Today it’s time to talk about a set that Covid so thoroughly upstaged, you probably forgot it even happened. Mystery Boosters. No, not that one, Mystery Boosters: Retail Edition. Can you name the most expensive card in that set? Demonic Tutor, maybe Bloom Tender, right?
Try Mana Crypt. Mystery Boosters: Retail Edition truly is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. What’s even in the set? More importantly, which cards do I expect to tank as a result of this set everyone forgot to buy, if any, and which ones do I see an opportunity to make money on? I’m so glad I pretended you asked that because that’s the whole premise to this article. I have some opinions, so let’s get into it.
Archive here is gettable around $10 on TCG Player and it may even tank lower if things open back up soon. If it does, I recommend buying even more copies at the new price until the average price you paid is something you can live with. This is a technique I call “steering into the skid” and it very rarely results in you getting blown out by a second reprint 6 months later and then 2 reprints a year forever until you beg it to stop (LOOKING AT YOU, SANGUINE BOND). Archive flirted with $25 at its peak and I think paying $10 on a card that very recently buylisted for $10 even as it tanked is smart. Pay buylist, folks. If this goes to around $5, know you’re getting out at $15-$20 and Wizards will forget to reprint it while it heads there. This seems like a card that will be back at $20 in no time and people will say “When did THAT happen?!” like they always do, me included.
This won’t be $60 again but it also likely won’t be reprinted again. This is a messed up Magic card, it’s pure EDH and it’s tough to reprint because most formats can’t brook a 9 mana spell because it’s a dead card in a pack in Limited and they’re not putting Council’s Judgment in a Constructed set. Where, then do they print this considering it’s too good and expensive money-wise for an EDH precon even at this point and they don’t seem keen on continuing Conspiracy and Battlebond and other good reprint sets, preferring Secret Lair – lower back tat’ you regret but can’t afford to get lasered off and anyway you forget it’s there most of the time edition. This probably keeps going down and when it starts to tick back up, pounce. This won’t be affordable long.
This is like the other gods but its price graph is what it is because of how good it is. This helps Red stop being underpowered in EDH because you can easily dome the whole table quickly with Krenko or Prossh or Tempt with Vengeance. This card does WORK. This flirted with $40 for a reason and with them printing more cards than ever that fart out tokens, not fewer, this will continue to be a Red deck staple and will continue to command a high price tag. When this bottoms out, go all-in.
This isn’t just an Atraxa card but nearly every loose copy ended up in the same Atraxa deck it was bundled with, driving the price way up initially. The reprint in Commander Anthology didn’t do much. This lost 2/3 of its value instantly and after shrugging one reprint off, I expect it to shrug this off, too, considering it’s in a set everyone forgot about.
This is currently cheaper than Cairn Wanderer – don’t expect that to hold. I don’t have a ton to say here. In fact, I may not say much about the next few bonus picks and just let their graph speak for itself rather than write more words. A picture is worth 1,000 and I’m way over my wordcap as it is.
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Does the title of this article make 0 sense to you? Either you’re not aware that people have been riffing on the title of the 1984 Dance movie “Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo” since basically 1985 or you’re not aware that I wrote part 1 of the article last week, or maybe both. I just explained the one thing, so go read the other thing and meet me back here in 5 minutes.
So since I don’t have to do a ton of preamble here, I’m just going to pretend I got a 2,000 word writing start on account of you just read last week’s article and I’m just going to leap into more product. GET READY.
One thing I didn’t mention last week is that as the decks begin to sell because it turns out I sometimes know what I am talking about, the Japanese versions of the decks will lag behind. Japanese EDH cards tend to lag behind English in price quite a bit because Japan doesn’t play EDH and players in English-speaking countries like to be able to read and have their cards read. Which card draws a card when an enchantment comes into play and which draws a card when you play an enchantment from your hand between Argothian Enchantress and Eidolon of Blossoms? You may be pretty sure, but being able to read the cards helps. If you’re buying cards predicated on Competitive EDH, however, the foil Commanders, especially the partner Commanders, are just as valuable in Japanese, sometimes more. These players want to play 100 card Vintage down to the premium versions of the cards. Japanese foil Thrasios is going to be sought by cEDH players, so the Japanese versions of the decks are not bad if you can find homes for the rest of the cards. I personally downgrade my own Sol Rings and Swiftfoot Boots into Japanese and sell the English copy I just freed up, but if you’re buying more than 5 decks, that’s not doable. Consider buying English if the non-foil cards in the deck are not almost all staples.
