like me to cover or clarify and remember to like and share on social media. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Commanding Value

Readers,

You know what I don’t talk much about? The prices of commanders themselves. If you go back through all 3 or 4 years I’ve been doing this column, one thing that sticks out right away is that I duck that issue a lot. On one hand, I think the price of the commander is a little tougher to figure out and I like to do easy things. Am I doing a disservice to people by pointing out easier and more likely specs? From the standpoint of you wanting to hear about specs, I am not. If that’s what you’re after, a spec is a spec regardless of the type of cards it’s on. However, I’m sure a non-zero number of my readers (and most of my podcast listeners) are also looking for advice about how to play the game cheaper, and knowing if and when to buy commanders is a useful part of that, so I’m going to crunch some numbers today.

The precipitation of this topic was a well-known member of the community messaging me privately to ask about Morophon as a spec. This is the type of question I typically try and duck but I’ve been writing about EDH finance for quite a long time and it’s probably a question I should be able to answer. Some commanders are worth a lot of money. Some are not. They are printed in Commander sets, supplemental sets, as foils only, as box-topper promos only, reprinted in Commander anthologies or regular sets or as judge promos. There are a lot of variables, but isn’t that true of anything? Don’t we know which cards (like Eternal Witness) will shrug off a reprint and which cards (like Gilded Lotus) won’t? We should be able to figure out whether Morophon is a good spec at its current price, even if it means talking about a LOT of variables.

The Card Itself

The number of total eligible commanders keeps changing so I will just say that at the time I wrote this, there were about 1,000 commanders on EDHREC and that puts this just outside the top 10%. It’s early – Morophon has only been legal for about 3 months, so climbing to the 90th percentile for commanders in that period of time is pretty impressive. It’s around $5 as a mythic, which means it has a higher upside than some other commanders which are non-mythic rare. $5 is a fairly reasonable buy-in.

This is a catch-all commander for tribes without a tribe, which helps it considerably. As new tribes get added without commanders, a certain number of new players will pick up Morophon to helm those decks. Morophon is also more reprintable than some set-specific commanders, and that’s a factor as well. Finally, Morophon has foils and non-foils, which isn’t always the case for commanders. There’s a reason for this.

Stats

How many of the top commanders have both a foil and non-foil option? It’s fewer than you think because a lot of the top commanders of all time per EDHREC are from the commander precons and only have a foil copy.

This is a little hard to see, but it’s a snapshot of the top commanders over the last 2 years. Of these 21, 13 are from a commander precon and of those 13, only 2 (Animar and Kess) have a non-foil option. So far, the commander in 21st has 3 times as many decks as Morophon.

Is $5 too cheap for Morophon? Of these 21 top all-time commanders, 9 are worth $5 or less. Of those 9, 6 have been reprinted outside of a Commander Anthology (I’m not convinced Commander Anthology affects prices a ton). The remaining 3 at $5 and under with no reprints are Nekusar, Lord Windgrace and Gishath. Nekusar has a judge promo, Lord Windgrace is a year old in the least valuable Commander 2018 deck and Gishath is basically hanging on with only EDH demand. I think Gishath is the only interesting card on that list. There aren’t too many cards like Morophon in the Top 21, which is fine.

Gishath’s Gishgraph looks like the card is going to grow a bit. It hasn’t rotated yet but it is also not really being buoyed much by Standard and looks to be picking up. Casual players love big, dumb dinosaurs and while I am really shocked to see Gishath in the Top 20, the numbers appear to be telling the truth.

With the most popular commanders not having a lot in common with Morophon, maybe we should look at commanders with about as many decks.

5 Color

Is Morophon the second coming of Sliver Overlord or is it a placeholder commander in 5 color decks? People building 5 color decks now have a lot of options for their placeholder – it’s not all Karona and Cromat. Najeela is perfect for aggressive builds and Golos has actual good abilities. Jodah can cast your spells. Morophon is incerasingly going to get sidelined by better and better 5 color commanders and every tribe that never had a commander and gets one chips away at his utility. The two cards closest to how much use Morophon sees now are Niv-Mizzet and Horde of Notions.

