Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Unlocked Pro Trader: In Defense Of…Not Staples?

Readers!

It occurred to me recently that perhaps the best way to judge reprint risk is to assume that Wizards has access to the same data that we do. I think that they do because of course they do, but also they sometimes remind us that they do.

If the first thing that comes to Gavin’s mind when someone asserts that a card needs a reprint is to check EDHREC, whether or not he understands how many decks 1% of every deck in the database is, it stands to reason he has checked EDHREC before. If there were some secret WotC way to gauge card adoption in EDH, would he have? Did he not because it takes too long? Does he not wanting the unwashed knowing he has access to better data? Or does WotC base their decisions partially based on EDHREC? I mean, that’s what I do, so like, on the one hand it’s cool that I’m doing a thing that people at WotC do also which means I’ve figured out the best way to do it, but also, yikes, a little?

If Wizards is operating on the same info we have access to, they might be basing what they deem is worthy of a reprint on raw EDHREC data. If Gavin is saying “only 1% of decks” play Champion’s Helm (3,450 in the last 2 years, or about 500 more decks than run Godsend, a $17 card) to scoff at the idea of Helm needing a reprint, what else doesn’t need a reprint in their estimation? There are a lot of cards that can live in a sweet spot of too niche for a set like Commander Legends which they insist on making draftable, isn’t a format staple, is too expensive to put in an EDH precon or is “only” in 1% of the half a million decks currently displayed on EDHREC. If they’re looking at EDHREC to decide what needs a reprint (or a sexy new retro frame), we should look at what they’re looking at to see what is hiding.

I’m going to start by heading to EDHREC, going to Top Cards from the dropdown and clicking on Last 2 Years. That will take you here if you can’t figure it out from that description. It displays the Top 100 by default, but you can click “load more” at the bottom, which is what we’re going to do. A few times. If 1% of decks doesn’t warrant a reprint, let’s see what’s hanging out around that number.

Does 5% of decks seem like a lot? Because here is what I found when I drilled down to 5%.

Second Harvest could probably use another printing, but maybe that’s just me. At this point, I’ve hit “load more” 5 times and scrolled down to the 500th-most-played card, Whir of Invention. We’re still in the territory of stuff that seems like it deserves a reprint, but we haven’t run out of good cards, yet.

Only 3% of decks.

Clearly we have drilled down enough, because it’s at 3% of the nearly 300k Blue decks on EDHREC that we run across a card that warranted a “The List” printing but not an actual one. They don’t seem that worried about a card that was flirting with $50 getting an actual reprint, so we should check a bit more in this area.

Training Grounds was on a great trajectory and it hasn’t been harmed overly much by the inclusion in “The List” printings, which is a relief. I think cards similar to Training Grounds are good places to park money – even if they do get a reprinting, it will likely be a The List printing, which we’ve seen knock maybe 20% off of a card’s price but still leave it on a mostly upward trajectory. What else reminds me of Training Grounds?

I found a few decently expensive cards in this category but they all overlapped with Modern in a way this does not. I think it’s possible something happens in Modern to break Training Grounds, but that’s less a repudiation of my thesis and more, I don’t know, a sick opportunity for people who had a playset of Training Grounds to make some quick scrilla? I think Aesi is on its way to $20 so why not ride the Serpent all the way to value city? The metaphorical city where you get value for your cards, not the furniture store.

There may just be too many of these to nail down a good version to buy. Do you get the $70 foil Mothra with the Godzilla treatment? The $14 promo pack foil? The $18 Extended Art non-foil (probably)? Cards Ikoria and after have some special consideration we need to take and maybe we avoid them until it becomes clear what the move is. All I know is that Luminous Broodmoth feels like cheating and it’s too cheap.

I don’t expect to find a ton of $50 cards down here in the sub 5% inclusion pile, but I also don’t expect this card to stay below $10 on TCG Player for much longer. This hits $20 if WotC continues to ignore it, and given how expensive it is to cast and how feel-bad it can be to very new players, this seems like it gets left alone. I want a brick of these.

After scrolling down a lot more, I came across the card that reminds me the most of Training Grounds so far.

Oh yeah, that’s a Training Grounds, baby. Look at the year it came out, the price, the “mere” 2% of Black decks. If they reprint this, it will be on The List and then so what? If they don’t throw it on The List, GOOD.