Thrasios is not often discussed in EDH without it being alongside Tymna, the Weaver and Tymna is in a deck that has a non-trivial amount of value in it. The deck is $100 and the $55 Tymna takes a huge bite out of that. The $18 Tana, the Bloodsower is on its way up, Ravos is $15 on its way to $30, Conquerer’s Flail is currently $10, there’s a Lightning Greaves, a Skullclamp and some of the EDH staples like Beastmaster Ascension and Blind Obedience that went a few years without a reprinting are starting to nudge up. It’s easy to flip the Tymna and get a free deck or flip the deck and get a free Tymna. Act fast and you should be in good shape.
Other decks from that era are in play given the fact that partner commanders are targeted right now and you can sell for inflated prices now that most of the sellers on TCG Player are offline.
Even the least exciting deck, Stalwart Uprising, is in play given the rising price of the partner commanders and the partners commander that is Kynaios and Tiro. K&T (Not Kydele and Thrasios, the other K&T) are at $15, approaching $20, Ludevic is in the same boat and the deck has both a Propaganda and a Ghostly Prison on top of a host of $3 cards. I’m not as eager to attempt the flip with this deck as I am the others, but even the least desirable deck here has potential if Sidar Kondo goes up from $5 or the other ones hit $30 like they just might.
Ironically enough, Breed Lethality has very little value outside of Atraxa, something I predicted but only as a joke. Time has a way of changing attitudes about boring commanders like Atraxa, the popular cards from the popular deck have a tendency to get reprinted, the desirability means the copies don’t end up stranded on store shelves and WotC could have secretly shipped more of the Breed Lethality decks than the other ones. We have seen this over and over in the past with the Commander decks, so when a deck is selling out like Breed Lethality, Mind Seize and whatever deck has Dockside Extortionist in it, try and see if you can get discounted copies of the least desirable deck. Sometimes it turns into money with Blade of Selves, Urza’s Incubator and Fiery Confluence being in the top 5 most expensive cards in the set and sometimes you end up with the 2013 Naya deck where the second-most expensive card is Wrath of God. That Homeward Path tho.
If you’re looking for another way to get the decks cheaper, consider being less picky. Since we’re buying to open and flip, being in pristine, sealed condition isn’t necessary. People who bought Commander Anthology sets, for example, might not want every deck and some are gettable on eBay for a discount.
$50 for a Wade Into Battle isn’t bad at all given the $12 Blade of Selves and the $18 Urza’s Incubator, although they used to be cheaper and the ship has mostly sailed. You’re banking on Fiery Confluence staying around $10, Basalt Monolith continuing to climb and Gisela not getting reprinted for a while. For the record, I don’t hate those bets and this is a good way to get those cards to play with. If you are good at eBay or message sellers privately to make an offer, you can do even better. Paying full price isn’t the kind of advice you pay me for, after all.
ONE WORD (errr, paragraph) OF CAUTION
Sites that aggregate the prices of these decks will often spit out a figure like “$230 for a C17 Precon!” and that is not to be trusted. Think about what you will get back after fees if you’re not keeping the cards. Fees hurt on a $15 card but they eat all of the profit on a $0.75 one. If you have a huge TCG Player store, sell direct, or think that someone buying a Whispersilk Cloak is likely to get a bunch of other cards, consider those cards value, but a bulk rare is calculated at $0.75-$0.99 by those sites and they’re really a dime, if you can get that. Add up the values of the cards you can get close to retail for and call everything else bulk. That will help you avoid paying $45 for $120 worth of cards that’s actually $35. You’re much better off paying $35 for a deck with a $30 Dockside Extortionist because at least you know what that’s worth.
