Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Unlocked Pro Trader: The (Maybe) Case for Foils

Readers!

I don’t like EDH foils. I don’t like recommending a card to hundreds of readers when there are like 5 copies of a card left. I don’t like how my Commander Legends foils are curling, but not in the middle so they are straight trash already. I don’t like the fact that Collector Boosters have made foils and non-foils for regular, non-full-art cards basically the same price. I don’t like how foils are LP right out of the pack if the booster was jostled in transit or if you breathe directly on them before you get them in a perfect fit. You can tell me I’m wrong, but you’d be arguing with a personal preference which is a bananas thing for you to do.

Whether or not I like foils, I still feel duty-bound to advocate buying them when I deem it appropriate. I have been informed by MtG Price management that there are times I deem it appropriate. Fine. Fair enough. In fact, there does seem to be a case made for foils, and it’s case that I am going to add another preamble paragraph to qualify.

What I am about to say is speculation. I realize that’s what we do and I got started at a website that literally had “speculation” in its name (we sold gynecological equipment), but lately I have gotten hooked on a drug called “being right” and I am not ready to go back to freebasing “maybe being right” like it’s 2009. That said, this is advice, not instructions, so you’re free to find my case compelling or not. Today, we’re going to talk about foils and how trash they are right now and whether that is an opportunity or not.

I almost wrote today’s article about Double Masters, but apparently I JUST did that. However, looking at Double Masters prices made me realize foils are real weird right now.

Here is the non-foil from Commander 2017

Here is the foil from Double Masters.

Granted, the non-foil from Double Masters is considerably cheaper, but let’s compare these two cards. Is it comparing apples and oranges? Maybe, but perhaps you don’t know whether to buy apples or oranges and they’re the same price right now. Do you think apples or oranges will be worth more in a year? Yeah, bet you didn’t think I’d welcome that apples and oranges comparison, did you? You look ridiculous.

Historically, you’d want “apples” which I guess are foils because apples are sometimes shiny. Foils have a smaller supply so they tend to grow at a faster rate and have a higher ceiling. So do you buy the $6 masters non-foil, the $11 commander non-foil or the $10 masters foil?

I think the $5 non-foil running around makes the $11 non-foil look a lot less attractive. Those prices won’t grow at the same rate, at a certain point they’ll converge. The commander non-foil might come down in price, or the masters non-foil will rise to meet it, or both, but they’ll definitely converge, barring another reprint to muddy the waters.

Aetherflux went from a Washington to a Hamilton. What happened to the foil over the same period?

It went from $5 to $25, but back down again. The Mystery Booster printing didn’t affect the price of the foil, obviously but it plateaued. This is kind of why I don’t love foils. What about something from the same era that didn’t get a mystery booster printing?

The non-foil went from a Washington to a Hamilton as well. What did the foil do?

We’re not seeing much of a foil multiplier on EDH staples from before Collector Boosters, and it’s worse after.

Here is set non-foil.

Here is set foil. Yes, I double checked. So why is the non-foil still the same as the foil months later? It’s because there is a new foil in town.

The extended art foil is twice as much as both the non-foil and foil with the regular border. I think instead of seeing the foil diverge from the non-foil like we used to, we’re going to see the extended art foils and non-foils do the diverging from the regular border versions. The question is, in a year or two, will the extended art non-foils be worth more than the set foils?

It’s hard to say for cheap, non-mythics. Let’s take a look at a Mythic from the same set.

This is murky. Let’s take a look at a profoundly different alternate art card.

Finally, we see a foil multiplier! Even more interestingly, pricing trend data suggests this is actually at its floor despite the foil climbing slightly over the same time period.

If the foil showcase version is falling a bit and the non-foil is climbing, will they swap and the non-foil will be more expensive? Of course not. Will they converge until they’re within a buck of each other like the regular border? Also doubtful. It seems to me for unique, alternate art cards like these, you’ll see the hierarchy you expect – Set non-foil > Showcase non-foil > Set foil > Showcase foil. We aren’t seeing that right now, though, with this triome at least.

However, we are for some other triomes.

What does it all mean?

I think the set foil’s time is over. With quite a few alternate art non-foils being worth more than the set foil, it seems like people have expressed their preference for “special” cards that aren’t foil. However, the data isn’t conclusive enough to say that there is a clear preference. People may end up being divided and with 4 versions of every card to choose from rather than just 2, the most “special’ version may be a matter of opinion.