It’s suffering a bit of a post-Tergrid hangover, but who doesn’t want to catch it all cheap and easy on the rebound?

I like Quandary a lot, especially if the price continues to drop a bit due to the post-Tergrid glut hitting the market. The next spike will be even harder and I would like to have a bunch in hand the day it does. This is a brutal card, much too brutal to put in a lot of the precons where they reprint cards and yet it’s durdly, much too durdly for a set like Modern Horizons. It’s hard to reprint this, and with it being in “only” 7,000 decks, (albeit twice as many as Champion’s Helm), I think it’s pretty safe.

I’M NOT DUNKING ON GAVIN.

He wasn’t saying anything a lot of the people in the Pro Trader Discord don’t also say regularly. Without context, a card’s percentage or even raw number of inclusions doesn’t really mean anything, but if WotC has a better way of determining what in EDH needs a printing, they aren’t tweeting like it. I don’t think relying on this tweet from Gavin to make all of our financial decisions is prudent, but I think noticing that someone at WotC in a position to decide what cards end up in these products seeming to echo common sentiment that I have made a lot of money from knowing better than presents an opportunity. If the people in a position to reprint cards tell you they’re not going to reprint something, listen. Anyway, that’s my stupid article for this week, I hope you like it and I hope we make some money. As always, Pro Traders get a 48 hour head start before I even think about buying any of these cards. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: The Cloudy Future of Strixhaven’s Best Card

Readers!

Today I was going to dive more into that decks that are enabled by commanders from Modern Horizons 2 and I really beat my head against the wall. I thought with Lonis giving us so much to work with that all of the commanders would be the same, but if you look at the lists of cards in these decks, there’s nothing new here and that’s a problem.

Yusri, Fortune's Flame

Flipping coins isn’t new.

Sythis, Harvest's Hand

Enchantress decks aren’t new.

Carth the Lion

“IDK, buy planeswalkers” isn’t new or even advice, really.

These commanders are pretty cool, but with the exception of, I guess Lonis, they’re not doing anything new. Absent a real plan for the next few weeks, I want to check back in on a card that everyone already forgot about because it was one set ago and we have moved on as a people. I’m referring, of course, to the best card in Strixhaven.

The Disputed Champ

How do we determine the best card in Strixhaven? Is it the card played in the most total decks? That’s easy.

OK, not the card I wanted.

How about the card played in the largest percentage of eligible decks? That seems like a more fair way to do it.

No, that’s not it, either. OK, it’s clear that it’s not fair to base it on percentage of eligible decks because colorless cards could go in any deck, and therefore they’re going to have a tougher time beating something in a small number of decks like Fracture. So how about we pick the most-used colorless card in the set?

Touché.

Look, enough @#$%ing around, this is the best card in Strixhaven.

Can You Elaborate?

No, I don’t think I will.

Wandering Archaic is the second-most-played card in the set, after Archamge Emeritus. True, Fracture has a higher percentage of inclusion, but we’re comparing 15k decks to 62k decks. Since Frostboil Snarl can’t actually go in every deck because it is bound by the color identity of the mana requirements of the commander, Archaic is actually the most-played Colorless card. It’s a monster and it’s not as unfun to play against as people thought at first. It just comes down and solves problems and keeps the player who plays a bunch of spells and makes everyone watch him go off think twice. What’s the future price for this monster, though?

In this TED talk I am going to try and find some cards to compare this thing to and then we’re going to ask ourselves if buying in between $6 and $9 makes any sense. First, let’s figure out how the card ranks in other categories.

These are the last 5 artifact creatures in the Top 50 colorless creatures which makes me think Archaic would be in the top 100. Let’s not forget, the hundreds of thousands of decks these cards are in is counted over the last 2 years whereas Archaic is in 5,100 decks in the last two months. It seems very likely in two years that Archaic will break the Top 50, maybe the Top 100 colorless cards overall. There are a lot of cheap cards here, so it’s not encouraging that a bulk rare like Metalwork Colossus is in as many decks, but I don’t see Archaic plummeting to $1 anytime soon.

Let’s compare apples to oranges if we can – Archaic is in 5,100 decks in the last few months which is 8% of the eligible decks in that period – is it appropriate to compare it to cards played an 8th as much? Maybe, but maybe not. Let’s look at Colorless cards in 8% of the decks over the last two years.