Kinda too soon to tell, here. People are still drafting WAR and every card in that set is $3, even the uncommons.

Horde of Notions is from a much “better” set in terms of value since boxes of Lorwyn are a mortgage payment and it was trash before its 2015 reprinting. Pre-dating the mythic era and still being dirt tells a sad tale about Morophon if it continues to hover in the same number of decks as Horde. One thing I will say about Horde is that a lot of Horde decks were built before EDHREC can scrape them and Morophon has been built a lot more, lately. Another thing I will say is that Elementals just got a ton of sick new cards and no one is building Horde, so it means once people sort of forget about Morophon, he likely stays forgotten. It’s cool to be able to give your Squirrels +1/+1 and make them G cheaper, but I think once you compare Morophon to cards with similar demand, the picture is pretty bleak.

More Generally

So how do we evaluate new commanders? I think we should run down a list of questions to find the cards to compare the new commander to and test it out.

  • Are there both foils and non-foils?
  • How many decks is it in? (Better for older cards)
  • Is it rare, mythic or uncommon?
  • Is it only in a precon?
  • Is it reprintable?
  • Is it likely to become obsolete?

Once you find the right card to look at, just check price trajectory and you should get a sense for what’s up. Let’s look at an old commander and a new one.

  • Are there both foils and non-foils?

Just non-foils – only the face card got a foil that year.

  • How many decks is it in? (Better for older cards)

414, but the raw number matters less than its rank – 201 out of 1,000, so 80th percentile.

  • Is it rare, mythic or uncommon?

Mythic, but that matters less for precon cards

  • Is it only in a precon?

Yes, but there was a commander anthology (didn’t do much to Meren’s price so probably didn’t here, either).

  • Is it reprintable?

Not especially

  • Is it likely to become obsolete?

Not especially.

We have a lot of graphical data for Mazirek and while there was some interest around the time they printed a bunch of new Golgari cards in the new Ravnica sets, ultimately interest has tapered back down. This is likely $5ish forever while its deckmate, Meren, flirted with $20. If I didn’t have the graph to look at, I’d likely conclude that $5 was appropriate for this card. If I had to pick a card to compare Mazirek to, I’d go with Taigam.

Taigam is in about as many decks, is overshadowed by better commanders in its precon and is the same price now. Could we predict Taigam’s price trajectory based on Mazirek?

It’s damn close.

Would this seeming to work out on a card I selected fairly randomly work on a newer card whose graph won’t help us out much, which is our situation with Morophon? What about a card that’s new enough to be standard legal?

  • Are there both foils and non-foils?

Yep

  • How many decks is it in? (Better for older cards)

1143 so far, 90th percentile

  • Is it rare, mythic or uncommon?

Mythic

  • Is it only in a precon?

No

  • Is it reprintable?

Eh, it has a set-specific mechanic and isn’t used enough to be a judge promo. This would be tough.

  • Is it likely to become obsolete?

Not to people who like her for flavor reasons and anything that draws this many cards in the colors artifact players want would likely be a mistake to print (not that they won’t – look at Chulane).

Before I cheat and peak at her graph, I imagine her price was around $3-$5 then dipped and is pretty flat right now. I also think the foils are roughly the same graph shape.

Except for the part about the price being flat now, I was pretty close. The price is in flux but it’s all within a buck so who knows? The foils are a different story.

I would not have guessed $8-$10 on the 55th-most-built commander on the site. I personally think EDH foil demand is overstated and that large volumes are tough to move (which is why I think they’re fine for one person but not an entire readership so I don’t recommend them) but I am also a little surprised. I think it goes up from $10 over the next year or two but I also don’t want to run out and snipe all of the $8 copies on TCG Player. This is sort of confounding, which is why I stick to cards that Jhoira decks made go up in price and ignored Jhoira herself.

If we want to pick out a historical card to compare Jhoira to, we can try to estimate what the price trajectory will look like over a longer timeframe. I have a good pick for this.

That’s a hot price-tag for a card a few years older. What were the past few years like?