I think it’s clear that the “best” version is the alternate art foil where possible, and even on cards like Lotus Cobra and Moraug which haven’t shown they’re likely to follow that trend just yet, we’ll see that in a year or two. WotC has a tendency to re-use special art, though, so it’s not like the alternate art completely insulates the card from reprints, but I believe it does help.

I still don’t like foils very much. They get scuffed easily making them easy to get devalued, I have a hard time moving them, there are fewer copies usually so it’s tough to recommend a small pile to a large audience. I’ve said all of this. What I will say is that I think despite showcase foils coming out of the gate very expensive, they are apparently calming down after a few months and I think they could be excellent buys.

Since I didn’t really recommend any cards, I think I’ll do that now.

This is going to keep getting reprinted, but I am not sure how many more extended borders versions there will be. $25 seems decent, but I bet it comes down. Watch the price and if this goes below $20, that has to be the floor or close to it, right?

Three Visits is an OK card that was sort of hyped partly based on its scarcity before, but I also think that a mere 2x multiplier on a card that’s getting used more and more now that it’s not long priced out of decks is small and will likely end up a 4x or 5x barring another reprint of a special version.

This is worth a 3rd as much as the Green one.

Is 1620 more than 1568? Yes. Is it 3 times as much? Nope! Sure ain’t. I think that means that even if the Green one is overpriced (it might be) the Black one is still underpriced. The White one is played less than Green and more than Black and it’s at $17. I like Ambition a lot because it’s the only one I think won’t go down before going up. Watch all 4 (the red one kinda sucks).

The triomes tanked a bit after printing, but War Room seems like it’s starting to disappear under $20. I’d watch it and see if copies around $12 re-appear to replace the ones that sell or if $12 is the floor.

That does it for me this week. I don’t understand foils as well as I would like but I feel like I supported my position with data, which is all I can do. You’re free to make up your own mind and argue with me in the comments – I welcome it. If you’d rather argue with me privately in a Discord server, become a Pro Trader today and have access to that feature as well. Whatever you do, don’t buy like it’s 2012 and I won’t write like it is. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: No Brainer Plays

2020 is over and I don’t feel any different. The year was a marathon and I feel like they keep moving the finish line. I’m getting pretty mentally worn out and with there not being much I haven’t covered from Commander Legends and not much known about Kaldheim yet, I need something easy – we all do.

There was technically some easy money made already from Kaldheim where Magda made everyone say “OMG BUY DWARVES” and Toski made everyone say “OMG BUY SQUIRRELS” and I’m still over here laughing about the time everyone bought Bitterblossom because they heard Throne of Eldraine would be a Fairytale set and everyone said “I STOPPED LISTENING AT FAIRY.” I think it takes a decent amount of savvy to buy Brass’ Bounty and Hellkite Tyrant when Magda was spoiled (but not years ago when I said to) but whenever something like that pops up and we don’t have time to talk about it, I don’t sweat it. Money you didn’t make isn’t money you lost. Besides, spikes like that are my least favorite to deal with. It’s too much stress for me. Let’s take it easy this week. Want to know what I’d buy?

Here you go.

If it looks a little over-simplistic, look, I already said I wanted to take it easy this week. I can’t take it any easier. You can have 4 precons for $90. Other sellers have more sets for around $110, which is a lot more but also isn’t terrible. How good is every deck from Commander 2019 for $90? I can answer that in one graph.

Well, good night, everyone!

You’re still here? OK, if buying a $50 card plus 399 other cards for $90 doesn’t immediately scream “BARGAIN” to you, I get it. Let’s drill down a bit more. I want to see how fast we can get to $90 retail.

$50 plus Seedborn Muse ($10ish) plus Ohran Frostfang ($7 and has upside from Toski) plus K’rrik ($5) plus 4 Sol Rings ($12) plus 4 x $4 cards (Lightning Greaves, Bone Miser, Thran Dynamo, Sevinne’s Reclamation) is $100. You’re 10 cards in and you’ve made $10. Is there a LOT of chaff here? Yep! Is Dockside due for a reprinting and may be “listed” and reprinted sooner rather than later? Seems likely. Can you make some money flipping this stuff? Yep. Can you try and flip a few of the decks unopened? Sure. There’s money to be made here, fairly easy money, and more money to be made if you’re willing to sell off some of the $3 cards rather than buylisting all of it.