There is obviously some recency bias to the high degree of inclusion we’re seeing with Archaic – it would have to maintain its high played stats to join these titans of the format, but it could, and if it does, we’re not talking about a $1 Metalwork Colossus, we’re talking about a $5 Gilded Lotus with 8 different available printings. If Gilded Lotus is $5 with 8 printings, how much do you love or hate Archaic at $6 with one printing?

While we’re at it, check out the Top 5 just colorless creatures. Solemn gets played a ton, and of course Hart does, too, but if Archaic maintains its current inclusion numbers, it’s in 3rd place with double the numbers of 4th place. It could be in 2% of decks and still flirt with $20.

The card we were all hoping it would be is Tithe, a card that pre-sold on Card Kingdom for $4.

Even being played as much as it is, Tithe still took almost a year to hit $15 and another year to hit $30. If Smothering Tithe is indeed played 4 times as much as Archaic is in the future, Archaic could have even more than the year it took Tithe to really start to pop off in price. Strixhaven is basically forgotten-about already, and with people moving on, $6-$9 appears to be the buy-in price for Archaic, which is basically fine by me.

I think Archaic is the best card in Strixhaven and while I would have preferred it got a little bit lower, $6 is a fine buy-in price and I’m confident it will get to $20. Remember, it doesn’t need to be Smothering Tithe to get to $20 – we don’t need it to hit $50 after a reprint, we just need it to triple up over a year or two, which seems likely. Double-faced cards are harder to reprint.

One hiccup I see is that we’ll see divergence among different printings given that there are multiple versions of Archaic and with consensus split over what the best version is, we basically have to treat it as the second printing Tithe got from the Brawl decks. That said –

I don’t even hate a $15 buy-in if we think the base version can hit $20.

Have I exhausted like my entire word budget trying to convince you to buy one card? I better wrap it up with some under-explained hits, then!

There isn’t a ton here, but since we talked about Archmage Emeritus before, let’s take a second look.

Can you think of a more ideal graph shape for this moment in time? This is just too perfect. It was high at first because of hype and impatience, it tanked as supply ramped up, it stayed stable for weeks and finally, it’s showing signs of perking up a bit. This is exactly what you want a graph to look like when you buy. I feel more strongly about the extended border now that the price has normalized, and foils and non-foils of the extended border are better targets than set non-foil, which is basically the same price as the non-foil these days. If this is in the running for best card in Strixhaven, why decide between this and Archaic and instead why not buy both? I know I am.

Foils of this haven’t dipped enough yet, though I do see the buylist creeping up to meet the retail. I think this card is likely a future $5 foil despite how much they are dumping foils. If I’m wrong it’s because you cornered me and made me have an opinion about foils, something I DID NOT WANT TO DO AND YOU MADE ME. ARE YOU HAPPY?

If you aren’t into foils, just wait for the non-foil to tank and buy a brick, it’s likely a $3 uncommon in the near term. This card makes treasure and all any decks wants to do right now is make treasure.

I have some opinions about this set that aren’t borne out by data year. I think Mortality Spear is overrated and I think Magma Opus is underrated. I put Zimone in 5 decks this month. Will any of that matter financially? I don’t know. But if Strixhaven gives us two monster cards that are both about half as good as Smothering Tithe at making us money, that’s really, really good and about all we can ask from a set.

That does it for me, readers. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Cleaning Up

Readers!

As usual, there is a bit of a feeding frenzy for obvious stuff and cards that are less obvious to people who are just reacting to what they see on Twitter but are just as obvious to us are still available. Let’s see what all is going in these decks and see if we can’t make some money while everyone else is fighting over the obvious stuff.

I’m tempted to go super shallow across all of the top commanders, but I think there is enough time on the non-obvious stuff to do that over the next few weeks like I always do. Let’s go pretty deep on one or two commanders and see where we end up. This set is pretty bonkers, especially for a set not called “Commander Horizons.” Let’s take a look at what I think matters.

We have a non-zero number of decks and some of these cards have only been spoiled for a day or two, so it’s good to have any amount of data. I don’t expect Chatterfang not to be #1 long-term, but I don’t expect Yusri to stay #2. I expect people will realize Garth is boring but it will stay Top 5 because 5 color goodstuff decks are fun and might I suggest good for the format, actually, as long as they’re not like… Golos. I think Ragavan will join Chatterfang, Yusri, Garth and Lonis in the Top 5. Lonis is nutso, by the way, and I think Aeve is slept-on because it’s mono-Green but I think it is very powerful and fun.