You want to make money? Buy Reserved List cards. You can say something that’s like, literally not even close to true but sounds good to pretend it’s not 100% about people using their unemployment and Covid bucks windfalls to try and invest and move the market now that 75% of the copies that used to be listed are taken down because stores aren’t shipping. Here’s a list of phrases you can use that sound convincing enough that you can pretend these aren’t lazy specs.
cEDH is really having a moment right now
These cards have always been underpriced
You can’t build a decent Red EDH deck without Wheel of Fortune
Gaea’s Cradle is an EDH staple with a ton of casual appeal
Xyris is really driving prices
That last one sounds like me, doesn’t it!? The truth is we haven’t seen much evidence that the new commanders are doing much organically. It’s obvious (to me, anyway) to buy wheels when they print a bunch of decks that have bad wheels in them and cards they synergize with, but no one has Commander 2020 cards. Do you think that has an effect on people building? I do!
It seems pretty clear that people are preferentially building decks with cards they have, or updating the old ones. Most sites EDHREC scrapes, if not all of them, have all of the new cards in their database so they’re eligible for being built around. People are not super inclined right now. So while Wheel of Fortune, Echo of Eons and other wheels were obvious to people who spec like I do and while I wrote about all of those cards, we will have to wait to see where the price ends up and whether Xyris even gets built as much as I had figured. Currently more people are putting finishing touches on Chulane, a deck that basically has a “right answer” for how to build it.
Instead of speccing like I normally do, I wanted to show you all something that seems like a more productive way to spend our money. Since card supply on TCG Player is down with so many stores shutting down temporarily, competition for cards is high and drives prices nuts. I don’t want to touch singles right now. Am I saying that because I tried to order 16 Concordant Crossroads at $10 each and the seller turned out to be a TCG Player account that only had that card listed across 2 stores, never had the cards, never sent them and wasted my time having to get a refund, only for me to watch those $18 copies I could have gotten instead go to $40? No. Yes and no. The point is, I am getting unreliable or incomplete data from EDHREC and will do so until people can get their Commander 2020 decks. The TCG Player thing is unrelated to my pivot to a new spec strategy for the time being, I just wanted to point out that I was a month ahead of the Concordant Crossroads spike and I could have $120 worth of copies more than I do now and those things feel bad.
Here’s something that prices going up is making me notice that we should all pay attention to, though, and that’s when the high price of a single makes cards free, mitigating future losses from prices going back down, and the fact that hidden reprints exist.
How many times has Smothering Tithe been printed? This is an open book quiz. Use the internet if you want, check for the answer. Dennis Hopper isn’t actually waiting on the other end of the phone, he died. While you’re looking up how many times Smothering Tithe was printed, I’ll talk briefly about Dennis Hopper’s commitment to cinema, starting with the 1986 David Lynch film “Blue Velvet” and if there’s time, I’ll briefly discuss his crowning achievement, the 1993 adaptation of the Nintendo video game “Super Mario Brothers” in which he played oh you’re done already. How did you do it? TCG Player or Channel Fireball or something and click “all versions?”
You’re right. It was a trick question. Here I was thinking I was going to trip you up because Tithe was in Throne Promo packs and most people don’t remember that. The cards look similar, so my trick question was designed to catch people who weren’t smart enough to look it up and see there are two printings.
It’s actually 3 copies. You forgot about the Brawl decks.
The Brawl deck version is identical to the version from the set. Since it looks identical and doesn’t have a different set symbol or anything, people who are paid to classify the cards (people like me) would rather not create a new category and even if they did, it would be impossible to tell which cards came from the set and which came from the Brawl deck. This isn’t like the Stoneforge Mystics everyone used to say were fake because they were from the Event deck (remember that event deck that people played at FNM but couldn’t put Batterskull into?) and looked way different. These are indistinguishable. It’s effectively a reprint that has copies no one is mentally accounting for. Has this extra supply attenuated the price of Smothering Tithe at all?
You tell me. With Smothering Tithe on its way to $20, should we buy some copies of Smothering Tithe? No. You should buy some copies of Faerie Schemes.
We have officially reached the point where Tithe is so expensive that it’s efficient to buy a precon it’s in.
Per Market Price on everything but basic lands the way they calculate it on MTG Goldfish, the deck is worth about $50. You could spend $15 on a Tithe or you could spend $25 on a Tithe plus $35 more dollars worth of cards. If Tithe tanks, it would have to go to -$35 like it’s oil futures or something for you to lose money.