Every time an older card pops and it’s in a commander deck, it’s time to re-do the math.

Do we like a deck with a $20 Xantcha, a $15 Nesting Dragon, a $7 Lord Windgrace and like 3 or 4 $5 cards? Maybe not. What would it take for $70 shipped to make sense? Will Avenger of Zendikar go from $5 to $10 in a year? Probably. Will people stop sleeping on Turntimber Sower? I doubt it. If Windgrace’s Judgment, Whiptongue Hydra and Loyal Apprentice hit $5, is this a buy? Will the deck be $100 by then? Sometimes you luck out and something really pops hard, and when it does, take a look at the deck it’s in.

With Hellkite Tyrant popping off, the number of Commander 2016 cards over $15 is now officially 10. Are Ravos and Thrasios on their way down? Will Conquerer’s Flail ever see a reprinting? Is there even a decent price on C16 decks? (no).

We can also look at decks that aren’t Commander precons for EDH cards. The Faerie Schemes Brawl deck has a $25 Smothering Tithe in it, but since those aren’t gettable at $25 anymore, it’s less appealing.

More than anything, this article was a reminder to check eBay and Amazon for sealed decks if you don’t have any whenever a card in one of them goes up. Hellkite Tyrant is up but there’s no opportunity to buy the Entropic Uprising deck for cheap since Thrasios and Vial-Smasher drove that price way up. However, Entropic Uprising made sense a year ago when Thrasios was on its way to peaking and the deck was much cheaper. Hellkite Tyrant was just gravy back then, and if you bought the decks a year ago to try and benefit from increased interest in Thrasios, you are likely sitting on some Tyrants, now. I’ll do an article like this periodically to remind everyone to check on this stuff, lest we write articles with a “should have done this thing no one recommended” tone, which I’d like to avoid.

Finally, I have a few Magda-based picks.

These are all pretty juicy, honestly. Valakut Awakening is a hot sleeper pick in a set everyone has already forgotten all about, Wheel of Misfortune in in the Top 10 cards from Commander Legends but no one knows that, War Room is the only way Boros decks can draw cards and Jeska’s Will has already gone up quite a bit but isn’t done. Shatterskull Smashing would have taken too much effort to crop out.

EDH alone isn’t enough to do anything with this, but when this does something in Modern, and it will, people will be buying 4 copies at a time. This doesn’t seem all that reprintable to me and it really seems like a card that will just be $8 one day and everyone will be surprised. This isn’t as safe as some of my other picks, but with higher risk comes higher reward.

That does it for me this week. I’ll be drilling down into some Kaldheim picks next week, so tune in early and if you’re not a Pro Trader, consider signing up so you don’t have to spend 48 hours letting people buy up the picks while you wait for the clock to run out. Until next time!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Before “When Did THAT Go Up?”

Readers!

I know I love to do a data-driven series. and you love to read such a series, but 2020 is almost over, and I think it’s time to take a look back at stuff that came out in 2020, will be expensive later, and which you can get for less now. Let’s have the “wait, when did that get expensive?” conversation now that the stuff is gettable for a reasonable price, shall we?

I’m serious, I usually do a few paragraphs of preamble to have something “above the fold” so to speak because we like to tease non-Pro Traders for a few days to incentivize people to buy the membership but I am too eager to get into it, let’s talk about cards I love from 2020.

There was never a “great” time to get this card. It’s going to go up, especially the extended-border versions. The ship has largely sailed on the $40 foil (I didn’t really expect its initial price of $30 to be a bargain, but it never dropped below $30). Beyond Death is a weird, topheavy set that was the first set to have collector boosters, was hit hard by distribution issues related to the pandemic and rares in the set are somewhat overshadowed by the marquee mythics in the set. Theros Beyond Death actually has quite a few cards that I like bordlerless long-term.

I haven’t looked at how the most-played cards from that set have shaken out, and if I was surprised, it’s possible you will be, also.

What is this, a picture for ants?

You can check the page yourself and peruse through the entire set – it’s worth it. The surprises here are Underworld Breach played a lot in EDH, Heliod’s Intervention in the Top 5, Calix in the Top 10 and Nyx Lotus, Athreos and Woe Strider not in the Top 10. I didn’t like Nyx Lotus much, but I thought I was alone.

Focus on Theros – it’s a year old already and prices are flat but demand could catch up to supply soon. EDH is basically the only plague-proof paper format, thanks largely in part to spelltable. You can find some cards I missed, but I’m going to move on.