Not much new out of Chatterfang since it’s Squirrel cards that were all obvious, token producers that were already in play because of Strixhaven and token deck infrastructure that is, again, already moving or having moved because of Adrix and Nev. I’m going to ignore Chatterboi.

Yusri, though, is kind of interesting.

Yusri, Fortune's Flame

Krark came along and despite having partner and getting paired up with Sakashima a lot, Krark made thumb and a few mono-Red coin flip cards go up, but not the Izzet ones. This is interesting because without an impetus to do much since Okaun/Zndrsplt (sp?) a lot of those are on the way down. I’ll show you one card I think is particularly interesting.

Extra turns cards and coin flip cards are both in play right now, but for some reason, Stitch is lagging pretty far behind some of the other coin flip cards. The only Izzet one that’s really going off is Frenetic Efreet and that has more to do with it being on the Reserved List than it does coinflip shenanigans, imo. Krark’s Thumb is going off early and often but I think some of the other cards are a bit slept-on.

The craziest card to go off because of coin flipping was Chance Encounter.

But Chance Encounter is dead as a spec, in my opinion because of this.

The reprinting made Yusri more interesting in some Limited games… I guess? Maybe? Anyway, it’s not a big deal, Yusri doesn’t really have a lot going on if you drill down. Apart from Stitch in Time and picking cards like Mogg Assassin out of your bulk, I think Yusri is mostly old specs paying off again. Yusri kind of sucks, if I’m being honest – it’s cool to dump your hand but it’s crazy to rely on it and Okaun and Zndrsplt can kill someone if you win like 3 flips, let alone 5. I think this is a meme deck, mostly, but people like memes.

Lonis, Cryptozoologist

Lonis is the coolest commander in the set, and while it’s not terribly novel for Simic, there are a few brand new cards that are in play, in my opinion, and I want to spend the remainder of the article focusing on them.

Shrieking Drake flirted with $2 before when people were excited about Chulane. I think the second spike is bound to be harder and higher because no one can find these for a nickel at the LGS anymore – anyone who wants one is paying retail. I think this is an easy $2 buylist out in 2 months and I think you can clean up if you buy these, even at its current $0.50 to $0.75. I don’t love paying a buck but if enough people pay a buck, everyone has to buy them from you for more. If you have these in your bulk, and you might, here is your shot. I was lazy and missed a bunch of these when they were getting outed at $2 but I set them aside and I’m ready for this to flirt with $3. If you’re not looking for a card that spiked already because everyone rooted them out of the bulk boxes at the LGS and that’s what you like to do, here’s a card like that for you.

An uncommon from Kamigawa is in higher supply than an uncommon from Visions, true, and maybe this can’t hit $2, but if Loomis is played about as much as Chulane (and maybe for longer since Chulane got stale quickly) this could be a card you buy a pile of for a quarter each at the LGS and buylist for a buck, and depending on the size of the pile, that could be very worth it. Not looking for nickels and dimes? OK.

Loomis likely makes this a $10 foil, then. The deck is pretty cheap to foil out since it’s got a lot of commons and bulk rares in it (although it has a lot of Legacy cards like Scryb Ranger, too) and being able to snag these around $3 seems like a no-brainer.

Actually, this deck probably doesn’t stay cheap to foil out for long.

Weirding Wood in particular has some overlap with potential emerging Enchantress decks spurred on by new Enchantress cards in Commander Legends 2; 6 months later edition. I like a lot of these low supply, low price foils that all absolutely go in Lonis, a card I think is potentially the most fun Simic commander in years.

This barely counts as uncommon since it’s worth more than like 9/10 of the rares in that set.

I think Lonis is a deep well and even if you’re not looking to buy foils of durdly Investigate stuff, there are a ton of solid cards that have other reasons to be on the move – Second Harvest, Ice-Fang Coatl, Inspiring Statuary, etc. Check out the whole list.