Obviously I’m being facetious – you’re not getting $35 out of the rest of the deck. No one will pay you $0.44 for a Bag of Holding and selling it on TCG Player means if they don’t buy anything else, you lose money to fees and a stamp unless you charge like $3 for shipping and no one is paying $3.44 for a Bag of Holding. The rares below $1 will be $0.08 or $0.10 or whatever you can get for bulk rares near you. However, there are strong cards in this deck.
Temple of Silence is in Knights colors and with it being Standard legal for a bit, could go up. Remember, we’re not justifying the current $1.50 price tag for the card because it’s not $1.50 to us, it’s free. All its price increasing does is further mitigate the harm from a reprint of Smothering Tithe that happens before we get out. We have to get $10.01 in value from the rest of the deck in order to do better than we would have if we had just bought copies of Tithe, which will itself continue to climb until it gets a reprinting people notice and will recover even then. Will Temple go up byu $10.01? No, but it doesn’t have to.
Here’s why! There is a $10 bill in the deck already. If you don’t mess around with Watery Grave and just snap sell it for its current $10, you have a $10 subsidy for the deck. Let’s do some math.
The rest of the deck doesn’t have to be great. Even if it’s all nickel picks and bulk rares, it’s a cushion against the price of Tithe dropping. Use the bulk to make lots, keep the rares to make grab bags, speculate on Alela going up. The cards are yours. This is cumbersome to do on a huge scale, but if you’re buying fewer than 100 copies of the deck, it makes more sense than trying to just buy Tithe, and if you buy at that rate, you might be able to go through a wholesaler and pay less than $25 a deck, meaning you do even better.
Have I sold you on the principle? If I have, here is another example of a card that is very high and is with other good cards in a percon that is basically the same price as those cards.
Thrasios is a $50-$60 card. cEDH IS HAVING A MOMENT AFTER ALL. Whether or not you think cEDH is more than a fringe subformat, most cEDH decks are Thrasios and Tymna and with more supply unlikely, the people who play with judge foil Vampiric Tutors and Grim Monoliths aren’t going to balk at a $60 price tag on a dumb card they shouldn’t have printed. Thrasios is basically a $65 card and he’s not done growing. Should you buy Thrasios or do something else?
Can we find another $35 worth of cards in Entropic Uprising?
After that, the rest of the deck is free, including a $6 Yidris, $2 (and climbing) Wheel of Fate, a $5 Chain of Vapor, a $4 (and climbing) Windfall, a $5 Past in Flames, a $5 (and climbing) Reforge the Soul, an $8 Waste Not, a $4 Curtains’ Call, a $7 (and climbing) Chromatic Lantern, a Sol Ring, a Fellwar Stone and a MANABASE WHERE THE MOST EXPENSIVE LAND IS RELIQUARY TOWER. You take that $2 Shadowblood Ridge, you stick it in a binder and you WAIT.
With wheels popping off, Burgeoning recovering from its last printing nicely, Kydele approaching $5 and casual favorites like Consuming Aberration being in the deck. You’ll come out way ahead if you can snag an Uprising for basically $25 more than Thrasios and the cards in it are all nudging upward again thanks to Xyris and friends. Everything old is new again.
There are probably more examples but I am out of time, they aren’t going anywhere and I have to write about something next week. Until then, either do a bunch of work or buy a Gaea’s Cradle, I guess. 2 tax refunds a year and shuttered LGSs are doing a number on us and we’re all trying to keep up. Until next time!
There were a ton of potential good specs for like half of these decks and all of them got reprinted. Instead of being good $3 cards that could get to $5 or $8 on the basis of adoption in the decks, they’re trash, bulky, bulky trash. Forever, probably. All of this made me wonder – are there any cases of cards that were good in the EDH deck they got reprinted in that went back to their pre-reprint price after a year or two? If so, could we make a case for anything in the Commander 2020 decks that look like trash now?
Sorry about the hard cut, but I don’t want to take up too much time here. Let’s just talk about some cards.