These are all too cheap. They look great, they’re not curly-ass stupid foils (I like the showcase foils, too, though) and they’re played a lot.

Cards 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in the set are the Triomes. The fact that the showcase versions aren’t just full art but their stylized, sexy, unique art tells me that they are going to be the go-to in the future. I hate foils but I don’t hate making a deck look nice and now I don’t even have to use foils to make my deck look nice if I don’t want to (I don’t).

The extended art triomes are too cheap. They look to me like $1 Rishkar’s Expertise and Aetherflux Reservoir used to. Buying in above $5 is a little loose but it’s reality and is likely a bargain. I don’t know how reprintable these are, but I suspect “not very.” I think there is a lot to like from this set, but a lot of it is “very good” and not “slam dunk” but I think the full-art triomes are and always have been a slam dunk. I don’t see anything in the data to suggest otherwise. All of the top 20 cards in the set are worth looking at extended art, but the triomes are far and away my favorite. I am considering ending the article here so you don’t get distracted by other picks.

Core set 2021 was a real mixed bag. I expected… some of these things. #1 card is Sanctum of All? Granted, it’s sorted by percent inclusion, meaning a significant portion of the 5-color decks made in the last 2 years include Sanctum because a significant portion of them are sanctum decks. It’s generating its own headlines, essentially. Check out this Top 20 – it’s nuts.

At $11 on TCG Player, I think this is a fine pick-up. It might not have the most upside at this price, but it’s been flat for too long and this stupid card draws too many stupid other cards. It’s too good. You know what card I hated and James said on Fast Finance he liked and I said “No, that card sucks” and now everyone is playing it but it doesn’t matter because the price hasn’t changed much?

Could this go to $5? Maybe. It’s a non-mythic rare from a core set, but no one even drafted the set and the extended border gives it so chops. I hate foils, but the foil isn’t unattractive.

As this approaches the price of the non-foil, I more and more relax my anti-foil stance. The card is played a ton in EDH and it reminds me of cards that end up in a ton of casual decks and become $5 overnight, surprising everyone. I don’t want to be surprised, I want to have a lot of copies when this goes up. Let’s all look at the price graph and marvel at how James said it was a great card, I said I hated it, everyone is playing it, and he would have been wrong to buy them in July and I was right not to. MTG Finance is easy when you’re never punished for being wrong.

I’ll do another article like this in 6 months for the stuff printed more recently. We have time for long-term specs to materialize but, until then, stock up and prepare to look smart later. That does it for me this… year, I guess. Thanks for being great readers and we’ll see you all in 2021 where Boston Dynamics robots will become self-aware or a meteor will hit or something will make us all tweet “Man, I thought 2020 was bad.” Until then!

Unlocked Pro Trader: Redundancy Versus Obsolescence

Readers!

We talk about reprint risk a lot but today, I want to talk about the opposite of reprint risk and how a category of cards that keeps making itself obsolete is not only sheltered from reprints, but also benefits from the need to redundancy. Today, we study cards that beg for new and improved copies of themselves that are also cards that are new and improved copies of something else. That sentence will make sense later, I hope.

What?

OK, so you know how one of the earliest things Blue knew how to do was pretend to be something else?

Vesuvan Do.. | LEA: $1259.99

It was a good effect, and a very blue one. Being able to copy their best creature and thus neutralize it, copy your own best creature and thus double it and generally get a ton of value from a card that had a lot of utility in a color that wasn’t exactly known for having efficient creatures was popular early. Doppelganger and Clone both became popular cards and for years, Clone was reprinted into absolute oblivion. Doppelganger was left alone, mostly, but Clone lived on as the de facto, well, Clone effect. Eventually, WotC realized it was a fun design space and started sexying up the clones a bit with new effects, broader ranges of targets and better names than “Clone”.

The question is, if Clone had 0 reprints after, say, Unlimited, would its price be higher because of scarcity or lower due to being obsolete? I realize it’s an unfair question, but the question itself isn’t that important, it’s how I’m framing the rest of the article. We should be thinking about how a format like EDH with 100 cards that are 1-of effects is so profoundly different from a format with 60 cards that are 4-of effects that being “the best” Clone effect doesn’t matter, and being “the worst” doesn’t even matter some of the time. Sometimes you want to do your best Ash Ketchum impression and leave home 10 at to go engage in a bunch of what is basically legal dogfighting with no parental supervision catch ’em all.