Could we expect Jhoira to shoot up in a year or two like Xenagos? Let’s check one more thing, first.

Xenagod isn’t the perfect comparison for Jhoira because it’s in 3 times as many decks (for now) as an inclusion. If you’re dealing with a commander, don’t just check the number of decks it’s helming, you have to check how many copies are in use.

That’s better. What does the future potentially have in store for Jhoira?

Are we right, here? We might be, we might not be. But we at least have some criteria to narrow our search to cards that are good corollaries and checking their price trajectory.

I likely continue to ignore commanders in favor of the cards they make go up, but now if someone asks me the question, I have a method for trying to answer them, and now you do, too. That does it for me this week, tune in next week where I’ll have actual specs. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: My Article, But Kadena This Time

Hey, you know that article I write every week? I’m doing it about Kadena this week.

Why Kadena?

Because I think Kadena is good and the data almost bears out that it’s going to be an important deck.

I expect Kadena to overtake Kykar once the cards are out but I actually don’t know. I think my instincts are pretty good – I say K’rrik was way too far down on the list last week and look what happened. Kadena is more than just a bad Animar and I think people are going to want to build with it. Here are cards that matter.

Probably a little late to maximize our profit on this one (I didn’t see it going up quite yet) but this card is basically good in every format and it’s especially good in Kadena. You can play the top card of your deck as a Morph with Forge in play and you can do it for free once a turn. If you hit a whammy like a land, Forge can re-roll for you. This card is meant to go hand-in-hand with Kadena and with it unlikely to ever get cheaper, I think you snag these under $5. There is precedent for EDH staples with cross-format applicability hitting $10 while still in Standard and I think Forge is a strong candidate for joining that club. Don’t sleep on these.

As long as we’re talking about Forge, here’s another card equally good in Kadena.

Vizier is on its way up and Kadena decks peeling a Morph creature off of the top of the deck and being able to fix the rest of their mana to boot is upside. Kadena lets you Morph one creature a turn for free and this lets you bypass your hand for that sweet value. They get information, but so what? Let them know what’s coming. Vizier is the 10th-most-played card in Amonkhet after Anointed Procession and the bicycling lands and a few others and it’s demonstrating the price can go up. This isn’t quite its floor of $2.50 but with it being somewhat tricky to reprint, I think we have some climbing to do.

This is a card that is similar to Ugin, The Ineffable in that it’s being used to churn out Morph creatures. I think this has more upside than Ugin and it’s a card that flirts with high prices every few years. It’s only going to take one card that breaks this for this to be $15 dollars or something absurd and I get these as bulk rares sometimes. This has been above $5 twice and that means they’re getting more and more scarce in binders. I think this could pop at any moment and a Kadena deck on Game Knights or something like that could be all it takes. I am suspicious of cards with explosive combo potential and this has it.

Similarly, Anvil is a card that already demonstrated that a feeding frenzy based on new tech could spike it out of control. I think you HODL these on that basis and just know that a second spike basically makes these $8 forever because no one is going to find the copies in bulk rare boxes. People are racing to the bottom but this card is very good in Kadena decks because it makes your morph creatures a mere mana and that’s pretty useful. I think everything I said about Heartless Summoning applies here. With these around $2, you could treat these like lotto tickets and squirrel away $50 worth for the next time it hits $10.

This doesn’t have to hit $27 again for it to be a good idea to buy this at $4.50 on TCG Player. This has good underlying metrics, Core Set won’t be opened any longer than people have to open it and it’s good in Kadena among other decks. You get to play a free Morph with Kadena every turn, so if you can do it on their turns, you can get x free creatures a turn cycle. That’s pretty useful. Vedalken Orrery is expensive and this is not so seriously just buy a ton of these. Could they put it in a future core set? Possibly, but it won’t be Core 2021, that’s for sure.

That does it for me. I think Kadena is a bad Animar, personally, and there are more exciting decks to build but I don’t go by what I like, I go by what the EDHREC data tells me people are building. Also, I brewed a Kadena deck this week on Coolstuff and I don’t even hate it. Anyway, that does it for me. Until next time!

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