Ghostly Prison appeared in Modern sideboards and went nuts . Despite a few extra copies floating around from the Planechase 2012 reprintings, Prison was mostly really scarce really fast. The $18 was never going to hold but the Commander 2016 printing tanked the price and shattered the brief illusion of flirting with $20 it had enjoyed. Still, it went from $2.50 in April of 2017 to $8 in October of 2018. Was the same Modern usage that spiked it in the first place still a factor as it climbed back? Not really. Over the period of January 2016 to January 2018, it barely featured in a now-defunct Modern deck’s sideboard and didn’t really appear anywhere else, so its EDH play was the most likely factor for the climb. It’s since gotten a reprint in Conspiracy, take the Crown and the price is down a bit lately, but this did experience an 18 month period of solid growth despite a reprinting that wasn’t even its first. Can we find some examples of cards that weren’t helped by Modern? I’m sure we can.
Crusade hasn’t experienced a meaningful (read not in a Commander Anthology) reprinting since 2016 and it has grown precipitously. It looked bad when it got a reprint in 2014 and in 2016 but Commander is much more of a format than it was back then and this is a $10 card waiting to happen, barring a reprint. When Commander 2016 came out, Crusade was $1.50. A year later it was $3.50. A year later it was $6. A year hasn’t happened yet but it’s on its way to $10, but who knows what Covid does? The point is, if something can impact EDH but dodge a reprint, it has upside.
Eviction is an EDH powerhouse, sweeping away entire decks sometimes. The name is a little redundant since all evictions are merciless but this one is especially Merciless. Printings in Commander 2016 and Commander 2017 kicked the card in the ribs hard as it was getting to its feet but nothing since then has allowed it to grow mostly unbidden. The 2016 printing took it to bulk status – around $0.60. In a year, it was $2.50, then it was reprinted again. Since then, it has climbed to nearly $4.50. If a card that just got smashed by a reprinting ends up as ubiquitous as does Merciless Eviction, we could see it shrug off not only this reprinting, but another one.
There’s a problem, however.
The Commander 2020 decks, like the Commander 2019 decks, are built around mechanics. The cards that are good in those decks have a high inclusion score but also a high synergy score. A high synergy score means it’s more likely to just be good in that deck. Every Black and White EDH deck build since 2017 has to look at Merciless Eviction and either say “Yes” or “No” but I’m not going to build a deck ever that’s going to need to rule on Fluctuator or New Perspectives. High-inclusion, low-synergy cards are what we should be targeting and while everything that would be a good spec based on the Temur and Jeskai decks (they overlap so much, it’s nuts) was basically reprinted or spiked already, none of it is that applicable outside the context of decks built with the rest of those cards. It’s good that every Gavi deck will want a Drake Haven but no one else will and the price will stay bulk forever.
It’s clear there are cards that can shrug off reprints, but we will have to select them fairly carefully. Here’s what I think could be in play.
The research, by the way, was pretty painless because EDHREC put all of C2020’s reprints in their own section on the page for C2020 and sorted by amount they’re played. You’ll need to click on the individual card, select a commander for it and go to that commander’s page then find that card to find the synergy score for that deck, but something tells me there aren’t a ton of high-inclusion, high-synergy cards, it’s likely one or the other.
Windfall is both used in a lot of decks in the past and it’s also likely to be in play in the future. Wheel effects, forced draw and other cards keep popping up – the number of times I have made money on Puzzle Box astound even me. Windfall likely stays good, pops again on the basis of a new commander and it’s likely going to go down from where it is now once people integrate new supply from C2020 and stores open back up, but who knows when that is? I think when this bottoms out, scoop a bunch. It’s hard to reprint outside of a Commander deck and it’s unlikely they’ll make a set of commanders that wants it in the next 2 years, leaving us free to make our money back and then some.
This has shrugged off a Masters set reprinting and kept on ticking. I would say the reprint risk is more significant than a typical Commander deck card, but I think they’ll likely reprint Blood Artist before they reprint Zulaport Cutthroat again.
If you’re noticing that I like a lot of the Uncommons more than a lot of the rares, it’s likely because the uncommons tend to be less specialized than the rares and able to go in more decks.
That said, here is a rare I like when its price bottoms out.
Here’s one that got a new, better-looking border.
And here is a great longer-term spec/grim reminder that Covid-19 is the least of our worries.
I think you should be able to find a few more cards that aren’t just good in one deck that are likely to rebound in price and you should be able to pick them up, especially locally in trade from people who busted the decks and don’t want most of the cards, if that’s ever a thing again.
That does it for me. Really study the set lists from this year as well as years past to see what cards have managed to recover and I’ll be back with more next week. Until next time!
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