Sakahsima is very popular right now and while there are a lot of decks pairing Sakashima with other creatures to amplify those effects (Krarkashima is blowing a lot of other decks completely out of the water, which has been a nice surprise and is why I didn’t try to guess which combinations would be the most played because I would have guessed wrong) people are also going mono-Blue Sakashima. Why? To load up on Clones, baby! And why not?

If you have enough clone effects, you can copy the same creature with a powerful (or hell, even a weak) ETB effect every turn and make opponents feel a sense of deja vu that ends with their death. It’s a silly deck but people like it and if people like it, they’re going to buy the cards.

If the deck needs basically all of the good clone effects, it doesn’t matter which is the best or worst, but merely how many the deck has room for. Since Clone effects, for whatever reason, are cards they’d rather redesign than reprint, the reprint risk on them is very low, making them appealing targets, and the fact that a deck can come along and make swaths of them relevant again all at once and could do so again in the future, makes them also appealing targets. Let’s look at the Sakashima page on the ‘Rec and try to find some good ‘uns.

The harder-to-get and less-printed ones have already begun to tip. The thing about Commander 2015 is that after everyone grabbed the one obvious card out of the deck, they sort of stopped caring about everything else and a lot of those cards started to pick up steam in EDH. Everyone was so focused on Containment Priest and Teferi that they didn’t realize that a lot of the decks have $3 cards in them. A lot of $3 cards. A lot of the Black deck has these 7 mana spells that most players didn’t even read that are pretty powerful effects in EDH. Gigantoplasm is still gettable for $2 on sites that didn’t get the memo and it’s unlikely the card ever gets printed again. It’s not flashy like Clever Impersonator, but there is something to be said for not being Clever Impersonator and therefore not getting reprinted. I like these at $2 and I don’t even hate them at $4.

So what will it take to push a card like Cryptoplasm out of bulk rare territory?

It seems like, with a similar amount of play for both cards, we’re waiting on supply to dry up. There are simply more copies of a bulk rare from a regular set than a card from a Commander deck. The demand for the Blue deck didn’t really materialize until it was far too late to print more – Teferi decks became a cEDH staple, Cyclonic Rift hit $20 and climbed more and we don’t need a third thing, two things is enough when those two things are the two things, but you were expecting a third thing.

So if Cryptoplasm doesn’t get there, are there cards that can?

Are we better off waiting for a card we know will recover to do that, buying when we know we’re at the absolute floor because the price has rebounded ever so slightly and the set it’s in was 10 products and 2 months ago?

Do we buy on the basis of a huge price disparity between two sites because we know that Card Kingdom slings a lot of EDH product, we’re not likely to get a reprint soon, the card sees play in a lot of formats because it’s not just a big, durdly, 4-mana clone?

Do we buy somewhere between the floor and ceiling because we know there are additional factors that make a card difficult (but not impossible) to reprint and we know once it goes out of print the price will go up?

It’s hard to know exactly what to do when we see data like this. Personally, I think if we were going to target a card like Gigantoplasm, the time to do so would have been before it started to get bought up a bit, buying in at the floor. A card that is a bad version of a good card and therefore obsolete can lay dormant for years, waiting for the deck to need enough redundant copies of the effect to spike it up and when that happens, the price spikes hard. You want to be the one selling into that first wave because a second spike isn’t guaranteed for a card with medium demand and 0 supply the way it is for a card with high, sustained demand and medium supply in two waves.

I don’t know if I like any of these Clones other than Gigantoplasm which appears to have some room to grow and some supply at the old price, Phantasmal Image which has grown a lot but isn’t done and Spark Double which has additional utility but less reprint risk. You don’t HAVE to target any of these, really. But what we can do is use this case as a lesson because while tribal cards are obvious when a new tribe is announced, you’re not always the one holding Louvisa Coldeyes, sometimes you’re the one trying to buy Bitterblossom because WotC announced a fairy tale set and you stopped listening when you heard the word “fairy.” “Clone tribal” turned out to be a thing, if you apply a very loose definition of what tribal decks are. But hear me out – the people applying the same loose definition of what cards should be grouped together in a deck the way players are going to are the ones who will be prepared for the next thing that is a little less obvious than “they spoiled a Minotaur, you know what to didgeridoo about it.” Until next time.