That does it for me this week. Next week I’ll be back with more Commanders that are moving the needle on your Kamigawa bulk, but until then, do some browsing of EDHREC yourself, and mop up that low supply goodness. Your LGS will be so glad someone came in to dig through old boxes, they won’t even notice you’re taking all of the underpriced goodies. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: You Can’t Find Your Specs Cuz They On That Gravy Train

In 1959, General Foods created a new type of dog food that revolutionized how people fed their dogs. It was shipped dry in the form of kibble but was coated in a powdery substance that, when mixed with water, formed a brown gravy that made the food more appetizing for dogs, an animal that routinely eats its own feces. It was all of the saucy appeal of wet dog food but without the heavy, space-consuming cans that came with feeding your dog wet food. The product is still sold today, so presumably it’s fine… question mark.

Why do I bring up Gravy Train, an acceptable form of animal nourishment, in what you were presuming was an article about Magic: the Gathering? The answer is simple – sometimes things make their own gravy. Gravy Train does, you don’t need to add gravy to Gravy Train food because it makes its own gravy, you only need to add water. Have I belabored the point enough – is everyone clear that Gravy Train brand dog sustenance pellets don’t need to have any gravy added to them because you only need to add water because Gravy Train brand edible dog pebbles make their own gravy? You get the concept, right? Are you sure? I only ask because

this card makes its own gravy, and people are out here buying gravy.

And the stuff you’re buying isn’t even good gravy.

Squirrel Decks on EDHREC

I’ll prove to you that a lot of these cards that make squirrel tokens aren’t great in Chatterfang decks by showing you what actually goes in the average squirrel deck.

Just gonna click “tribes” here…

Just gotta scroll down to Squirrels as a tribe…

uhhhhhh

uhhhhhh

What.

Are people not building Toski squirrel tribal?

ELF TRIBAL?

Look, I get it. Believe me. Here’s the decklist from the article I wrote about Toski. Yes, I write for another website. Yes, I think there are financial implications to them. No, I don’t expect you to read them. In fact, you don’t even have to read this one, just read the title. Toski is a bad Squirrel deck. I made a Squirrel deck once. Guess who the commander was. It wasn’t Toski. Squirrel stuff went up when Toski came out, just like it did when Earl of Squirrel came out, and even though we never got the deck out of it that we wanted, people still demonstrated their willingness to build a Squirrel deck. EDHREC can’t help us, we’re going to have to either look at decklists manually, or we’re going to have to stop trying to find the right brand of gravy to buy for Chatterfang which, and I can’t stress this enough, is kind of like Gravy Train brand canine subsistence fragments – it makes its own gravy. All you need to do is add water. So what water are we adding?

Off the top of my head, here are like 10* cards that are better in a Chatterfang deck than Liege of the Hollows is (I’m probably going to do like 4 or 5 and assume my point is made and give up).

Baloths is objectively not even a very good card, it just makes tokens a lot easier than a lot of the cards that make squirrels and Chatterfang takes care of the rest.

Can I point something else out? Chatterfang doesn’t make very good use of Squirrels.

That’s it? That’s the Squirrel Lord we’ve been waiting for? Like, don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool sac outlet; it’s removal and the ability to double the number of tokens you make (albeit not the kind) is useful and all, but this sac ability isn’t really the reason to go pay $50 for Deranged Hermit or whatever the @#$%.

I think if people DO end up building a Chatterfang deck, they’ll need as many of the cards that make the deck actually work as they do middling Squirrels cards and we already know what those are. I would focus on getting the cards that will go in the deck but aren’t in the middle of a feeding frenzy today. Without EDHREC to tell me what those are, I’m forced to guess and go to archidekt to look it up manually. The things I do for you, dear readers.

I know we’re not exactly buying in on the ground floor, here, but we’re also going to see gains out of this until it gets reprinted, something that didn’t happen in Commander 2021. This gets printed every year and is almost $10 again – Clamp is the real deal. If you buy in at like $7 and it catches a reprint, buy a bunch of reprinted copies until the average price you paid is like $4 so you feel like a genius when you buylist for $7 later, or sell these for $12 in like a year before Commander 2022 comes out.

This card is a brief mopping-up procedure away from a sharp spike and it’s nuts (GET IT?!?!?!?!!11) in Chatterfang.

What is keeping this from being $10?

What is stopping this from being $5?

I think there are a lot of cards that are good in deck that aren’t Chatterfang that could benefit from the additional attention Chatterfang will bring them. I think Chatterfang kind of sucks and I think people overestimate the ability of casual appeal to sustain high prices.

How big do you think the middle segment is, really?

Anyway, enough ranting. Continue to buy staples for the format and if a card comes along that threatens to make stuff more expansive, make sure you’re not buying gravy.